Sorry seems to be the hardest word even for agony aunt Irma Kurtz

It is probably the most overused word in the English language - and yet it is also one of the hardest words to say.

With this in mind sorry is the theme of Who’s Sorry Now - An Evening On Apology, an upcoming panel at North London Tavern in Kilburn. The event is being organised by the Jewish Community Centre.

The panel will explore the ins and outs of the act of contrition in private and in public a week after the Jewish festival of Atonement.

Panellist and Cosmopolitan magazine’s first agony aunt Irma Kurtz says a genuine apology is the essence of human existence.

“I always say ‘I don’t need a passport to get in to the State of Apology – I was born there,” the Bloomsbery resident said.


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“Apology is one of the great things that human beings can do – like dreams you can screw up – but other animals as far as I know don’t apologise. It is a uniquely human attribute.

“It calls for empathy and sympathy and it also requires forgiveness, which is possibly an even greater virtue.”

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The writer believes apology and forgiveness are inextricably tied to guilt – something she has felt her whole life.

“People feel guilty for things that we have no reason to feel guilty for,” she said. “When I was born, I was a girl, and my family wanted a boy because in those days you just wanted a boy - especially immigrants to America who still had the old traditional ways,” she explained.

“I think I entered a state of feeling guilty at birth and a lot of my own life is a kind of ongoing apology – it’s silly apologising because I have nothing to feel guilty for – but tell that to someone who is feeling guilty.”

And even an agony aunt who has pontificated on the problems of young and old, male, female and transgender since the 1970s has ‘should-have-been’ apologies that haunt her.

“I was working in a PR firm and some French man was visiting and he wanted to take me out,” she said. “I was paying my way through uni – and I remember I just panicked.

“I had nothing to wear, he was in fashion, he was very cute and he was French and grown up and I’m an innocent little character and I was pretty but I didn’t know it.

“I had a dinky little flat that I shared with some other people and he was knocking at the door and I just pretended I wasn’t there and I have always felt guilty and I wish I could tell poor old Jean Pierre – I’m so sorry!”

Kurtz will be joined by rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger and Gerald Mars, a professor of social anthropology at University College London.

The discussion, chaired by historian and journalist Professor David Cesarani, starts at 7.30pm on Tuesday, October 11.

Tickets are available by calling 020 7431 9866 or visiting

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