Orit Arfa, executive director of the Zionist Organization of America’s (ZOA) Western Region, was fired from her job on Nov. 19, one day after she addressed a crowd at a pro-Israel rally in Los Angeles that she helped organize, telling the crowd she was “proud” to work for the ZOA. National Executive Director David Drimer informed Arfa in person that the ZOA will close its Los Angeles office and move its West Coast operations to San Francisco.
Drimer said a donor, whom he declined to name, has offered to fund the new office and pay the salary of a new executive director.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for the ZOA to expose its message to an important Jewish community that has not been fully targeted by us in the past,” Drimer said in an interview when contacted by the Journal.
The ZOA has had a tumultuous last few months, during which time the organization canceled its annual fundraising dinner and has been working to mitigate the negative consequences of its losing of its 501(c)(3) status in February 2012.
Prior to her termination, Arfa, who before joining ZOA a year ago was a regular contributor to this newspaper, and who continues to blog for the Journal, wrote at least one internal memorandum to her bosses opposing the ZOA’s decision not to proactively mention the loss of the organization’s tax status.
ZOA national vice chair Steven Goldberg, an attorney who has publicly criticized various aspects of the ZOA’s operations and vocally called on the organization to be more proactive in disclosing its loss of tax-exempt status, said he believes the decision to close the Los Angeles office was done in retaliation against Arfa for speaking up, and that the ZOA’s national leadership could be subject to litigation for taking such action.
“You can’t be fired because you’ve insisted on behaving legally and ethically, because you resist an illegal order,” Goldberg said on Monday.
Drimer rejected any speculation that Arfa is being targeted.
“She was assured in writing that she was in no trouble for expressing her concerns,” Drimer said. “There’s nothing retaliatory about it.”
Arfa has been mentioned frequently in articles since the ZOA’s lost tax status became public in September, but she has not consented to any interviews. She confirmed on Monday afternoon only that she had been terminated, but declined to answer further questions.
Drimer said he believes the ZOA’s lay leadership in Southern California will be strong enough to sustain the organization’s local operations without the help of a paid executive director. But, according to Goldberg, the ZOA’s chapter in Orange County disbanded recently.
Goldberg shared with the Journal an e-mail sent by Jesse Rosenblum, president of the ZOA’s Orange County chapter, to ZOA National President Mort Klein on Nov. 18, in which Rosenblum informed Klein that he had resigned his position as chapter president on Nov. 12, and that the chapter had subsequently passed a motion to disband.
When contacted on Nov. 19, Rosenblum declined to comment, and Drimer said he had no knowledge of the chapter’s having disbanded.