Blogger Says He Was Told Chanukah Items Weren't Stocked Because Of 'Values'

MARLBORO, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A central New Jersey blogger has succeeded in getting the national chain craft store Hobby Lobby to begin selling some Jewish holiday items, following an uproar that made national headlines.

As WCBS 880’s Levon Putney reported, blogger Ken Berwitz had called the Hobby Lobby corporate office to see why there were Christmas items, but no items for Chanukah or Passover, in the store in Marlboro, N.J.

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“I was told — and this I did hear with my own ears and I can vouch for — because the owner of the store, Mr. Green, is a Christian and those are his values,” Berwitz said.

In an article for the East Brunswick Patch, Berwitz wrote that he was spurred to make the call because a friend had visited the Hobby Lobby in Marlboro and asked about Chanukah items, and claimed she had been told, “We don’t cater to you people,” by someone at the store.

In the Sept. 27 Patch column, wrote that he will “never set foot in a Hobby Lobby. Ever. I will be sure to tell everyone I know the reason why, with a request that they pass it along to others.”

The remarks about “values” being a reason not to stock Chanukah items got back to Hobby Lobby president Steve Green, son of founder David Green.

“And we had a conversation that lasted 15 minutes,” Berwitz said.

Berwitz said Steve Green called him to apologize, and told him the store used to carry Jewish goods years ago. The items were pulled because they did not sell well, but that was before Hobby Lobby expanded into more diverse neighborhoods, Berwitz said Green told him.

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“Certainly in a place in Central New Jersey, where within a 5-mile radius there’s so many Jewish residents,” Berwitz said.

Green earlier this week also issued a statement on behalf of the company.

“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,” the statement said in part. “We are investigating this matter and absolutely do not tolerate discrimination at our company or our stores.”

The statement also said the company has policies in place that prohibit discrimination, and said that items are sold in 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,” the statement said.

WCBS 880 called Hobby Lobby, but was transferred to a public relations firm that declined to comment beyond the release.

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