Mort Klein’s nephew calls on his uncle to withdraw

Mort Klein’s nephew, Joel Damens, has written the following letterto Steve Goldberg:

Hello, Mr. Goldberg,
As you know I have expressed an interest in joining the ZOA. I have always felt this interest to join an organization that so adamantly fights for the survival of Israel. I must advise that I did not feel comfortable joining the ZOA because of how I was mistreated by the President of the organization, Morton Klein. The video that you posted about the mistreatment of an employee, where Morton Klein did not want an employee of the ZOA to attend the National ZOA dinner convention (because his fiance was African American) resonates deep within me. Such bigotry and treating people as though they are beneath you/subhuman, should not be tolerated in any organization and by any Jew (especially after all the Jews have been through). I agree wholeheartedly in that my uncle fights vigorously for the Jewish people and for the survival of Israel. But, that in and of itself does not make you a good person; in regards to ethics, moral compassion for your fellow man, and unselfish management of a non-profit organization. I believe you have what it takes to lead the ZOA into the future, as outlined in your 7 point plan. I especially like your approach of outreach to younger Jews and hiring more employees to campaign for the cause in lieu of paying the President half a million dollars plus, salary per year. I am publicly calling for change and for Morton Klein to withdraw from this campaign.
“For all of your accomplishments yesterday and today, will not be remembered if you leave a trail of destruction in your path through the mistreatment of your fellow man. Ethics and moral compassion above all else will always prevail!” 

Steve Goldberg’s Jpost Editorial: Why I’m Running for ZOA Presidency

In his own words in the Jerusalem Post, Steve Goldberg describes why he’s the man to lead the ZOA out of its crisis for the betterment of the organization – and of Israel and the Jewish people. Read it below or in the Jerusalem Post.

I am a candidate for president of the Zionist Organization because the ZOA must be strong, effective, and professionally and ethically run in its critical fight for Israel and the Jewish people. The current President, Morton Klein, has been in power for over 20 years.

Unfortunately, in recent years, the ZOA has withered in size, resources, influence and credibility.

It’s time for new leadership.

I can provide it.

Aside from my Zionist passion and dedication, I have the qualifications.

I majored in mathematics at Harvard and earned my JD from New York University.

A lawyer for more than 35 years, I am a partner at a prominent American law firm, specializing in business litigation. I am a tournament chess player, with an appreciation for strategy and tactics which can be used in defending Israel.

My passion is Jewish activism.

I began as a pro bono lawyer for the Jewish Defense League in Los Angeles over 25 years ago – controversial for some, but I’m proud of it.

I have been active with the ZOA since I joined the Los Angeles Board in 2006. I was appointed to the National Board in 2008 and national vice chairman in 2010, a position I hold until today. I am the US representative on the Executive Board of the World Likud, a member of the Extended Executive of the World Zionist Organization, vice president of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, and a member of the International Board of Governors of Ariel University. I have published and lectured across the US and in Israel on foreign policy.

I believe the ZOA must take the lead in opposing the twostate “solution,” based on Israel’s biblical, legal and historical rights to the Land of Israel.

Under Mort Klein, the ZOA has objected to the two-state model because of Palestinian incitement against Jews and the absence of a viable partner for peace. While valid reasons, they leave open the possibility that someday, if the Palestinian Arabs mouth the right words, the two-state model would be acceptable.

The ZOA should unapologetically say “Never!” History teaches this is a zero-sum game; creating another Palestinian state would be morally wrong and strategically suicidal. There’s room for just one state between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea: a Jewish state or an Arab state – not both. The ZOA should educate people that there is already a Palestinian state – Jordan. The ZOA must take the lead in developing, articulating and advocating the only real, humanitarian alternative to the two-state model: one Jewish state, Israel.

To take such a leadership role, however, the ZOA must become healthy and return to ethical, effective governance and management.

The ZOA has declined in part because it has morphed into an organization serving the personal, financial and political whims of its current president.

Despite the ZOA website boasting a membership of 30,000, the ZOA ’s mailing list contains about 9,400 names.

Of those, fewer than 1,100 have email addresses, only about 800 of which still work.

Further, donations have been anemic. Public filings demonstrate that, over the past five years, donations have averaged less than $3 million per year. In 2012, the last year for which statements are available, donations were less than $1.5m.

Such a small, under-financed organization cannot be effective.

Management has been grossly incompetent at best, unethical at worst. The ZOA failed to file legally required Form 990s with the Internal Revenue Service for three consecutive years.

As a result, it lost its status as a 501c3 tax exempt organization effective May 2011; it was restored two years later. That the ZOA did not file those forms for three consecutive years is inexcusable.

