Jewish Voice: Tensions Simmer in Scandel-ridden ZOA

The Jewish Voice of New York has covered the election, here.

Throughout its 117-year history, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has endured its share of successes and failures, but throughout it all, the hawkish group always emerged as a stalwart voice for a strong and unified Israel. These days, however, the organization has been riddled with stinging scandals. Currently, it is still reeling from their imbroglio with the IRS and the fact that their tax-deductible status was revoked.  According to The Forward, the ZOA’s current tax trouble began in May 2011, when the organization failed to file its 2008, 2009 and 2010 Form 990s, the tax documents that the IRS requires exempt groups to file annually.

All 501(c)3s must file their 990s within 11.5 months from the end of their fiscal year. Recent legislation has allowed the IRS to automatically revoke a group’s exempt status after missing three consecutive years of filings.

During this same time period the salary of the organization’s president increased a whopping 38%. Despite this fact, in May of 2013, the organization’s tax-deductible status was reinstated, but a multitude of questions still remain unanswered.

Read more in the Jewish Voice.


Jewish Journal of Los Angeles

Over the past two years, Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) President Morton Klein has had to defend himself against three lawsuits from two different fired employees, as well as to weather the temporary loss of his organization’s tax-exempt status and to undergo heart surgery. At the end of 2013, he earned the dubious distinction of being named by The Jewish Daily Forward as one the five most “overpaid” leaders of Jewish organizations.  

Now, for the first time since 1993, when he unseated then incumbent president James Schiller, Klein is facing a challenge to his leadership of the 117-year-old hawkish pro-Israel organization. Steven Goldberg, a Los Angeles-based attorney, is actively campaigning to unseat Klein at the board election to be held at the ZOA’s upcoming convention in March.

Read more in the Jewish Journal.

Three reasons to pay attention to the ZOA’s leadership fight

Jonah Lowenfeld of the Los Angeles Jewish Journal writes:

When the Zionist Organization of America’s (ZOA) delegates gather in Philadelphia on Sunday, March 9, to kick off the organization’s 97th national convention, they’ll be faced with a choice between the two men who want to lead the staunchly pro-Israel organization.

On one side stands current ZOA president Morton Klein, who has run the organization since 1994 and is seeking another term. On the other stands Steve Goldberg, a Los Angeles-based lawyer who is currently national vice chairman of the ZOA’s board.

The issues at play in this fight over the ZOA’s top job have been reported in The Journal and elsewhere: Klein is standing by his leadership, pointing to his success in reviving the organization when it faced bankruptcy and his work since. Goldberg has accused Klein of corruption, self-enrichment and mismanagement, and claims that the ZOA has lost its position among pro-Israel organizations.

Two right-leaning columnists in the Jerusalem Post have staked out opposing sides in this fight over the ZOA, suggesting that this is a hotly watched contest – but for most Jews, this battle barely matters. The ZOA, a right-wing organization, represents a small slice of the American Jewish community, and any political differences that exist between Klein and Goldberg are minimal. (Both oppose the current peace negotiations with the Palestinians; neither has any faith in the Obama administration’s diplomatic efforts to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capability.)

Still, there are at least three good reasons why engaged American Jews – even those who don’t much care for the ZOA – should pay attention to this contest, if only as an object lesson of the challenges that face all nonprofits today.

Click here to read the rest in the Jewish Journal.

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.

Mort Klein Resorts to Bribery!

There is dramatic evidence that Mort Klein has attempted to bribe a major Israeli journalist! Take a look at this talkback in which Martin Sherman replies to an allegation that Steve Goldberg offered Sherman financial incentives to support him. In fact, it was Mort Klein who offered Sherman a bribe to back down on his columns calling for ZOA leadership change.


Alan Howard · Dentist/Owner at Self-Employed

Martin has been promised help from Steve Goldberg in fund raising, therefore he has jumped on the bandwagon. If Steve Goldberg wins zoa will lose.

Martin Sherman · Following · Top Commenter · Marist Brothers College ObservatoryHOGGING THE LIMELIGHT–AND THE “LOLLY”


You write “Martin has been promised help from Steve Goldberg in fund raising, therefore he has jumped on the bandwagon. If Steve Goldberg wins zoa will lose”,

Thank you so much for raising this topic—which I was NOT about to broach—and for giving me the opportunity to bring some important additional facts to the attention of the readers—and underscore some that I already have.

With regard to your accusation that I am supporting Steve Goldberg because he has promised me help with fund-raising, actually quite THE OPPOSITE is true

On Sunday 2/3 I, received THREE calls from Mort Klein – at 15.43, 16.42 (unanswered) 18.47 – the only time he has initiated contact with me during our 20+ years acquaintance. In the calls he demanded I retract what I had written and led me to understand that if I did so I could expect help with donors (or, at least, one specific donor)

To the best of my recollection, you have never been privy (at least legally) to any exchanges I have had with Goldberg, who hardly received effusive praise from me (indeed, I state more than once that he has yet to prove he can rise to the challenge), so it is difficult to grasp how you could arrive at the grave accusation you level at me.

However, even if you could substantiate your wildly unfounded claim, how would this in anyway impact on the validity of what I wrote regarding the ZOA under Klein:
– the minute size of membership;
– the minuscule impact on the political process regarding Israel;
– the mediocre size of funds raised; and
– the massive size of his compensation package.

So while Goldberg still has to prove that he can meet the daunting challenges facing the ZOA, it should be clear that Klein cannot.

Moreover, with regard to support, it is more than plausible to assume that because the ZOA has refrained from empowering like-minded individuals/organizations in Israel, that it has been spectacularly unsuccessful in preventing the implementation of the perilous policies of its ideological opponents. Thus, preferring to expend its resources on exorbitant presidential compensation and unproductive real-estate, the ZOA has opted for leaving them hopelessly “out-gunned” by their massively-funded rivals on the Left.

After all, we should not forget that Klein assumed the presidency of the ZOA in the same year that the Oslo Agreements were signed,–and although he did oppose them consistently–he had precious little effect in impeding them.

Perhaps, among things, this was due to him hogging the limelight and the “lolly”??

End the corruption of Mort Klein