Sara Cohen Alterman was a beautiful woman in all of the ways that beauty is defined. She died Nov. 15 at the age of 102 in her Atlanta home, a visual celebration of her children, grandchildren, art and impeccable taste.
The daughter of Molly and Abraham Cohen, Sara was born Nov. 26, 1917, and grew up in Atlanta. She graduated from Commercial High School with a degree in fashion design at the age of 17, when she married husband David (of blessed memory). Sara and Dave created a life together centered around family and community.
Sara worked throughout her youth, from Jack’s Five & Dime to Rich’s department store. After marrying, she devoted herself to the large extended Alterman family. As her husband Dave worked with his brothers to build Alterman Foods and Big Apple-Food Giant, she focused on raising their children and volunteering in the Atlanta Jewish community.
Sara’s community leadership began in the Ahavath Achim Synagogue preschool, as she wrote in a memorial for dear friend Reva Epstein (b”h): “It all started when the Ahavath Achim educational building was on Tenth Street. … I enrolled my precocious three-year-old daughter Phyllis …and started ‘helping’ a little bit. Soon I found myself leading a Brownie Group and making lunch for Junior Congregation.” Sara became fast friends with Rabbi Harry Epstein’s wife, Reva, and soon found herself in various Sisterhood leadership roles, serving for 10 years as vice president. She was honored by the AA’s Sisterhood even as she and Dave were also honored as a couple by the synagogue.
Sara also immersed herself in Hadassah, where she learned about Israel and Jewish history. She invigorated the organization by recruiting many other younger women and ultimately served as president of the Atlanta chapter. She embraced the organization’s social, educational, and fundraising aspects in support of Hadassah Hospital and its commitment to medical care for all people. She came to love the state of Israel and traveled there several times in her life, including a trip to take her mother, who had immigrated from Eastern Europe, to see the emerging Jewish homeland.
Sara fully embraced service in the Jewish community, serving in a number of roles in many organizations, from president of Women’s Division of Jewish Federation to membership at The Breman Museum, JF&CS, MJCCA, NCJW, World Jewish Congress and others.
Judaism was as important to Sara as any aspect of her identity, hosting weekly Shabbat dinners, annual Chanukah parties and Passover seders, often with sisters-in-law, uniting dozens of cousins on Lenox Road. Later in life, in her mid-80s, Sarah studied to become a bat mitzvah, and led the Shabbat morning service at AA, surrounded by family and friends.
Sara was known by all as a beautiful and graceful hostess, an avid bridge player and a generous friend. She was known for her elegant, timeless style, fashion skill, and making matching dresses for herself and young daughter in her early days, and charming any room with a dazzling lipsticked smile throughout her life.
She was “bubbe,” a generous and loving matriarch, able to know and love each grandchild, each in their own way, and grateful to celebrate each and every great- grandchild.
Sara is preceded in death by siblings Morris, Sam, Ida, and Lena; her infant son Alvin; and daughter-in-law JoAnn Idelson Alterman. She is survived by her daughter and son-in-law Phyllis and Dr. Richard Franco, sons and daughters-in-law Richard and Marty Alterman, and Stephen Alterman and Marci Ball.
She is also remembered by many grandchildren Lewis Franco and Heidi Thompson, Rebecca Franco Chalmers and Henry Chalmers, Adam Alterman, Rachel Alterman Wallack and Sandy Wallack, Meryl Franco and Sam Worley, Byron and Elizabeth Alterman, Daniel Alterman, Joshua Alterman, Joe Atlerman, Mitchell Alterman and fiance Paige Philipson; and great-grandchildren Louisa, Sarina, Dov, Joseph, David, Sam, Ben, Isaac, Allie, Molly, Lauren and Joanna.
The family wishes to express sincere appreciation for the loving care extended by Cheryl Holmes and Beatriz David, two very special caregivers.
Memorial donations may be made to Ahavath Achim Synagogue or Congregation Beth Tefillah. A private service was held Nov. 17. Arrangements by Dressler’s Jewish Funeral Care, 770-451-4999.