Leah Rae Alexander
1935 - 2017
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Leah Rae Alexander

Leah Alexander, age 82, passed away peacefully on August 19, 2017. She was born in Fairmont, Minnesota on February 14, 1935. She was the only child of Leroy and Dagmar (Sorenson) McClement, the former a railroad stationmaster, the latter a schoolteacher. She graduated from Central High School in St. Paul and then earned a BA degree from Vassar College (1957). At Vassar and also during her junior year abroad at Queen's University in Belfast, she studied British and American Literature. Her senior thesis, later published as a book, was a study of Henry James' characterization of his heroines.

In 1958, the year she married Edward Alexander and became Leah Alexander, she became a tenth-grade English teacher at Central High School in Minneapolis In 1959 she was appointed a teaching assistant at University of Minnesota. In 1961-62, now a mother, she taught at the U.S. Airforce School in Teddington, England.

Leah had a powerful, imaginative, and discerning literary mind, was a voracious reader, and in later years would be an active member of the Seattle Trollope Society as well as of Hadassah and other literary groups. She and her daughter (also a librarian) often exchanged ideas about new authors and titles, a private book group of two.

She served as librarian of the Seattle Hebrew Academy from 1979-81 and of the W. F. Albright Institute of Biblical Archaeology in Jerusalem from 1983-85, when the family was living in Israel. She also became one of the chief activists in the Pacific Northwest working for the right of Russian Jews to emigrate from the Soviet Union. (In December 1976 she was arrested and detained in Moscow by the KGB for her efforts.) She did all this while studying for her Masters degree in Librarianship at University of Washington and raising two children. Judy Balint, head of the Seattle Soviet Jewry movement, said of Leah: "Her voice was soft, but her will was like iron. And her sense of justice was formidable."

She was an expert knitter, a lover of gardens and nature, and a deft mender of broken things (from electricity and plumbing to troubles of the heart). She was a deeply loving and patient spouse and mother, and a steadfast friend. Despite the pain and illness of her last ten months, she retained her wry wit, and was able to enjoy time with family and friends.

Leah is survived by her husband Edward, her children Rebecca and David and their families, including grandson Philip, and great granddaughter Adalynn.

Donations in Leah's memory may be made to Medic One, Jewish National Fund, and the Elisabeth C. Miller Library at UW Botanic Gardens.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in The Seattle Times from Aug. 29 to Sep. 2, 2017.
Memories & Condolences
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28 entries
September 11, 2017
Rebecca Alexander
September 10, 2017
Beauty is momentary in the mind
The fitful tracing of a portal;
But in the flesh it is immortal.

The body dies; the body's beauty lives.

When I met the beautiful Leah I remember thinking Eddie was a very lucky guy. He was really still a child, as I was, but a wise child. Fate had a hand in bringing this Brooklyn boy and Minnesota girl together. Eddie's intensity and Leah's calm intelligence; they were meant for each other. A genuine love bound them forever. Two beautiful souls. How lucky we were to be alive at the same time as Leah.
When I learned of Leah's death I happened to be listening to a song, which I've now been playing over and over. Here it is along with my condolences go all of Leah's loved ones. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fvZvLIlcwIo
Steve Rittenberg
Stephen Rittenberg
September 7, 2017
Dear family,
I'm so sorry for your huge loss. I'm also glad that you got to have Leah for so long as a mother and wife. She struck me as a very present and kind person. I wish I had gotten to spend more time with her.

Take care.
Love,
Gaye Sorenson
Gaye Sorenson
September 4, 2017
I first met Leah McClement (as she was then called-also, on occasion, Lee) at a Thanksgiving night party of 1953 on Rockaway Parkway in Brooklyn. The hostess had invited a few of her Vassar classmates down from Poughkeepsie to "experience" Brooklyn during the long weekend break, along with several old high school classmates of the male sort. I still can see Leah entering the living room, resplendent in white and speaking with a soft and beautiful voice. We later all left the apartment for a walk outdoors and paired off in what was then the fashion (i.e., one male, one female) and-perhaps because I was an object of some pity due to a twisted ankle-Leah walked, slowly, with me behind the others. Was this a foreshadowing of her later patience with my many shortcomings, the physical ones being the least egregious.

