ZOA cancels annual dinner

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated with additional information.

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Zionist Organization of America, which lost its tax-exempt status earlier this year, has canceled its high-profile annual fundraising dinner.

Due to legal restrictions, money raised above the costs of the dinner would have gone to an outside account. ZOA would not be able to access those funds until its tax-exempt status was reinstated, the Forward reported. 

The event, which usually takes place in November or December, may be held in the spring, ZOA Executive Director David Drimer told the newspaper.

Among the 800 guests at last year’s $550-a-plate gala were casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, conservative talk show host Glenn Beck and U.S. Rep.  Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), at the time a presidential candidate.

The Forward paraphrased Drimer as attributing the cancellation mainly to the organization’s tax issue. At the same time, Drimer told the Forward that ZOA had considered going ahead with the dinner, but decided against it after the ZOA’s national president, Mort Klein, underwent heart surgery.

In an interview with JTA, Klein, who has since returned to his office, disputed that the organization’s tax status had anything to do with the cancellation. He noted that ZOA has held several major regional dinners this year.

According to Klein, the person who was expected to be honored at the dinner suffered a major financial setback and no longer was able to provide the gift that is expected at such an event. Klein declined to identify the individual in question. Klein added that because he was recovering from surgery, he was unable to devote sufficient time to lining up a replacement in time for a dinner this fall.

In September, the Forward reported that ZOA lost its tax-exempt status after failing to file financial disclosures for three consecutive years. In addition, Klein received a 38 percent pay raise during the same period, according to the Forward.

At the end of last year, the ZOA had $6.3 million in assets and owned an $18 million building, according to the report. Recent cuts to the organization have included the closing of its Los Angeles office and asking the area’s regional director to work from home. In addition, the number of college students on the group’s annual Israel leadership trip will be cut from 24 to 15.

“We are trying to continue, to pursue our mission as vigorously as ever before, but we’re trying to be prudent with our out-of-pocket expenditures,” Drimer told the Forward.

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