I am almost 10 years late getting to read a terrific biography of investment wizard Warren Buffett (pictured at left). But I'm finally into The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life, by Alice Schroeder.
Normally I'd just read this for my own edification and move on without writing about it. But I found in the book a Buffett story about antisemitism from the late 1960s that reminded me of a similar story from 1990 involving golfer Tom Watson (pictured at right) about Kansas City's own antisemitism.
Let me share them with you.
Buffett never had much use for social clubs or country clubs. But when a friend of his announced he no longer would attend meetings at clubs that discriminated against Jews, Buffett, who previously had resigned from a Rotary Club because, as Schroeder writes, he was "repelled by the bigotry he saw as a member of its membership committee," Buffett decided to sponsor a Jew to be a member of the Omaha Club.
But Buffett knew he was likely to run into antisemitic bigotry that would keep his friend Herman Goldstein out of that club, partly on the theory that Jews had their own country club.
So Buffett went to another Jewish friend and asked him to nominate Buffett to be a member of the all-Jewish Highland Country Club. Naturally, some Highland members objected on the basis that non-Jewish clubs in town refused to allow Jews, so why should Highland take in a gentile like Buffett? But Buffett lined up help from some rabbis and the Anti-Defamation League and got voted in.
"Once accepted," Schroeder writes, "Buffett quietly stormed the Omaha Club, armed with his Jewish country-club membership. Herman Goldstein was voted in, and the long-standing religious barrier to membership there finally toppled."
So good for Warren Buffett. But 20-plus years later, in 1990, good for Kansas City's most famous golfer, Tom Watson.
Someone had nominated Henry Bloch, the H of H&R Block (different spelling), to be a member of the Kansas City Country Club. But Bloch, who is Jewish, was blackballed.
As this story recounts, Watson (who at the time was married to a Jew) was overseas when Bloch was blackballed, but heard what had happened and relayed word that if this decision wasn't reversed by the time he got back to Kansas City he'd quit the club. It wasn't and he did.
“He was resigned, I think, for a year or two years," Bloch says, "and then clubs formed to get me back in, and it worked.”
But Watson's principled stand was part of what broke down that ridiculous barrier, just as Buffett's stand had a similar effect in Omaha years earlier.
Is there still antisemitism and racism in country clubs? Of course. But each time someone with a moral center stands up for what's right, it makes it harder for those on the wrong side of history to succeed.
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PERSECUTED? NOT SO MUCH
Some Christians who call themselves conservative or evangelical also believe they're being persecuted in the U.S. This Patheos.com piece suggests otherwise and, in effect, tells them to knock it off because they're hurting their own cause.