As of Monday, Barack Obama can now join the exclusive, historically Jewish Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Maryland, which was founded in 1913 when Jews were prohibited from joining other clubs in the Washington, D.C., area.
The invitation follows a heated debate at Woodmont about whether or not the former president would be granted membership due to his policies on Israel. For example, his administration decided last month not to veto a U.N. resolution that condemned Israeli settlement construction.
While some longtime members, such as Faith Goldstein—who wrote, in an email acquired by the Washington Post, that Obama’s admittance “would create a storm” at Woodmont—felt he did not belong at the club, others had the opposite inclination. Jeffrey Slavin, a Democratic activist and the mayor of Somerset, Maryland, resigned his membership on Martin Luther King Jr. Day with an email to the general manager stating the following:
I can no longer belong to a community:
Where Intolerance is accepted,
Where History is forgotten,
Where Freedom of Speech is denied,
And where the nation’s first black president is disrespected.
Differences were at least temporarily put aside when, after hours of discussing the matter, the club’s executive committee agreed on Monday to allow Obama to join.
“Political views have never been part of our membership criteria, and our members have always reflected a range of opinions on issues of the day,” Woodmont President Barry Forman wrote in an email to members. “In the current, deeply polarized political environment, it is all the more important that Woodmont be a place where people of varying views and beliefs can enjoy fellowship and recreation in a relaxed environment.”
“We are proud of our Jewish heritage,” he added, “and we are also proud that our membership is now more diverse, which reflects significant changes in our society in recent years. Given our legacy, it is regrettable that we have now been widely portrayed as unwelcoming and intolerant, because that is not who we are.”
Consequently, Obama and his wife, Michelle, now have the option of joining Woodmont as “special members,” a title that would waive the club’s $80,000 initiation fee but would still require the former first couple to pay dues (approximately $9,600 annually) and other fees. During his presidency, Obama was introduced to the club by Thomas R. Nides, a former deputy secretary of state who is a member, but mainly played golf at Joint Base Andrews, also in Maryland.
Only time will tell if Obama will decide to take up Woodmont’s offer. In the meantime, The New York Times reported, he has been teeing off in Rancho Mirage, California.