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Hobby Lobby to carry some Jewish holiday items

Friday - 10/4/2013, 6:10pm  ET

KRISTI EATON
Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. will carry Jewish merchandise in some stores after a New Jersey blogger complained about a lack of Hanukkah items, the company's president said Friday.

Steve Green told The Associated Press that the Oklahoma City-based chain is looking at carrying items this holiday season in stores near areas with large Jewish populations. He could not yet say what the items will be, but he said they should be in stores by November. The company said the items will be sold in stores in New York and New Jersey.

"We do not have any problems selling items that celebrate Jewish holidays," Green said. "We have in the past and have decided we would try it again in some of the markets where we have Jewish population."

The change came about after Ken Berwitz wrote a scathing blog post about how he would never visit a Hobby Lobby store after an employee told him the chain doesn't stock Jewish merchandise because the Green family is Christian.

The post was not meant to start a fight, Berwitz said, but was a way for him to express his anger.

Green called Berwitz on Friday and the two talked for about 15 minutes. Berwitz called the conversation "pleasant" and said the situation should be "diffused."

"I'm very pleased that he was as forthcoming," said Berwitz, a focus group moderator.

Founded in 1972, Hobby Lobby has more than 500 stores in 41 states. The chain has made no secret of the Green family's religious views. Hobby Lobby calls itself a "biblically founded business" and its stores are closed on Sundays. It's also challenging on religious grounds a federal regulation that requires it to offer health coverage that includes access to certain contraceptives, such as the morning-after pill.

Others in the Jewish community have raised concerns before about Hobby Lobby not carrying Hanukkah items, but such a practice does not violate anyone's right, The Anti-Defamation League said in a statement.

"We have no reason to believe that Hobby Lobby has refused to stock Hanukkah items because of hostility to Jews or anti-Semitism," the statement said. "In fact, some Hobby Lobby stores have stocked a few Hanukkah items in the past, and the chain is apparently considering stocking more Jewish merchandise in the future as they expand into more culturally diverse markets."

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Follow Kristi Eaton on Twitter at http://twitter.com/kristieaton .


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