Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics Inaugurated

Setting new standards for ethics research in Israel
27 November 2012
From left: TAU President Joseph Klafter, Mrs. Lily Safra, Prof. Dennis Thompson of Harvard University and Prof. Shai Lavi, Head of TAU's Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics

The nexus of science, ethics and democracy will be the major focal point of research of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, inaugurated at the 2012 International Board of Governors Meeting. A joint cooperation of the Buchmann Faculty of Law and the Sackler Faculty of Medicine, the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics will help forge new paths for cooperation and dialogue between the academic community and the general public and address the growing need for ethical deliberation in Israel.


The heart of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics is the Research Fellows Program, comprised of outstanding doctoral and post-doctoral students who integrate insights from a variety of disciplines including law, philosophy, social sciences, humanities, medicine and life sciences. In addition, the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics will hold international conferences and public events.


Among the issues to be addressed by the center are dilemmas arising from current advances in biotech medicine, such as the use of embryonic stem cells for scientific research or preferential organ transplants for holders of organ donor cards.


The Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics was dedicated by TAU Honorary Doctor Lily Safra, Chairwoman of the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation. Mrs. Safra has initiated manifold projects in memory of her late husband, Edmond J. Safra, one of the 20th Century's most prominent bankers and philanthropists. She is involved in a wide range of worthy causes around the world, including serving as co-founder and Honorary Chairperson of the International Sephardic Education Foundation, which has granted over 19,000 scholarships to gifted Israelis since 1977. Mrs. Safra holds numerous honorary doctorates and was made Officier de la Legion d'Honneur by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2011. 


At the inaugural ceremony for the center, Mrs. Safra told the faculty members and students who will be part of the project: "As advocates for ethical behavior in all realms of life, your task is absolutely vital. My husband Edmond understood that there was nothing more important than protecting the powerless in our society and defending the dignity of the oppressed. He would have been very proud to have his name associated with this work."


TAU President Joseph Klafter noted that Edmond J. Safra Foundation was dedicating a second project at this year's Board meeting: the Edmond J. Safra Center for Bioinformatics. Asking what bioinformatics and ethics have in common, Prof. Klafter said the two converge on a number of levels: "First, if bioinformatics is concerned with healing our bodies, then ethics is concerned with healing our soul. Second, both fields can be researched and taught in an interdisciplinary manner – a core strength of Tel Aviv University."


Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics Prof. Shai Lavi said that "Ethics is not only about what we do, but about who we are… It is about our habits as they embodied in our institutions, our culture and our politics. For this reason, we will be paying close attention to the role of ethics in Israeli society within a local, regional and global context."


The guest speaker was Prof. Dennis Thompson, the founding director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, which will collaborate with the TAU center.  


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