January 24, 2019

Janet Polyak

Janet Polyak was born in 1937 in Odessa, Ukraine. She came to the United States with her family in 1977 and first settled in Portland, Ore. From the start she was eager to adopt the language and customs of her new land. She learned English quickly and one of her proudest accomplishments was that she read complicated novels in English and could keep up with the English subtitles in foreign films. Janet was an avid traveler and she dragged her husband, Lazar, on yearly adventures to such places as Thailand, Spain and Morocco. Her home was filled with her finds from abroad.

When Janet was a high school student in Odessa, Jews had a very difficult time being accepted to university. Although she wanted to be a librarian or a teacher, she set her sights on something more practical and became a bookkeeper. Like everything she did, she approached this job with her full being. Her quick intellect served her well in this profession. When she came to the United States, she rejected using calculators because she found that they slowed her down. She would often tell her children and husband that she nagged them not because she didn’t trust them to get done what needed to, but because it was part of her. Bookkeepers checked and rechecked everything dozens of times, she said.

"You have no idea what satisfaction you get when a row of numbers line up the way they’re supposed to," she said.

She worked as bookkeeper for The Jewish Journal for 14 years. Although Janet was ill with breast cancer for the last three years, she continued working a few hours a week at home because she simply loved work.

While Janet could be brash in conversation because she talked fast and sometimes didn’t have time for conversational niceties, anyone who spent any time with her realized how caring and devoted she was to those around her. She was forever offering to read other immigrants’ resumes, translate job ads and prepare them for interviews. And if someone was too shy to ask for this help themselves, she went ahead and did it anyway.

Sadly, Janet spent the last few months of her life battling cancer. Yet even during this difficult time, she showed tremendous courage in how to cope with such difficulty.

She is survived by her husband, Lazar; son, Boris, and daughter, Ilana; and mother, Feiga Epshtein. She will be missed by her Jewish Journal family.