The Minneapolis-based corporate giant apparently opted not to sell Hanukkah and Kwanzaa items at its three Colorado Springs stores this year due to poor sales in the past.
The chain's refusal to respond to queries about its decision to exclude minorities has angered at least three Jewish women who have purchased affordably-priced Hanukkah merchandise at Target in the past. Hanukkah, the Jewish celebration of rededication, begins this weekend. Kwanzaa, an African-American celebration of culture, occurs during the week between Christmas and the New Year.
Melinda Zolowicz, Laura Ginsburg and Renita Kishinevsky said they were distressed when they headed to their Target stores to purchase Hanukkah supplies this year.
"The company has basically told me I'm not important to them; my money isn't important, and my business isn't important," said Zolowicz. "As a minority, Christmas is a particularly hard time for my kids -- they feel very different and out of place.
"When you go to Target, you see rows and rows of Christmas items and hear the Christmas music, but in the past, you'd get to a certain aisle in the center of the store, and there was our holiday. There was a representation of our tradition, of what we believe in, and it made the kids feel like, 'I'm OK, too.' "
The women all said they have been frequent and loyal Target customers. However, since their experience, none have been back, they said.
Steve Ellickson, the store team leader of the Cheyenne Mountain Target store, said this week that "there is really no reason" why the chain opted not to carry the merchandise this year. He said he plans to notify corporate headquarters after the holidays to let them know of the missed sales opportunities.
"You bringing it to our attention helps; we will certainly bubble that up and make sure my boss knows that," he said.
From the chain's Minneapolis headquarters, media spokeswoman Kristin Knash initially denied that Target had discontinued Hanukkah and Kwanzaa at Colorado Springs stores. Knash said she would check into it, but as of press time did not return subsequent calls seeking explanation.
It is this type of refusal to communicate that frustrated Zolowicz, Ginsburg and Kishinevsky, who say they were stymied in their efforts to learn why the merchandise had been pulled.
Store employees and managers politely told them they had no idea why they were no longer selling Hanukkah-related merchandise, Kishinevsky said. So she called a guest-services representative at the store's corporate headquarters, who was not so polite, she said.
"The representative said that it was a decision made by the buyers," she said. "So I told him I wanted to talk to the buyers, and he said, 'No, buyers don't talk to customers.'
"He said, 'There's no one who will talk to you.' "
Zolowicz said a store employee told her that the decision had been made due to poor sales of Kwanzaa and Hanukkah gifts in the past. But, she said, the decision doesn't "wash" for a huge conglomerate like Dayton-Hudson, which also owns Marshall Fields and Mervyn's department stores.
"I, along with others, feel that you have a duty to provide for all of your consumers, and I feel as if you have sent a message that you don't care about your minority customers or their money," she wrote to company President Greg Steinhafel in a Nov. 29 letter. "On a personal note, I am not a zealot who grandstands every time there is a perceived injustice. However, because of my fondness for your store, this decision struck a particular chord with me and I found that I could not keep silent about it."
Rabbi Steve Glusman of Temple Shalom said this week he is aware of the Target squabble and absolutely understands the women's frustrations over feeling disrespected because of the store's refusal to respond to their concerns.
However, he counseled that any messages of feeling excluded should be delivered in a "respectful and gentle" way.
"I have to be honest, I don't feel passionate about this issue at all," Glusman said. "I understand that people's feelings were hurt, and that items weren't available, but there are many more serious issues than this to confront."
This time of year, Glusman said, many Jews feel excluded because of the overwhelming crush of Christmas. But he warned against projecting too much of that frustration onto stores like Target, because they don't sell some merchandise.
"It's not about menorahs and plastic dreidels. We need to address the needs of those who aren't as fortunate, making sure people's basic needs are taken care of ... we need to make sure we're doing our job in making this world a better place."
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