Steve Green, the evangelical president of craft retail giant Hobby Lobby, issued an apology Thursday after receiving media backlash due to an alleged conversation between an employee and a Jewish shopper at a store in New Jersey.
"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," Green said in a statement released by the company.
"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," Green added.
The Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby was embroiled in a recent controversy when one if its store employees reportedly told a Jewish customer, "We don't cater to you people," when asked why the store did not carry bar mitzvah cards. The exchange at the Marlboro, N.J. store was reported on by blogger Ken Berwitz, whose Sept. 27 post on the incident gained widespread attention on the internet.
The blog post's popularity led to accusations against Hobby Lobby as being "anti-Semitic" because it does not carry merchandise relating to the Jewish faith, such as menorahs or bar mitzvah items. However, in a statement released Thursday, the company argued that it does not carry Jewish merchandise because the items carried in its stores are based on consumer demand.
"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," Green said.
"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," he added.
Additionally, Green reportedly told the Associated Press Friday that the company was planning on carrying some Jewish items in the upcoming holiday season in areas with high Jewish populations, although he is not yet sure what those items will be. "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."
Additionally, Green contacted Berwitz personally on Friday and the two reportedly had a "pleasant" conversation, Berwitz told AP.
The Anti-Defamation League, a national group seeking to fight anti-semiticism, also released a statement Friday saying it accepted Hobby Lobby's apology and had "no reason to believe that Hobby Lobby has refused to stock Hanukkah items because of hostility to Jews or anti-Semitism."