Founded in 1998, the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life (ICEJPL) dedicated its scholarship to “promote effective responses to conflict and injustice,” while also fostering a dialogue for ethical contemplation and practice in civic and professional life. In the same year, the ICEJPL received a $13 million dollar donation from Abraham Feinberg, which funded the building of the Ethics Center. Feinberg was a chairman to the Board of Trustees from 1954 to 1961. Alan B. Slifka donated $5 million dollars in 2002. This donation funded the Alan B. Slifka Program for the Intercommunal Coexistence, which matriculated its first students in September of 2004 to achieve a Masters in Coexistence and Conflict. The Program for Intercommunal Coexistence was later moved to the Heller School of Management. At present, the ICEJPL oversees the Brandeis Program for International Justice and Society as well as the Sorensen Fellowship, which is given to students under the name of the late Theodore Sorensen 1928-2010, policy advisor to John F. Kennedy and contributor to the center’s ideals and teachings.
Prior to the founding of the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life and following a request from Sam Zoll, chief justice from the Massachusetts District Court System, Brandeis created a continuing education program for overworked judges. Called the Humanities and Professions Program, the programming ran from 1980 until 1995. It was initiated by the Director of the Legal Studies Department, Saul Touster, alongside the Co-Director of the Continuing Education Department, Sanford Lottor.
The initial program/seminar was “Doing Justice: Literary Texts, Professional Values, and the Judicial System.” Beyond the initial audience of judges, the programming expanded to include judicial educators, teachers, lawyers, doctors, public officials, and other business and health professionals. Touster and Lottor continued to conduct similar programming for the same populations, including “Doing Good” and “Humanities and Professions.” Each seminar would concentrate on discussion of two to three ethical texts. Used as the umbrella term for the entirety of this programming, Humanities and Professions became the most prolific program, and ran from 1984 to 1995. Sponsored by numerous grants, the Humanities and Professions Program received money from the Massachusetts Foundation on Humanities and Public Policy, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Exxon Foundation, and the State Justice Institute. As a precursor the ICEJPL, the Humanities and Professions programming established a precedent for Brandeis’ focus on the ethical demands in civic and professional life
Following the success of the Humanities and Professions programming, the ICEJPL was established. In 1995, Brandeis gathered scholars, writers, activists, artists, and political leaders for a two-day convention “to suggest ideas and directions for the new institution.” As a result, the ICEJPL established a direction as well as programming ideas, which produced the Ethics Center Student Fellowship Program, week-long invitations to prominent speakers, and the International Fellows Program. Early ideas focused around conflict in the Middle East, and expanded to include three key areas of practice, including coexistence and conflict, international justice, and campus-wide awareness of issues in ethics and social justice.
At present, the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life serves as an interdisciplinary department that analyzes and provides responses to social injustice and ethical concerns locally as well as globally.