August 22, 2012

Decline of Jewish country clubs

The subjects of country clubs, Jews, and Jewish country clubs are interesting and somewhat important because old resentments and guilts related to ancestral exclusion and social status striving seem to be one among the little-discussed reasons behind much of today's conventional wisdom. 

So, for background, I'll start with part of a 2009 Golfweek article by Bradley S. Klein called "Demise of the Jewish club." It was written immediately after the Madoff Affair had punched a big hole in the net worths of members of some Jewish country clubs, so the term "Demise" -- instead of the more accurate "Decline" -- is understandable hyperbole.
Peter Davidson, a member of Inwood Country Club since 1956, vividly remembers realizing just how unusual his Long Island club really was. The moment of clarity took place nearly two decades ago, and it explained much about how his historically Jewish club operated. 
“I was invited to play at a member-guest at Oakmont Country Club outside Pittsburgh,” Davidson says. “Along with our host were members from the Olympic Club in San Francisco and Medinah in Chicago.

Oakmont, Olympic, and Medina all have hosted major championships in recent years, so they are very famous in the golf world.
The conversation turned to annual fees. I forget the exact numbers, but it was something like $5,000 for Olympic and about $5,500 for Medinah. Our host from Oakmont said that his dues were right in the middle.” 
Inquiring minds naturally turned to Davidson. 
“I said, ‘We’re about where all of you are – combined.” Back then, Inwood charged a princely sum of $18,000. [Around 1990] 

Later on, Klein explains the reasons for this price differential.
In its heyday, Inwood didn’t have to worry about holding down costs or attracting new members. Having an acclaimed golf course – good enough to host the 1921 PGA Championship and the 1923 U.S. Open, where Bobby Jones won his first national championship – served as a magnet for the affluent who lived in the distinct Five Towns community on Long Island’s south shore. ....

Another unexpected blow comes from the investment scandal involving Bernie Madoff. An avid golfer based on Long Island and in Palm Beach County, Fla., Madoff apparently drew heavily upon the close social circles of the Jewish community. His ill-doing led to financial hardship and membership resignation among hundreds of people, resulting in some Jewish clubs losing dozens of members over the past winter. 
Long before Madoff, however, the demise of Jewish clubs was evident. 
As the hush-hush exclusivity of American country clubs gave way to a wide-open market in which anyone is welcome, Jews gained the freedom to assimilate. The shrinking pool of candidates for all-Jewish clubs, in turn, forced such facilities to seek a secular, more diverse membership. ...
Jewish clubs surfaced in the early 1900s when overt discrimination was the norm. If your ethnicity or religious identity didn’t conform to the prevailing blue-blood ethos of the ruling “Social Register” crowd, you were out of luck. Or you formed your own golf club. 
That’s exactly how Inwood emerged in the southwest corner of Nassau County, just beyond the limits of New York City, where the runways of JFK Airport now abut the tidal salt marshes of Long Island’s Jamaica Bay. ...

Inwood is now directly under the final descent flight path of JFK, making it a relaxing experience for deaf members. They had Tom Doak revamp their seafront holes to look more Early 20th Century.
For Jewish clubs, golf served as just one of many reasons for seeking membership. The club became a center for Jewish life, providing privacy so an extended family of sorts could celebrate holidays and dining, and pursue community service or charity work. 
That kindred behavior often has led to distinct differences between Jewish clubs and other private facilities. Jewish clubs keep outside corporate outings to a minimum. They offer full-service meals all the time, not just on weekends. They usually keep a bigger staff, which typically translates into better service but higher costs for labor and benefits. 
One interesting cultural aside, according to McMahon: Jewish clubs consume less alcohol, lowering revenues from one of the most profitable components of any private-club operation.

The profit on gin-and-tonics alone has probably paid for a lot of lawn-mowing at classic WASP courses.

Later on, I'll get to some of the more puzzling aspects.

48 comments:

deconstructingleftism said...

Everything about being Jewish is expensive- the synagogues and schools. My theory is that Jews don't like losers among their ranks, and want to encourage those on the edge to make more or leave the fold.

