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Growing up with Spielberg’s Mother

23 Feb
My recollections inspire me to write my first blog in over a year…
When I was young, I remember meeting Steven Spielberg and his then-girlfriend Kate Capshaw. This was the late 1980s as he was donating/dedicating a Torah scroll to her synagogue Chabad. It was awesome. I got my favorite director in the world’s autograph, and then was confused why the blonde chick from Temple of Doom was with him, but got her autograph too on the same paper (I still have it).
But that wasn’t the best part. The special part was that he knew everyone there was a friend or big fan of HIS MOTHER, Lee (technically Leah) Adler.
She was so proud, because we – her community – was finally meeting her accomplished son. Most of the people there were not telling him how much they loved his movies, but rather how much they loved his adorable mother!
I got my first job in high school, each summer I would work at Morry’s, an adorable market/produce store, and it was RIGHT next to Lee’s kosher restaurant The Milky Way. She would come in EVERY SINGLE DAY and buy fresh produce for her place. She’d always have her bodyguard at her side, but this bodyguard was a lady who everyone knew as her (tall) friend, so if you didn’t know better you’d think it was a friend or family member always hanging out with her.
She was the most sweet, lovely, warm and generous of spirit woman you could be lucky to meet. I would get a hug each time, and she would invite me to come eat there whenever I wanted. But then again, she would treat everyone else the same way. (For one of countless examples, read my close friend Arnon Shorr’s beautiful memories of her here.)
She would also come with her shul/synagogue to my parent’s garden each year on Rosh Hashana to do “Tashlich” in our pond, throwing bread to our fish. It would be surreal, this tiny, adorable woman who had one of the most famous children in the world, was standing in our backyard, and giving me hugs like she knew me – because she did – but even if she didn’t, that’s how she made EVERYONE feel. People meeting her for the first time could feel that same instant-connection to her. Honestly just one of the sweetest people you could meet.
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Her close connection to her famous son is what inspired him to make one of the greatest movies of all time, Schindler’s List. Her first husband, Spielberg’s father Arnold (who is still alive at 100!), had lost family in the Holocaust, and Lee continued to tell stories about it and emphasize the importance of remembering your past – Spielberg loved his parents enough to be inspired and make that masterpiece of a film. When most people in the world saw that his date at the Oscars was his mother, they must have said “awwww”; when my Jewish community watched it that year, we all beamed and said, “Look, that’s Lee, can’t wait to wish her a mazel tov!”.
She was the “other woman” in his life, and we were damn proud.
She will be missed. By me. By many.