Torczyner Fires Back at Committee Formed to Combat His Bid for ZOA Re-election

Jacques Torczyner denounced today members of the Zionist Organization of America who have formed a committee to fight his bid for re-election to fifth and sixth terms as ZOA president at the ZOA national convention in August in Los Angeles. In a statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, he called the statements of the “National Committee to Safeguard the Integrity of the ZOA” a “deplorable example of destructive organizational politics at their worst.”

The ad hoc committee, which is headed by Carol Pickel of New York, national ZOA finance chairman, said it hoped to defeat at the convention a proposed amendment to the ZOA constitution that would clear the way for Mr. Torczyner’s re-election. The constitution now provides that a president who has served for four consecutive terms cannot succeed himself without the lapse of at least one full term. A term is one year. The ZOA national executive committee voted earlier this year, at a Pan American Zionist Conference in Miami Beach, to seek an amendment under which “the incumbent president shall be eligible to succeed himself for not more than two further consecutive one-year terms.”

In announcing plans to fight the proposed amendment, the ad hoc committee charged that there had been a “progressive decline in the membership of the ZOA” as well as “serious shortcomings in the spheres of public relations, counteracting of Arab propaganda on the campuses and mass media, as well as…lack of achievements in aliyah, youth and Hebrew education.” The committee also charged that the proposed amendment would be a “violation of the principles of democracy” in the ZOA.

In his statement, Mr. Torczyner termed “ridiculous” the “harping” by the ad hoc committee on democratic principles. He said that the annual ZOA conventions “are famous for free and unfettered discussions and it is not necessary to set the stage for debate by employing smear tactics.” He declared that throughout his ZOA presidency, “the very members of this self-styled committee applauded, endorsed and shared the policies of our administration.” He asserted that “they know themselves that their shrill criticism is phony and their sudden alarm contrived.”

Mr. Torczyner asserted that “the record shows that precisely under my administration, ZOA membership actually increased and held its own after an increase in dues this year, which was the first in 10 years. The public affairs programs of the ZOA in counter-acting Arab propaganda and in mobilizing public opinion through dozens of area conferences, campus forums, full-page ads in national and local dailies from coast to coast; the extensive ZOA aliya program through its full-time aliya department; the revival of the Masada youth movement and our summer programs for American youth in Israel, which are among the largest in the country, speak for themselves and will be presented to the convention for Judgement.”

Mr. Torczyner also declared that “the call for the continuation of my stewardship of the ZOA has come from hundreds of national, regional and district leaders throughout the country.” He said the national convention “will judge my administration on its record” and that he had “full confidence in the collective judgment of the thousands of dedicated ZOA members throughout the country, who through their hard work and devotion, have made the record of this administration the success that it is.”

There are now two candidates for the presidency besides Mr. Torczyner. They are Rabbi I. Usher Kirshblum of Kew Garden Hills, N.Y. and Rabbi Joseph Shubow of Boston.

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