A national craft store chain is reexamining its holiday merchandise selection after a blogger reported it didn’t stock items for Hanukkah or other Jewish holidays and events.
“I will never set foot in a Hobby Lobby. Ever,” wrote blogger Ken Berwitz on Friday after his wife visited a store in Marlboro, N.J.
Berwitz said he asked why the store didn’t stock any items for the Jewish festival of lights, although Hobby Lobby, which is owned by conservative billionaire Steve Green, had plenty of Christmas merchandise on display.
One of his wife’s friends asked about bar mitzvah cards, and Berwitz said the clerk said: “We don’t cater to you people.”
Berwitz said he called the store later to ask why it didn’t stock any Jewish items, and he said the spokesperson indicated the oversight was intentional.
“Because Mr. Green is the owner of the company, he’s a Christian, and those are his values,” Berwitz said the employee told him.
Green owns more than 550 Hobby Lobby stores across the country, and they’re all closed on Sunday.
He has filed a lawsuit over the health care reform law because it offers employees coverage for birth control.
Green also holds one of the nation’s largest collections of ancient biblical artifacts, including a Hebrew prayer book from 840 C.E. that’s believed to be the oldest known copy.
Berwitz said he called Hobby Lobby’s corporate headquarters and was told the store didn’t stock Hanukkah items, although no reason was provided.
He said the company representative also confirmed Hobby Lobby didn’t carry Passover merchandise.
The company issued a statement to Religion News Service in response to a question about the story.
“Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. is currently working with our buyers over our merchandise selection,” the statement said. “Our customers have brought this to our attention and we are currently evaluating our Holiday items and what we will carry in the future.”
Green issued another statement after the story was picked up by several national news websites, apologizing for any employee comments that were considered offensive to anyone.
"We are investigating this matter and absolutely do not tolerate discrimination at our company or our stores," Green said in the statement. "We do not have any policies that discriminate; in fact, we have policies that specifically prohibit discrimination.
Green said his family had a deep respect for the Jewish faith and contributed to Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and other museums and synagogues in Israel and the U.S.
He said his stores had previously carried merchandise related to Jewish holidays, although he said items were selected based on customer demand.
[Updated at 7 p.m. Thursday with new statements by Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby]
[Image: A family is lighting a candle for the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah via Shutterstock]