ZOA Annual Gala 2018

The venerable Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), founded in 1897, celebrated its 2018 Gala Award Dinner on Sunday, November 4, 2018 at the Marriot Marquis in New York City.  The ZOA was one of the leading voices in early American Zionism.  It was an uphill battle with many American Jews opposing the Zionist movement for fear of charges of dual loyalty.  America has come a long way and under the leadership of Mort Klein, the ZOA unabashedly advances a pro Israel agenda to Congress and to the Administration.  Danny Danon, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations thanked the ZOA for being the first to defend Israel.

Over 800 people turned out for this magnificent event which was emceed by Fox News contributor Kimberly Guilfoyle.  She addressed the crowd as American Patriots and Defenders of Israel.  Describing the murder of Ari Fuld in Israel as a despicable act of terror,  Ms. Guilfoyle knows that the fight against anti-Semitism is far from over and that the Jews are a resilient people.

The overarching themes of the evening were the massacre of Jews in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem, Israel’s eternal capital.  Danny Danon described how the Human Rights Council at the United Nations is not worthy of its name.  Along with the International Criminal Court, Israel is subjected to false accusations while atrocities committed in the Sudan and other places get barely criticized.  Mr. Dannon took credit, and deservedly so, for bringing Judaism to the UN, kosher food to the UN and for having Yom Kippur commemorated at the UN.

The entire evening was a tribute to President Trump who, to his credit, treats Israel like a true friend.  No more “daylight” between this administration and Israel like with the prior administration.  The United States has pulled out of organizations inimical to Israel such as the Human Rights Council at the United Nations and withdrew payments to UNESCO.  These organizations display a constant bias against Israel.

Ambassador John Bolton, the National Security Director, received the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Silver Defender of Israel Award.  In his humble but moving address, John Bolton thanked Mort Klein for the invitation to speak at the event.  Under this Administration, Mr. Bolton declared, that America will not apologize for defending its interests and that they would stand by its friends, a clear reference to Israel and its mistreatment by the former administration.  America is being respected again.  Credit was given to President Trump for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and for moving the US embassy there.  The statement received the biggest applause of the evening.  This administration will challenge baseless charges against the US and Israel, a clear comparison with the previous administration.  He continued with the fact that President Trump has called for maximum pressure on Iran for it continues to preach for the destruction of Israel.  Unless Iran changes its behavior the sanctions imposed will bring economic disaster to the country.  Kimberly Guilfoyle said that John Bolton was a good choice by President Trump to be the country’s National Security Advisor.  And she was right.

Alan Dershowitz, Emeritus Professor, Harvard Law School was introduced next by Ms. Guilfoyle.  Professor Dershowitz, who admits to being a liberal Democrat and to having reservations about Israel’s settlement policy, works tirelessly to keep support for Israel bi-partisan in Congress.  Even though he does not agree with Mort Klein on everything, he does oppose the Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS) movement.

Professor Dershowitz introduced Mr. Morton Klein who quipped that he asked for Michelle Bachman to introduce him, but instead he got Dershowitz.  Mort Klein has been the head of the ZOA for 25 years and thanked and recognized the people that made this evening possible.  Mr. Klein played a significant role in raising money to keep the organization going.  He went on to discuss the advocacy campaigns and accomplishments of the ZOA during his tenure.  The ZOA was the only major Jewish organization to oppose the Oslo accords.  Under Mort Klein’s leadership, the ZOA voted against the Gaza withdrawal and played the lead role in moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.  The ZOA also led protests against the Iran deal, two of which were attended by this writer.  For his courageous and fearless leadership, Mr. Klein was presented with the first annual Theodore Herzl award.  Well deserved.

Ystuds performing at ZOA – New York Jewish Guide

This was truly a first class event.  A marvelous buffet was set up at the beginning, an elegant  and healthy dinner was served.  A tremendous dessert buffet added to the cachet of the evening.  Entertainment by the a cappella group, Ystuds, sealed the deal.

Other speakers of note included Suzanne Somers, the actress and entrepreneur.  She introduced and lauded Richard Grenell, the US Ambassador to Germany.  He in turn lauded the Trump administration as the most pro Israel ever.  President Trump told him that he wanted the Nazi collaborator deported.  When Mr. Grenell speaks, the German government listens.  Germany took him back.  Ambassador Grenell spoke about the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Germany and Europe.  In my opinion, it never went away.  It needs to be addressed and the ambassador takes an aggressive stance toward the German government to combat this scourge.

Over 800 people turned out for this magnificent event – New York Jewish Guide

The American patriot, Michael Ohrbach introduced the radio and television personality, Mark Levin.  Mr. Levin began his presentation by stating that he is not a Democrat, a clear reference to Professor Dershowitz.  He went on to praise Ambassador Grenell and Ambassador Bolton and claimed that we have the greatest president ever of the US  in President Trump and the greatest Prime Minister of Israel in Benjamin Netanyahu.  Mr. Levin knows how to captivate an audience and compared this administration to the prior one.  The Prime Minister of Israel is no longer a pariah.  The US will not vote present at the UN when Israel’s neck is on the line.  Mr. Levin claimed that the president is not only the greatest supporter of Israel but is also the greatest supporter of Jews.  He made note of the appointment of Nikki Haley as US Ambassador to the UN and of David Friedman as US Ambassador to Israel which elicited great applause from the crowd.  Mr. Levin related how President Trump was lobbied hard not to move the embassy, but he did it anyhow.  The accomplishments of this administration continue.  The administration pulled out of UNESCO and the Human Rights Council because of their clear bias against Israel and the United States.  Sanctions were put on Iran and the PLO office in Washington was closed.

In summation, this president deserves our support.  The ZOA deserves our support.  Just remember that without the ZOA, support for Israel and American Jews is greatly diminished.  Looking forward to next year’s event.


Austin Rybstein

Editor, New York Jewish Event Guide & New York Jewish Guide