Anonymous said...

A former girlfriend's dad in Northern New Jersey once pointed out to me the Protestant country club, followed by the Catholic one, the German Jewish one, and finally the Russian Jewish one. As the children and grandchildren of today's members melt into generic white Americans, the original affiliations of the surviving clubs will likely fade from memory, like Princeton's Presbyterian origin or Tufts' Universalist origin, or Amherst's Congregationalist one.

Anonymous said...

Were there any Armenian country clubs, perhaps in California?

Anonymous said...

Steve Sailer's iGolf Blog

Who makes better golfers? Chinese or Hindus?

Andrew said...

In university I attended a talk by Mordecai Richler, who told the story of what happened when a gentile applied to join a Jewish country club in Montreal. They were having a meeting to discuss the application when a man in the audience shouted, "If you let one in, they'll all want to join!"

Anonymous said...

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/08/bye-bye-boomers-this-is-the-age-of-the-baby-bust-ers/261424/

But don't we of immigration? Aren't blacks and Hispans having babies?

What this article means is WHITE people should have more babies for there to be a healthy economy.

Aaron in Israel said...

An excuse to link to Woody Allen's moose joke!

Anonymous said...

Danny Thomas was the first non-Jewish member of the Hilcrest Country club in Los Angeles.

When the membres were discussing his application, Jack Benny said he was thinking about blackballing him. When some of the others asked why Benny joked that he thought the club's first non-Jewish members "should at least look like a Gentile."

Anonymous said...

http://www.tnr.com/books-and-arts/andy-warhol-moca-the-painting-factory

THANK YOU

Anonymous said...

The Inwood Country Club is expensive because it had to keep up with The "no Jews allowed" Rockaway Hunt Club in Lawrence. There still is a tiny, and I mean tiny, remnant of wealthy nominal Protestants and English Catholics. I bet there are a lot of Jews in the Hunt Club now.

http://www.rhcny.com/About-Us.aspx

To those who don't know the area, it is probably possible to live on Long Island and never meet a white Protestant.

The Five Towns is perhaps the most boring area in the state of NY. The area is almost completely Jewish, but it lacks vibrancy. Cedarhurst, in particular, used to be a hip Reform Jewish town. Now it is almost completely unassimilated Orthodox.

Anonymous said...

Whim's Country Club rules sho aint easy.

Anonymous said...

Jews used to want in when country clubs were bastions of wasp power. But most of that cachet is gone. And Jews don't want to make a big spectacle of their power. Wasp country clubs had a sign saying: WASP PRIVILEGE. Bad press.

Jews want us to think of Jewish powerlessness.

playrink said...

Fielding Melish (what's this, a gimme?) Fielding Melish blows Bradley S. Klein beyond the stratosphere.

playrink said...

Fielding Melish (what's this, a gimme?) Fielding Melish blows Bradley S. Klein beyond the stratosphere.

Anonymous said...

It's irritating that non-whites can freely discuss excluding people and uplifting their own people in white society while white can't anywhere without severe consequences. It's about keeping white people down and taking resources away from white people who are not ethnically organized compared to non-whites.

DaveinHackensack said...

"Everything about being Jewish is expensive- the synagogues and schools."

Don't forget kosher food. I once had a job where I'd make sales presentations to brokerage offices, and the cost of admission was buying the office lunch. Usually, the cost of a catered lunch was around $10 a head, so a typical 30-40 broker office might run $300-$400 for lunch. One of the offices I called on was in the 5 Towns area of Long Island, which had to order from a kosher place because a number of its brokers were Orthodox Jews. Nothing fancy -- pizza, if memory serves -- but the bill was something like $700.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11:18 PM,

The Jewish country clubs were founded specifically because WASP clubs excluded Jews. So to that extent, you reap what you sow (told to you in your own New Testament).

Ultimately, you're getting what you want anyway since many of these clubs are in danger of closing. Some have already opened up membership to non-Jews. Others have sold out completely to create new non-sectarian clubs. Granted, some formerly restricted WASP-only clubs have also opened their memberships, but these tend not to be the most exclusive clubs where the membership was forced into the decision for financial reasons. In the cases where the most exclusive WASP clubs have officially opened up their memberships, they often accept only token non-WASP members.

