Wal Mart, the nation’s uber retail store, with revenues approaching GDP of many industrialized nations, is moving to Monsey, a village in “upstate” (as in north of the George Washington Bridge) New York with a predominately Orthodox Jewish population. The New York Time’s write up is here.
As elsewhere, wherever Wal Mart comes, they bring controversy. And, as they have done in other locales, they are trying to match local mores and custom with their big box, one size fits all retailing. Reports the Times, stores in the Amish country sell non-electric refrigrators and have hitching posts instead of car spots in the parking lot. And Wal Mart’s public affairs staffer charged with shepherding this through the community, Philip Serghini has visited the community numerous times and has agreed to change ways of doing business to accommodate the religious objections of rabbinical leaders, including covering immodest pictures on magazine covers.
We have no way of knowing whether Wal Mart gets approval from the local zoning board, or whether they will be able to assuage the concerns of local religious leaders. We don’t know if it’s a good idea or a bad idea for Wal Mart to be on the site, or if they should stay at their current location, a few miles away. We don’t know if Sabbath observant Jews who will walk across Route 59 on the busiest shopping days of the year can coexist with the thousand or so cars Wal Mart’s parking lot can fit.
But we are glad to see, and wish that other corporations took a lesson from Wal Mart on this, the outreach (we assume in good faith) that Wal Mart has done to the local community and their efforts to understand and accommodate the specialized religious needs and objections of the Jewish community. As we noted in our post on the kipa controversy in Florida, sometimes a little understanding, empathy and ingenuity can go a long way.