The Woolf Institute studies how relations between Jews, Christians and Muslims can enhance our understanding of key concepts of public life: community and identity, mutual respect, personal responsibility, and social solidarity. Combining theology with the social sciences and the humanities, the Institute, which works closely with the University of Cambridge, seeks to strengthen the ethical framework that is needed for political, economic and social life.
Its teaching and research examines common purpose and points of difference between Jews, Christians and Muslims from a multidisciplinary perspective. In addition to the pursuit of knowledge, the Institute designs public education programmes aimed at improving public and voluntary sector services and linking difference with the broader sustainability of communities.
Founded by Dr Edward Kessler MBE, described by the Times Higher Education Supplement as “probably the most prolific figure in interfaith academia”, the Institute is named in honour of The Rt Hon Lord Woolf, CH, former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales.
Dr Kessler set up the Institute in 1998 with Rev Prof Martin Forward; both had been involved in the study and practice of interfaith dialogue for many years, and had realised that few seminaries or universities were able to offer courses on the insights of the encounter between Judaism and Christianity.
Establishing the college in Cambridge enables the Institute to teach students from one of the world’s leading universities and have access to its rich learning environment; as Associate Member of the Cambridge Theological Federation, the Institute teaches future leaders from the main Christian denominations. It works closely with the University’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre for Islamic Studies and the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.