Haven't read something today that made your stomach turn? Well, have I got a story for you! Nationwide craft store chain Hobby Lobby, which seems like one of the most benign, grandma-beloved brands in the country, is under fire this week for reportedly refusing to stock Hanukkah and other Jewish-themed items in its stores across the country. The company has a large assortment of Christmas items, crosses, and Christian-themed cards, but apparently do not offer similar items for Jewish shoppers.
This blatant discrepancy (or should I say discrimination?) came to light when political blogger Ken Berwitz noticed that the Marlboro, NJ Hobby Lobby was offering Christmas decorations but lacked any Hanukkah-related merchandise. Hmm. Being that Hanukkah arrives much earlier than Christmas this year -- on Thanksgiving, in fact! -- you'd think they'd have the Jewish holiday items in stock even earlier, right? Heh ...
Well, when Berwitz called that NJ Hobby Lobby and asked when they might be selling Hanukkah items, an employee told the blogger that they would NOT be getting them in ... ever. Because “Mr. [David] Green is the owner of the company, he’s a Christian, and those are his values.” Uh ... huh.
In an earlier incident at the same store, a shopper who asked why the store doesn’t carry Bar Mitzvah cards was allegedly told by a clerk, “We don’t cater to you people.” Wow ... Now that sounds to me like a blatant display of anti-Semitism.
Having grown up as one of the only Jewish kids in a predominantly Irish-Catholic community, I got used to going into grocery/craft/drug stores and finding a very small to no selection of Jewish holiday items. But I was usually under the impression that things like Shabbat or menorah candles or potato latke mix weren't being carried because there was no demand around there. And I feel like there's an important distinction between items not being in stock because there's no demand vs. there's a demand but a store refuses to stock the item(s) since they're discriminating against a certain group of people.
As for what Hobby Lobby -- whose CEO, David Green, is an evangelical pastor who has woven his devout Christianity into the mission statement and company policies of his arts and crafts stores -- had to say for themselves in the wake of these unnerving incidents:
Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. is currently working with our buyers over our merchandise selection. Due to multiple customer requests, we are currently evaluating our Holiday items and what we will carry in the future.
Alleged comments made by employees are currently being investigated and will be addressed accordingly. These comments are in no way indicative of Hobby Lobby culture, the owners and the operators.
Marlboro is a great city and has wonderful people and we are blessed to be apart [sic] the community.
Sounds like proper damage control. Who knows, though, if this is an isolated issue -- at one store, not all of 'em? If the chain wants to re-brand themselves as a Christian store, I guess that's one thing. But if they're going to attempt to appeal to a general audience, their merchandise needs to reflect that. And either way, bigoted behavior and discrimination against Jewish -- or Muslim, Hindu, Buddhists, Atheist, etc.! -- customers is abhorrent and intolerable.
What do you think about this controversy?
Image via Marco Arment/Flickr