Ernst Ehrlich, 86; Jewish Religious Philosopher
Thursday, October 25, 2007; Page B07
GENEVA — Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich, a Jewish religious philosopher who escaped the Nazis and became a European bridge builder between Christians and Jews, has died. He was 86.
Ehrlich died Sunday at his home in Riehen, a suburb of Basel, according to the family notice in Swiss newspapers.
The Berlin-born Ehrlich studied at the Higher Institute for Jewish Studies, Rabbi Leo Baeck’s rabbinical seminary, until the Nazis closed it in 1942.
The Nazis forced him into labor until he found shelter with a Berlin couple and was smuggled into Switzerland.
He obtained his doctorate at Basel and later taught at universities in Switzerland and Germany. From 1961 to 1994, he was European director of the Independent Order of B’nai B’rith, founded in New York in 1843.
At the Second Vatican Council in 1965, he served as adviser to German Cardinal Augustin Bea in preparing “Nostra Aetate,” a key document on Roman Catholic-Jewish relations.
Rabbi Walter Homolka, rector of Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam, Germany, eulogized Ehrlich as being “the bridge to Jewish heritage before the Holocaust” and an important liberal thinker.
Ehrlich was the author of several books on Judaism and was credited by the Free University of Berlin with “influencing generations of scientists.”
Ehrlich is survived by his wife and a daughter.
From The Times of London:
… As a pioneer of inter-religious dialogue, Ehrlich knew and worked with some of the most influential Roman Catholics of the Second Vatican Council. In 1965 he was one of Cardinal Augustin Bea’s advisers in the preparation of Nostra aetate, the document which helped to establish a fresh start in Judeo-Catholic relations. Most importantly, it rejected the age-old accusation that the Jews were responsible for the death of Christ. With the Swiss cardinal, Dr Franz König, he published a document which outlined what they saw as the shared future between Christians and Jews: Die Juden und Christen haben eine Zukunft became another key work of inter- religious dialogue. Ehrlich was also a close friend of the French cardinal and convert from Judaism, Jean-Marie Lustiger (obituary, August 9, 2007).
Both men worked tirelessly on improving relations between their respective faiths, and the fact that both men had lost their mothers in Auschwitz drew them even closer together.
In 2000 Ehrlich spoke out vocally against the proposed beatification of Pope Pius IX, whose anti-Semitism he condemned. He argued that such a move would undo the work that had been invested in improving the relationship between Roman Catholicism and Judaism …
The B’nai B’rith (Judaic Freemasonry) member, Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich was an expert at the fourth annual meeting of the International Catholic/Jewish Liaison Committee in Rome on January 7-10, 1975:
and also at the 17th meeting of the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee on May 1-3, 2001 in New York City, the main theme of which was “Repentance and Reconciliation”:
… if one is to judge by the Council vote of 1964 [in confirmation of Nostra Aetate], the desiderata of Jules Isaac, the B’nai B’rith and the World Jewish Congress weighed heavier in the minds of the 1,300 bishops and Council fathers than the Evangelists, than St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory the Great–and practically all of the doctors of the Church and all the Popes–who elaborated the doctrine which is today denounced by Jules Isaac and others as particularly harmful. (Judaism and the Vatican, Vicomte Leon De Poncins, p.130)