Dr Edward Kessler MBE

Founder President

Fellow, St Edmund's College
Affiliated Lecturer, Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge
Convenor, Commission on the Integration of Refugees.


Dr Edward Kessler, MBE is Founder President of the Woolf Institute and a leading thinker in interfaith relations, primarily, Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations, as well as Convenor of the Commission on the Integration of Refugees.

He founded the Woolf Institute, originally called the Centre for Jewish-Christian Relations, 1998 and was elected Fellow of St Edmund's College in 2002; in 2007, Dr Kessler was described by The Times Higher Education Supplement (London) as 'probably the most prolific interfaith figure in British academia' and in 2011 was awarded an MBE for services to interfaith relations. He has written or edited 12 books, including An Introduction to Jewish-Christian Relations (Cambridge, 2010), Jews, Christians and Muslims in Encounter (SCM, 2013) and Jesus (The History Press, 2016). His Documentary History of Jewish-Christian Relations is due to be published by Cambridge in 2024.

He was Convenor and Vice-Chair of the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life (2013-15), which published a major policy report entitled, Living with Difference and Principal Investigator of the Woolf Diversity Study, a study of diversity in England and Wales (2017-19), which published a major policy report entitled, How We Get Along.

Kessler began plans to convene an independent UK Commission in January 2022 on the Integration of Refugees, which was launched in November. Lord Carlile was appointed Chair and Bishop Guli Francis-Dehqan, Vice Chair. The Commission is taking evidence at hearings around the UK and is due to publish its report in the Spring of 2024.

In 2023 he was appointed Chair of the Advisory Board overseeing the unification of Reform and Liberal Judaism.

Kessler regularly appears in the media commenting on religion and belief issues of the day, such as presenting a BBCR4 documentary entitled 'We do do God' (2019), is a regular contributor to the Woolf Institute blog and hosts the weekly podcast Naked Reflections. He also presented the series, Covid-19 Chronicles (2020), which consists of more than 50 interviews with faith leaders on the impact of the coronavirus on religion and belief. He wrote and presented two A-Z podcasts (2018-20), An A-Z of Believing: From Atheism to Zealotry and An A-Z of the Holy Land: From Arab to Zion.

Much of his academic work has been examining Scripture and exploring the significance for Jewish-Christian relations of sharing a sacred text. He has identified a common exegetical tradition, especially in the formative centuries. In recent writings, he has focused on the encounter with Islam and contemporary relations between the three Abrahamic faiths. Kessler proposes positive approaches for managing difference, which he argues, is vital in forming a constructive identity as well as for sustaining communities, in the UK and Overseas. Since 2017, he has been working with local actors in Israel, Palestine and Jordan to agree measures to safeguard Jerusalem's holy places.

Kessler also explores the tensions, positive as well as negative, between religion and civil society. At a lecture at the Brookings Institution in 2014, he argued that diplomats and policymakers need to be better trained in religion and belief, describing the contemporary religious landscape as a 'post-interfaith' world. In 2019, at an annual lecture for the Council for Religious and Life Stance Communities in Oslo, he argued that because religious monopolies are in decline, belonging to a minority is the norm.

As well as teaching Cambridge University students, Kessler teaches at the Cambridge Theological Federation. Internationally, he contributes to an annual online course on Muslim-Jewish relations (jointly with American University in Washington) and is regularly invited to deliver lectures Overseas.

In 2022, as Visiting Professor at the Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College, Dublin, he delivered a lecture on ways to sustain and safeguard, Jerusalem’s Holy Places; in 2023, he delivered the Krister Stendahl Memorial Lecture in Stockholm and discussed the importance of tackling the difficult issues in interfaith dialogue.

A full list of his publications can be found below.

Select Bibliography

Books and Edited Volumes

2024 A Documentary History of Jewish-Christian Relations: From Ancient Times to the Present-Day Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (forthcoming)

2016 Jesus, Stroud: The History Press

2013 Jews, Christians and Muslims, London: SCM

2010 Introduction to Jewish-Christian Relations, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

2006 Challenges in Jewish-Christian Relations, eds., J. Aitken & E. Kessler, New York: Paulist Press

2006 What do Jews Believe? London and New York: Granta Publications

2005 A Dictionary of Jewish-Christian Relations, eds., E. Kessler & N. Wenborn, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

2004 A Reader of Liberal Judaism: Israel Abrahams, Claude Montefiore, Israel Mattuck and Lily Montagu, London: Vallentine Mitchell

2004 Aspects of Liberal Judaism: Essays in Honour of John D Rayner on the Occasion of his 80th Birthday, eds., E. Kessler and D.J. Goldberg, London: Vallentine Mitchell

2004 Bound by the Bible: Jews, Christians and the Sacrifice of Isaac, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

2004 Themes in Jewish-Christian Relations, eds., E. Kessler & M.J. Wright, Cambridge: Orchard Academic

2002 Jews and Christians in Conversation: Crossing Cultures and Generations, eds., E. Kessler, J.T. Pawlikowski & J. Banki, Cambridge: Orchard Academic

1989 An English Jew: The Life and Writings of Claude Montefiore, London: Vallentine Mitchell (2nd Edition, 2002)

Selection of recent articles and book chapters

2021 "Jewish-Christian Relations and Christian Mission",  OUP Handbook for Mission Studies, eds., Kirsteen Kim and Knud Jørgensen (forthcoming).

2020 "Religion and the Nation State: standing at the crossroads", Theology and Freedom: Festschrift for Alexei Bodrov,  ed., I Yazykova, Moscow, St. Andrew's Biblical Theological Institute, pp 453-468 (forthcoming).

