Born in Germany in the 1920s, Ernst Conrad experienced the persecution of Jews from an early age. It was during these formative years, around the time of his becoming bar mitzvah that he decided to become a rabbi. At 18 he left home for the United States, and located to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he actively worked to fight persecution, injustice and intolerance, issues that would be the foundation of his teachings throughout his life.
After earning a degree in Classics from the University of Cincinnati, he began his rabbinic studies at the Hebrew Union College and was ordained in 1947. He served congregations in Maryland and North Carolina before settling with his family in Southeast Michigan.
In 1966, he, his wife, Nathalie, and eight other families founded The New Temple, renamed Temple Kol Ami (Voice of My People) in 1970. He served as senior rabbi until 1986 when he retired as Founding Rabbi Emeritus.
Even in retirement, he continued to teach and lead, serving as rabbi for congregations in Battle Creek and Grosse Pointe, and leading a Bible study group at the Jewish Community Center Institute for Retired Professionals.
Social action continued to play an important role in Rabbi Conrad’s personal life, speaking out on behalf of interfaith, intercultural and interracial relations, as well as workers’, women's and civil rights. Not one to seek the spotlight, Rabbi Conrad was modest about his achievements; preferring to participate in a rally or demonstration, rather than assuming an office in an organization. In 2003, Rabbi Conrad received the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights’ Lifetime Commitment Award.