Yizkor memorial services are usually somber, but an especially heavy sorrow hung over prayers on Monday at Congregation Har Tzeon-Agudath Achim in Silver Spring. Even at moments when congregants usually turn to each other to chat, no one spoke. “Our synagogue was so quiet. Everyone was lost in their own thoughts,” said congregant Joan Eisenberg.
The day before, Rachel Adisy Suson, 36, wife of the congregation’s rabbi, Steven Suson, died after suffering a stroke in April.
“We are a congregation in mourning,” Eisenberg said.
In April, before her stroke, Rachel Suson defended her doctoral thesis in counseling psychology at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J. She would have been graduated last weekend, said Rabbi Suson.
“She was studying Jewish identity,” he said, “how people are motivated to practice Judaism and how it affects their happiness.”
She co-authored a chapter in Handbook of Multicultural Mental Health (2013) called “The Assessment, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Mental Disorders among American Jews.”
Rachel Adisy was born Sept. 11, 1978 in New Milford, N.J. She held undergraduate degrees from the University of Minnesota and Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, N.J. She received a master’s degree in psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson.
She and Rabbi Suson met on a Birthright Israel trip in 2003. They were married in 2007 and have a daughter, Mara, now four years old.
The family moved to Silver Spring in 2012, when Rabbi Suson was hired by Har Tzeon-Agudath Achim, a Conservative congregation.
Congregation President Dan Gorin described Rachel Suson as quiet and introspective – and busy. “She was pretty stretched. She was a mother. She had her doctoral work and her practical work.”
“She was clearly very educated,” said Judi Unger, a past president. And as a Jew, she was thoroughly modern. “She referred to herself as rabbanit – as an educated person – rather than as rebbitzen, the wife of a rabbi.”
“It’s a tremendous loss for us,” said the congregation Vice President Dale Kay, reached Tuesday as he was arranging the funeral, “and we’re all mourning.”
In addition to Rabbi Suson and daughter Mara Leona Suson, Rachel Adisy Suson is survived by her parents, Leon and Maria Adisy. Burial is at Mt. Lebanon Cemetery, Adelphi. Shiva will be
observed at the family home through Tuesday morning, with services at 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Contributions may be made to Congregation Har Tzeon-Agudath Achim. Arrangements entrusted to Torchinsky Hebrew Funeral Home (endorsed by The Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington).