Yesterday, I was perusing my Facebook timeline when I noticed that a friend of mine had shared a status about Hobby Lobby written by Larry Tepper.
You can read the full status here, but in a nutshell Larry explains that when his friends visited the Marlboro Hobby Lobby store in New Jersey they were told that they would not be stocking any Chanukah (Hanukkah) items because the store did not cater to "You People." and when Larry called the Marlboro store himself he was told verbatim "Mr. Green is the owner of the company, he's a Christian, and those are his values."
UPDATE: After some careful research it seems that the original post came from a political blog written by Ken Berwitz entitled "Hopelessly Partisan."
Since then it's started to create a buzz. All over the Hobby Lobby facebook page people are wondering what's the deal? Is Hobby Lobby anti-Semitic? And it's not just Facebook it's on Etsy too. Crafters all over are taking a stand for and against Hobby Lobby's decision to carry Hanukkah items.
Being the ever questioning Jew, I decided to call the corporate offices of Hobby Lobby this morning myself. I wanted to know what their official stance or take was. I first spoke to a very nice man who then transferred me to the Customer Service center - I think I might have taken him a little by surprise.
The next man I spoke to explained in his very thick Southern drawl that Hobby Lobby used to carry Hanukkah items, but they were selling poorly on a National level and so they pulled the items from their shelves and they are no longer carrying any Hanukkah items. I then asked him, if that's the truth, then why did the Marlboro store say that it was the Christian values of Mr. Green that Hobby Lobby doesn't cater to the Jewish crowd. He told me that they are “looking into it.”
So here's what I'm wondering....
Is this a prepared statement from Hobby Lobby or the truth?
Was the Marlboro store telling the truth or assuming something of the corporate office?
Did in fact Hobby Lobby carry Hanukkah items in the past?
Here's what I know....
- David Green (The founder of Hobby Lobby) is listed on Forbes with a net worth of $5 Billion as of September 2013.
- The Green's own the largest collection of ancient Bibles and religious artifacts in the world. They have just purchased the earliest Jewish Prayer book dating back to the 9th century.
- Mr. Green has built his company on biblical principles and puts families first. Their store is not open on Sundays the Christian day of rest.
-Hobby Lobby has been front and center in the news recently for their stance on Obamacare and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act because of its inclusion of the provision allowing access to the morning after pill. Listed on the brief are a few Jewish Organizations including Hadassah.
- Mart Green (David Green's son) supports the accusation that Israel is racist.
The bigger issue becomes...
How important is the Jewish market within the craft world?
I sometimes feel like the only Orthodox Jewish crafter out there.
Last January when I went to the Craft and Hobby Association Trade Show, I felt like the odd man out. Over and over again I met crafting companies that took one look and me and said, "Jews don't craft" - "There aren't any Jewish crafters."
Between launching the FIRST EVER Jewish crafting magazine jCreate and crafting up a storm with Not 2 Shabbey, or filming crafting videos with Chabad.org I am trying to get the word out that - we Jews LOVE to create!!
- We are a large community - 1.54 million Jews in NYC alone!
- Spread throughout the US - 6.5 million Jews coast to coast
- Affluent consumer with the time and money to invest in projects.
- Heavily populated, tight knit communities hold great word of mouth power.
- We are a niche group of stay at home moms, educators, homeschooling parents, or moms with small children.
- There's always a reason to craft! Holidays (almost every month), learning the weekly Torah portion, Celebrations (births, weddings, Bar/Bat Mitvahs)
- The Jewish mom is always looking to buy new products and share the info with her friends. Her purchasing power is mighty.
- Since many Orthodox Jews don't have TV or other electronic entertainment, crafting is a big activity that we turn to. At almost every birthday party my kids go to or host, they do a craft as the main activity.
We are pretty important.
Hobby Lobby and other crafting retailers and manufacturers should start to take notice.
Here's the deal.
Some people argue that it's their right to not carry Jewish items. Why should they? It's their store.... let them do what they want. If this was a mom and pop shop I would agree with them. There are many local craft and gift stores that only sell Christmas related items and there are Judaica stores that only sell Jewish related items. However Hobby Lobby is a craft store that sells nationwide. If they want to sell all over the nation then they must include all people within that nation. What would happen if they only sold stickers of white children? Believe me; we would be having a completely different conversation.
I don’t think that the company should go out of business, selling items that no one wants to buy. If you look at the facts or if you read Larry's original facebook post you would know that 1/3 of the population near the Marlboro store is Jewish. If Hobby Lobby was unsuccessful in the past selling Judaica items, it might behoove them now to start carrying Hanukkah items in areas near Jewish communities.
I know that you can't control the people that you hire. The workers they attract are strong in their Christian faith. Could the Marlboro store alone be anti-Semitic? Sure. Are they reflecting the ideas of the corporate offices? Maybe, but not definitely.
As Rabbi Don Weber writes in his blog post "The same freedom that allows Hobby Lobby to ignore Jewish interests also allows us to ignore Hobby Lobby. OUR freedom includes the right to vote with our feet, and with our money. Why support a company that doesn't want our business?"
What I do know is that that this type of behavior is very dangerous.
Their anti-Semitic language is offensive.
The "You People" phrase is ignorant and insulting.
A Facebook friend commented yesterday.....
"I'm glad we live in a country where businessess are free to choose what they will or will not sell, and where customers are free to complain, boycott, publicize, or otherwise "lobby" for a change."
And it seems for now Hobby Lobby is backing down and considering stocking Jewish Holiday decorations. The internet is a powerful tool.
I just don't understand how someone so deeply rooted in their Christian faith could neglect to realize how much their religion is rooted in Judaism. Wasn't Jesus a Jew?