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Prospect of Obama membership stirs passions at largely Jewish golf club

Though president has not said he wants to join, some members have cited his policies on Israel as grounds for rejection, leading another to threaten a mass exodus if he is blocked

President Barack Obama waves to bystanders from his golf cart while golfing Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015, at Farm Neck Golf Club, in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, on the island of Martha's Vineyard. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
President Barack Obama waves to bystanders from his golf cart while golfing Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015, at Farm Neck Golf Club, in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, on the island of Martha's Vineyard. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Members of an exclusive, mostly Jewish golf club in Maryland are locked in a fierce debate over whether to admit President Barack Obama for membership, with one member threatening to organize a mass membership cancellation effort if an Obama bid is denied.

While the outgoing president has not indicated whether he will seek a membership at the Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Maryland, the venue has been seen as a likely spot for Obama to play upon leaving the presidency.

But some club members are passionately opposed to even entertaining the idea, the New York Post reported, citing anonymous sources. These members were reportedly enraged by Obama’s decision to abstain from a recent anti-settlement vote at the United Nations.

Following that story, The Washington Post reported on “a string of scorching emails” it had obtained from critics of Obama to club president Barry Forman.

In one, longtime member Faith Goldstein, who operates a promotional and marketing firm, wrote that Obama “has created a situation in the world where Israel’s very existence is weakened and possibly threatened,” adding, “He is not welcome at Woodmont. His admittance would create a storm that could destroy our club. ”

But defenders of the president were similarly impassioned. Jeffrey Slavin, identified as a Democratic activist and club member, threatened to organize others in canceling their memberships if Obama were not made welcome. “At this time it is my hope that you will take action immediately to erase this emerging stain on The Club’s stellar reputation,” Slavin wrote in an email to Forman, fellow members and local Jewish leaders.

Last month, the US abstained on a resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem, allowing the UN Security Council resolution to pass 14-0. US officials said then that they could not endorse the resolution because of anti-Israel bias at the United Nations, but did not want to veto it because they agreed with its premise that Israeli settlement construction was illegal and an obstruction to advancing peace.

The Washington Post also quoted Bethesda attorney Marc Abrams saying the president’s stance on Israel should make it “inconceivable” that club leaders would consider a bid by Obama for membership.

Simon Atlas, a former membership chair at the club and former treasurer of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee, told the Washington Post he would be “honored” to have Obama as a member. “A person’s political affiliation was never a consideration” for membership, he said. “We looked at [a person’s] philanthropy, at standing in the community, at reputation. These other things never came up.”

Forman declined to comment.

The exclusive club charges members an $80,000 initiation fee and $9,673 in annual dues.

The Obamas are planning to remain in Washington after Jan. 20, Inauguration Day for Donald Trump, the president’s successor.

Woodmont was founded by DC-area Jews in 1913 because Jews were banned from joining other clubs.

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