Even worse, to avoid embarrassment and accountability, Mort Klein refused to voluntarily disclose the loss of status to the public. I was the only National Board member to insist on public disclosure; I was ostracized by most Board members because of this insistence, which they perceived as disloyalty to Klein.

When the forms were finally filed, they revealed that Klein’s compensation was staggering.

He received $1,245,851 in 2008 and $717,700 in 2009. From 2001 to 2013, Klein has been paid more than $5.4m., averaging out to more than $415,000 per year. The ZOA president should be a volunteer position, which had been the original setup in the ZOA Constitution. I intend to reinstate that tradition and forgo any salary.

If I have the privilege of assuming this role, I would restore competence and transparency to the ZOA . I would hire professional fund-raisers to broaden the base beyond a handful of traditional donors. I would use money saved on the president’s salary to expand operations, hire and keep the best, and fight for Israel – effectively, creatively, boldly. I would create a 501c4 tax-exempt organization and a political action committee so the ZOA can have political influence matching that of AIPAC and J Street. Israel needs a vibrant ZOA , and the ZOA needs change to survive. I am confident I am the man who will lead and prepare the ZOA for the current challenges – and a better future for Israel and the Jewish people.

Martin Sherman Takes on Caroline Glick’s Lukewarm Endorsement of Mort Klein

Columnist Martin Sherman weighs in again on the ZOA elections and Mort Klein’s inability to take ZOA to the next level in response to his colleague Caroline Glick’s lukewarm endorsement of Mort Klein. In fact, in an e-mail to Steve Goldberg in November 2012, Caroline Glick expressed her hope that Mort Klein would resign.

Read the editorial in the Jerusalem Post or below.

ZOA’s current condition reflects the accumulative result of the incumbent president’s best efforts over the past 20 years. His reelection is unlikely to induce the change that even his proponents admit is needed.

Mort Klein, Glenn Beck and Michele Bachmann.

Mort Klein, Glenn Beck and Michele Bachmann. Photo: (Courtesy Joshua Teplow/ZOA

 …the ZOA is in crisis today… the ZOA’s crisis isn’t about its direction. It is about its leadership…right now, the most important thing for the ZOA and the American Jewish community as a whole is for Klein to be reelected.

– Caroline B. Glick, “The ZOA’s leadership challenge,” The Jerusalem Post, March 3

This is not the topic I was hoping to deal with in this week’s column.

I had intended to devote it to a critical analysis of the (borderline anti-Semitic) interview Barack Obama gave to Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg on March 2.

I even had a title for it: “The bitter fruits of Bibi’s Bar-Ilan blunder.” In it I planned to show how the causal chain of events that led to the predicament in which Israel finds itself with the US administration can be traced back – link by unfortunate link – to Binyamin Netanyahu’s regrettable June 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan University, when, reneging on his electoral commitments, he endorsed Israeli acceptance of Palestinian statehood.

Or perhaps, given breaking news on the spectacularly successful IDF marine interception of the Iranian rockets bound for Gaza, I would have composed a piece pointing out that — for all our unmitigated admiration for the astounding feat – the only reason such risk-fraught operations are necessary is that Israel abandoned Gaza in 2005.

But the fallout from last week’s column on the upcoming Zionist Organization of America elections in Philadelphia on March 9-10 dictates otherwise.

Compelled to respond

As readers will recall, last week I suggested that after Mort Klein’s 20-year stint as president of ZOA, it might be time for a change in leadership – particularly in light of the less-than-spectacular growth of the organization in recent years, and of what appear to be serious lapses in management and misallocation of resources.

As my column was scrupulously researched, and drew on (publicly available) data submitted by ZOA on its financial activity, and data from sources that can euphemistically be designated “well-informed,” I assumed – or at least hoped – that any debate it might generate would be on the significance of the analysis, rather than on the authenticity of the data or the integrity of the messenger.

This turned out not to be the case, and I find myself compelled to respond to what is difficult not to interpret as a concerted effort to mislead the public.

I do so with no relish, since I am more than loath to engage in a public altercation with essentially like-minded Israel advocates. But the alternative is to let these grave distortions and deceptions go unchallenged.

My reluctance, and sense of discomfort, are heightened by the fact that this puts me in direct conflict – or at least disagreement – with my Jerusalem Post colleague Caroline Glick, who in her column earlier this week (see above) chose to endorse Klein’s reelection for yet another term as ZOA president, rather than the challenger, Los Angeles attorney Steve Goldberg.

Totally agree, therefore totally disagree

Glick states that ZOA “is not the biggest American Jewish organization. It is not the most powerful American Jewish organization…But it is the most important American Jewish organization.”