Anonymous said...

Is Inwood where Karen takes Jimmy in Goodfellas?

I guess the story of Jewish country clubs is somewhat parallel to that of the Negro baseball leagues in the 40's and 50's, as related in Bingo's Long Traveling All-stars. Once the best black players could join Major League teams, the Negro league teams were doomed?

Anonymous said...

Steve, I think you are missing the bigger picture. Jews were only interested in country clubs because it was associated with the old WASP and the prestige that was associated with it. Once Jews took over the country clubs and the WASP left, Jews lost interest in it.

Generally speaking, Jews dislike anything sports related, including country clubs. They were only in it for the glory of power.

Ex Submarine Officer said...

All those gin and tonics are also a big part of the reason the WASPs aren't running things anymore.

Erik L said...

I recall reading (I think it was "An Empire of their own") that country clubs did not originally exclude Jews back in the 1800s. It was only with the waves of immigration of eastern European Jews that the policies began. The same book pointed out that it was the Jewish country club in LA of which Groucho Marx remarked that he would never join a club that would have him as a member.

I also recall a loss of innocence upon learning that the Jewish country club in Highland Park, IL, refused to admit Michael Jordan as a member. My uncle had the beginning of some kind of weird rationalization but really...not even Michael Jordan?

Anonymous said...

"To those who don't know the area, it is probably possible to live on Long Island and never meet a white Protestant."

It wasn't too long ago that that wasn't the case, as this white protestant who grew up on LI can attest. But yes, when I go back now, which I avoid if I can, the alienation is palpable. What is interesting is that all the Italians who used to live in Brooklyn back in the Saturday Night Fever era have apparently all moved out to Long Island. I would think that Suffolk county probably still has some wasps, but they will soon run out of island and will fall into the ocean.

Anonymous said...

"The Five Towns is perhaps the most boring area in the state of NY. The area is almost completely Jewish, but it lacks vibrancy."

Some places are allowed to lack wonderful "vibrancy".

Anonymous said...

There used to be a club in downtown Wilmington DE that was widely known as the "Jewish" alternative to all-male, all-WASP Wilmington Club. Called the Rodney Square Club, it closed about 10 years ago, several years after the Wilmington Club loosened its admission policies. The Wilmington Club (located in a Victorian brownstone mansion surrounded by modern high-rises, in one of which the Rodney Square Club was located) is still going strong.

Anonymous said...

"Jews want us to think of Jewish powerlessness"

Too late for this.

Anonymous said...

"Everything about being Jewish is expensive- the synagogues and schools. My theory is that Jews don't like losers among their ranks, and want to encourage those on the edge to make more or leave the fold."

I came to the same conclusion some time ago... It Certainly explain alot.

Anonymous said...

I was a loyal Democrat, then an independent, then I registered Republican to vote for Ron Paul. The left has gone absolutely insane on cultural issues: they can't say that having two parents is better than a child being raised by a single parent, they can't criticize any of the problems in the black community except by blaming whites, Occupy is a freak show compared to the Tea Party, they can't admit that welfare has negative effects on its recipients, they can't admit that immigration is anything but positive, they can't admit any differences between the sexes. I'm sure that someone could generate a similar list for the right, but these things are so clearly true and the Democrats can not cognitively process any of it that I can't abide it. I was a Democrat for environmental issues, but they just kept getting freakier and freakier.

Anonymous said...

My 90 y.o. m-i-l belongs to a Jewish club that is actually inside the city limits of Philadelphia (though most of the members live in the suburbs). There is a food minimum so she makes us go there for (awful) meals sometimes. It is like eating in the nursing home - the average age of the members must be in their '80s. Every year when we go there are fewer and fewer diners. The whole thing is rather sad, really.

Anonymous said...

Madoff apparently drew heavily upon the close social circles of the Jewish community


It almost sounds like Jews are exceptionally ethnocentric and prefer to do business with one another, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

I still like Groucho's take on this.
Devastating to pretension on both sides.

mel belli said...

