Robert was born to a Jewish family in 1947. He is the son of Norman Altman and Sophie Altman. Norman Altman, a graduate of Harvard Law School, who died in 1997, was a real estate lawyer and investor, and founded the Washington, DC law firm Krooth and Altman.  Sophie Altman, a graduate of Yale Law School, worked in television broadcasting, and was a multiple Emmy award-winning producer. Among the television shows Sophie produced was the high school educational program, It's Academic, now in its 56th year. Robert is one of 4 children.