One of us is Orthodox; the other Reform.
One of us is active in J Street and the other is a member of the Zionist Organization of America.
On matters relating to peace and security in Israel, our perspectives are vastly different.
What draws the two of us together is recognition that we are each deeply committed to the State of Israel, if in entirely different ways. We are also bound by a common concern over the shrillness of the Israel debate.
Also of deep concern is the readiness of too many in our community to demonize and assume the worst in those with whom we disagree.
These danger signs hit home for us over the past few weeks in a direct and personal way.
We are both members of Woodmont Country Club who were disappointed and alarmed by the stridency of opinion surrounding President Obama’s supposed interest in becoming a member of the club.
Despite having profound differences on the former president’s record on Israel, the two of us relished the idea of having the Obama family join the ranks of our club, and we encouraged the club leadership to consider the high personal standards Barack Obama exemplified in office, as well as his numerous endeavors on behalf of the Jewish community.
Most of the members with whom we broached the subject strongly agreed and felt it would be a great honor to welcome any former president. To our mutual chagrin, a vocal minority within the club turned this matter into a referendum on Israel.
We are both saddened and concerned, both for what it means for our club and what it says about our community. It’s troublesome and sadly ironic that a club created as a haven for Jews who couldn’t play golf elsewhere may have effectively turned away the nation’s first black president.
We also worry that admission to our social club has become politicized and a forum for members to advocate their individual views toward Israel, an increasingly fraught topic across the Jewish community.
At a time when Americans are splintered into self-reinforcing bubbles, our community is too often guilty of the same thing. And Israel seems to be the epicenter of these dangerous fault lines.
The Jewish community is multifaceted and diverse. Let’s find neutral space and common ground where we can. Let’s not allow politics to infuse our leisure activities and dominate our social interactions.
Adam August is a Potomac resident and Daniel Kohl is a Bethesda resident. Their views do not express the official view of Woodmont Country Club or its leadership.