American Jews are “frightened of making an issue seem more important to Jews
than others,” Zionist Organization of America President Morton Klein said on
Visiting Israel as a member of a delegation organized by the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Klein sat down
to speak with The Jerusalem Post in the lobby of Jerusalem’s Inbal Hotel to
provide his take on the issues facing American Jewry.
The ZOA, which is a
member of the Conference of Presidents, was founded in 1897 and is what Klein
calls “the oldest pro-Israel [organization] in the United
Discussing his lobbying effort in Washington aimed at blocking
the confirmation of secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel, Klein said the ZOA
was, aside from the Republican Jewish Coalition, a partisan group, “the only
major Jewish group to publicly oppose Hagel and [John O.] Brennan.” US President
Obama has nominated Brennan to head the CIA.
The “AJC, AIPAC, ADL [and]
the Conference of Presidents never came out and said we oppose this man [Hagel]
because he is horrible on Iran, he is horrible on terrorism, horrible on Israel,
horrible on fighting radical Islam,” Klein said. “I was called by major Jewish
leaders, personally called, and [they] told me to stop our campaign against
Klein said that his counterparts at other organizations said that
he was “making this a Jewish issue,” which they considered “bad for the
The NAACP promotes issues of importance to the African-American
community, he said, but “I don’t think they are too worried about
The fact that he got these calls, he said, shows that “we are
still a frightened group of Jews even as successful as we are in
The ZOA’s current focus, its president said, is “educating the
media, Congress and American citizens of the truth of the Arab war against
Many young American Jews are losing their connection with Israel
and their Jewish identity due to successful propaganda campaigns on college
campuses, Klein said.
“I have found, as I speak on campuses throughout
the country, that Jewish kids don’t understand the reality of the Arab war
against Israel, and they become ashamed of Israel.”
Asked how his
organization and other groups representing “organized American Jewry” coordinate
their work, if at all, he replied that he finds it “deeply troubling that when
specific issues come to the fore we don’t have meetings to discuss
“My friends all think that the major Jewish organization get
together to discuss issues of importance to the Jewish community in order to
determine what actions and positions the organized Jewish community should take.
The leaders of the major Jewish organizations do have important officials from
the United States and Israel address them. So that happens but rarely do we have
a formal discussion of issues,” Klein said.
It is important that Jewish
leaders get together regularly to “have such discussions giving both sides on an
issue a chance to make their views known and try to persuade others of what
actions the organized Jewish community should take,” he said.