Miami activist and candidate for public office, Dave Crystal (CrystalforCommissioner.com) sent out the following letter to ZOA members urging them not to vote for Mort Klein.
Dear fellow Zionists:
Like many of you, I was shocked to have read the recent Newsroom expose on ZOA President Mort Klein. The most disturbing revelation was as follows: “Klein earned $315,385 in 2007, the last year for which filings are publicly available. However, according to the Forward, his base compensation in 2011 was reportedly $435,050. In 2008 alone, Klein’s total compensation was $1,245,851.”
Wow! What a difference a generation makes! Till this day I remember vividly as a young ZOA activist sitting amongst people like you in the ZOA headquarters in New York, engaging in passionate debate as to whether Mort Klein should have any salary at all. Prior to Mort, no president, including my cousin Milton Shapiro, had ever received a formal salary; and, in the case of Milton, if he had been offered one, he would have flatly rejected it on principle.
As a zealous and impressionable (operative term being “impressionable”) young Zionist activist at the University of Pennsylvania in the mid-to-late 1990’s, I fell in love with Mort Klein. At the age of just 15, when the Oslo Accords were signed, I had the street-smarts and temerity to realize that it was a dangerous sham, and I was dismayed that no mainstream Jewish leader at the time seemed to feel the same way. Then, along came Mort Klein, my knight in shining armor, waving the banner of security, reciprocity and compliance within the context of the new Oslo Accords. I was immediately drawn to him, and in my college years became intimately involved in both the ZOA and AFSI.
I was not the only one. In retrospect there was an irrational euphoria surrounding Mort Klein. Every right-of-center Zionist who felt ostracized at the time by the mainstream “pro-peace” crowd felt as if Mort Klein was their one true father they could lean on. We would have done anything for him at the time, including destroying the ZOA constitution, allowing him to become dictator for life, and making him the first president in ZOA history to have a formal regular salary. At the time (1996), and with some controversy, we approved his salary of $50,000. Never did we imagine there would come a day where Mort Klein would become a millionaire from what was supposed to be a charitable ideological organization!
Again, I was in love with Mort Klein; and love is irrational. In my college and young professional years I supported him every step of the way and believed he could do no wrong. I thought, he would serve a good 8 to 10 years as President (since we had just destroyed the constitution allowing him to serve more than 4 consecutive years), and dreamt of becoming his successor and making him proud of me for continuing his crusade against the Oslo Accords and PA violations of the same.
Mort appointment me as President of the Young Leadership District of the ZOA in 2000, and I served honorably, increasing membership from our original six to over 180. We organized great events that attracted and galvanized Zionist youth from all over New York. Then suddenly and unpredictably in my third year as president of the YLD, my Zionist world was shattered. I got a call from Mort saying I need to come into his office immediately. I did just that. When I got there I was floored to find out he was removing me from my post as President of the YLD. I asked for an opportunity to defend myself against this false and/or misleading loshon hora, but no such opportunity was granted. Apparently no democratic process is to be honored in the ZOA.
After that incident, I fell into a mild depression, as the ZOA had been such a big part of my life for so many years. I felt as if a big part of my identity had been suddenly and precipitately ripped away. The rose-colored glasses had been taken off and for the first time in my life I began to do research on Mort Klein the man, versus Mort Klein the myth. What I found was an enormous stream of people who he had disappointed or wronged over the years. I was so ashamed of myself for having been duped for so long. It’s amazing what political zeal can do to objectivity.
In that vein, I urge you to be objective as you elect your next ZOA leader, who should not be Mort Klein.
I know Mort Klein very well, and I know how he’s going to respond to this letter. He’s going to tell you that I am irrelevant and that I have not been involved in the ZOA for many years (his doing of course). He’s going to tell you that I have not accomplished much as a Zionist activist in recent years and therefore my opinion is not valid. The truth, of course, is that I would have accomplished much more for the Zionist world if Mort Klein had not railroaded me out of the organization in 2002. With that said, however, I have done a lot for Israel as a private citizen since 2002. That year, I finally published my book, Clinton Versus Israel, the ebook of which you can still find at lulu.com, and lectured on the topic (even receiving honorariums) at at least a dozen universities and Jewish institutions. I am a local political leader in Miami Beach, and even though Israel is not a local political issue, I have used my public persona to defend Israel every step of the way. You can research me at CrystalforCommissioner.com.
I have no personal animus against Mort Klein. At this point, what he did to me is between him and Hashem, not between him and me. I am asking you to replace him because he has not earned the honor of serving 10 consecutive years as ZOA president, let alone 20. I am asking you to replace him because his personal and ethical failings stand as an embarrassment to the entire organization and the Zionist enterprise at large.
It’s time to move on. Perhaps if you choose to do so, I and the younger generations I represent will proudly join your ranks once again.