The Woodmont Country Club released a statement Monday saying it would welcome the membership of former President Barack Obama and his family, weeks after a controversy erupted among its members over the Obama administration’s actions concerning Israel.
The message, from club President Barry Forman, does not confirm that the former president, an avid golfer, is interested in a membership at the elite country club on Rockville Pike.
“We do not know whether the Obamas are interested in joining Woodmont. But, if they are, we would welcome their application and know that they would find Woodmont the welcoming and enjoyable place that our members have experienced for over a century,” Forman wrote to members.
In recent months, news reports have speculated which area country club the Obamas would join while they maintain a residence in the Kalorama neighborhood in the District, awaiting their daughter Sasha to finish high school at Washington, D.C.’s Sidwell Friends.
A reporter suggested Obama would prefer Woodmont, where he had played as a guest and which was founded in 1913 by Jews who were unable to join any of the other area country clubs. However, some members’ objections became public; they believed the United States’ refusal last month to block an anti-Israel vote in the U.N. Security Council disqualified Obama’s membership.
The controversy became public in recent weeks, leading some members to decry that it had led to a stain on the reputation of the mostly Jewish club, an issue that Forman addressed in his letter. “Given our legacy, it is regrettable that we have now been widely portrayed as unwelcoming and intolerant, because that is not who we are,” he wrote.
In the message, Forman said the club’s leadership arrived at its decision after “many hours” in recent weeks. The Obamas would be admitted under the club’s “special membership” category, which is offered to “very senior level government officials.” The club’s Executive Committee amended the “special membership” section of its bylaws to include former U.S. presidents. Forman wrote.
Under the category, the Obamas would avoid paying the club’s initiation fee, but would be assessed dues, according to the message.
News outlets have reported that Woodmont charges an $80,000 initiation fee and annual dues of $9,673.
The club’s admissions committee would still review the Obamas’ application, which must then be approved by the club’s Board of Governors, Forman wrote.
He also wrote: “While we strongly believe this is the right decision, we understand it will be accompanied by continued discussion within our community. So that we may find a way to learn from this, grow from this experience and move forward, the Club leadership intends to hold conversations within our community in the near future to further explore our history and common values.”
As the controversy played out, Somerset Mayor Jeffrey Slavin said he quit the club because of the objections to the Obamas’ membership.
When asked Tuesday morning if he was planning on rejoining the club, Slavin said: “This is not about me, I’m glad justice was done.”
“I hope the Obamas will join,” Slavin said.