“Yeah, you go ahead and bar the first black president from your country club. Forget what the 1950s felt like.”
This tweet followed the news, first reported Jan. 10 by the New York Post, that the historically Jewish Woodmont Country Club in the Washington suburb of Rockville, Md., was debating — “at each other’s throats,” was the Post’s description — whether to welcome soon-to-be ex-President Obama among its members, or to snub him.
The report suggested that some want to punish Obama for his treatment of Israel, “with many saying he deserves to be snubbed for not blocking an anti-Israel vote at the United Nations, according to the sources.”
The article quoted an unnamed “official in a Washington Jewish organization” who “fumed”: “Can you imagine how angry I would be if I had paid $80K to have to look at this guy who has done more to damage Israel than any president in American history?”
We don’t know the provenance of that quote. But it does reflect real tensions within the club that now are on view around the world. In this sense, the tweeter hit the nail on the head. The situation is bad because it looks bad, and it makes the larger Jewish community party to a matter that appears so small-minded that it shouldn’t be happening at all. Woodmont effectively has no easy out at this point but to publicly invite the departing president to apply for membership.
Have we forgotten what the 1950s felt like? And have we forgotten all the decades going back to 1913, when Washington Jews established Woodmont because their coreligionists — and blacks — were barred from membership in gentile clubs? And now we’re treated to the sight of a mostly Jewish golf club rejecting not just any African American, but the president, the golfer-in-chief.
Woodmont needs to respond to Obama, to the tweeter and to all of us who feel a combination of shock and shame over this episode. We trust that the club’s membership will do what is ultimately in the best interests of the club — although even if Woodmont publicly offered him a membership, we doubt that Obama would take it after what has happened. That’s a shame, because for a country club — which runs on status — and the community it represents, the inclusion of an ex-president, a person of color and a well-known golfer among the membership and on the links is priceless.