Bat Kol Institute – 40th anniversary

People from all over the world joined together online on 27 March to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of Bat Kol Institute. Bat Kol teachers, Alumni and friends shared testimonials and tributes to Sr. Maureena Fritz, NDS, whose brainchild Bat Kol was.

Sr. Maureena Fritz, NDS.

Bat Kol Institute was born in the wake of the Church’s Nostra Aetate declaration, which urged bridge-building with other faiths, in particular Judaism. After her experience during two years of post-doctoral Jewish studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Maureena felt compelled to create the opportunity for more Christians to study the Word of God within its Jewish context while upholding the integrity of both traditions.

She went about rallying support in academic, Christian and Jewish circles, and partnered with Sr. Anne Anderson of the Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph to found Bat Kol bases in Jerusalem and Toronto in April 1983.

Sr. Maureena with Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman at Nazareth village.

Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman, main speaker at Monday’s online session, recalled his first meeting with Sr. Maureena at a synagogue in Jerusalem many years ago. He said he cherishes the moment when he understood that she embraced Jewish prayer while being loyal to her Christian prayer. He has been involved with Bat Kol ever since.

Over the years, Bat Kol Institute developed graduate-level courses accredited by several universities, including the Gregorian University in Rome and the University of St. Michael’s College in Toronto.

Classroom study at Bat Kol Institute.

Bat Kol Alumni were encouraged to continue their studies upon return to their home country. They were invited to contribute to a programme of weekly commentaries on the Torah readings read in synagogues and on the Bible readings read in churches. Alumni all over the world formed a dedicated network of commentary writers that is still going strong today.

Mary Ann Payne from Australia is one of these writers. She spoke of how the Bat Kol experience changed her: “While I was once dismissive of Ancient Hebrew, delving into the richness of the language has become my joy.”

Field trips.

Some Alumni headed new study groups that sprung up in countries like the Philippines, South Africa, India, United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland and Brazil.

When Winn Leslie from Canada took her first Bat Kol course in 2001, she had no idea of the profound effect it would have on her heart and her psyche. She went on to set up a Bat Kol group that has been active in Winnipeg for 20 years. “My story is but one of many worldwide,” she said, “It is, nevertheless, sincere, heartfelt and full of gratitude.”

The Bat Kol Lady.

In 2016, Sr. Maureena formed the Bat Kol International Leadership Team, to support and promote the work of Bat Kol wherever and however possible.

In 2019 the academic programme was transitioned to the brothers of Our Lady of Sion, whose Ratisbonne Bat Kol Christian Center for Jewish Studies continues to conduct programmes and activities in the Holy Land.

In 2021, Bat Kol Institute bestowed its emblem, a statue of a woman and a dove about to take flight, to a new online learning platform called Bat Kol International, born from the desire of Bat Kol Alumni of the Congregation of Our Lady of the Missions to animate study of the Word of God in the spirit of Bat Kol at grassroots level.

In his talk, Rabbi Weiman-Kelman compared Bat Kol’s interfaith work to the fragments of the tablets shattered by Moses on Mount Sinai and brought together in the Ark of the Covenant. He said that each fragment was a small piece of truth. “None of us has access to absolute truth,” he explained. “Interfaith work and teaching and learning and dialogue is so important, because it allows us to seek out the fragments of truth that others have, and to share our fragments with others.”

Today we celebrate how Sr. Maureena’s original intuition has grown and morphed over four decades, adding tiny fragments to the big interfaith picture, staying abreast of the times and embracing change. And going to show that faith can reveal strength and resilience unimagined.