Morton Klein

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Morton A. Klein
Morton Klein by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Günzburg, Germany
OccupationPresident of the Zionist Organization of America

Morton A. "Mort" Klein (born 1947) is a German-born American economist, statistician, and pro-Israeli activist. He is the president of the Zionist Organization of America. In 2004, he was named one of the top five Jewish leaders in the United States by The Forward.[1]

Klein is a published academic, having served as a lecturer at Temple University and as a biostatistician at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and the Linus Pauling Institute.[2]

Early life and career[edit]

Klein was born to Holocaust survivors in a displaced persons camp in Günzburg, Germany.[3] At age four, he and his family emigrated from Germany to the United States, where he would grow up in South Philadelphia.[3]

His father was a Satmar chasid, an Orthodox Rabbi with semicha from Moshe Teitelbaum.[4] Klein said in a Jewish Press interview regarding his father that "In Europe he had a long beard and black hat and was a rosh yeshiva in his early 20s. But he disagreed with the Satmars on Israel. My father loved Israel, so obviously this was transmitted to me."[5]

Klein served as an economist under presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter. He has served as a biostatistician at UCLA School of Public Health and the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine in Palo Alto, Calif. He has been a lecturer in mathematics and statistics at Temple University.[6] Today, Klein is member of the International Board of Governors of the Ariel University Center of Samaria.[6]

He was dismayed by the 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords, choosing to begin pro-Israel work in response: "I only went into the work because I thought Oslo was a disastrous mistake and I wanted a podium to express that. I did not intend to do it for more than a year or two, make my case and then go back to normal life. But things kept getting worse, not better."[7]

Zionist Organization of America[edit]

In 1993, while serving as the Philadelphia chapter president of the Zionist Organization of America, Klein was elected national president.[8] He is credited for converting it from a moribund group to a high-profile, outspoken organization.[9] After the Obama administration abstained from using its veto power to block United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 which stated that Israeli Settlement in the West Bank is a 'flagrant' violation of international law, Klein called Obama "a Jew-hating antisemite."[10]

Klein has stated his belief that the U.S. should engage in religious profiling of Muslims. "In an era in which the vast majority of terrorism is committed by Muslims, in order to protect American citizens, we should adopt the same profiling policies as Israel and be more thorough in vetting Muslims," he told The Forward. Klein said he would also support profiling of Jews under certain circumstances. "If most terror were committed by Jews I would support profiling Jews."[11]

In February 2012, the ZOA lost its tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service after it failed to file tax returns for three years.[12] The ZOA regained its status in May 2013.[13] Klein said it was a technical "glitch."[13] During the years that the ZOA failed to file tax returns, The Forward reported that Klein's salary increased 38%.[14] In 2014, Steven Goldberg, a Los Angeles attorney and national vice-president of the ZOA, launched a challenge to Klein's presidency, alleging that Klein was mismanaging the ZOA and personally profiting.[13] Klein was later reelected president with 93% of the vote.[15]

Through his work with the ZOA, Klein was named one of the top dozen "Jewish activists of the century." The NY Jewish Week (largest Federation paper) has named him one of the top ten Jewish leaders who have made a difference. The Jewish Press recently stated that "Morton Klein is one of the best minds in this country."[16]

Through the ZOA, Klein has taken issue with comments by Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez which appropriated the phrase "never again". Klein stated: “AOC’s ludicrous statements that the U.S. has a ‘Fascist’ ‘presidency that creates concentration camps’ to hold immigrant communities, and AOC's invocation of the Holocaust-associated slogan ‘never again’ with respect to the housing of immigrant minors – are abhorrent insults to the memory of the 6 million Jews and the millions of gays, gypsies, and others who were intentionally slaughtered, worked to death, starved, gassed and tortured in the real Nazi-Fascist concentration camps.”[17] Klein has also called for Rashida Tlaib to be removed from Democratic Party for what he views as antisemitic comments.[18]

Opposition to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement[edit]

Klein is an active voice against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, once speaking on the issue in an address to the Israeli Knesset.[19]

Qatar controversy[edit]