I'm sure someone could generate a similar list for the right

As far as I can tell, the only thing the right wilfully lies about is the menace of medical malpractice suits.

Anonymous said...

How come the Polish Country Club has no members? It has a No Polack Policy.

DaveinHackensack said...

"Generally speaking, Jews dislike anything sports related"

That must be why you never see any Jewish sportswriters, sports broadcasters, professional team owners, or league commissioners.

Peter said...

The Five Towns is perhaps the most boring area in the state of NY. The area is almost completely Jewish, but it lacks vibrancy. Cedarhurst, in particular, used to be a hip Reform Jewish town. Now it is almost completely unassimilated Orthodox.

Inwood (the town in which the golf club is located) is part of the Five Towns, but is at least half minority. Inwood suffers from its very close proximity to Far Rockaway, just across the Queens line. Except for an Orthodox enclave Far Rockaway is basically one big ghetto. The NYC housing authority allegedly uses its Far Rockaway housing projects as a dumping ground for troublesome tenants from projects elsewhere in the city, under the concept of Out of Sight, Out of Mind.

Anonymous said...

I forget the name, I think Golden Gate club in SF next to Olympic and Harding Park, was Jewish until Asian took over the majority.

Never forget, west coast people do not know Jews like east coast...the majority of us are totally ignorant, especially growing up in Oregon.

Anonymous said...

Nobody considers Inwood part of the Five Towns. When somebody says Five Towns, they are referring to adjoining Jewish neighborhoods of Woodmere, Lawrence, Hewlett, Cedarhurst and sometimes East Rockaway. Inwood is only a nominal member, culturally it is not a piece.

With the exception of the honorary East Rockaway, all of these towns are devoid of fun. I don't know what to make of it, but it seems ironic that a people known for vaudeville, movies, music of all genres, have created an area that shuts down after dark. Saturday night I think I'll drive through the place after dark and look for proof of life.

Anonymous said...

The ancestors of the practicing ultra-Orthodox Jews who have taken over the Five Towns didn't have much to do with vaudeville, movies or popular music. Those were the domains of their displaced secular co-ethnics.

Tony said...

"Madoff apparently drew heavily upon the close social circles of the Jewish community
It almost sounds like Jews are exceptionally ethnocentric and prefer to do business with one another, doesn't it?"

If you want to call that doing business. I call it predator and prey.

Red Fox said...

"How come the Polish Country Club has no members? It has a No Polack Policy."

Funny, but the real reason is that Polish-Americans, like the vast majority of Europeans, don't care about golf. Now a Polish-American bowling alley...paging Jeffrey Lebowski.

Anonymous said...

"It almost sounds like Jews are exceptionally ethnocentric and prefer to do business with one another, doesn't it?"

Certainly does. I'm trying to picture how this article would look if a Jewish New York Times reporter were discussing the fate of a selective wealthy goy country club nestled in a minority neighborhood.

First he would interview the help: busboys, caddies and porters. He would write about how the Goys drop their towels on the floor and leave messes for them to clean up. How they are willing to pay big bucks to join, but don't even tip. How people they've seen every week for twenty years don't even know their names or wether they have any family. He would reveal that the hatred for the common local people was so ingrained that they would rather go out of business than deign to admit them. He would find a local drug dealer with a lot of dough who runs a front restaurant, present him as a local prosperous merchant and he will give a sob story about having his application rejected. He would talk about how the entertainment, Lestor Lanin type stuff, was old school and that even the members didnt like it anymore, but they keep getting acts like that to send a subtle message that there is nothing here for NAMs. And on and on, according to the narrative.

Anonymous said...

In the cases where the most exclusive WASP clubs have officially opened up their memberships, they often accept only token non-WASP members.

Exactly.

That is what "most exclusive" means; they exclude most people.

Anonymous said...

If you want to call that doing business. I call it predator and prey.


