Ehrlich’s tremendous legacy

Professor Frederick Ehrlich.

TRIBUTES have flowed in for communal stalwart Professor Frederick Ehrlich, who passed away on November 2 aged 85.

A committed Zionist and an active member of the Jewish community, Ehrlich was a founding parent of Masada College and served as president from 1967-70.

He was also on the boards of the North Shore Synagogue, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, JCA and Mandelbaum House.

Ehrlich – who was born in Czernowitz, Romania – was a child Holocaust survivor and arrived in Sydney in 1947.

From these traumatic beginnings, he rose to great heights to “become one of this country’s most forward thinkers and achievers”, wrote Adrianne Kern, a friend of the Ehrlich family who interviewed Ehrlich extensively before his death and compiled a comprehensive biography.

“Fred had an intellectual hunger, an irrepressible mind, and a passion for knowledge that survived the brutality of war, to thrive in peaceful Australia,” she wrote. “To say the life of Fred Ehrlich was extraordinary and complex would be an understatement.”

At age 25, Ehrlich was the youngest surgeon to qualify in the Commonwealth – an impressive feat made more remarkable considering he arrived in Australia aged 15 having never heard a word of English.

His illustrious career in medicine – which spanned psychiatry, orthopaedic surgery, geriatrics and rehabilitation – finished in the medico-legal field, where at the age of 84, Ehrlich was instrumental in establishing the Australian Medical Legal College. He was the foundation president of the college until this year.

Central to Ehrlich’s legacy as a distinguished doctor was his holistic view that medicine is about helping people, not just treating ailments.

“He never lost sight of people’s humanity and urged those in the health profession to have a ‘total care’ approach to medicine and encouraged active social intervention,” wrote Kern.

Associate professor and chairman of Mandelbaum House, David Levy, remarked, “Fred joined the Mandelbaum Council over 15 years ago and consistently had an active voice and comment through to recent months on both the Mandelbaum Council and the Mandelbaum Academic Advisory Committee.”

Former federal executive director of the Australian Friends of the Hebrew University (AFHU) Barry Joseph reflected on Ehrlich’s contribution to the AFHU’s NSW division for 15 years.

“Together with Shirley, they worked tirelessly to promote the university’s ideals and ensure that many underprivileged Israeli students received the chance in life of an education,” remarked Joseph.

“He will be greatly missed by all who knew him and for his tireless commitment to Sydney and Australian Jewry.”

Ehrlich is survived by his wife of 58 years, Shirley, and children, Paul, Rachel, Simon, Adam, Miriam and Avrum.