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Family

Sent Back to Faith

October 21, 2015 by

My father died eleven years ago, eighty-four years old. His was a rich life – deep, purposeful, and God-led. A thinker and a seeker all his life – a Renaissance man – my father left a legacy that needs to be shared. Aided by fluency in four languages and his love of mathematics and order, he was able to express and share his thoughts with his children, his grandchildren, and a wide circle of friends with whom he maintained an extensive correspondence. In the months following his death much of this was compiled into a collection that was never published. I would like to share some of this collection with you.

Stan Ehrlich as a young man with his mother

But before I can, it is necessary to know at least the basics of my father’s life story. Albert Ehrlich (known all his adult life as Stan) spent his first four years in Hannover, the city of his birth. His father was a cosmopolitan, erudite businessman whose career took him through Paris, Barcelona, and Constantinople. As early as 1924 he sensed the threat of nascent anti-Semitism and moved his family out of Germany to Brussels. There he became a sales manager at AEG (Allgemeine Eleketrizitäts-Gesellschaft), earning a considerable salary while his son enjoyed a comfortable upbringing, complete with vacations in Switzerland and on the Mediterranean. The requisite ten years later, the entire family became Belgian citizens, which was later to be their protection.

Stan Ehrlich as a young man

All this changed on May 10, 1940, when the Germans crossed the Belgian border. My father was by then a first-year student at the Ecole Solvay, one of the top business schools in Belgium. The ensuing cascade of events, national, public, and personal, found my father’s family fleeing like so many other European Jews. La Panne, Paris, Toulouse, Marseilles – way-stations in the pursuit of the essential and elusive French exit visas and Portuguese entrance visas.

My father, being an Allied male of military age, could apply for neither. He finally escaped over the Pyrenees on foot, at night, into Spain. He always believed it was angels who lead and protected his flight. And who could argue otherwise, who heard him tell it? Reunited with his parents in Lisbon, they were able to secure passage to Buenos Aires, and there they quickly settled, exploiting their business savvy to reestablish the classic bourgeois life they loved among a widening circle of Jewish European immigrants.

Stan and Hela Ehrlich as a young couple

In 1949 my father married a beautiful woman, another Jewish refugee, and this marriage lasted for fifty-five years. They had seven children; I am the youngest. My mother died of a sudden and silent heart attack in 2004, a blow and a loss from which my father never recovered. He died four short months later.

Decades of searching and probing, intellectually and spiritually, brought my father from atheism to a profound and living Christian faith, always drawing on his Mosaic roots. He worked through many themes: grace, suffering, God’s hand over our lives, our lower nature and human desires, Jesus’ call to overcome all that, family, community. And he left behind a record of his musings for us to follow and ponder.

Considering the current refugee crisis in Europe, I’d like to share my father’s response to a granddaughter volunteering in the slums of Philadelphia in 1999. She raised the familiar but always agonizing question, “Why, God?” He wrote:

I am in dialogue with a few people on the subject, “how can God allow. . .” This question is more than a temptation; it is an aggression on our faith. I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes to you in that part of the world where you are. Tell yourself two things: one, that we are neither expected to nor fit to give such “answers,” and two, that the God whom we are tempted to accuse suffered injustice, torture, and death in the perfect, sinless, and totally loving form of his son.

Stan Ehrlich in 2004

By encouraging or giving political solutions to man’s problems we perpetuate them. There is no change in anything without repentance. There is no change in anything without the madness (as it appears to us alienated ones!) of Matthew 5. This does not mean we shouldn’t speak up for the suffering and poor; that we shouldn’t do what we can (and try to do!), but not with the means of the world, not with the strength of the world, not in the spirit of the world.
It is so tempting to throw your hands to Heaven and to give up on humanity. Well, the other day somebody quoted somebody else who said “How can we dare give up on humanity, if God in Heaven has not given up on us!” We are sent back to faith. We are always sent back to faith. In all you said in your letter, in all I said in my letter. And that’s how it should be.

When I read my father’s words, now more than a decade since he died, I am with him again, can hear his deep voice and feel his warm hand over mine. I intend to continue sharing from his thoughts in this space.

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About the author

Carmen Hinkey

Carmen Hinkey

Carmen Hinkey and her husband Stephen live at the Mount Community in New York State.

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  • This is wonderful, Carmen! So beautifully done, and, within the limits of just a few words, exactly right. What a joy to come across those photos and your words (via, of all things, Facebook).

    Michel Ehrlich
  • Beautiful to read this

    veena khanna
  • My dear Carmen, How much our paths kept crossing years ago ... I can still see our Fathers sitting together and discussing this over a cup of tea ... Give my greetings to your family ...

    Sarah (Tucker) Miller
  • Thank you for sharing this just now. It meant a lot to us to read this today.

    Sonna Domer
  • I love this, Carmen. I never had the privilege of getting to know your parents, as we only lived on the same hof when I was a very little girl. I look forward to reading the next installment. Your dad is so right on with the above letter. Peace to you and Steph!

    Gillian Burleson