CRC welcomes newly ordained rabbi to its staff

Rabbi Deana Sussman 


Central Reform Congregation’s newest addition to its rabbinic staff will be a familiar face to its members. Rabbi Deana Sussman, who started Tuesday as the congregation’s rabbi educator, spent the past two summers with CRC as a rabbinic intern. 

Sussman, a St. Louis native with family in the area, worked as a summer rabbinic intern for CRC in 2012 and last year. In May, she was ordained by Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. 

She will fill many of the roles previously performed by Rabbi Ed Harris, one of the founding members of CRC, who was with the congregation for 30 years but moved back to California to spend more time with his children. 

Sussman said CRC has come to feel like a family and a home to her. “CRC is a special place that aspires to live out its values each and every day,” Sussman said. “It’s commitment to diversity, to social justice, to spirituality, to community and to Judaism are inspiring. I feel truly blessed to have the chance to be a part of it all.”


CRC President Ken Goldman said: “Rabbi Deana is a delightful person who won the hearts of everybody over here. She was an easy choice to replace Rabbi Ed. We are very excited to have her on board.”

Beyond the duties previously done by Harris, Sussman also will help run a grief support group and work alongside the education staff. 

CRC founding Rabbi Susan Talve said Sussman will also teach a ninth-grade class that focuses on advocacy and education. 

“The teen classes do things such as lobbying in D.C., learning about the Holocaust,  and learning to be proactive and confident in ways that their voice can be heard,” Talve said.

As rabbi educator, Sussman hopes to be able to accompany people on their journeys of life. 

“I hope to support them, comfort them and simply be with them,” Sussman said. “Inherently, a rabbi is a teacher and, therefore, I believe that education is the cornerstone of Judaism.”

Sussman has a bachelor of arts degree in Jewish studies and religious studies from Indiana University, and at HUC-JIR, she earned a master of arts in Jewish education degree from the Rhea Hirsch School of Education. She has worked as an intern for Temple Beth Torah in Ventura, Calif., the Jewish World Watch and Our House Grief Support Center. 

Sussman said her decision to become a rabbi was guided by her passion for her religion. 

“I was inspired to be a rabbi because of my love of Judaism, its history, its people, its traditions, its way of life,” she said “As a rabbi, I strive to show how Judaism can be lived out in every aspect of one’s life, and to affirm that however a person wants to bring Judaism into his or her life is the right way.”

Her summer rabbinic internships at CRC were “phenomenal,” she said. 

“Over the past two summers, I have had the privilege of working alongside Rabbi Susan Talve, Rabbi Randy Fleisher and Rabbi Ed Harris,” she said. “I had the opportunity to work, learn and pray with the congregants of CRC. The rabbis, staff  and the entire CRC community has had a profound impact on my path to the rabbinate. It was they who showed me what it means to be a rabbi.”