Former Jewish Archivist Norma Spungen Dies at 87

During her ten years at the Chicago Jewish Archives at the Spertus Institute, Spungen dealt with important themes in Jewish History.

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Norma Spungen, the former archivist at the Chicago Jewish Archives at Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, has died.

Spungen died Sunday at the age of 87.

As the archivist at Spertus from 1986 to 1996, Spungen curated and assisted with several major exhibits mounted at the institute dealing with many important themes in Jewish history. She later was named archivist emerita and also served on the board of directors of the Chicago Jewish Historical Society.

Her professional work included an interest in Jewish women who were active in social service and philanthropy. Spungen’s research appeared in articles in the Illinois Library Journal and Jewish Social Studies, and she lectured widely on topics in Jewish history.

“She was a remarkable source of inspiration for scholars doing research at Spertus Institute,” said Tobias Brinkmann, the Malvin and Lea Bank associate professor of Jewish studies and history at Penn State University, who conducted research at the Spertus Institute for his dissertation.

Kathy Bloch, the institute’s director of collections, described Spungen as “an exceptionally lovely person — warm, intelligent, funny and very serious about her work.”

The recollections by Brikmann and Block were included in a statement issued by Spertus.

Spungen’s daughter, Elisa Spungen Bildner, is a past president of JTA. In 2007, she and her husband, Robert, paid tribute to Spungen by making a lead gift in her honor to digitize the JTA Archive.

Spungen is survived by her husband of 61 years, Kenneth; by her children and their spouses, Elisa and her husband, Robert Bildner; Charles and his wife, Amy; Jeffrey and his wife, Joni; and Andrea; and by 11 grandchildren.