Hobby Lobby responds to anti-Semitism claims

The unabashedly Christian store chain announced it is re-examining what it stocks after a blogger wrote about an alleged incident in a New Jersey store. (UPDATE)

Arts-and-crafts store chain Hobby Lobby makes no secret of its connection to Christianity.

Here’s a line from the “Our Company” page on Hobby Lobby’s website: “We believe that it is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured.”

To ensure that the chain endures further, the company’s executives are taking action to address claims that a lack of holiday items for Jewish customers is a sign of anti-Semitism.

NJ.com reported that Hobby Lobby Vice President Peter Dobelbower said: “Hobby Lobby is currently working with our buyers over our merchandise selection. Our customers have brought this to our attention, and we are currently evaluating our holiday items and what we will carry in the future.”

The controversy stems from a weekend blog post by Ken Berwitz, co-author of the book “Hopelessly Partisan.” Berwitz wrote in the post that when a friend asked about why a new store in Marlboro, N.J., didn’t have any bar mitzvah cards in stock, she was told, “We don’t cater to you people.”

Because Berwitz’s story was secondhand, he wrote that he personally called the store and asked whether it would be stocking Hanukkah merchandise. He was told it wouldn’t.

Dobelbower said the incident in the Marlboro store was under investigation and “comments like these do not reflect the feelings” of David Green, Hobby Lobby’s owner, or his family.

Much of what Dobelbower said to NJ.com has been distilled into a single Facebook post:

The comments on the post are a mix of confusion, support, and anger. Hobby Lobby appears to have replied to most of the comments.

UPDATE: Hobby Lobby expanded on its statement Thursday afternoon. Company President Steve Green offered these comments:

We sincerely apologize for any employee comments that may have offended anyone, especially our Jewish customers and friends. Comments like these do not reflect the feelings of our family or Hobby Lobby.

Our family has a deep respect for the Jewish faith and those who hold its traditions dear. We’re proud contributors to Yad Vashem, as well as to other museums and synagogues in Israel and the United States.

We are investigating this matter and absolutely do not tolerate discrimination at our company or our stores. We do not have any policies that discriminate; in fact, we have policies that specifically prohibit discrimination.

We have previously carried merchandise in our stores related to Jewish holidays. We select the items we sell in our stores based on customer demand. We are working with our buyers to re-evaluate our holiday items and what we will carry in the future.

In another statement issued Friday, Green said Hobby Lobby will begin offering Jewish holiday items in a number of stores in the Northeast to test the New York and New Jersey markets. The items should appear in stores starting in November.

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