The decision by Europe’s largest home-improvements retailer to nix a range of home decorations that played on antisemitic stereotypes from sale in its Polish outlets was a significant development that should be welcomed and endorsed by the country’s powerful Catholic Church, a prominent US Jewish leader said this week.
In a lengthy interview with Poland’s Catholic News Agency, Abraham Foxman — the national director emeritus of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) — warmly welcomed the announcement made earlier this month by the German-owned retail giant OBI that it would no longer sell the offending decorations, following an online protest over the sale of framed pictures showing Orthodox Jews counting gold coins.
“If a large retailer that is hugely popular among Poles removes these articles from its stores, it raises the expectation that the other retail chains in Poland where these filthy anti-Jewish products are sold will follow OBI’s example,” Foxman said.
At the same time, Foxman encouraged the Catholic Church to show moral leadership by condemning the antisemitic statues and portraits of Jews counting money that are widely sold in Poland as good-luck charms.
“I would like to appeal with all my heart to the Primate of Poland, Archbishop Wojciech Polak, to urge Polish bishops and priests to stand up to this phenomenon,” Foxman said. “This is an old antisemitic stereotype that has resulted in the murder of Jews down the centuries. Let us stand in solidarity against this form of antisemitism.”
The arrival of the Hanukkah and Christmas holidays this week marked a good opportunity to communicate that message, Foxman added.
In a separate conversation with The Algemeiner on Tuesday, Foxman said that the commercial importance of OBI’s decision had to be matched with the moral leadership of the Catholic Church.
“The Church can play a very positive role,” Foxman said. “To say that this is a religious and moral wrong, I think that would go a long way.”