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'Wall Street Journal' Story Lauds Local Man: Irvin Borowsky

December 6, 2007
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Irvin Borowsky
Local philanthropist and communal activist Irvin Borowsky, 83, was recently recognized by The Wall Street Journal in its Encore feature series for his "post-retirement" work with the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia.

Borowsky, a first-generation American born to Polish émigrés, founded the museum off Second Street in Old City in January 2000 to help defuse prejudice and bigotry in the United States and elsewhere.

The museum features interactive exhibits that tell the story of national and international heroes that range from the Abolitionists to Anne Frank, Nelson Mandela and Raoul Wallenberg -- individuals who devoted their lives to advancing the cause of racial, religious and ethnic freedom.

One gallery is devoted to immigrants and the reasons they came to America; another demonstrates peaceful and practical ways to resolve conflict. More than 100 pieces of contemporary glass art also appear throughout the museum. The highlight for many of the hundreds of thousands of people who have visited the museum since its doors opened is glass artist Dale Chihuly's 20-foot "Flame of Liberty."

Borowsky -- one of nine children raised in a working-class Philadelphia neighborhood -- was familiar with prejudice growing up.

But rather than let it get him down, he used the slurs as a motivator. He helped support his family during World War II by running a printing press out of his bedroom at the age of 12.

One of the publications that emanated from that press was TV Digest, America's first television guide. By 28, Borowsky was a wealthy man, having sold the publication to Walter Annenberg, who turned it into TV Guide.

He parlayed that fortune into another venture, North American Publishing Company, today owned by his son. The highly successful business prints trade magazines.

Borowsky paid a high price for his strong work ethic, suffering an aneurysm at the age of 57. This nearly catastrophic event prompted his decision to devote his life to causes that fight prejudice and violence. To this end, he founded and funds the American Interfaith Institute, a nonprofit organization that publishes books on religion, and trains teachers and students on effective techniques to resolve conflict in schools.

Borowsky has always thought of work as beneficial, noting that "so many of my friends worship leisure, but I think work is a positive experience that has kept me full of energy."

Indeed, he arrives at the Liberty Museum most mornings at 8:15 a.m. and works a full day.

His goal is to open similar museums across America.

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