Janowski Family  

The origin of the Janowski (incorrectly spelled Yanovsky) family in Lunna is unknown at present. The first identified ancestor is Dov Janowski who had two sons, Shmuel-Haim and Binyamin ("Niema"). There is another relative, Moshe Janowski, who with his wife, Devorah-Breine, had two daughters, Freidke and Chaya. Freidke Janowski married Shmuel-Haim Janowski, and Chaya Janowski married into the Sorin family.

The Family of Shmuel-Haim, Son of Dov Janowski
(Submitted by Shmuel-Moshe Janowski, a Grandson of Shmuel-Haim)

Shmuel-Haim Janowski was most likely born in Lunna about 1860, at the time under the rule of the Tsar. He and his wife Freidke, daughter of Moshe Janowski, had four children who were born in Lunna; Shepsl-Shabtai, Yitchok-Yitche, Malka, and Dvorah.

Shepsl-Shabtai Janowski, a painter in Lunna, was a quiet unassuming man. He prayed in the Mithnagdim shtibl where Shimon Alpershtein, the shochet, functioned also as the Rav. Shepsl married Rachel, the daughter of Zeev Kaplan from Wolpa. His father, Shmuel-Haim, gave him the "Sidur Rachel" as a wedding gift (which includes a prayer for the wellbeing of Tsar Alexander Nicolai and is, at present, in the possession of his older son Shmuel-Moshe). The "Siddur Rachel" is posted on the Jewish Ceremonies page. Rachel Kaplan-Janowski, who assumed a mother role at age eight, was resourceful and intuitive. Shepsl and Rachel had five children; Sara (b. 1920), Shmuel-Moshe (b. 1921), Ester (b.1925), Rivka (b. 1930), and Dov (b. 1931). After Yitche, his brother, immigrated to Portugal for economic reasons, Shepsl left his wife and three older children in Lunna and followed his brother. He returned to Lunna four years later and he and Rachel had two more children — Rivka and Dov. Despite the lack of communication and being illiterate, Rachel Kaplan-Janowski insisted on immigrating to Palestine. In 1936, the family left Lunna and reached Lisbon by way of Berlin and Amsterdam. They stayed in Lisbon four years in order to financially establish themselves, but were less successful. Reportedly, at the time, they had a close relationship with Hershl-Tzvi Janowski and his most gracious wife, Rashke Sorin, who previously immigrated from Lunna. When Shepsl and Rachel decided to immigrate to Eretz Israel Yitche, who was trusted in Lisbon by Jews as well as Gentiles, helped them to present themselves as “Capitalists” before the British Consul. Only then were they granted certificates to enter Palestine, at the time a British mandate. Once in Palestine they settled in Tel Aviv. Shepsl Janowski died in 1959; Rachel Kaplan-Janowski passed away in 1964.

Sara Janowski-Breitman, their oldest daughter, died in 2000 and left three children: Eitan, Zivah, and Ronit. Shmuel-Moshe Janowski has two children: Aliza and Zeev. Esther Janowski, the founder of the Renanim School of Music in Tel Aviv, had no children and died in 1963. Rivka Janowski-Popper died in 1995 and left three children: Chana, Dudi, and Roni. Dov Janowski has two daughters: Shavit and Nogah.

Yitchok-Yitche Janowski-Joanes immigrated to Portugal at the beginning of the 20th century and established a successful business in Porto and later in Lisbon. He was most generous, compassionate, and trustful. He and his wife Nusia Terlo have two sons, Alexander and Shmuel Joanes, who were born in Portugal and still live there. Yitche Janowski died in 1973.

Malka Janowski married Yitchok-Yitche Novak who was a baker in Lunna. Reportedly, as much as she was kind, Yitche Novak was disagreeable. The couple had four children: Moshe (who drowned in the Niemen River), Heniya, Brindle, and Freidke. They were all murdered in the Holocaust.

Dvorah, the youngest, was mute, never married, and lived with her sister Malka. At a young age, on a Saturday, she suffocated and died on the way to Grodno where medical help was sought.

