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From notebook to memoir

Writers groups inspire Riderwood residents

Created date

December 13th, 2016
Dorothy Sucher traveled to Belarus in 1992 to search for her family’s roots, making journal entries along the way.

Dorothy Sucher traveled to Belarus in 1992 to search for her family’s roots, making journal entries along the way.

Among the dozens of clubs, committees, classes, and special events at Riderwood are many opportunities for community members interested in writing to develop their skills and learn from one another. 

At the resident-run Writers Guild, aspiring writers gather every month to discuss and provide feedback on one another’s work. 

The group oversees the publication of Tales From Riderwood, a compilation of prose and poetry written by residents. The publication includes memoirs, resident interviews, human interest pieces, original poems, and short works of fiction.  

Several people who live at Riderwood spent their careers as professional writers, and they often share their talents with their neighbors. Dorothy Sucher was one of those people. 

She worked for the Greenbelt News Review prior to becoming a psychotherapist. At Riderwood, Dorothy taught a course called “Write Your Own Story.” 

Tapping into the various writers’ resources at Riderwood, Dorothy’s husband Joe recently paid tribute to his late wife in a beautiful and meaningful way. Joe, along with his son Anatol, published Dorothy’s memoir. 

The book, entitled Return to the Shtetl, documents Dorothy’s 1992 trip to Belarus to search for her family’s roots. 

Joe says many of his neighbors knew Dorothy well and have been eager to read her book. 

A year in the making

“Dorothy was an accomplished, gifted writer,” Joe says. “She had made presentations at Riderwood and beyond regarding her trip to learn about the roots of her grandparents and other family members. I always felt her notes should be published, so Anatol and I decided this would be a memorial to her.”

Joe and Anatol started working to complete the book in 2015. They started by going carefully through Dorothy’s journal entries. Anatol focused on editing photographs into the manuscript, and Joe wrote an introduction. All in all, the process took about a year, and in early 2016, Crossroads Press published Return to the Shtetl.

“Anatol and I are thrilled that we could make it happen and share it with the world,” Joe says of the book, which can be purchased on “As some of the early readers remarked, Dorothy’s skill as a writer draws us in, makes us participate in the ups and downs of a difficult journey, and lets us enjoy her company throughout. Friends who had known and loved Dorothy said they felt as if she was in the room with them as they read her story.  

“I still meet people who took her course and who know who I am because of it,” he says. “She was quite a person, as you can see from the book.”

One of his own

Joe spent his own career as a physics professor at the University of Maryland. His research focused on particle physics and relativistic atomic physics. Although he officially retired from teaching about 12 years ago, he maintains an office on campus, where he works on various projects from time to time. 

Like Dorothy, Joe has shared his talents with his neighbors at Riderwood by teaching classes through the on-site continuous learning program. He taught a course called “Physics for Seniors” as well as a chess course. 

Joe was born in Vienna, Austria. His family fled as refugees and came to America in 1941. No doubt inspired by his late wife’s endeavors, Joe has also documented his childhood experiences in a personal memoir.