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July 15, 1988 - Image 24

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-07-15

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The Clubs


Special to The Jewish News

hen Redford Country
Club, the forerunner
of Franklin Hills,
opened its golf
course in 1914, it
provided most of its members with
their only alternative to a public
course. Membership at private clubs
was not open to Jews.


It is a moot point whether things
have greatly changed. "We have no
hard evidence of antipathy to Jews in
local clubs;' says Richard Lobenthal,
Michigan director of the Anti-
Defamation League of B'nai B'rith.
But, he adds, "discrimination in 1988


FRIDAY, JULY 15, 1988

is difficult to prove." The inherent ex-
clusivity of private clubs, their
demanding admissions procedures —
usually requiring several sponsors
and/or letters of recommendation —
the high demand for membership and
frequent waiting lists all make it dif-
ficult to pinpoint reasons for rejection.
No area golf club has by-laws
restricting entry on racial grounds
and some newer clubs have publicly-
stated "open admission" policies, in-
cluding Wabeek Country Club, which
has a large number of Jewish
members. --
But elsewhere, outside the Detroit
area's three predominantly Jewish
country clubs — Knollwood, Tam
O'Shanter and Franklin Hills —
`there is an occasional Jewish

Born out of discrimination,
Jewish city and country clubs
remain a haven for wealthy Jews

membership," says Lobenthal. "But
there is certainly no aggressive
outreach on the part of other clubs
towards Jews."
If there were such an outreach to-
day, it might well fall on deaf ears, ac-
cording to local Jewish golfing en-
thusiasts. What was once a matter of
necessity they believe is now a mat-
ter of choice. Even at the time of Red-
ford's inception, says local historian
Leonard Simons, a past president of
Franklin Hills, one or two members
had other options. They chose to
found Redford. "They were guys who
just loved to play golf," he says " and
they wanted to play it with their
Present members of the Jewish
clubs feel much the same. Not all are

as wild about golf as their
predecessors but they agree that club
membership means "more than ac-
cess to a golf course," tennis court,
dining room or swimming pool. What
makes these clubs popular and
Jewish in character they say, "is the
sense of social comfort which comes
from being able to relax and share
leisure activities with friends of your
own group."
For those who want to join a club
for business reasons, social comfort is
not always a first priority. Their
choice has been augmented by "city"
clubs like the Renaissance and the
soon-to-be-opened Skyline Club, and
the widened admissions policies of the
larger established city clubs —
Detroit Athletic and the Detroit Club.

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