Irving Torchinsky, 91

Written by Suzanne Pollak on . Posted in Features

Irving Leon Torchinsky, father of eight children and a charter member of Shaare Tefila Congregation in Olney, Maryland, died on Feb. 14. He was 91 years old.

 His children described him as a devoted family man. “He would often say he was ‘the richest man in the world’ because of his large family,” said his daughter Joyce Torchinsky.

Born in Washington, D.C., Irving served in World War II; one of his responsibilities in the Army was to guard German prisoners of war. After his service, Torchinsky worked at his uncle’s dry cleaning store, Sam’s Cleaners, and began dabbling in real estate at the same time. “He singlehandedly built a substantial investment and property management business,” said Joyce. He later purchased his uncle’s store, which was located right around the corner from that of his parents, Palace Cleaners.

He moved to Silver Spring, Maryland, where he raised his eight children, all of whom still live in Montgomery County. Shaare Tefila played a large role in their family life. His children were named and had their bar and bat mitzvahs and weddings there. He purchased the synagogue’s Megillah scroll.

In a statement read at the funeral, Shaare Tefila Rabbi Jonah Layman noted that during synagogue Shabbat dinners, the Torchinsky family often reserved three tables and was a major presence at many synagogue events.

Irving was also instrumental in founding and supporting other local synagogues. In almost every synagogue in the Washington metropolitan area, the name of a relative of the Torchinsky family can be found on the synagogue’s wall.

Irving’s wife, Janet Zelda Sincoff Torchinsky, preceded him in death by two-and-a-half years. They were married two weeks shy of 66 years. When they were no longer able to live independently, the Torchinskys donated their family home in Silver Spring to the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes (JFGH), and the Janet and Irving Torchinsky Family Home opened in 2008.

During his funeral, most of his children told warm, often humorous, stories about the man they loved and admired. Son-in-law Howard Politzer described him as “a man who said what he thought. He was unfiltered. He was the real deal.” Daughter Linda Katz said her “dad was a larger than life figure” who “had the most street smarts of anyone I had ever known.” Her family’s tradition of visiting relatives every Sunday enabled them to have a close extended family, she said.

Grandson Alexander Flum shared that he enjoyed watching Redskins football games with his grandfather – and learning Yiddish curse words. He also said his grandfather was sure each of his grandchildren had a 4.0 average in college.

Irving Torchinsky was the devoted father of Marilyn (Howard) Politzer, Linda (Chester) Katz, Susan (Elliott) Prissman, Sally Schtevie, Joyce Torchinsky, David (Laura) Torchinsky, Annette Torchinsky, and Jay Torchinsky. He was zeyde to Shirley Politzer, Lisa (Slava) Slavin and Gary Politzer, Joanna (Joshua) Rubin, Martin (Arielle) Katz, Bonnie Prissman, Annie Schtevie, Joseph Dekelbaum, Shira and Rina Torchinsky, and Alexander Flum. He had three great-grandchildren, Carolina Politzer, Jacob and Sarah Slavin, and Benjamin Rubin.

The family asks that memorial contributions be made to JFGH, Shaare Tefila Congregation, or to the charity of one’s choice.

By Suzanne Pollak


Suzanne Pollak is the senior writer/editor at Jewish Council for the Aging of Greater Washington. She was a reporter at The Courier Post in New Jersey and The Washington Jewish Week, and she now writes for The Montgomery Sentinel.