Steven Spielberg’s Mother, Leah Adler, Dies at 97

Leah Adler

Steven Spielberg’s mother, Leah Adler, known for operating The Milky Way restaurant in Los Angeles, died Tuesday at her Los Angeles home surrounded by her children. She was 97.

Adler, known as Lee Lee to her family and friends, was born in Cincinnati to Philip Posner and Jennie (Fridman) Posner. She developed a love of music when she learned piano at the age of five and later studied at the Music Conservatory in Cincinnati.

In 1945, she married Arnold Meyer Spielberg and they had four children – Steven, Anne, Sue and Nancy. Arnold Spielberg’s work as an electrical engineer kept the family on the move from Cincinnati to Haddonfield, N.J., where they lived for seven years before relocating to Phoenix in 1957, where she often performed piano solos and owned an art gallery, becoming known around town as “the lady with the Peter Pan haircut.”

In 1964, the family moved to Los Gatos, Calif., and lived there for two years. After her divorce from Arnold, she  moved back to Scottsdale, Ariz., where she married Bernie Adler in 1967. They eventually moved to Los Angeles, where they opened a kosher restaurant on Pico Blvd. called The Milky Way.

She told “60 Minutes” that Steven Spielberg “ran the family” and remembered him fighting back against anti-Semetic neighbors: “We lived in an all non-Jewish neighborhood. These people used to chant, “The Spielberg’s are dirty Jews.” And one night, Steve climbed out of his bedroom window and peanut buttered their windows, which I thought was marvelous.”

She would often advise restaurant visitors with such aphorisms as “Guilt is a wasted emotion,” “Be kind to yourself” and “Always leave a party early. Leave them wanting more.”

Spielberg mentioned his mother in his acceptance speech for winning the Academy Award for Best Director in 1994 for “Schindler’s List,” calling her “my lucky charm.”

She is survived by her four children along with 11 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.


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  1. Barbra Batia Zimerman says:

    Dear לאה’s kids,

    I loved your Mom. She would come and seat at my table and we would talk.
    In the last years whenever I could come in, I would visit with her and she talked about you with such love. Then we would walk around and look at the pictures on the wall and Schmooz some more.

    I will miss my ‘Ballerina Lady’ (My name for her because of her shoes and lively mannerism). She was
    a sharp, funny and kindhearted. !א יידישע מאמע

    זכרונה לברכה
    Batia Nadler-Zimerman

  2. maureen goldberg says:

    She inspired me when going through rounds of chemotherapy following my third kidney trnsplant. We talked about challenging on, the spirit of hashem and the love of family. Mrs Adler ALWAYS made sure that my dietery restrictions were taken care of and that -that stirred fry fruit taco was waiting to be serverd without asking.
    I have been dining at the Milky Way since its opening. It in many ways it served up love, like a metaphor for life. It saw me through my singlehood, marriage, birth of a child and death of a parent. The warm comfort of CHEERS served up in a Kosher way.
    Sleep well our beloved Leah

  3. Pony Horton says:

    I ate at her restaurant, The Milky Way, once years ago. She PERSONALLY served us and sat with us and regaled us with stories of Steven and his movies. So sweet and kind!

    Her cheese blintzes were amazing!

    My deepest and best wishes to her family.

    – Pony R. Horton

  4. Shining Forever

    Written For
    Mrs. Leah Adler & Steven

    One day a man lost his mother. He was deeply upset and was weeping for he believed he would never see his mother’s beauty or power again. Suddenly an Angel appeared before him. The Angel inquired on why he wept. The man said that he had lost his mother and that he would not see her radiance again. The Angel said that your mother’s light is still with you. The man said “but not physically.” The Angel gently placed a hand upon the man’s shoulder, then said “turn around.” There the man saw his children and even his children’s children. He then beheld a reflection of his own face and saw within his face and the faces of his children the radiance of his mother. Then he not only could feel, but could see that his mother’s beauty and power was alive. The Angel then spoke, “You see, my friend, your mother is still very, very much with you and her beauty and power will continue to shine forever.”

    Eric Sander Kingston

  5. Lynn Segal says:

    Leah was my hero. Every time we went to the Milky Way she would greet us with a big smile and a great story about her life. She loved showing us her newest babble from Steven.
    I will always remember her with great affection

  6. mcgwynne says:

    My condolences and sincere empathy Steven. My mother was also a concert pianist and that simpatico may have been at the root of our early friendship back in 1972 Hollywood when we worked together in our mutual love of movies and stories. Let’s keep their love of music alive.
    Onwards dear man.

    M –

  7. GuessWhat says:


    TYPO ALERT: Haddonfield

  8. Evelyn says:

    Losing a Mom is never easy, no matter who you are or how old you are. Steven did her proud! My condolences to the entire family, and friends. RIP Lee Lee.

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