Guide to the Papers of the Altman Spiewak Families, undated, 1920-1985

Processed by Mary Chen and Stephanie Call

Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS

99-101 Newbury St.

Boston, MA 02116



© 2019  Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS, Boston, MA. All Rights Reserved.
Machine-readable finding aid created by Mary Chen and Stephanie Call as MS Word document, April 2012. Finding aid was encoded by Christine McEvilly on April 8, 2012. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Altman Family; Spiewak Family; Spiewak, Barbara Altman; Altman, Ethel Task; and Spiewak, Robert.
Title: Altman Spiewak Families, Papers
Dates:Undated, 1920-1985
Abstract: The Altman-Spiewak Family Papers primarily document the Altman family of Boston through the lens of Barbara Altman Spiewak. Frank and Ethel Task Altman raised their children, Barbara and Stanley, in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Barbara was a graduate of Simmons College and was a librarian in the Boston area. This collection includes Frank Altman’s Navy records, baby books, yearbooks, family photographs and a memoir written by Barbara Altman Spiewak. It also includes a memoir written by Robert Spiewak about Phillip Spiewak, Barbara’s father-in-law.
Languages: The collection is in English.
Quantity: .5 linear feet (1 manuscript box)
Identification: P-831
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
Location: Located in AJHS Boston, MA
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Biographical Note1

Frank Altman (June 25, 1897-October 13, 1990)

Frank Altman (FA) was born on June 25, 1897 in Newark, New Jersey to Nathan and Fanny Altman. When FA was a child, the family moved to Boston, where Nathan owned a grocery store. A veteran of World War I, FA enlisted in the Navy on August 12, 1918 as an Electrician/Landsman, and was discharged from active duty as a Landsman/Aviation/ Quartermaster in Charlestown, South Carolina on October 7, 1918. On June 15, 1920, he married Ethel Task in Dorchester, Massachusetts. In the first years of their marriage, Frank worked as a mechanic with Ford Motor Company, until his father-in-law helped him acquire a garage in Brookline, which operated until 1929. He then went to work for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company as an insurance agent until his retirement at age 65. During World War II, Frank served as a Technical Sergeant in the 3rd Battalion Headquarters, 26th Infantry of the State Guard of Massachusetts. An active member of Temple Mishkan Tefila and later, Temple Emeth, Frank also volunteered for the Jewish Memorial Hospital. FA died on October 13, 1990.

Ethel Task Altman (October 7, 1898-May 1982)

Ethel Task Altman (ETA) was born in the South End of Boston on October 7, 1898. Her father, Phillip, was a Russian immigrant, and her mother, Mamie, was from Poland. Phillip Task owned a Tailor’s shop on Washington Street in Boston with his father and brother. ETA was a high school and business school graduate. She was an active volunteer with the City of Hope organization, the American Jewish Congress, and the Sisterhood of Temple Emeth. ETA died in May 1982.

Barbara Altman Spiewak (February 11, 1923-November 9, 2005)

Frank and Ethel’s daughter, Barbara Altman Spiewak (BAS), was born on February 11, 1923. As a child, her family moved from Dorchester, Massachusetts to Roxbury, Massachusetts, where she attended the William Lloyd Garrison Grammar School. BAS graduated from the Girls’ Latin School in Boston, Massachusetts in 1940, and went on to get a Bachelor of Science in Library Science from Simmons College, graduating in 1944. Her first job was the Boston Public Library, and in 1946 she became the assistant librarian at the Simmons School of Social Work. Later librarian positions included those at the Massachusetts Memorial Hospital School of Nursing, Beth Israel Hospital, Grahm Junior College and Forsyth Dental School. After a brief courtship, BAS married Murray Spiewak (1906-1985) on December 10, 1972. They had no children together, although Murray had children from his first marriage. BAS died in 2005.

Stanley Altman (January 13, 1927-November 24, 1956)

FA and ETA’s son Stanley (SA) was born on January 13, 1927. He graduated from Boys’ Latin School in Boston and later from Bowdoin College with a Bachelor of Arts in 1947. SA died suddenly from a heart condition while studying Judaic Studies as a graduate student at Columbia University in New York City in 1956.


June 25, 1897 Frank Altman (FA) born in Newark, New Jersey, to Nathan and Fanny Altman.
October 7, 1898 Ethel Task [Altman] (ETA) born in the South End of Boston to Philip and Mamie Task.
August 12, 1918 FA enlists in the United States Navy.
October 7, 1918 FA discharged from the United States Navy.
June 15, 1920 FA and ETA marry.
February 11, 1923 Barbara Altman [Spiewak] (BAS) born.
January 13, 1927 Stanley Altman (SA) born.
1940 BAS graduates from Girls’ Latin School, Boston, Massachusetts.
1944 BAS graduates from Simmons College, Boston, Massachusetts.
1947 SA graduates from Bowdoin College.
November 24, 1956 SA dies while studying at Columbia University in New York City.
December 10, 1972 BAS marries Murray Spiewak.
May 1982 ETA dies.
1985 Murray Spiewak dies.
October 13, 1990 FA dies.
November 9, 2005 BAS dies.
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Scope and Content Note

This collection chronicles the Altman family, specifically through the lens of their daughter, Barbara Altman Spiewak. Included in this collection are baby albums, programs of dance recitals, yearbooks and a diploma, family photographs, and an autobiography written by Barbara Altman Spiewak. Additional materials in this collection include Frank Altman’s Navy certificates, materials referencing Stanley Altman, and a biography of Philip Spiewak (Barbara’s father-in-law), written by Philip’s son, Robert.

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The collection is arranged into a single series as follows:

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Collections and Engagement of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.

Use Restrictions

Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection. For more information contact:
American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY, 10011

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Related Material


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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Altman Spiewak Families, Papers; P-831; box number; folder number; Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS.

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Acquisition Information

Most likely donated by Mrs. Barbara Altman Spiewak.

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Access Points

This collection is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.

Click on a subject to search that term in the Center's catalog. Return to the Top of Page

Container List

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Click the box in the request column to learn more about viewing materials at the Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS.


Series I: Altman-Spiewak Families, undated, 1920-1985

Box 1, Folders 1-9.

Arranged chronologically.

Scope and Content:

See Collection Scope and Content Note.

1 1 Frank and Ethel Altman – General 1920-1985 request_box
1 2 Photographs – Miscellaneous Family undated, 1920, 1940 request_box
1 3 Stanley and Barbara Altman – Baby Books 1923, 1927 request_box
1 4-5 Barbara Altman – Education 1930-1944 request_box
1 6 Stanley Altman – General 1947, 1957 request_box
1 7 General undated, 1956 request_box
1 8 Philip Spiewak – Memoir 1981 request_box
1 9 Barbara Altman Spiewak – Memoir undated request_box
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