The Woolf Institute opened its doors in 1998. Its founders, Rev Prof Martin Forward and Dr Edward Kessler, who had both been involved in the study and practice of interfaith dialogue for many years, realised that despite the importance of Jewish-Christian dialogue in Europe, few seminaries or universities were able to offer courses on the insights of the encounter between Judaism and Christianity. Their aim was to develop an independent academic Centre that would bridge this gap and harness the best of contemporary scholarship in the service of inter-faith understanding. They sought to bring together community leaders, both secular and religious, clergy and lay leaders to provide a framework in which people can tackle difficult issues constructively.
Its location in Cambridge allows the Woolf Institute to follow in the tradition of firstclass scholarship in the study of Judaism and Christianity. Its close relations with the University of 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.
Since 1998, the Centre for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations (CJCR) has become one of the world's leading centres in the study of relations between Jews and Christians throughout the ages. It works closely with the Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge and contributes to the provision of the University's undergraduate and postgraduate teaching programme. The CJCR's flagship academic course is the Master of Studies in the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations of the University of Cambridge.
In 2006, The Centre for the Study of Muslim-Jewish Relations (CMJR) opened. It is the first and only European Centre dedicated to fostering a better understanding of relations between Muslim and Jews through teaching, research and dialogue. Since its inception, CMJR has disseminated innovative educational programmes to a wide audience, at several academic levels. It works in collaboration with the University's Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre for Islamic Studies as well as the School of International Service at the American University in Washington.
The Centre for Public Education developed alongside the two Centres, CJCR and CMJR to ensure that the teaching and research of the Institute is accessible to individuals and
organisations interested in relations between Jews, Christians and Muslims who require knowledge in this field for professional and personal reasons.
In 2010 - 11, approximately 300 students took one or more of the Institute's courses. These students were from a wide variety of backgrounds and included police officers, city councillors, doctors and nurses, lawyers and accountants, teachers and lecturers, journalists, members of the clergy and those who are training for the ministry, the rabbinate or other professional positions. Their ages vary from early 20s to 70s and countries of origin include: Australia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Ukraine, United States as well as the UK.
The success of many of our courses lies in their accessibility and flexibility, demonstrated in particular by the Woolf Institute's expertise in e-learning. Since inception, the Institute has attracted students from around the world, many of whom cannot travel to Cambridge. It has pioneered many e-learning courses and seeks to be at the cutting-edge of distance education by investing resources in both the latest technology as well as high quality academic staff.
The Woolf Institute is a charitable company, limited by guarantee. It was established by charity deed on 26th November 1996 with the Charity Commission for England and Wales (No. 1059772), under the original title, Centre for Jewish -Christian Relations. It then merged with a Charitable Company limited by Guarantee (No. 1069589) and, with the approval of Charity Commission, was incorporated at Companies House on 18th May 1998 (No. 3540878). The change of name to the Woolf Institute was approved by the Companies House on 29th June 2010.