From the Collection of Shmuel-Moshe Janowski

  The Janowski family (ca. 1930)     Janowski & Novak family (ca. 1930)  

  The Janowski family (ca. 1930)     Shabtai & Rachel Yanovsky (Israel)  

The Family of Binyamin, Son of Dov Janowski
(Photos from the collections of Raszke and Herschel Janowski,
Chaim Sorin, Moses Janowski, Berl Janowski, and Hannah Kostenbaum.)

Binyamin, son of Dov Janowski, was born most likely about 1860 in Lunna, at that time under the rule of the Tsar. He prayed in the "Mitnagdim" shteibl (the "new" synagogue). Below is a document verifying that Binyamin, son of Dov Janowski, purchased two seats at the new Beit Midrash; one seat for himself in the men's section, and another seat for his wife (name currently unknown) in the women's section. The places of the seats in the synagogue and the conditions of the purchase are specified in the agreement document. In particular, Binyamin is allowed to sell the two seats to other persons, subject to the approval of his seats' neighbors. The agreement was signed in Lunna in 1882.

  Binyamin Janowski (Lunna, ca. 1890)     Verification that Binyamin Janowski purchased two seats
in the new Beit Midrash (1882)

Binyamin Janowski had two sons: Tzvi-Herschel (Hirsch), born in Lunna on Aug. 18, 1880 and died in 1939 in Portugal; and Arie-Leib, born around 1880 and died in 1912. Pictured below is a Yahrzeit document of Aryeh Leib, son of Binyamin Janowski.

  A Yahrzeit document of Aryeh Leib,
Son of Binyamin Janowski

Note: In Lunna's Jewish cemetery there is a matzevah of Zeev Aaron, son of Binyamin Janowski, who died in 1922. It could be that this is another brother of Herschel-Tzvi and Aryeh-Leib, both were sons of Binyamin Janowski.
There is also a matzevah of Binyamin, son of Dov, who died in 1912. It is likely that it is the tombstone of Binyamin, son of Dov Janowski. [Notice that the transcription posted belongs to headstone #203 and not to #204].

Tzvi-Herschel, son of Binyamin Janowski, married Raszke-Leah Sorin, who was born in Lunna on January 10, 1887 to Avraham-Hirsch and Chaya née Sorin (see below for more information about the Sorin family). The Engagement Contract ["Tenaim" Agreement] between the two sides is posted on the Jewish Ceremonies page.

Herschel Janowski (he spelled his name as Janowsky) served in the Russian Army in two wars: in the Russo-Japanese war (1904-5) and in the First World War. He was taken prisoner in Germany in World War I. Shown below are two photos, one of Tzvi-Hirsch Janowski and the other of a letter that he sent to his brother-in-law from a POW (prisoners of war) camp in Germany. His address was: POW 1/W, Commando no. 4, 101 Infantry Regiment, Munster. In this letter Hirsch writes that his health is quite good. He is grateful to his brother-in-law for the parcel that he sent him and for the money that he transferred to Raszke (Herschel's wife). He asks his brother-in-law to send him a picture of him and his wife Hannah, and to write him more often. The letter was sent to Chaim Sorin, who was Raszke's brother and whose wife was Hannah (née Halpern)

  Herschel Janowski
(ca. 1915-1918)
    Herschel Janowski
(center; ca. 1915-1918)

  A letter sent by Herschel Janowski
from a PLO in Germany
to his brother-in-law (1917)

Children of Raszke and Herschel Janowski
Moses (b. 1912 in Lunna), Berl (b. 1913 in Lunna), Rachel (b. in Lunna), and Hannah (b. in Lisbon).
Pictured below are four documents saved by Raszke and Herschel Janowski:
(i) Birth records (recorded in the family diary) of Herschel Janowski's children;
(ii) A document of verification that Berl Janowski, born on December 14, 1913 to Hirsch Janowski and Raszke née Sorin. This document states that the book with all the birth records has been taken to Russia. The witnesses were Leib Murawski and Leib Goldin from Lunna. The document is dated April 2, 1929 and is signed in Lunna by Rabbi Sz. Alpersztein [Shimon Alpershtein]. At that time Shimon Alpershtein, the shochet (slaughterer), functioned as a Rabbi in the "new" synagogue where the Janowski family used to pray;
(iii) A document of verification that Berl Janowski, born in 1913, was single in 1921. The witnesses are: Mendel Spector and Motel Murstein from Lunna. Beneath are the seals of the Lunna municipality and of Mayor J. Szwed. The document is dated October 6, 1934;
(iv) A document of verification that Berl Janowski is no longer a citizen of Poland. The document was issued in Warsaw on February 15, 1939.

