Barbara R. Miller isn’t one of those people who always has been involved with a plethora of community service activities since childhood, but rather came to her volunteerism and community leadership on her own.
For her, it was seeing her husband, Abraham C. Miller’s family’s investments in starting The Lillian and Betty Ratner School, and then seeing the way the school impacted her sons when they attended it, that made her and her husband become involved with it on their own.
“We just ended up getting involved and sending our kids there when they were younger, and we kind of stayed and never left,” she said of the preschool through eighth grade school that emphasizes diversity and where about half the students are Jewish, and half non-Jewish but imparted with the school’s Jewish values. “That helped me evolve with other organizations.”
Thus, while Miller was board chair of the school for about 20 years – during which she helped lead the school’s move from Lyndhurst to a larger location in Pepper Pike, and where it is closer to key local Jewish institutions – she also joined the board of the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Beachwood and the board of Notre Dame College in South Euclid. She’s also involved with Park Synagogue in Cleveland Heights and Pepper Pike, as well as the Shul Boys, a Jewish motorcycle club.
“The synagogue’s close to my heart, and you work places close to your heart,” said Miller, who with Abe Miller, received the annual Park Synagogue Centerite Award in 2011 for their contributions.
Miller credits her success making a difference and practicing tikkun olam to the inspiration given by friends and family. Moreover, it seems as though when Miller takes something on, she goes all in.
In addition to staying involved with The Ratner School by being on the board, although she is no longer board chair, she is also deeply committed to the company, Graffiti Inc., she owns with her husband. Miller’s company creates custom-made, embroidered baseball caps – it’s something she said they created, “from the ground up.”
When asked if she has any goals or challenges in the community she has not been able to address, but hopes to, Miller first replied, “World peace.” Then she laughed, and said maybe she should first set her sights smaller. She said her place is likely in continuing with the volunteer activities she does now, as well as working with the same “wonderful” people she works with now at Graffiti Inc.
“You don’t always have to help in big ways,” she said. “Sometimes the smaller gifts or things you do make a bigger difference to people.”
– Amanda Koehn