I agree wholeheartedly – which is precisely why this debate and the outcomes it precipitates are so vital.

Let me be clear. I have huge respect for Glick, for her intellect, courage, eloquence and incisive analytical abilities. I rarely disagree with her astute assessments of Israel’s strategic challenges, although on some issues, I have serious reservations as to her operational prescriptions – particularly on the Palestinian question. With regard to the column in question, however, I have little option but to take strenuous issue with her. It was a regrettable piece which should never have been written. I fear that its almost self-contradictory arguments did herself, and her strongly held beliefs, a grave disservice.

Allow me to illustrate.

Puzzling and paradoxical

Glick clearly recognizes that ZOA needs to undergo far-reaching change: “…the ZOA needs to change its organizational focus and its organizational model. Today the ZOA is very much a 20th-century, top-down organization.”

She goes on to prescribe the nature of the required change: “[ZOA] has to become a grassroots, decentralized organization. The role of the national offices must change from leadership to guidance as the focus shifts to regional offices and local branches.”

But then, paradoxically, Glick suggests that the best way to effect such changes are, well… not to.

For the best way to ensure that they are unlikely to occur is to reelect the very person who for years has refrained from introducing them, and has made ZOA the epitome of a top-down, highly centralized organization – whose entire existence is allegedly dependent on extending the incumbency of the current president from more than two decades to almost quarter of a century.

In stipulating the measures she deems necessary for ZOA’s future, Glick seems to echo precisely the changes Klein’s challenger, Goldberg, has called for, precisely the kind which her preferred candidate has steadfastly avoided.

Why she would expect such behavioral metamorphosis on the part of Klein is puzzling, to say the least.

Curiouser and Curiouser

Glick concedes that after 20 years with Klein at the helm, “…the ZOA is in crisis today.” She is specific as to the nature of the crisis: “…the ZOA’s crisis isn’t about its [ideological] direction. It is about its leadership.” Almost inexplicably, however, her prescribed remedy is to reelect the self-same leadership that has precipitated the “crisis of leadership” she diagnoses.

It seems that I am not the only one who has picked up on what can only be charitably described as Glick’s faulty reasoning. Two perceptive Facebook responses by Post readers make the point with succinct clarity:

Commencing with a quote from Glick’s article, Mark Gold writes: “‘… most important thing for the ZOA is for Klein to be reelected…so that the organization can undertake a radical transformation.’ Without disparaging his record, someone who has been there 20 years all of a sudden now is going to undertake a radical transformation”? I don’t think so!”

Similarly, Fred Moncharsh asks: “… what makes you think Mort is capable of making this transformation? If he did not understand the need to do it during the past 20 years, maybe he just isn’t capable of accomplishing what is necessary…. Could you explain why not put Goldberg in charge?”

Damning with faint praise

Moncharsh’s question regarding Goldberg is highly pertinent.

Glick seems aware of the increasingly numerous and onerous question marks hovering over Klein’s recent years in office: “Klein has made financial decisions that seem improper on their face. They involve among other things Klein’s personal salary which appears unreasonably generous, and his less than transparent behavior following a temporary suspension of the ZOA’s nonprofit status… these are not insignificant issues.”

She adds: “… certainly, Klein owes the ZOA’s members and supporters an explanation for his actions.”

Yet apparently prior to being provided an adequate explanation she calls for his reelection – sort of.

Damning Klein with decidedly faint praise, she declares: “He needs to be reelected not because he is the only one who can do what the ZOA has been doing in recent years…[but ]because he is far better suited than Goldberg to maintain the ZOA’s current level of funding so that the organization can undertake a radical transformation over the next four years.”

Again, it is hard to understand the rationale for this assertion – for several reasons.

Incongruous endorsement

First, it is difficult to know on what grounds Glick dismisses Goldberg’s fund-raising capacity. I certainly have no idea what his abilities are in this field, but in a remarkably short time and against all odds, he seems to have mounted a surprisingly effective campaign.

Second, since Glick acknowledged there is a leadership crisis in the ZOA, it seems incongruous to endorse reelection of someone who must bear much responsibility for that crisis; who has failed to initiate any real measures toward the “radical transformation” she (correctly) identifies as necessary; and who, in the past decade, has demonstrated only mediocre capacity for fund-raising.

As I was at pains to underscore last week, I have great admiration for the way Klein salvaged the ZOA from impending ruin when he took over in 1993. However, for an extended period now, the funding he has raised has hardly been impressive.