  Birth records of Moses, Berl, Rachel, & Hannah Janowski
    Verification of the birth of Berl,
son of Herschel Janowski

  Verification: Berl Janowski
was single in 1921
    Verification: Berl Janowski
is not a citizen of Poland

The Janowski family lived in Lunna until 1922 and then moved to Lisbon, Portugal. They traveled to Warsaw by train, then to Berlin, Hamburg, and finally, Lisbon by boat. Raszke's brother, Chaim Sorin had been on business in Lisbon and felt it offers a good life for Jews. Along with bringing the family to Lisbon, Chaim saved countless numbers of families during the Holocaust by placing ads in both The Heint and The Moment (Jewish newspapers in Warsaw) encouraging Jews to move to Lisbon. Aside from ultimately saving many families, this selfless act also contributed to the growth of the Ashkenazic community in Lisbon.

The Janowski family stayed in Lisbon for twenty years where they were in the diamond business. Before World War II the Nazis were very active in Lisbon, and Berl, son of Herschel Janowski, was very active in anti-Nazi activity. He was placed on a list to be taken if Nazis were to march into Portugal. During the war Franco gave refugees permission to cross Spain. Salazaar of Portugal let refugees enter Portugal and stay for thirty days. The Janowski family intervened with police to allow refugees to stay longer. The immigration office sent all Jewish refugees to the Janowski home. Herschel and Raszke Janowski got beds, mattresses, anything they could to help people. They also gave opportunities for people to make a living for themselves by giving merchandise for them to sell on their own.

Herschel Janowski died in Portugal in 1939 and was buried in Lisbon's Jewish cemetery. The Janowski family never received Portuguese citizenship. Their Polish citizenship, having been revoked, made them citizens of nowhere. For unknown reasons, Raszke Janowski kept her Polish passport. The Janowski family managed to get a visa to the United States through connections to the American consulate in Lisbon. They left Lisbon in August 1941 on the Portuguese cargo ship Niassa. It was a fourteen-day trip to the America. Raszke Janowski received her certificate of Naturalization on June 2, 1947. She died in New York on February 12, 1957.

Additional Information About the Children of Herschel and Raszke Janowski
(i) Moses Janowski married Rosza Katz and had three children: Aaron Janowski, Benjamin Janowski, and Battyah Janowski Gottschaulk;
(ii) Berl Janowski married Selma Slone from New York. Their children were Louis Janowski and Helen Janowski-Davis. Moses and Berl were huge and involved Zionists. They attended the United Nations' vote for the State of Israel at The General Assembly in Flushing, New York on November 27 and November 28, 1947 and, together with Dr. Heller in Lisbon, started the Zionist social group Hechaver. Berl was also an active member of the Irgun;
(iii) Rachel Janowski married Israel Waldman and had four children: Herschel Waldman, Gilda Waldman-Guttman, Anne Waldman-Gober, and Vivian Waldman-Kestenbaum;
(iv) Hannah Janowski married Jacob Kostenbaum.
Moses and Berl Janowski continued in the Diamond Industry in New York and became well-known leaders of the Industry in Antwerp, Tel-Aviv, New York, and Bombay.

Note: The List of Donors in 1872 mentions Yitzchak Janowski. It is currently unknown how he is related to the family.


Avraham-Hirsh, son of Shmuel, was born around 1860. He married Chaya-Sarah, daughter of Moshe Janowski and Devorah-Breine. Avraham-Hirsh lived in Lunna and he resided with his family on Grodno (Grodzienska) Street. They had one son named Chaim and four daughters named Zissel, Fanny, Raszke, and one more daughter (name currently unknown). After the death of Chaya-Sarah, Avraham-Hirsh remarried Feigel-Sarah, and from this marriage came Rivka Sorin-Stein, Shmuel, and Leon Sorin. Avraham-Zvi died in Lunna in 1921. A picture of his matzevah is posted on the Lunna Cemeteries Page.

