Bed Bath & Beyond conceded that its collection of items targeted to different cultural groups sometimes missed the mark. “In our effort to provide a wide selection of Hanukkah items, some were included that shouldn’t have been,” the company said in an email. “As soon as our team was alerted, the items were removed.”
Michaels, which had also initially stocked the Hanukkah-turned-Passover pillow online, said it was open to hearing customer responses to its holiday inventory.
“While the overall feedback to our expanded, inclusive product lines has been positive, we don’t always get it right,” a spokesperson for the company said in an email.
This year, Michaels changed its protocols for approving holiday merchandise, ensuring that its employee resource groups, which have representatives from different cultures, have more input into products sold online, a process that they’ve found helpful when stocking up for Pride celebrations. Lowe’s and TJX, the company that owns the T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s brands, both said that their holiday wares were reviewed internally to confirm that cultural iconography was used appropriately.
But some shoppers are fed up: “There’s a Santa on Wayfair wearing a tallit,” Ms. Herman said, referring to a Jewish prayer shawl. “Tallits are kind of a big deal, it means you went through a bar mitzvah. Is St. Nicholas now a Jew, like, welcome to Jewish adulthood? ”
More than 150 years ago, American Jews faced the opposite problem. Families settling in U.S. cities found that December was filled with cheer for Christian families — caroling, decorations, presents — while Jewish children were left without much levity to distract from the winter gloom. One Cincinnati rabbi happened across a neighborhood Christmas celebration and realized that Hanukkah, a holiday without much religious significance, could benefit from festive traditions: songs, Maccabee costumes, gifts (the children got oranges, a rarity in the midst of a Midwestern winter).