Back in April of 2011 an anonymous employee or member of the ZOA’s National Board of Directors circulated a memo to the entire Board entitled “Time For A Change.” The memo set forth serious problems that the ZOA was experiencing under Mort Klein’s management, It explained that the ZOA was not nearly as large or successful as it should be, that Mort Klein is an “abusive bully” with employees, and that Mort has a poor reputation with leaders of other Jewish organizations. “He is mocked, disrespected and disliked.”
MEMO: TIME FOR A CHANGE
We are all aware of Mort Klein’s best qualities which have always served the ZOA very well in the past. There is no doubt that we owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude. However, it must be acknowledged that he suffers from several increasing deficiencies which are having a negative and destructive impact. These have transformed him into an obstacle to growth and make the need for a change more urgent.
His personal idiosyncrasies are adversely affecting the way he runs our organization, deals with employees and relates to those whose help we need but are alienated by his behavior.
- After 114 years of existence and 18 years of Mort’s stewardship the ZOA should be a much larger, more powerful and better funded organization than it is.
- Mort’s press releases, opinion pieces and speeches are terrific but his people skills almost don’t exist unless you are a big donor. It is not unusual to have to call 4 or 5 times before you get a return call.
- Mort is frugal to a fault. He will not employ enough good people and pay them properly to create what could genuinely be called a “national” organization.
- He fails to delegate and tends to micro-manage. This was okay in the days when things were desperate but it now hampers progress.
- Part of the reason he will not delegate is mainly due to the fact that he has only managed to keep mainly mediocre people on board with us and he doesn’t trust them. The good ones get so frustrated that they resign or get fired because Mort sees them as competitors who may steal what he sees as the limelight from him which he considers reserved for himself.
- Mort guards his power. He is normally the only person in our organization who has any relationship with our major donors. As good as Mort is at ingratiating himself with major donors he is an abusive bully when dealing with employees directly beneath him. His charm is selectively applied.
- There is absolutely no plan for a smooth transition of power if he resigned or became incapacitated.
- He has made the ZOA into a reflection of himself as opposed to an independent organization with effective internal communications all coordinating with each other. There is a difference between leadership and an unhealthy inclination towards self-promotion.
- There is a dysfunctional relationship between Mort and many of our employees. It is almost toxic. Most of the personnel problems mentioned in the article which appeared in THE FORWARD several years ago were valid and accurate. They have only increased. If a confidential survey were to be undertaken of present and former employees you would be shocked and embarrassed at the horror stories. An independent human resources company should be hired or a committee should be established to investigate and report.
- Mort’s reputation among the leaders of other major Jewish organizations is not good. He is mocked, disrespected and disliked. This is not because of the strong positions he takes on issues which may differ from their own. It is because he is egotistical, uncooperative, rude, unnecessarily confrontational and sometimes completely irrational.
- It is time for the board to investigate and act in the best interests of the ZOA.