Analysis of the 990 forms submitted by ZOA to the IRS show that in the 12 years from 2001-2012, total contributions amounted to $29 million – an annual average of $2.4m. – a quarter to a third of what the much younger pro-Israel StandWithUs raises. Even if rumors of a record $5m. raised in 2013 are true, the annual average since 2001 remains a not overly impressive sum – $2.6m. – especially for “the most important American Jewish organization.”

Personality cult or pro-Israel organization?

Surely if other organizations manage to achieve far higher levels of funding sans Klein, why would Glick feel it implausible that a restructured ZOA with a fresh democratically elected leader would not be able “to maintain the ZOA’s current level of funding.”

One might well be excused for believing that if Klein is as committed as claimed to ZOA goals and ideals, he might, despite losing, harness his considerable talents to help ensure that the organization continues to enlist sufficient funds to pursue them effectively.

Unless, of course, one suspects that he has made the ZOA more a personality cult than a Zionist advocacy organization.

But if that were true, surely it would be the most powerful argument for his replacement.

Membership mumbo-jumbo

In the dispute over Klein’s success in leading ZOA, the size of its membership has been hotly debated. In my previous column, I wrote, “According to informed sources, there are little more than 10,000 members formally registered and an email list of barely 1,000, with 20 percent of the addresses in it, apparently inoperative.”

In an irate email to the Post, Michael Goldblatt , chairman of ZOA’s Board of Directors, and David Drimer, national executive director, accuse me of “poor journalism” and “unconscionable laziness in research and reporting.” According to them, without access to internal documents and databases, I “could not have the slightest clue how to determine that figure.”

Actually it seems it is they that don’t. They allege that “the number of ‘active members’ is approximately 20,000 and it is growing.

Updated to the time of writing this column, however, ZOA’s website claims a “national membership of over 30,000.” So are Goldblatt and Drimer suggesting that membership has grown from 30,000 to… 20,000? Really? Or is this merely another sign that ZOA leadership doesn’t have a clue or is trying to pull the wool over the public’s eyes.

Mumbo-jumbo (cont.)

I am not the first to question the size of ZOA membership. In May 2006, The Forward wrote, “Internal documents acquired… indicate that ZOA has 11,700 dues-paying members…”

It continued: “When asked about the apparent discrepancy, Klein said that under the ZOA bylaws, membership tallies include all people in the households of dues-paying members.” Really? Is ZOA president confessing to inflating membership numbers with infants, minors, rebellious teenagers and indifferent spouses?

It seems, however, that the Forward was overly generous. ZOA-generated documents in my possession, comprising its 2014 member database (just over 240 fine-print pages – triple checked) clearly indicate that the membership is under 10,000.

But anyone can estimate the size of ZOA membership by dividing the total revenue from membership dues, appearing on the 990 forms submitted to the IRS, by the published cost of membership (the most recent figures appear on the 2007 form). Even under the most generous assumptions, the figure is well below 10,000.

Wilting laurels

The condition of the ZOA – paltry membership, limited political clout, misallocation of resources, exorbitant compensation – reflects the accumulative result of the incumbent president’s best efforts over the past 20 years. His reelection is unlikely to induce the change that even his proponents admit is needed.

Perhaps it is time for Mort Klein to retire gracefully from the ZOA leadership, taking with him his well-deserved, but rapidly wilting laurels – and his ample nest egg.

Martin Sherman is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.


Caroline Glick Really Thinks Mort Klein Should Retire

Mort Klein is becoming increasingly desperate that he is on the verge of losing his 20-year grip on the ZOA. It appears he has beseeched his old friend Caroline Glick, a well respected Israeli thinker and writer, to write a column endorsing him for reelection. Glick then wrote a column that is lukewarm at best and damns Klein with faint praise. Nevertheless, the bottom line is she did endorse him, albeit grudgingly.

If you want to know what Caroline Glick really thinks about Mort Klein when she is not under pressure, see this unsolicited e-mail she wrote to Steve Goldberg back in November of 2012 upon learning of Mort Klein’s decision to terminate a loyal, dedicated and talented employee who objected to Klein’s illegal order not to divulge the ZOA’s loss of its 501c3 status to donors.

From: Caroline Glick <>
Date: November 22, 2012 6:02:19 AM PST
Subject: hi from Caroline Glick – confidential

Hi Steve,

I read with dismay about Orit’s firing and the other related developments in LA and elsewhere within the ZOA. It seems to me that with O’s reelection and the Jewish organizational world’s likely move to the far left that a strong ZOA is more essential now than ever before. What can be done to help?

Is there anything I could do? Also, the only email I have for Orit is her ZOA one. Could you give me her personal email and also send her my good wishes?

Finally, is there a chance that Mort will retire and make room for new leadership for the ZOA?

Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving.

End the corruption of Mort Klein