Edward Kessler

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Edward Kessler
Freedom of religion or belief (30359640901).jpg
Born (1963-05-03) 3 May 1963 (age 54)
London, England
Occupation Theologian
Nationality British

Edward Kessler MBE (born 3 May 1963)[1] is the founding director of The Woolf Institute. He is a thinker in interfaith relations, primarily contemporary Judaism, Jewish-Christian and Jewish-Muslim Relations, and is a Fellow of St Edmund’s College, Cambridge.[2]


Born in 1963, Kessler was educated at City of London School and graduated with a First-Class Honours Degree in Hebrew and Religious Studies from the University of Leeds in 1985, an MTS degree from Harvard Divinity School in 1987, and an MBS degree from the University of Stirling in 1989. He went on to work in a family business, Kesslers International Group, for 7 years before returning to his academic studies, completing a PhD degree at the University of Cambridge in 1999.

Kessler, with Martin Forward, founded the Centre for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations (CJCR) in 1998.[3] In 2006 The Centre for the Study of Muslim-Jewish Relations (CMJR) and the Centre for Policy Public Education were established [4] and the name of the organisation was changed to The Woolf Institute in 2010, and its focus was extended to the study of relations among and between Jews, Christians and Muslims.

In 2006, he was awarded the Sternberg Interfaith Award from philanthropist Sir Sigmund Sternberg "in recognition of outstanding services in furthering relations between faiths".[5] In June 2007 The Times Higher Education newspaper described him as "probably the most prolific interfaith figure in British academia".[6] In 2011 he was awarded an MBE awarded for services to interfaith relations [7] Kessler has published 11 books, most recently, Jews, Christians and Muslims was published in 2013 by SCM. He is currently working on a book about Jesus which will be published in 2016 by The History Press.

Kessler now serves as Vice-Chair for the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life, a two-year initiative that examines the role of religion and belief in British public life and is due to publish its findings in the autumn of 2015. Kessler sits on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s Advisory group on Freedom of Religion and Belief and regularly teaches FCO staff on how and why religion can fundamentally affect policy.

Much of his 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. More recently his writings have focussed on the encounter with Islam and contemporary relations between the three Abrahamic faiths and implications for fostering a vibrant and open society. Kessler proposes approaches for managing difference, which he argues is vital in forming a positive identity as well as sustaining communities.[8] In his discussion on covenantal theology, he argues for the creation of ‘theological space’ in which people of faith can affirm one another without losing their particularities of faith.[9]

In a lecture at the Brookings Institution in 2014, he argued that diplomats and policymakers need to be better trained in religion and belief and described the contemporary religious landscape as a post-interfaith world.

Books and edited volumes[edit]

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

2002 - Jews and Christians in Conversation: crossing cultures and generations, eds., E. Kessler, JT Pawlikowski & J Banki, Cambridge: Orchard Academic

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

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

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

2013 - Jews, Christians and Muslims, London: SCM

Other media and public presence[edit]

Kessler writes for the printed media, including The Tablet, The Church Times, and The Jewish Chronicle and broadcasts on radio, predominantly BBC Radio 4. For examples see external links.

He has expressed opposition about any imminent beatification/canonisation of Pope Pius XII.[10]

Kessler has delivered a number of public lectures including:

The 1st Hugo Gryn Memorial lecture, London (1998); The 30th Cardinal Bea Memorial Lecture, London (2000); The Shapiro Lecture, Chicago (2003); The Martin Buber Lecture, East Anglia University (2004); The Bishop Grossteste Lecture, Lincoln Cathedral (2005); The Kennedy lecture, North Carolina (2008);[11] Ely Cathedral Lectures: 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible.[12] Changing Landscapes: A lecture on Jews, Christians and Muslims in the UK Today, University of Derby (2012)); The Abrahamic Religions: the prospects for their inter-relations, University of Edinburgh (2013); Religion and International Relations: towards a post-interfaith society, Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C. (2014)


External links[edit]