Although I sensed that this Vassar freshman was what we used to call "a classy dame," it did not occur to me to pursue her a daunting ninety miles up the Hudson during the three and a half ensuing years of college, during which I led an essentially monastic life. But in the summer of 1957 Leah and I (helped by the very same matchmaker who had introduced us in 1953) rediscovered each other in Minnesota, got together very quickly, and were engaged on Thanksgiving 1957, the fourth anniversary of our first meeting in Brooklyn. We were married on July 3, 1958.

In a letter of that year to her closest friend, Leah reported that she was working as a teaching assistant in the University of Minnesota English Department (where I was then a lowly grader of exams) but looked at the position mainly "as an insurance policy" as well as a source of income for "the next few years If I were interested in a profession (other than being wife and mother) I would go on to the M.A. and college teaching." In the event Leah would be both the exemplary wife and loving mother and the holder of three degrees-Bachelor of Arts from Vassar (1957), Bachelor of Science from University of Minnesota (1958) and Master of Librarianship from University of Washington (1974).

She served as librarian of the Seattle Hebrew Academy (1979-81) and then of the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem from 1983-85 when we were living in Israel. The Albright's director at that time, Sy Gitin, called her "one of our best librarians in years, responsible for supervising a large staff and re-cataloguing a library of some 18,500 volumes according to the Library of Congress system. In addition she supervised several part-time library assistants, and her charming personality and dedication to work were much appreciated not only by her staff but by the researchers who used the library as well. It was most unfortunate for us that Mrs. Alexander had to return to the United States."

During her years in Israel Leah also did volunteer work in the libraries of Yad Vashem and the Sochnut (Jewish Agency).

Belatedly Leah published her Vassar senior year thesis about Henry James' heroines. It received the following accolade from Cynthia Ozick: "A revelationHow is it that in all these years I never knew that Leah was yet another James obsessive?! A Henry James sibling, in fact, coupled at the brow. This exquisite little book is right up my favorite alley, and I've instantly read it all and relished every syllable."

Leah did not, with all her talents and achievements and ineffable charm, achieve fame. But the intensity and number of the tributes that I have received to her wit, humor, learning, kindness, and generosity call to mind the conclusion to Middlemarch, perhaps the greatest of all English novels, in which the author weighs the importance of her heroine, Dorothea Brooke:

"Her finely-touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were not widely visible. Her full nature spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs."

Nafshi keshura b'nafshah (My soul is bound up in her soul.)
Edward Alexander
September 3, 2017
Rebecca Alexander
September 3, 2017
at Waterperry Gardens 1997
Rebecca Alexander
September 3, 2017
1960 St. Paul, Minnesota
Rebecca Alexander
September 3, 2017
Leah with her cousins 1941
Rebecca Alexander
September 2, 2017
I was honored to deliver the following eulogy for Leah, z"tl.

Her voice was soft, but her will was like iron. And her sense of justice was formidable.

Back in the 1970s, when the Jewish identity of millions of Jews in the FSU stirred, mainly as a result of the 6-Day War, Leah was one of the very few members of the Seattle Jewish community who responded to the challenge and decided there was something that the wife of a college professor could do.

While studying for her Masters in Library Science, working and raising two kids, Leah was always there, ready in her quiet, strong way, to take a stand. I remember her reassuring presence as she stood next to me at so many protests and demonstrations.

We confronted visiting Soviet officials to remind them that the Jews and human rights activists imprisoned in the FSU were not forgotten and had a voice, even in places like Seattle.

Leah would help compose the language for the leaflets that looked like programs that we handed out at appearances of every Soviet lecturer and visiting Soviet cultural groups, to remind those attending of the plight of Soviet Jews.

In the 1980s Leah reveled in the release of many of the refuseniks, and helped organize the events that brought their voices and their stories to the Seattle community.

Leah never sought the limelight, and always brought her optimistic and cheery countenance to everything with which she was involved. Her calm disposition diffused many tense situations.

She never pushed her opinion on anyone, but she used her good nature and intelligence to influence discussions and debates over what tactics to take.

