Will the Real Janet Sobel Please Stand Up?


Avenue. The census report does not mention Janet’s mother and two brothers.

Max’s May 19, 1922, Petition for Naturalization says that his wife, Jennie, was born on June 15, 1891, presumably to maintain the possible fiction that she was two years younger than Max, who here says he was born on December 25, 1889. Levin incorrectly states that Janet was born in a village near Ekaterinoslav in the Ukraine, instead of saying, as does Deborah A. Goldberg and others,75 that both Janet and Max came from Ekaterinoslav (in his immigration papers, Max said that he was born in “Kieff, Russia,” and that his last foreign residence was “Ekaterinoslaff, Russia”) described as a village [more accurately, a town or even a city] near [actually about 240 miles from] Kiev, the largest city in the Ukraine; this custom of an immigrant saying that he came, not from an unfamiliar village, but from a place near a big city would be the equivalent of an American from Syracuse, New York, telling a foreign immigration official that he was born near New York City.

My discovery of Max Sobel’s immigration records was a successful part of my otherwise largely useless and very long search of United States immigration records to try to document Janet and her family’s immigration history. I had found it relatively easy to find her husband, Max’s, immigration records, possibly because he applied for and was awarded United States citizenship. Although Gail Levin reports that he was born Michael Zibulsky,76 I found that his “List or Manifest of Alien Passengers for the U.S. Immigration Officer at Port of Arrival” for the trip of the SS Campania from Liverpool arriving at Ellis Island, New York City, on July 14, 1906, refers to him not as Michael but as Mendel Cibulsky or Cebulsky [official copying of the manifest’s handwriting is unclear].77 Waylande Gregory’s article on Janet Sobel also refers to Max as Michael, writing, “Janet fell in love at the tender age of 5 with little Michael Sobel in a village outside Kiev, Russia.”78 Since Janet and her mother probably never applied for citizenship and I have not found a reference to Janet’s brothers’ names, I have not been able to locate any reference to their transatlantic journey or to their ship’s listing of them. Furthermore, basing her biographical sketch on information she acquired in her


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All texts copyright © Libby Seaberg, 2009