Susan Ratner could not imagine a life not centered around philanthropy. Ratner, who is an executive committee member at the Mount Sinai Health Foundation in Cleveland, said she has worked for Jewish agencies her entire career, including 30 years at Bellefaire JCB in University Heights and 20 years at the Mandel Jewish Community Center in Beachwood.

While at the Mandel JCC, Ratner was the head of the family and children’s department, where she supervised the preschool and ran groups for mothers. During her time at Bellefaire, she ran the Jewish day nursery, and started Monarch Center for Autism.

Ratner said one of her signature volunteer experiences is her current role as president of Park Synagogue in Cleveland Heights and Pepper Pike. She said she feels privileged to be in a position, professionally and personally, to help make a difference to other people in a way that helps them live better lives.

“And I felt that in my job, I felt that at Sinai and I feel that at Park Synagogue,” Ratner said. “And not everybody gets that chance. Everybody does the best they can, but I’m in a unique position at various times where I’ve been asked to spearhead and make a difference. I’ve had the chance to participate in that, and that’s what I’m most proud of.”

Ratner said her parents, Eleanor and Austin Weisberger, were instrumental in raising her to be a charitable person. Her mother was a social worker also, and had a “tremendous belief” in that you could always help things work out. Her father was chair of the department of medicine at University Hospitals. He was the hematologist, and had done research and care for many different types of cancers. Ratner said he was calm, compassionate, kind and supportive.

“I grew up in a household where the phone calls to my dad were always about sad things,” Ratner said. “And he had this incredible ability to give people hope and confidence that, no matter what was happening to you, you could make it better.”

Ratner married Jimmy Ratner, whose family is “a model of philanthropy and giving back,” she said.

“It’s a nice, comfortable resting place for me,” Ratner said. “I can’t imagine being any different. I think the biggest thing for me is that, if I see a place where a difference can be made and I can help make that difference, I want to do that.”

Being a part of these two families, Ratner said, is what makes her who she is. When she looks at her work at Park Synagogue and other work in the community, she is trying to think of how she can give back.

“Isn’t it just part of being a good person?” Ratner asked. “I mean, if you’re lucky enough to get, don’t you want to give? If you’ve suffered – which I’ve had some tragedy in my life – you really understand what it’s like for people to struggle. And if you have the opportunity to help other people. … I can’t imagine doing it any other way.”

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