Her commitment to Israel was natural and complete. The time she and Eddie spent there was something she so clearly cherished and it informed her intellectual and spiritual life for decades.

I remember her shlepping me to various meetings of her Hadassah group where she would be giving a book review. On more than one occasion, she would voice opinions on Israel that were not necessarily popular, yet she never shied away from speaking out.

From the time I made aliya in 1997, I always looked forward to my annual visit with Eddie and Leah. Leah was curious about life in Israel and eager to hear the latest goings on among the people and institutions she knew and loved in Jerusalem.

Her wry humor, innate intelligence and gentle disposition were a wonderful combination that did not leave her even through the recent difficult years.

Her memory will be a blessing and an inspiration to all who had the good fortune to count her as a friend. Yehi zichra baruch.
Judy Lash Balint
September 2, 2017
It is with great sadness that we send our condolences to the Alexander family.
We will always remember Leah as the spokesperson for the Hadassah Book Club which she led with much wisdom and understanding. She never failed to tell us, at every monthly meeting, and to our great surprise, that the authors of our short stories and novels were her friends or acquaintances. Her comments were always very calm, filled with a literally deepness that none of us would ever forget.
It is our sincere wish that in your lives you will always find great love and much comfort in her memory.
Edith and Jim Bloomfield
Edith Bloomfield
September 1, 2017
Remarks at the funeral by MICHAL JACOBY: "Living in Seward Park made it easy for me to visit Leah quite frequently at Kline Galland during her last weeks of life. "Bikur cholim" (visiting the sick) is counted in the Talmud among the religious duties for which no limit has been prescribed. These duties are compared to a bank account. The interest one reaps in this world and the principal is being reserved in the world to come. I do not know about any principal in the olam ha-ba (world to come). I know only about the reward I received in this world (ha-olam ha-zeh) in Kline Galland. I loved visiting Leah. For me, as the pop song says, she was "shain" (beautiful) and had "chen" (grace). Beauty and charm and grace. She did not talk much, but she could respond to what she heard. She never complained nor whined, a real lady to the very end. Being with her was my reward. Another reward was watching Eddie, who in spite of severe pains would roll Leah's wheel chair to a quiet corner where he read to her from ALICE IN WONDERLAND, an appropriate choice. I saw true love and dedication, and that was my reward. I'll always have a sweet memory of Leah. May she rest in a well-deserved peace.
--Michal Jacoby
Michal Jacoby
September 1, 2017
Rebecca Alexander
September 1, 2017
Rebecca Alexander
September 1, 2017
Rebecca Alexander
August 31, 2017
David Alexander
August 31, 2017
Adalynn's birthday party, March 14th, 2016
David Alexander
August 31, 2017
Mom and Dad on March 14, 2016
David Alexander
August 31, 2017
Dear Mom,
Although I am beyond heart broken at losing you, you have given me the strength to carry on and be positive. I will always remember the life lessons you have taught me. My first summer job at the Albright Institute for Archaeological Research in Jerusalem was under your tutelage.
We shared a rapier wit that was entirely our own.
You loved your grandson, Philip, and your granddaughter, Adalynn, with happiness and pride.
I miss you and carry your memory with me constantly.
Love,
Your son,
David
August 31, 2017
Mom's 76th birthday with grandson Philip
David Alexander
August 31, 2017
Family
David Alexander
August 31, 2017
Mom and great granddaughter Adalynn
David Alexander
August 31, 2017
Mom & Dad
David Alexander
August 31, 2017
Rebecca Alexander
August 31, 2017
Rebecca Alexander
August 30, 2017
My condolence goes to all members of the family and friends who knew this gentle and lovely woman, and especially to her husband Ed whose care and kindness and love shepherded Leah to a peaceful end.
RUTH KING
August 29, 2017
Rebecca Alexander
August 29, 2017
Dear Rebecca, Your mother was an amazing woman. I wish that we had met in person. My deepest condolences to you and your family. Librarians Rule!
Manisha Joshi
August 29, 2017
My condolences to the family for your loss. May God's Word and loyal love comfort you at this time (Psalm 136:23).
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