Sharon Alterman

Interviewed by Charlotte Dubin

August 25, 2015

Max M. Fisher Federation Building, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

Sharon Alterman
Video 00:49:02


In this interview, Sharon Alterman mentions her early childhood.  She speaks about her parents, growing up in a four family flat with her grandparents and aunt in adjoining apartments.   She grew up in a very diverse neighborhood.  Describing herself as a “joiner,” Alterman talks about her involvement with the youth group at B’nai David Synagogue, and from there, how she got involved with Habonim.  She mentions her time at Camp Farband during this time, as well.

Alterman reminisces about being involved with United Synagogue Youth (USY), B’nai B’rith Girls, and the Councilettes (the Junior Division of the National Council of Jewish Women).

Alterman discusses her college education and the beginnings of her career.  She speaks of her time working as a teacher, and when she realized that is was not something she wanted to continue, she got a job at the Jewish Community Center.  During her time here, she organized what was called the Thursday Nigh Social Group in the late 1960s for developmentally disabled people.  This turned into what was originally Jewish Association for Retarded Citizens (JARC), now called Jewish Association for Residential Care.

Next, Alterman discusses her career move to archivist, and being the first director of the Leonard N. Simons Jewish Community Archive. She relates how she got interested in organizing the Federations documents, and then how she became an archivist and then talks about how the profession has changed in the 25 years she had been doing it.

Finally, Alterman discusses exactly what an archivist does, and speaks a little bit about her children and grandchildren.  She leaves with a message for the future Alderman’s to follow their dreams and to keep close to the Jewish Community.

History of Narrator

Sharon Alterman was born in 1941 to Norman and Minnie Levine. She attended Longfellow School and then Mumford High School followed by Wayne State University, where she met her husband, Michael. She was active in several Jewish organizations as a youth, including B’nai B’rith Girls.

In her early career, she worked at the Jewish Community Center on Curtis and Meyers, this position leading her to help found JARC. Always interested in preservation, Alterman was aware that there was no central place where historical information was being held about the Detroit Jewish community. When she discovered the treasure trove of history in the basement of the Jewish Federation’s headquarters, she decided to go back to school and obtain an archival certification from Wayne State University. As founding director of the Leonard N. Simons Jewish Community Archives, she served the mission of preserving, disseminating and celebrating the Jewish community’s history and documents.


Important Subjects

  • Jewish Community Center
  • Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit
  • Jewish Home for the Aged
  • Leonard N. Simons Jewish Community Archives
  • National Council of Jewish Women
  • United Synagogue Youth

Important Names

  • Allan Gelfond
  • Irwin Shaw
  • Leonard Simons
  • Norman Wachler
  • Robert Aronson
  • Ruth Broder
  • Samuel Frankel

Credit as: Leonard N. Simons Jewish Community Archives. Sharon Alterman Oral History Interview, August 25, 2015.