OKLAHOMA CITY — A Hobby Lobby employee is accused of telling a Jewish customer, "we don't cater to you people." The anti-Semitic comment caused a storm of controversy around the Oklahoma City-based company. Fox 25's Kisha Henry shows us how the Jewish community and the company are responding.The incident happened in New Jersey, after the customer asked where the Hanukkah decorations were kept. This story got so big, so quickly, Hobby Lobby took action right away."It's reminiscent of past kinds of things that the Jewish community has had to endure," says Monte Judah, a Messianic Rabbi and the Director of Lion and Lamb Ministries in Norman. Though the comment is very hurtful, Rabbi Judah doesn't believe Hobby Lobby has the same views as the accused employee. "They have an excellent Christian testimony, and I'm certain that I don't need to inform them that Jesus was Jewish," he says.But, not every consumer had the same reaction. Across the Nation, on social media sites, people were angered over the employee's comment and the lack of Jewish holiday decor in Hobby Lobby stores. "Hanukkah is a huge decorating effort within the Jewish community," explains Rabbi Judah. "It's the Festival of Lights. We use the hanukiah, the nine branched candelabrum, and we're all into blue and white decor. It's a big eight-day holiday for us, as opposed to one day," he says.After the comment went National, Hobby Lobby President Steve Green immediately issued this statement: "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.""I don't feel anything directed against us. It's a matter of... they're just not aware of us," says Rabbi Judah, explaining his thoughts on the community's acceptance of the Jewish community. He says he's experienced several cases of anti-Semitism in his lifetime, but he finds these days, it's not a matter of hate, so much as it is a lack of knowledge. "If they were more aware of our existence and how many of us are around, and the buying public that we are, I'm sure that Hobby Lobby would be interested," says Rabbi Judah. As for the plethora of available Christmas decor in any store, compared to the lack of Jewish decor, Rabbi Judah views it simply as marketing. "They don't perceive a Jewish community in that area. They perceive predominantly a Christian community, so the marketing is going to be directed that way." He says only recently did local grocery stores start to realize the Jewish community. "Many of the major grocery stores are now carrying the Passover products in the Springtime for us," he says.Late Wednesday afternoon, the company decided to do the same. Amidst the uproar, President Green issued another statement: "Due to overwhelming demand in the Northeast, we are pleased to announce that we will begin offering Jewish holiday items in a number of stores to test the market in New York and New Jersey. We will continue to evaluate the demand for products. We appreciate the feedback we've received from our customers, and we hope these products will meet their needs. Customers can expect to see those items in stores in early November."
"If retailers were to stockpile that kind of product line, even here in Oklahoma, they would find surprising sales," says Rabbi Judah. He says his family gets their Jewish holiday decor through mail-order.