Biography of the Ratner Family

The Ratner Family has been prominent in the Cleveland, Ohio, area since the mid-twentieth century. Moishe Ratowczer (later Ratner, 1866-1940) and Pesha Koppelman (1874-1940) of Bialystok (in the Polish lands of the Russian empire) had nine children: Frieda (Isenstadt, 1888-1952); Charles (1893-1939); Leonard (1896-1974); Dora (Sukenik, 1900-1976); Harry (1902-1961); Irene (Zehman, 1904-1974); Max (1907-2002); Fannye (Shafran, 1911-2001), and Joseph (1911-1921). The family immigrated to the United States in 1920 and settled in Cleveland in 1921. Leonard Ratner, born Leiser Ratowczer, became a prominent businessman, Jewish community leader, and philanthropist. In Bialystok, Leonard received a Jewish education and began working in the weaving trade. After settling in Cleveland, he first worked as a weaver before opening two creameries in the Glenville neighborhood with his sister Dora and brother Max. Leonard's brother Charlie formed Forest City Material Company in 1921. Leonard went on to form Buckeye Material Company in 1924. The creameries were sold in 1926, and family members concentrated their work on their lumber and supply businesses. Forest City Material Co. and Buckeye Material Co. merged and became B & F Building Company in 1929; the company constructed three-bedroom homes in the east side suburbs. By 1942, the family business was building 1500 prefabricated homes a year. The family's building materials stores and other business interests consolidated into Forest City Enterprises, Inc. by 1960. Forest City Enterprises then experienced its greatest growth in real estate as it built, owned, and managed shopping malls, offices and industrial buildings, hotels, and apartment complexes across the nation. Eventually, Forest City Enterprises became involved in large urban development projects such as Tower City Center in Cleveland, which opened in 1990. By 1993, Forest City Enterprises had come to own over $2 billion in real estate.

Leonard Ratner married Lillian Bernstein in 1924 and had two children, Ruth Ratner Miller and Albert B. Ratner. Ruth Ratner Miller (1926-1996) was a civic leader, businesswoman, and philanthropist; she married Samuel Miller in 1946, bringing him into the family business. The couple had four children: Aaron David, Richard, Gabrielle, and Abraham. Aaron David Miller is a prominent Middle East analyst, author, and negotiator. The Millers divorced in 1982, but Mrs. Miller retained her former husband's name. In 1985, she married Rabbi Phillip Horowitz, rabbi of the former Temple B'rith Emeth. Albert B. Ratner (b. 1927) married Faye Katz (1931-1978) in 1950 and had two children, Deborah Ratner (b. 1959) and Brian Ratner (b. 1957). Faye was killed in an automobile accident in 1978. Albert later married Audrey Gilbert Pritzker (b. 1928) in 1981. Leonard Ratner began volunteer work with the Jewish Welfare Federation in 1931 and was elected honorary life trustee in 1966. Ratner held many important positions on community boards throughout his lifetime. He was honorary trustee for life at Mount Sinai Hospital, trustee for life of the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland, and a member of the Board of Overseers of the Jewish Theological Seminary. Ratner was also involved in helping build Park Synagogue in Cleveland Heights, serving as its president from 1952 to1955. His daughter Ruth Ratner Miller graduated from Case Western Reserve University with a degree in elementary education and went on to earn a Ph.D. in guidance and counseling. She was involved in both the Community Development and Health Departments of the City of Cleveland, serving as their director. She was also active in the Tower City Center project, The Park Synagogue, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Albert B. Ratner is a graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in forestry and is an adjunct visiting professor for the Michigan State University Land Policy Institute. Well known for his involvement in Cleveland and as a leader in the Jewish community, Albert B. Ratner is a life trustee of the Cleveland Jewish Community Federation and a member of the International Council of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. The Ratner family was instrumental in establishing the Cleveland Jewish Archives at the Western Reserve Historical Society in 1976.

click here to view the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History entry for Leonard Ratner

click here to view the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History entry for Max Ratner

click here to view the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History entry for Forest City Enterprises