They got preyed on because they assumed that their nice fellow Jew could be trusted. And they assumed that because it's the way they normally conduct business. If Madoff had been non-Jewish they'd have been much more cautious and skeptical towards him.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8/24/12 6:55 AM,

No. The most exclusive country club in the mid-sized city where I grew up was restricted (no blacks, no Jews) until the early 1990's. The wait for typical acceptable applicants, most of whom were locals, was around 5 years at the time. When the club ceased to be restricted, the only Jew admitted was a part-time resident married to a non-Jew, and the only African-American admitted was a non-resident. That's what I mean by token members.

Extropico said...

Anonymous said...
Anonymous 11:18 PM,

"The Jewish country clubs were founded specifically because WASP clubs excluded Jews. So to that extent, you reap what you sow (told to you in your own New Testament)."

Sure, there are no Jewish clubs that exist because Jews are equally desiring of their own communities and culture. Jewish tribal circles are simply a societal construct.

Anonymous said...

@Extropico--

There was a period in the late 19th century when assimilated German Jews were members of non-sectarian clubs that were predominantly non-Jewish. It was when those clubs began to exclude their colleagues or children that they founded Jewish-only clubs. Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews can only belong to a club with a kosher kitchen and tend to prefer to socialize among themselves, but secular Jews who don't keep kosher don't usually care as much about keeping to themselves.

Anonymous said...

"Ultimately, you're getting what you want anyway since many of these [Jewish] clubs are in danger of closing. Some have already opened up membership to non-Jews."

Because of financial hardship?

"...Granted, some formerly restricted WASP-only clubs have also opened their memberships, but these tend not to be the most exclusive clubs where the membership was forced into the decision for financial reasons."

In other words, both Jewish clubs and non-Jewish clubs have opened up their memberships for reasons of financial hardship, but you see the actions of the Jewish clubs as "accepting" while the actions of the non-Jewish clubs are not.

I have been to many a religious service, from a dozen denominations or more. At nearly every one the members were interested in who I was and in getting me to become a member. At the two Jewish services I attended (I look anything but Jewish) no one gave a shit. They don't seek new members, they don't want new members. Exclusive club? The synagogue itself is an exclusive club.

Anonymous said...

Judaism hasn't been a proselytizing religion for over a thousand years. Beginning with the period when Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire and thereafter until the not-so-distant past, there were severe penalties for Jewish proselytization.

Anonymous said...

The elite clubs in San Francisco that previously welcomed Jewish members are starting to think twice about doing this.

The reason for this is the nature of the membership of these clubs. The members of the most exclusive clubs are usually very well educated graduates of elite universities. This means that they are also smarter and much more sophisticated than the average citizen. They are usually well aware of what organized Jewry has been up to over the last few decades as a result of the terribly corrupting influence of Jewish money on politics, especially as concerns the US's Mideast policy. These WASPs are also waking up to who was behind other pernicious piece of legislation such as those advocating "open borders", passage all those so called "hate crime" and (now) the push for "bullying" laws.

The clubs that had accepted Jewish members started discovering another consequence of such actions. A potential new member (Jew or Gentile) would be automatically blackballed by Jewish members if they had ever made a comment that could have been construed as being even slightly negative as regards Israel or Jewish interests.

But that hasn't all. There was another problem that became an increasing thorn in the side of non Jewish members of these integrated clubs. The Jonathan Club and The Olympic Club also experienced charges of allowing anti-Semitism if Jewish nominees were blackballed by non Jews.

These charges of anti-Semitism were repeatedly leaked by Jewish club members to the major newspapers Pressure seems to have been brought to make sure these charges were pasted all over the front sections of the newspapers. The Olympic Club in particular received much negative publicity.

This publicity resulted in gentiles being terrified of judging potential Jewish members because of the threat of being called an anti-Semite (a charge that could potentially be career ending). It was made very clear to them that only a Jew was allowed to judge the membership qualifications of another Jew.

Jews seem to think that their corrupting influence on politics and culture has gone by unnoticed by the dumb gentiles. It turns out that one powerful group of gentiles wasn't so easily hoodwinked.

Upper class WASPs (and Catholics) are slowly starting to wake up to what has happened and who is responsible. They are starting to see that their old "ecumenicalism" was simply a one way street which would eventually lead to their own demise.