On June 19, 2018, Mother Jones reported that Qatar had donated $100,000 to the ZOA through lobbyist Joey Allaham. Allaham first contributed $50,000 to the ZOA on November 2, 2017,[20] shortly before the group's annual gala on November 17 in which former Qatari diplomat Ahmed Al-Rumaihi was present, at the invitation of Allaham.[21] The second $50,000 contribution from Allaham to the ZOA came on January 23, 2018, a few weeks after Klein visited Doha.[20] Klein had been under the impression that the money came from Allaham's personal finances and had ZOA return the funds when it was discovered otherwise.[22]

Portman “beautiful” but “not too bright”[edit]

In April 2018, Klein tweeted: “Natalie Portman’s absurd, uninformed, inaccurate, dangerous views on Israel, while ignoring the anti-Semitic, pro-terrorist views/actions of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority gives credibility and legitimacy to the ludicrous, false, nonsensical belief that beautiful women aren’t too bright.” Portman had refused to accept the Genesis Prize in Israel, protesting the killing of Palestinian demonstrators on the Gaza Strip border. Klein was accused of misogyny. He first dismissed the criticism by citing an “attractive and smart” female staffer, but later apologised for his comments.[23]

Use of anti-Arab slur[edit]

Klein was the target of condemnation in September 2018 for using the term "filthy Arabs" on Twitter.[24] He has stood by his comment.[25]

Opposition to Black Lives Matter[edit]

Klein made a series of tweets in June 2020 condemning Black Lives Matter as "a Jew hating, White hating, Israel hating, conservative Black hating, violence promoting, dangerous Soros funded extremist group of haters."[26] In the context of the widespread protests following the police murder of George Floyd, the statements put Klein in conflict with more liberal Jewish groups. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, questioned the continued membership of ZOA in the Conference of Major American Jewish Organizations by saying "we are now implicated by his views, his Islamophobia, his racism, full stop."[27]

Conflict with Rutgers[edit]

On September 11, 2018, it was reported in The New York Times that Kenneth L. Marcus, the assistant secretary of education for civil rights reopened a seven-year-old case brought by the ZOA against Rutgers University, saying the Obama administration, in closing the case, ignored evidence that suggested the school allowed a hostile environment for Jewish students.[28] Klein is quoted in the story stating: “Hate groups like Students for Justice in Palestine try to convince others that their attacks on Zionism and Israel are legitimate political discourse. But as the State Department definition of anti-Semitism recognizes, these attacks are often a mask for Jew-hatred, plain and simple.”[28]


Klein is married to Rita, has a married daughter Rachael, and four grandchildren.[16] Klein has Tourette syndrome.[29]

Testimony before government committees[edit]

In 2017, Klein submitted a letter to Congress which stated that:

"...moving the U.S. Embassy to Israel's capital will achieve tremendous benefits for the United States and our allies throughout the world."[30]

Academic work[edit]

Klein served as a lecturer at Temple University[31] and as a biostatistician at UCLA School of Public Health and the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine in Palo Alto, California.[2] He has previously published work on epidemiology in academic journals.[32] His research on nutrition and heart disease was cited by Discover Magazine as one of the Top 50 Scientific Studies of 1992.[31]


