Alex Ratner, Founder of Ratner’s Deli in NYC, Early Jewish Pioneer in the San Fernando Valley

Alex Ratner

Values Code: I-E-L-P

Curator’s Note: How many of us have experienced crepes or potato pancakes at Ratner’s Dairy Deli in New York City – as either a visitor or Gotham native?

Although this Exhibition is about a 20th Century Pioneer, we feel “allowed” to break our 1800’s rule in this special case.

Ratner's Deli Sign, New York

Ratner’s Deli Sign, New York

Two brothers-in-laws, Alex Ratner and Jacob Harmatz opened Ratner’s Dairy Delicatessen in the Lower East Side of New York City in 1918.

Legend has it that they flipped a coin to decide whose name would be on the sign.

The San Fernando Valley

In 1914, Alex and Anne Ratner purchased 45 acres of land in Sun Valley, in the San Fernando Valley, California.

They came to the Valley because of Alex Ratner’s weak lungs, requiring the clean, hot, and dry air that caused people with similar problems to flood to Southern California.

Alex Ratner opened a small general merchandise store that also served as the town’s Post Office.

The Ratner’s traveled weekly to Temple Street in Los Angeles to purchase Kosher meat and other household supplies – and to attend Shabbat Services.

In 1915, Alex Ratner installed the first gas pump at Sunland Boulevard and San Fernando Road.

In 1916, an uncle, Jack Harnitz, moved from New York to Sun Valley and worked work in the store.

A year later, Jack Harnitz returned to New York and Louis Forsch, Anne Ratner’s brother, joined the family in California.

Alex Ratner and Louis Forsch entered into a partnership that lasted for many years, until Ratner’s retirement in 1934.

By now their store sold groceries, hardware, gas, hay and grain.

After Alex Ratner’s retirement, Louis Forsch opened the Roscoe Hardware Co.

Civic

In 1925, Alex Ratner and Louis Forsch became charter members of the Roscoe Chamber of Commerce.

In 1921, the Ratners were recognized by the city with the naming of Ratner Street near San Fernando Road and Sunland Boulevard.

Community

The Ratners attended services at the Olive Street Synagogue, traveling from the Northeast part of the San Fernando, south, over the Cahuenga Pass into the City of Los Angeles.

In 1928, the Ratners and Forsches were joined by a few other Jewish families in an attempt to build a synagogue.  The economic downturn of the Great Depression curtailed this effort.

In 1938, the Ratner family helped found the Valley Jewish Community Center, the San Fernando Valley’s first synagogue.

In 1942, the Ratner and Forsch families donated a Sefer Torah to the Valley Jewish Community Center in memory of Alex Ratner. 

Around 1944, this community center became Congregation Adat Ari El.

Adat Ariel Synagogue

Adat Ariel Synagogue

The Sun Valley Jewish Community Center, which was built on land donated by the Ratner and Forsch families, is now the synagogue, Valley Beth Israel.  The sanctuary is named for the Ratner family.

The charitable organization AMIT Women, has an Anne Ratner Valley Chapter in Studio City.

Family

The Ratners had three children: Maurice (1905-1990), Ida and Rose.

Alex and Anne Ratner’s children grew up in Sun Valley.

Maurice Ratner studied at the University of Southern California and became a pharmacist.  He owened and managed Ratners’ Drugs from 1929 to 1945.

In 1983, Maurice Ratner was named the Honorary Mayor of Sun Valley.

 

Alex Ratner died in 1935.

Ratner’s Deli, in New York City, closed in 2002.

See more information in the following issues of Western States Jewish History:

  • Kramer, William.  The Ratners of Sun Valley.  Western States Jewish History.  42.2-3 (Winter/Spring 2010). pp. 148-149.
  • Miller, Warren.  The San Fernando Valley and its Early Pioneers. Western States Jewish History. 45.4 (Summer 2013). pp. 355-360.

Pictures of the Ratner family are welcome.

Samantha Silver is Curator of this Alex Ratner Exhibit.

Some, but not all of the Los Angeles Pioneers, can be reached by clicking on their name on the list near the upper right of this page.