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Yom Shlishi, 24 Tammuz 5774

Hobby Lobby and the Jews

September 2013

Freedom is messy. From the American Nazi Party marching in Skokie, Illinois, to the myriad web sites promoting hatred of [insert the name of any religious, racial or political group here], freedom is something we all cherish… until we are on the receiving end of someone else’s freedom.

Witness the flurry of discussion in and around Marlboro, where it was discovered that the newly-opened Hobby Lobby does not, out of principle, stock items relating to Jewish holidays or Judaism in general. Various callers to the store management and to the company’s headquarters have reported responses indicating that the company is a Christian-owned company, and “these are our values.”

To put this into perspective, this is also the company that refuses to provide its employees with health insurance which covers the “morning after pill” for contraception. That case is on its way to the Supreme Court.

The company makes no bones about its Christian focus. In an op-ed piece in USA Today, owner David Green said, “We’re Christians and we run our company on Christian principles.”

This may come as a shock to many of us who live in a part of the country where respect for other faiths is almost a necessity, but what Hobby Lobby is doing – at least as it relates to carrying or not carrying Jewish items – is completely legal. Stores can carry any items they choose. Whether it is smart business to ignore the Jewish market is another matter, but that, too, is not an issue of legality – or bias.

It has been reported that at least one employee in Marlboro said, “We don’t cater to you people.” Even that statement, if it is true, is not illegal or discriminatory. IF the store asked a person to leave because he or she was wearing a Jewish star, THAT would rise (or sink) to the level of discrimination, but otherwise it just doesn’t. That’s the messy part of freedom.

But that does not mean we are powerless, or helpless. 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. Not just in searching for Hanukkah items, but for everything Hobby Lobby stocks. WE are free, too – free to patronize the companies we choose.

Personally, I find Chick-fil-A’s publicly stated antipathy toward gays to be offensive, so I don’t eat there. And I believe Wal-Mart’s treatment of its employees is horrible, so I don’t shop there. That is MY right, and the result of my freedom.

If you want to buy items for Hanukkah, there are lots of choices. Start with our own Sisterhood Judaica case, for one. Then try any of the local stores which recognize and respect our traditions including, believe it or not, the Christmas Tree Shops in Freehold. And if you want to buy items that are sold in Hobby Lobby, it’s your choice whether to go there or somewhere else. Personally, I’ll go somewhere else.

One last thought: I bet the Judaica shops in Hightstown and Lakewood don’t stock any Christmas supplies at all. I assume they have decided that they don’t need to do that, and I respect their decision. But I also assume that they are comfortable knowing that Christians will choose to take their business elsewhere.

That’s freedom, in all its messy glory. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Comments (11)

  • Bonnie Dietrich

    Bonnie Dietrich

    30 September 2013 at 14:32 |
    Very well said, Rabbi Weber! And I'm absolutely certain that the rabbis in my Manhattan Modern Orthodox congregation would agree completely. Thank you for making such a sensible and strong statement.
  • Steve

    Steve

    30 September 2013 at 14:37 |
    One would not expect a judicatory shop to sell Christian items just as I would not expect a Christian book store to stock Torah related items.

    As a non religious store one would except them to "cater" to the community they opened in. They have the right to sell what they choose As I have the right to not spend a single cent at his stores.

    The marketplace will decide how successful his marlboro location is.
  • Lisa Warner

    Lisa Warner

    30 September 2013 at 15:59 |
    With all due respect dear Rabbi Webber, I'm very upset that you compare what has occurred at Hobby Shop to "American Nazi Party marching in Skokie, Illinois, to the myriad web sites promoting hatred of [insert the name of any religious, racial or political group here], freedom is something we all cherish… until we are on the receiving end of someone else’s freedom." and Chickaflic. The Hobby shop didn't commit any hatred towards Jews illegal or moral. They are a Christian-owned company, and “these are our values.” That is what they said and they meant nothing more. Also, you purport that one of the employees said "we do not cater to you people". That is not offensive at all and for you to say "we are not powerless or helpless as this is not something where your power or help was taken away from you. This situation should be compared to a Jewish kosher deli in that they run their business on jewish culture and principals. They wouldn't sell items of my culture in their store like bacon, prucuitto etc. To this end, the jewish people have endured great suffering at the hands of civilizations that hated them. They have gotten though this amazingly not by portraying that they are victims nor asking for special treatment but by moving forward and continuing to be a great people that have accomplished more than most. Sincerely, Lisa Warner
  • anonymous

    anonymous

    30 September 2013 at 18:25 |
    I heard that they won't hire Jews either.
  • randye derris

    randye derris

    01 October 2013 at 01:14 |
    We have choices and we need to make truly educated ones!
  • Lin

    Lin

    01 October 2013 at 02:17 |
    I AM SPEECHLESS...I GUESS IGNORANCE AND PREJUDICE WILL ALWAYS BE AROUND BUT NIW THAT I KNOW THIS, I WILL NOT EVER SHOP THERE AGAIN!!!
  • Gay Edelman

    Gay Edelman

    01 October 2013 at 14:46 |
    Well said! Life is messy. I will not shop at Hobby Lobby. And I will be letting them know why.
  • Mike Chasin

    Mike Chasin

    01 October 2013 at 18:24 |
    I believe that there is a difference between a Judaica shop not carrying Christmas supplies and a general hobby shop not carrying any non Christian holiday supplies. I am pleasantly surprised that the Christmas Tree Store does, in fact, carry jewish aimed items. But I would not be offended if it didn't, as it is labeled as to what its focus is, unlike the "Hobby Shop".
  • Tmima Grinva;ld

    Tmima Grinva;ld

    01 October 2013 at 20:08 |
    Although the actions and the words of the Hobby Lobby employee are considered legal, that doesn't mean that we need to stand by and let it happen.
    Yes, we vote with our feet. But more so with our own words of dissatisfaction with this specific behavior (that in our eyes is discriminatory).
    If we had only counted on the legal system to define for us what is discrimination, many achievements in human rights would have never made it to light of this world.

    In my opinion, when it hurts you: say it!
  • GG

    GG

    01 October 2013 at 20:33 |
    I would not walk into a Judaica shop expecting to find anything other than judaism-related items. But the name "Hobby Lobby" does not indicate any religious affiliation -- if they wanted to broadcast their Christian-only focus, they should have chosen a different name!
  • patti

    patti

    02 October 2013 at 15:19 |
    Rabbi,
    I was not aware of this.I disagree with them because they truly,"know not what they do".The "Christ" that they follow is a Jew!
    as far as chick-Fil-A,they are NOT anti-homosexual.they employ them & treat them equally.The "controversy" was because they merely provided food at a Marriage Seminar,which they have a Right to do.The owners made it very clear that they are not against homosexuals but SUPPORT biblical marriage,which,honestly,is consistent with Torah!Homosexuals simply cannot meet Torah's definition of "marriage".

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