Posted by: Morton A. Klein
February 2, 2009
News

ZOA Names Gary Ratner National Executive Director

 


 


Morton A. Klein, President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), Dr. Michael Goldblatt, Chair, National Board of Directors, and Dr. Alan Mazurek, Chair, National Executive Committee, have named Gary P. Ratner as the new National Executive Director of the Zionist Organization of America effective February 2, 2009.


 


Mr. Klein, Dr. Goldblatt and Dr. Mazurek stated that, “Gary Ratner brings a wide array of skills to this position given his Jewish communal, political, business and entrepreneurial backgrounds.  I know that Mr. Ratner will help us and the board bring the ZOA to a new level of effectiveness and growth.  He has a keen understanding of the issues relating to the Jewish people, Israel and American policies in the Middle East.  He has shown himself to be an effective executive, fundraiser, innovative programmer, public speaker, and committed Zionist.  We are delighted that he has decided to join the ZOA.”


 


Mr. Ratner just concluded a nine year stint as the Western Regional Director of the American Jewish Congress, where he rebuilt the region after it had closed in 1999.  During his tenure, the region became financially successful and over the years made a significant impact by providing unique programs — working on campuses to counter the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel environment, working with the diverse communities especially in California to build support for Israel by making alliances with moderate Muslims, Latinos, African-Americans, various Asian communities, Indo-Americans, and Turkish Americans, and even fighting anti-Semitism in France.


 


One of his accomplishments was to investigate the use of Federal Title VI funds at the Centers for Middle East Studies at major universities and their outreach programs to K-12 teachers and students.  As a result, he helped AJCongress file a petition with the Department of Education to change the criteria for awarding grants under Title VI.


 


Another area where Mr. Ratner made a significant contribution was in fighting the divestment movement on the part of mainline Protestant Churches.  As part of a coalition of groups, Mr. Ratner helped mobilize Israel’s allies in the Presbyterian, Methodist and Lutheran churches and helped expose the role of the Friends of Sabeel in influencing the anti-Israel programs of these churches.


 


Previous to his term at the AJCongress, Mr. Ratner held numerous positions over a 25 year period in the logistics and supply chain management fields, including being the CEO of the largest privately owned trucking and warehousing company in the country.  He founded numerous start-up ventures in the personnel and training fields in the U.S. as well as the Czech Republic and Israel.


 


During that period, he had also been a leader in many Jewish organizations both here and in Israel, including being a member of the Board of Governors of Tel Aviv University, the board of the Chicago Jewish Federation (including a term as the head of the Chicago JCRC), the Executive Committee of AIPAC, the National Committee for an Effective Congress and was honored as “Young Leader of the Year” by Israel Bonds.


 


He volunteered in the Yom Kippur War working to replace soldiers on a base in Palmachim.  He lived in Israel for two years, and he has maintained contacts and friendships with many key Israeli leaders.


 


In 1996-7, Mr. Ratner was a consultant to Touro College in Israel raising funds to help Ethiopian students take special courses in accounting and law.  He brought the first Ethiopian Israeli woman accountant to the United States on a speaking tour.


 


In 1999, Mr. Ratner was a consultant to Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews to develop Jewish support for the fellowship and their humanitarian projects in Russia and the FIS as well as Israel.


 


He visited and met with the leaders of Gush Katif and the other communities in Gaza and opposed the withdrawal from this important Jewish community of 9000 men, women and children.  Ratner warned then that the evacuation from Gaza would lead to increased terrorism and violence against Israel.


 


Ratner received his master’s degree in International Relations and Economics from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington and Bologna, Italy, (where he became close friends with Wolf Blitzer, now an anchor at CNN); his B.A. from Northwestern University. He also studied at Concordia College in Montreal, the Sorbonne in Paris, and two years as a law student at Georgetown.


 


He has taught courses in 20th century history at the community college level and from 1993-1995 co-hosted the first pro-Israel radio program in New York and Washington, “The American Mideast Forum.”


 


“I have accepted this exciting position with the ZOA because I believe its work is the most vital of all the major American Jewish organizations in protecting Israel’s security and in opposing the idea of one-sided concessions to a terrorist regime.  I am also dedicated to fighting the virulent new strain of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism that has reared its ugly head around the world.  I look forward to helping Morton Klein and the Board to grow the ZOA with new programs and methods to expand our membership and fundraising, especially with the younger generation who are hungering to join a courageous and proud Jewish and Zionist organization that’s unafraid to speak the truth.  I will do all I can to strengthen ZOA’s Department of Campus Activities, Center for Law & Justice, Division of Government Relations and its Israel office. In addition, I look forward to working with the new administration and Congress to help them better grasp the realities of the Middle East.  I also hope to redefine what it means to be a Zionist in the 21st century and strengthen the ties between Israel and the Diaspora.”


 


Mr. Ratner has three grown children, Uri, a hedge fund manager in San Francisco; Yael, a wife and mother married to a venture capitalist, lives in Chicago and Miami; and Ariel, a recent graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, now works with the Obama Administration; and one granddaughter Gabrielle.