2018 "The Church Also Is Enriched When She Receives the Values of Judaism": Shared Faith Responses to Pope Francis and Interreligious Dialogue, Pope Francis and Interreligious Dialogue, eds. A Race and H Kasimov, Palgrave, pp 85-100.

2018 "Eine jüdische Stellungsnahme 50 Jahre nach Nostra Aetate: Reflexionen eines europäischen jüdischen Theologen" in Perspektiven christlich-jüdischer Erneuerung im sechsten Jahrzehnt nach Nostra aetate 4, ed.,  M Himmelbauer, Herder, pp 99-115.

2018 "A Theology of Jewish-Christian Relations: Construction of the Common Good", Righting Relations After the Holocaust and Vatican II: Essays in Honor of Fr. Dr. John T M Pawlikowski, New York: Paulist Press, pp 45-56.

2017 "The Changing Religious Landscape: Implications for Civil Society and Foreign Affairs", Bulletin of the Royal Institute for interfaith Studies, Amman, The Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies, volume 14, pp 19-32.

2017 "Jewish-Christian Relations", The Jewish Annotated New Testament (Second edition), Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Z. Brettler eds., Oxford: Oxford Univ Press, pp 763-67.

2016 "A Muslim and Jewish Perspective on Dialogue between Islam and Judaism" (with Akbar Ahmed), Handbook of Muslim-Jewish Relations, Routledge, edited by J Meri, pp 253-70.

2016, "And Finally…" The Expository Times,127: 312.

2015 "Reading the Bible after Auschwitz", Crucible: The Journal of Christian Social Ethics [Special edition: The Holocaust 70 Years On: Jewish and Christian Reflections], pp 34-45.

2013 "Judaism and the Religious Other", Understanding Interreligious Relations, eds., David Cheetham, Douglas Pratt, and David Thomas, OUP, pp 64-87.

2013 "'I am Joseph your brother': A Jewish Perspective on Christian-Jewish Relations since Nostra Aetate No. 4'' Theological Studies 74, No 1, pp 48-72. [Reprinted: 2015 50 Years On: Probing the Riches of Vatican II, ed., David G. Schultenover, Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, pp 207-233.]

2013 "Muslims and Jews in the West Today: Minority Transformations" Welcome to the Cavalcade: A Festschrift in Honour of Rabbi Professor Jonathan Magonet, pp 276-285.

2013 ''Social Media and the Movement of Ideas'' European Judaism 46, No 1, pp 25-36.

2012 "A Jewish response to Gavin D'Costa" Theological Studies: 73, No 3, pp 614-629.

2011 "Rethinking the Christian-Jewish Relationship: Some Reflections from a Jewish Theologian” Pastoral Review 7:4, pp 16-23.

2011 "Jewish-Muslim Dialogue in Light of Jewish-Christian Relations", Theology Vol 114, No 1, pp 23-31.

2011 "Mary the Jewish Mother", Irish Theological Quarterly Vol 76, pp 211-223. [Re-printed, Russian translation: 2014 in The Journal of St Andrew's Biblical Theological Institute 18:2, pp 235-249.]

2010 "Jewish Religious Tradition", A Guide to Religious Thought and Practices, ed., Santanu K. Patro, London: SPCK, pp 90-116.

2010 "Changing Landscapes: Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations Today", Melilah, Vol 3, pp 1-23.

2010 "Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations in light of the Saudi Initiative for Dialogue", Interfaith Dialogue: Cross-cultural Views ed., Mohammed Al Bashir, Riyadh: Ghainaa Publications, pp 74-85.

Major Public Lectures (selection)

2023  Jerusalem’s Holy Places: sustaining, safeguarding and respecting (Trinity College, Dublin)

2023 The Krister Stendahl Memorial Lecture (Church of Sweden, Stockholm) 

2021 The Changing Landscape of Religion and Belief: Standing at the Crossroads (University of Suffolk)

2019 Religion and the Nation State (The Council for Religious and Life Stance Communities, Oslo)

2017 How can Christians, Jews and Muslims Move Beyond Our Religious Differences and Work Together to Build a Better World? (Kirk Interfaith Conference, Glasgow)

2016 Pope Francis and the Challenges Facing Jewish-Christian Dialogue Today (Dublin City University)

2016 Keeping Faith in Foreign Affairs (Al-Jabar Lecture, University of London)

2015 A Jewish Response to Nostra Aetate 50 Years on: Reflections of a European Jewish Theologian (University of Vienna, 650th anniversary lecture)

2014 Religion and International Relations: Towards a Post-interfaith Society (Brookings Institute, Washington, D.C.)

2013 The Abrahamic Religions: The Prospects for Their Inter-relations (University of Edinburgh)

2012 Changing Landscapes: Jews, Christians and Muslims in the UK Today (University of Derby)

2011 The Bible and Other Faiths (Ely Cathedral Kings James Bible Lectures)

2010 Faith and the City Lecture (University of Bradford)

2009 Isaac and Ishmael (Guardian Hay Festival)

2008 The Kennedy Lecture (Charlotte, North Carolina)

2005 The Bishop Grossteste Lecture (Lincoln Cathedral)

2004 The Martin Buber Lecture (University of East Anglia, Norwich)

2003 The Shapiro Lecture (Chicago)

2000 30th Cardinal Bea Memorial Lecture (London)

1998 1st Hugo Gryn Memorial Lecture (London)

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