Last week, I spent a bit of time with two of my favorite archivists: Sharon Alterman and Robbie Terman. It is always a real pleasure to visit with them, whether for professional reasons or just to chat. This was the catalyst for today’s column about Jewish archives and archivists, the keepers of Detroit’s Jewish history.

Detroit Jewish NewsFirst and foremost, I’ll admit a deep, deep bias: I do think that the Davidson Digital Archives is the best archival thing since sliced bread. But, when I am honest with myself, I know that the Detroit Jewish community has several other archives that are first-rate, such as the archives at Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Township, the good historical records at Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield, and the excellent Jewish collections at the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan and the Walter Reuther Library at Wayne State University. The Jewish Historical Society of Michigan is also a great source for the state’s history. One of the best and largest archives is the Leonard N. Simons Jewish Community Archives at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.

The essence of an archives is a collection of historical documents, photographs and journals, but people still matter. Sharon Alterman was the first and founding director of the Simons archives, and Robbie is the second and current director. After a career with various Jewish community organizations, Sharon began another career as an archivist. She graduated with an archival certificate from Wayne State in 1989 and, soon after, became a driving force behind the Simons archives and became its first director in 1991.

Robbie also graduated from Wayne State’s archival program and became director of the Simons archives after Sharon’s (second) retirement in 2014. Robbie soon created a wonderful exhibit about the first 25 years of the archives. Suffice it to say, the Simons Jewish Community Archives has been, and still is, in great hands!

Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at

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