  1. ^ "THE FORWARD 50; Lead Players on a Global Stage". Retrieved 2018-08-29.
  2. ^ a b Anonymous (2016-08-31). "Morton A. Klein". Israeli American Council. Retrieved 2018-09-28.
  3. ^ a b Wakin, Daniel J. "PUBLIC LIVES; In Favor of the War, and Enjoying a Good Fight". Retrieved 2018-08-29.
  4. ^ "Morton Klein: Bibi Sent Wrong Message, Elliot Resnick, Jewish Press Staff Reporter". 2009-06-24. Archived from the original on 2009-07-27. Retrieved 2010-08-12.
  5. ^ June 26, '09, p. 10
  6. ^ a b "National President Morton A. Klein". 2010-12-14. Archived from the original on 2010-12-02. Retrieved 2010-12-14.
  7. ^ "Steve Bannon's Best Jewish Friend: Morton Klein's Rise to Prominence in the Trump Era". Haaretz. 2017-12-06. Retrieved 2018-08-08.
  8. ^ Popper, Nathaniel (2006-04-14). "ZOA Pressed by Former Officials Over Guard's Pay". The Forward. Retrieved 2010-08-12.
  9. ^ "4819-ZOA Report FL08.p5" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-05. Retrieved 2010-08-12.
  10. ^ Beaumont, Peter (24 December 2016). "Israel rejects 'shameful' UN resolution amid criticism of Netanyahu". The Guardian.
  11. ^ "ZOA Leader Supports Trump's Call for Profiling Muslims". The Forward. June 20, 2016.
  12. ^ "ZOA's Uncertain Status". The Forward. Retrieved 2017-02-09.
  13. ^ a b c Ghert-Zand, Renee. "Alleging mismanagement, VP bids to oust longtime head of US Zionist group". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 2017-02-09.
  14. ^ "ZOA's Mort Klein Gets 38% Pay Hike". The Forward. Retrieved 2017-02-09.
  15. ^ "Morton Klein reelected ZOA national president". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 2017-02-09.
  16. ^ a b "National President Morton A. Klein". Zionist Organization of America.
  17. ^ "Jewish groups hit Ocasio-Cortez for appropriating 'Never Again'". Israel National News.
  18. ^ Jaffe-Hoffman, Maayan (April 25, 2019). "ZOA calls to remove Rashida Tlaib from Democratic party - American Politics". Jerusalem Post.
  19. ^ "ZOA President Klein addresses Knesset about the importance of language in fighting BDS". Zionist Organization of America.
  20. ^ a b "Mike Huckabee Praised Qatar Without Revealing He Was Paid $50,000 by Qatar". Mother Jones. June 19, 2018.
  21. ^ "How the King of New York Kosher Restaurants Helped Qatar Win Over American Jewish Leaders". Mother Jones. June 13, 2018.
  22. ^ Kampeas, Ron (21 June 2018). "Qatar used pro-Israel businessman to pay Zionist group $100,000 — report". The Times of Israel.
  23. ^ ZOA chief draws ire for calling Natalie Portman beautiful, but not ‘too bright’ Times of Israel, 27 April 2018; ZOA chief Klein sorry for inappropriate comments on Portman, female employee Times of Israel, 28 April 2018.
  24. ^ Nathan-KazisSeptember 24, Josh; 2018. "ZOA's Mort Klein Tweets 'Filthy Arab' Slur — And Doubles Down". The Forward.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  25. ^ Forward, The (26 September 2018). "Mort Klein Stands by 'Filthy Arab' Slur as Condemnation Grows" – via Haaretz.
  26. ^ @MortonAKlein7 (6 June 2020). "I urge the SPLC to immediately put BlackLivesMatter on their list of hate groups. BLM is a Jew hating, White hating, Israel hating, conservative Black hating, violence promoting, dangerous Soros funded extremist group of haters" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  27. ^ Kampeas, Ron (9 June 2020). "At time of racial strife, US Jewish groups call to expel ZOA from umbrella org". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 9 June 2020.
  28. ^ a b Green, Erica L. (11 September 2018). "Education Dept. Reopens Rutgers Case Charging Discrimination Against Jewish Students" – via
  29. ^ ‘We want to expose the truth’: ZOA leader Morton Klein rallies support for Israel in meeting at Beth Tikvah in Naples, Naples News, Feb. 14, 2011
  30. ^ Klein, Morton (November 8, 2017). "Written Testimony of Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) National President Morton A. Klein Hearing on Moving the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem: Challenges and Opportunities Before the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security" (PDF). United States House of Representatives.
  31. ^ a b "National President Morton A. Klein". Zionist Organization of America. Retrieved 2018-09-28.
  32. ^ James E. Enstrom; Linda E. Kanim; Morton A. Klein (May 1992). "Vitamin C Intake and Mortality among a Sample of the United States Population" (PDF). Epidemiology. 3 (3): 194–202. doi:10.1097/00001648-199205000-00003. PMID 1591317. S2CID 26073681 – via JSTOR.

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