Note to ZOA: Dump Mort

One of the many former executive directors of the ZOA Western Region, Mark Paredes weighs in on the need to get rid of Mort Klein.

Read his blog post in the Jewish Journal or below:

I feel the need to weigh in on the leadership battle in the ZOA (Zionist Organization of America), which Mort Klein, the incumbent, should win handily on Sunday. Having spent ten months as the ZOA’s regional executive director in Los Angeles, I would like to comment briefly on Mort Klein’s character and fitness to continue serving as the ZOA’s president.

There should be no doubt that the ZOA is simply a vanity project for Mr. Klein. On one occasion the Jewish Federation of LA asked the ZOA to co-sponsor a lecture on Zionism to be given by Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, the thoughtful head of UCLA’s Hillel program. Seeing this as a perfect opportunity to mainstream the ZOA in the local Jewish community, I obtained permission from the ZOA’s national executive director to do so. Imagine my surprise, then, to field an angry phone call from Mort a week later. He insisted that we cancel our co-sponsorship immediately, and proceeded to reprimand me for even considering sponsorship of “scum” like Rabbi Seidler-Feller. When I retorted that the good rabbi, although more liberal on the peace process than we might like, was a graduate of Yeshiva University and a noted Jewish scholar, Mort became even more enraged. Rabbi Seidler-Feller was scum, according to the ZOA head, because he had turned down Mort’s request to speak to UCLA students. If you’ve ever heard Mort speak, the rabbi did those kids a favor.

While in Germany on a pro-Jewish speaking tour in several European countries (which had also been approved by the ZOA’s executive director), I was forced to take another call from an angry Mort, who had suddenly decided that having a ZOA employee whose name wasn’t Mort making speeches in Europe wasn’t such a good idea at all. When I asked him what harm could possibly come from having me make pro-Jewish speeches in several European countries, I was told that the ZOA was focused on Jews in America. Translated into ZOA-speak, that meant that an insecure president who couldn’t deliver a talk in coherent English, let alone other languages, wanted to prevent his employees from upstaging him. Small in stature, Mort is a very small man in other ways as well.

Based on my experience with the ZOA, and my conversations with other former employees of the organization, it should be obvious to any thinking person that the ZOA is nothing more than an opportunity for Mort Klein to line his pockets with contributions from right-wing donors who want to use Mort as a stuttering mouthpiece to air their extremist views. His only desire is to promote himself, not to mainstream or develop the organization. I have never met anyone in my life who has embarked on an ego trip with so little luggage.

It’s hard to imagine anyone doing a worse job running the ZOA, so I hope that Los Angeles attorney Steve Goldberg, Mort’s long shot opponent, wins the election this weekend. Opponents of the peace process and strong advocates of right-wing views on Israel deserve an organization – the oldest Zionist one in the country – of which they can be proud. No group headed by Mort Klein can meet this standard.