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What it Means to be a Leader in a Nonprofit

A Conversation on Building a Board with Debbie Ratner Salzberg

All of the fellows and staff standing in a large group against the wall with the RespectAbility logo all over it

Debbie Ratner Salzberg with RespectAbility Fellows and Staff

Rockville, Md., Sept. 18 – Debbie Ratner Salzberg has a sincerity that shines, and she starts the conversation by encouraging the RespectAbility Fellows to ask questions and participate in the discussion. She adds color to the conversation and engages us with her experiences in development and community building.

Debbie Ratner Salzberg speaking to RespectAbility Fellows seated around a large brown table

Debbie Ratner Salzberg speaking to RespectAbility Fellows

As past chair and current board member with the DCJCC, Ratner Salzberg envisions a community within the Washington, D.C., area where Jews and non-Jews can meet, socialize and help each other and the community. This is accomplished through community service planning, a theater company, a gym, educational classes and children’s programming, as well as welcome parties and family events.

“The DCJCC was trying to touch all parts of the community, and that was exciting for me because it was what I was looking for when I first arrived in DC,” she said.

Ratner Salzberg says that she watched this organization grow out of a small classroom in a synagogue and that the work that DCJCC is doing is something that she is very proud of.

Throughout the conversation, I really admired the way that she spoke about other people; she clearly respected and appreciated the value in others. For example, she talked about how she carefully puts together a board like a puzzle, because of how important other people’s excitement and passion are.

RespectAbility Fellow Judith Lao with Debbie Ratner Salzberg posing and smiling for a photo

RespectAbility Fellow Judith Lao with Debbie Ratner Salzberg

When I asked her what were the qualities that have enabled her to succeed, Ratner Salzberg responded that one had to be willing to put the time in, be able to listen and have a passion for one’s work. In fact, she credits her confidence to others, and how listening to other people’s diverse experiences and leaning into change have allowed her to gain other perspectives and grow in a way that has surprised her again and again.

Ratner Salzberg also is a seasoned expert in real estate. She is active with numerous District of Columbia community, charitable and professional organizations, including the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, the District of Columbia Building Industry Association and the Meyer Foundation, which she currently chairs. Ratner Salzberg also serves on the boards of Kenyon College and Capital Bank, N.A.


RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. Learn more about the National Leadership Program and apply for the next cohort! Contact [email protected] for more information.



Meet the Author

Judith Lao

Judith Lao is a Program Development and Fundraising Fellow. She is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience at Brown University. As an individual with a mental illness, she believes her personal experiences with stigma and marginalization have translated into an active passion for advocacy.

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