Ernst Borinski

By Myrna Knepler

Ernst Borinski was a good friend of my late husband, Henry Knepler.
Both Europeans, they had met at the University of Chicago and travelled together in their grad student days. Later Ernst stayed with us several times in our home in Hyde Park, Chicago.

These were wonderful visits and inspiring. Ernst’s optimism and determination to find solutions rather than sit around discussing the problem in the manner of university intellectuals was continually displayed. These qualities must have been a large part of what made him key in changing the lives of so many people. Being with him always lifted my spirits.


One small story illustrates his can-do qualities. Several times during Ernst’s visits I remember beginning the discussion of what I was to prepare for dinner. Often the choice meant a trip to the local supermarket to purchase some missing ingredient. Before I could leave Ernst would say, “Sit down, I’ll prepare dinner. I’ll use whatever you have in the cupboard and fridge.” I would protest, “There’s not enough there. Besides, dinner’s my responsibility. ” Ernst swept my objections away and sailed into the kitchen. “Sit down, give me a half hour and I’ll make dinner.”

He did, often the oddest collection of leftovers and assorted pastas would be presented to us, with great pride. It might not have been four star cuisine but it was palatable and the spirit around the table was joyous.

1 Response to “Ernst Borinski”


  1. 1 ron morrisette December 7, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    this was an interesting story about prof. borinsky… i googled his name after reading an article in the sun, nov. 13th, 2011 sarasota herald…….one of his students, a joyce ladner , had been highly influenced by him and she was to be part of a discussion at the temple here, entitled BEYOND SWASTIKA AND JIM CROW: JEWISH REFUGEE SCHOLARS AT BLACK COLLEGES……….i was out of town but just finally read the article and because my mother was from mississippi, i have developed an active interest in race relations and the ongoing evolution of those type activies and the history of southern racism…….thankyou for you comment about your husband’s and your friend ernst borinsky, who was a very incredible person……..starting some time after leaving germany in 1938, he taught at tougaloo college, a historically black college near jackson, ms………he left quite a legacy there and is buried on the grounds there.. he passed away in 1983 at the age of 81……..through his students he has left an ongoing and highly motivated and appreciative legion of well educated and fearless leaders such as joyce ladner, who resides here in sarasota….. i would like to meet her some day……ron m.


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Have a Story to Share?

Do you have a mentor who inspired you? Share your experience with us. E-mail your story (and photo if you have one) to arubin@mjhnyc.org and be sure to return to this page often to read more inspiring stories.

Ernst Borinski and Donald Cunnigen

In this clip, Professor Donald Cunnigen, a former student at Tougaloo College, explains how his mentor Professor Ernst Borinski helped form his view of the world. View the clip and then help us answer the question: Who Has Inspired You?

The Exhibition

Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow was created by the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.

The exhibition will be on view at the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum in Atlanta from June 24 – December 9, 2012.

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