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July 15, 1988 - Image 25

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

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Facing page: Lila Silverman and Marg Frank at Franklin Hills. Clockwise from
left: Reva Jacob; golf pro Frank Metzger; Caren Nederlander, Susan Marwil
and Arlene Redfield; June Smitt and Marise Levy.

The Skyline Club is scheduled to
open in Southfield this summer with
approximately 360 members and the
capacity to eventually double that
number. It will be a business and
social club designed, says Mark
Schlussel, chairman of its board of
governors, to "represent the diversi-
ty of our community in its best sense.
It will be more open in every way. The
members already enrolled today
represent all facets of the communi-
ty." Observing a "real momentum in
terms of membership?' Schlussel is
convinced that an "open" club is an
idea whose time has come.
The increased openness of
business clubs to Jews is the tardy but
inevitable dawning of what Alvin
Kushner calls "a more enlightened
age." World war II, says Kushner,
former director of the Jewish Com-
munity Council, brought a "chink in
the wall." It was followed by a gradual
breaking down of barriers, aided by
the civil rights movement. Business
and social interaction, particularly
the enormous Jewish contribution to

the arts and community causes, have

made it difficult for non-Jews to cling
to old fears and prejudice. "The open-
ness, warmth and charitable nature
of the Jewish community?' agrees
Schlussel, "could not, in the long run, •
be denied access in the business and
social communities."
Why then have the barriers begun
to crumble more quickly in city than
in country clubs? One reason sug-
gested by community leaders is more
interaction in the business world.
Moreover, it is an area in which more
leverage can be exerted. Many Jews
have boycotted functions held by
other organizations and businesses on
the DAC premises, for example. And
by refusing to pay the fees of their
member excutives, large business con-
cerns such as Detroit Edison and
Michigan Consolidated Gas have also
been able to influence the DAC's ad-
mission policies.
Another suggested reason is that
there has not been the same deter-
mination to penetrate the purely
social clubs. The Jewish community,

Kushner points out, is already "ex-
tremely heavily organized." Many
Jews have had neither time nor in-
clination to commit themselves to
more. Many also share with members
of the community at large an am-
bivalence about the ethnicity of social
clubs. Although they would like to see
an end to racial discrimination, they
agree with Mark Schlussel that in a
pluralistic society, and where it is a
matter of choice, "there is nothing un-
wholesome abut segments of the com-
munity seeking to interact among
themselves from time to time?'
This has led to a reluctance to see
legal pressure brought on country
clubs. Mayor Coleman Young's veto of
the Detroit City Council resolution to
legally end discrimination in private
clubs is contrasted with his attempt
to exert social pressure on the Detroit
Golf Club in 1985 with his publiciz-
ed application for membership.
Legal pressure has been brought
to bear on larger city clubs who rent
their premises to businesses and cater
regularly to non-members. By doing

so they lose their private status and
with it the exemption from anti-
discrimination granted to private
clubs under the 1964 Civil Rights Act
(and the Elliott-Larsen Act in
Michigan). Country clubs and smaller
city clubs, their private nature and
essentially social function defining
them as "extensions of the living
room?' have so far been generally im-
mune from legally-enforced change.
Change in a counry club, Jewish
or otherwise, is, one Knollwood
member points -out, almost a con-
tradiction in terms. "They are design-
ed not to change?' he says, but to be
"a haven"; each a "reassuring, cons-
tant social entity in itself."
Their pleasures are traditional,
unlikely to appeal to the radical
young, who would usually find it dif-
ficult to afford the $20,000 to $30,000
initiation fee and $4,000 annual dues.
To clubs with predominantly middle-
aged to elderly members, many of
whom have "worked hard to earn the
privilege of being there?' change
comes slowly.


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