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Woolf Institute Transition 2021: Continuity and Change

25th March 2021

The Woolf Institute is delighted to announce that from June 2021, Dr Esther Miriam Wagner will take on sole executive responsibility for the Woolf Institute, aiming to further develop the Woolf Institute's impact on society and to facilitate an inclusive culture.

Founder Director Dr Kessler will move to the role of Founder President and will continue to contribute through scholarship and media work as an expert on inter-faith relations. He will advocate for and actively support the Woolf Institute, and remain on the Board of Trustees and the Development Council.

It was nearly a decade ago that Dr Wagner first joined the Woolf Institute, pursuing her own studies in Muslim-Jewish relations and cultivating the Institute's first-class research and teaching culture. Dr Kessler worked closely with Dr Wagner, recognising her leadership talent at early stage. Since his sabbatical in 2019, she has been serving as Executive Director, and it is a natural step that she now takes the Woolf Institute to its next phase of development.

Building on Dr Kessler's vision, Dr Wagner's aim is to further define and develop the Woolf Institute's impact on society, strengthen its financial sustainability, recruit diverse talent, and facilitate an inclusive and co-creative culture that demonstrates how religious understanding can foster societal cooperation.

Restrictions of the pandemic allowing, the transition of leadership will be marked by a celebration at the Woolf Institute in May. It will be accompanied by a digital festival on the themes of continuity, change and encounter.

Dr Kessler said:

It has been the honour of a lifetime to serve as Founder Director of the Woolf Institute. It is not every person who has the privilege of turning an idea into reality. Of course, this has been the achievement of many people. I want to express my profound gratitude to all the partners, students, scholars, supporters, staff, Trustees, and advocates, especially Lord Woolf and my wife Trisha. Each has helped the Woolf Institute to build understanding between religions and contribute to creating a more peaceful and productive future for humanity. Chief amongst my partners for the past decades has been Dr Esther-Miriam Wagner. Her talents as a visionary, a scholar, and an administrator are world class. It is with utmost confidence in her abilities to further the impact of the Woolf Institute that I move to a non-executive position.

Dr Wagner said:

I am so grateful to Dr Kessler for having established the Woolf Institute. His vision has provided a home to create extraordinary encounters between multi-disciplinary academics and leaders from all sectors of society. The result is outstandingly innovative insights, based on novel research, that I have had the honour of witnessing making life better for people and helping to ease some of our social ills. It is this impact I look forward to making more tangible as we move forward in our next phase of development.

Chair of the Board, Shabir Randeree CBE, said:

It has been a great privilege to work with both Dr Kessler and Dr Wagner. I have born witness to their symbiotic working relationship, worked closely with Dr Wagner during Dr Kessler's sabbatical, and know that the leadership transition will be successful. This natural evolution is a sign of the Woolf Institute's maturity as it is ready and able to move to the next stage. I wish to express how pleased we all are that Dr Kessler will continue to support the Institute in his role as Founder President. His service knows no bounds.

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