By: Benjamin Koslowe | News  | 

Leah Adler, Beloved and Respected Head Librarian, Dies at 72

Leah Adler, the Head Librarian of Hebraica and Judaica at Yeshiva University’s Mendel Gottesman Library for over 33 years, died on Saturday, May 4. Adler, a resident of Lawrence, NY, leaves behind her husband Dr. Mark Adler, her daughter Mali (Adler) Brofsky, four grandchildren and her siblings Aryeh, David and Eliezer Jeselsohn. She was 72 years old.

Adler (nee Jeselsohn) was born in Tel Aviv, where she lived until the summer of 1957 when she moved with her parents to Zurich, Switzerland. She enjoyed Jewish studies in high school and represented Switzerland to compete in the 1965 Chidon Hatanach. She received the equivalent of a master’s degree in microbiology from the ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) in Zurich and studied at Michlalah (Jerusalem College for Women).

“After decades of service, Leah seems inseparable from the history of Yeshiva University Libraries,” expressed Paul Glassman, the Director of the Yeshiva University Libraries. “In the workplace, Leah was always disarmingly candid and honest; she never hesitated to bring up important issues, regardless of how challenging those issues were. We all share in mourning her loss.”

After marrying Dr. Mark Adler, Leah Adler and her husband settled in New Haven, CT where she worked at Yale University’s Sterling Memorial Library as an assistant for Hebraica to the Middle East Bibliographer-Cataloger. In 1981, the couple moved to Lawrence, NY, and Leah Adler began working in the Cataloguing Department of YU’s Gottesman Library. While completing a master’s degree in library science at Queens College, she assisted on a project to catalog the Gottesman Library’s pre-1550 rare books. After completing her degree, she became the library’s coordinator of Judaica cataloguing, and she was elevated to Head Librarian of the Gottesman Library in 1986.

Fluent in Hebrew, German and English, with a strong command of Latin, Adler was the “go-to person with language questions,” according to Pearl Berger, the retired Dean of Libraries who also described Adler as “brilliant and a perfectionist.” Adler oversaw the digitization of the library, which began when the library implemented an online catalog in 1996. “She was a scholar’s librarian who ushered the library into the digital age and who played a key role in the comprehensive renovation of the library, never losing sight of the academic, historic, antiquarian, and enduring aspects of librarianship and the world of books,” President Ari Berman described in a New York Times obituary published on May 8.

Dr. Shnayer Leiman, Professor of Jewish History and Literature at Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, figured similarly that Adler “oversaw [the library’s] transformation from an antiquated 20th century one to a model digital age library.” He added, “Her concern was always to meet the academic needs of faculty and students, while hiring and overseeing an able and devoted library staff. Exceedingly capable, and always pleasant, she will be sorely missed.”

Adler served as an indexer for “Judaica Librarianship,” the peer-reviewed journal of the Association of Jewish Libraries. She presented at conferences of the Association of Jewish Libraries on a broad range of topics related to Hebraica and Judaica librarianship, including “Moving to a Unicode Based Library System: The Yeshiva University Library Experience” and “Yeshiva University Implements the VTLS VIRTUA Integrated Library System.”

“The library staff valued her not only as a colleague but as a mentor and friend,” wrote Shuli Berger, the Head of Special Collections and Interim Head of the Gottesman Library. “She respected and treated everyone with true dignity, kindness, respect, consideration and compassion. Leah’s wisdom, knowledge, gentle counsel, generous spirit and devotion to the welfare of the library and her colleagues will be greatly missed.”

Leah Adler’s funeral took place on Monday, May 6 in Givat Shaul. Shiva was observed at the Brofsky home in Alon Shevut.

May Leah Adler’s family be comforted together with the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.


Photo Caption: Leah Adler
Photo Credit: YU News