The Children of Avraham-Hirsh and Chaya Sorin
(i) Chaim Sorin (b. December 5, 1885 in Lunna) left Lunna in 1907. He traveled in Germany, France, Portugal, and Belgium. In 1921 he arrived in Portugal. At that time there were only three Ashkenazic families living in Lisbon. Chaim Sorin was a leader, thinker, Zionist, and had Smicha [Rabbinical certification and ordination]. His nephews and nieces always attributed the decision to leave Lunna and the decision to ultimately leave Lisbon to the wisdom and foresight of Chaim Sorin. He brought his family members from Lunna to Lisbon where most of them were in the Diamond Business. As time went on, their aristocratic standing was established with both the Sephardi and Ashkenazi communities.

As things were worsening in Europe, Chaim put ads in Jewish newspapers in Warsaw (The Heint and The Moment) telling Jews of the life in Lisbon, and encouraging people to come to settle there. He ultimately saved thousands of Jews as the community grew to over 500 Ashkenazic families. Chaim Sorin was a huge Zionist, and he made his family members of Beitar. Sometime in the 1930s Chaim Sorin moved to Antwerp, Belgium. He met Zeev Zabotinsky in Belgium and was quite friendly with him.

Chaim Sorin was married twice. His first wife was Channa Halpern. After she passed away he married Rochelle (maiden name is unknown).

In 1941 Chaim and his wife got visas to the United States. In 1950 Chaim Sorin wrote his memoirs about Lunna (see the Memoirs Page). He kept an accurate family tree going back to 1890 and extending to the 1950's.
Chaim Sorin died on May 31, 1963 and was buried in Montefiore cemetery in New York near Zeev Zabotinsky who died in August 1940 (Jabotinsky's body was moved to Israel in 1964).

Chaim Sorin had four sisters: Zissel, Fannie, Raszke, and one sister whose name is currently unknown.
Zissel had three children. They lived in Israel (names unknown at the present time).
Fanny married Pechter; they lived in New York. Their children are Ida, Sophie, and Libby.
Raszke married Herschel, son of Binyamin Janowski (see the paragraph above about Binyamin, son of Dov Janowski. Also see the paragraph on the children of Raszke and Herschel Janowski.)
The other sister (name unknown) married Shalmon. They had a son Nachum and a daughter Sarah, born in Lunna. Nachum and Sarah became orphans when they were young and their aunt Raszke (Sorin) Janowski and uncle Herschel Janowski raised them in their home as their own. Nachum Shalmon moved to Israel, married, and had a daughter Shoshana. Sarah (Shalmon) married Meinrott and had two sons. Her husband and younger son were killed in the Holocaust. Her older son Leopold (Poldy) was hidden in a monastery during the war; he survived the war and lived in Belgium. Sarah lived in Nice, France.

The children of Avraham-Hirsh Sorin and Feigel Sarah
Rivka Sorin (b. ca. 1904), married Tobias Stein. Tobias Stein and Chaim Sorin were mentors to Berl Janowski. As Herschel Janowski died in 1939, Tobias Stein and Chaim Sorin became father figures to Berl, and very dear to him. Tobias (Tevel) Stein taught Berl much about business and allowed Berl to accompany him on various business trips. They had six daughters: Aida Stein-Lichtenstein, Channa Esther Stein-Weinstein, Tzvia Stein-Lipper, Chassida Stein-Fuchs, Shulamis Stein-Leibler, and Ruth Stein-Fisch.
Shmuel Sorin married Feigel Goland. They had three daughters,who live in Israel: Rivka Sorin-Reinholdt, Leah Sorin-Apfel, and Dina Sorin-Cohen.
Leon Sorin married Helen and they had three children: Esther Klain, Miriam Mayper, and Abie Sorin. They came to New York and returned to Lisbon in the 1950s. Their descendants remain in Portugal.

From the Collection of Raszke (Sorin) Janowski

  The Sorin family (1904)     Zissel (Sorin) and her three children  

  Chaim Sorin (1912)     Chaim Sorin's Jewish identification card (Belgium, 1930s)  


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Compiled by Ruth Marcus & Aliza Yonovsky Created May 2007
Updated by rLb, April 2020
Copyright © 2007 Ruth Marcus

All the photos are presented by courtesy of the families and are not allowed to be reproduced without their permission.

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