Frank Altman, 96; past president of S. Illinois Federation, JCA

Frank N. Altman

BY ROBERT A. COHN Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Frank Altman, a past president of the former Jewish Center for Aged, the Jewish Federation of Southern Illinois and Traditional Congregation, died Tuesday, Aug. 13. He was 96 and had been in declining health in recent weeks, family members said.

Frank Norman Altman was born Jan. 25, 1917 in St. Louis, the son of Jacob and Leah Belle Rimel Altman. He graduated from Central High School and graduated Washington University in 1939 with a degree in business and accounting.

Mr. Altman was the longtime secretary and treasurer of J.J. Altman & Co., a building and construction firm. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army where he was promoted to the rank of captain. On one occasion he met General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander of the Armed Forces in Europe.

Mr. Altman met the former Ilse Katz, a Holocaust survivor, who left Germany on Sept. 27, 1940. They were married on Sept. 8, 1944.

For many years, the family lived in East St. Louis and Belleville in Southern Illinois, where they were active with the Jewish Federation of Southern Illinois, of which Mr. Altman became president. He was also president of B’nai B’rith of that community. He was active, too, in Agudas Achim synagogue in East St. Louis. He and his family moved to St. Louis in 1985, where they became members of Traditional Congregation. Mr. Altman was a past president of the congregation.

The Altmans were also very involved with the Jewish Federation of St. Louis and the St. Louis Holocaust Museum, where Isle Altman serves as a survivor-docent. Mr. Altman was also an active member and a former board president of H. F. Epstein Hebrew Academy. He was an active board member and supporter of the Central Agency for Jewish Education. He was an honorary board member of the Jewish Family & Children’s Service, among many other philanthropic leadership and volunteer positions.

Miner L. Brown, a former executive director of the JCA, said, “We were very fortunate to have known and worked with Frank. The word mensch was not adequate to express the quality of compassion, leadership and vision of this kind man. In his quiet and unassuming manner, the huge number of people he helped in so many ways will never be known. This is just as he would want it to be.”

Alice S. Handelman, former community relations director of the JCA, which is now the privately-owned Cedars of Town and Country, told the Jewish Light, “Frank Altman was a bright, caring, generous and gentle man, who was not only a JCA board leader, but genuinely cared about quality of life and dignity for the elderly. He was always visible at the JCA. Everyone knew Frank because he brought smiles to faces when he entered our facility. Many afternoons each week he joined our residents in synagogue services and at times led those services. He will be sorely missed.”

Similar expressions of admiration and gratitude were expressed by Rabbi Seth Gordon of Traditional Congregation, who officiated at Mr. Altman’s funeral at the synagogue last week. Several people pointed out that in his visits to the JCA, Mr. Altman would personally push the wheelchairs of residents to the facility’s synagogue so that they could attend services. “He also would make sure that there was a minyan at the JCA and at Traditional,” said his wife of nearly 70 years, Ilse Katz Altman.

“A friend. A tzadik (righteous person). A mensch. That was Frank Altman,” said a cousin, Marian Altman. The term “tzadik” was also used by Gordon in his eulogy, a term he had only used once before for a departed congregant, just 12 days earlier when he offered a eulogy for Isaac Boniuk, a physician and another leader of Traditional Congregation. “Our little shul has lost two of its pillars,” said Jerry Tullman a longtime member of the congregation.

“Frank was Ilse’s Knight in Shining Armor,” said Gordon in his eulogy. “What a beautiful couple. They adored each other.”

Rabbi Gordon also noted that for many years, Mr. Altman taught bar and bat mitzvah students and offered adult classes on Torah. “Frank was rich with Torah, and shared that richness with all who knew him.”

Funeral services were held Wednesday, Aug. 14, at Traditional Congregation. Burial was at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, 7500 Olive Boulevard in University City.

In addition to his wife of 69 years, Ilse Katz Altman, survivors include and their three children, Lynn Altman Spewak (Steve) of St. Louis; Betty Altman Abeles (Ron) of St. Louis and Stephen Altman (Debra) of Fairfax Station, Va., eight grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren, seven of whom live in Israel.

Memorial contributions are preferred to the Frank and Ilse Altman Torah Fund at Traditional Congregation, 12437 Ladue Road, Creve Coeur, Mo. 63141; the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, 12 Millstone Campus Drive, St. Louis, Mo. 63146, or the American Heart Association, 460 N. Lindbergh Boulevard, St.. Louis, Mo. 63141.