(JTA) — Rabbis in New England are urging their congregants not to cross the picket lines at Stop & Shop, even though the grocery chain is a major supplier of foods essential for Passover.
More than 30,000 Stop & Shop workers walked off the job April 11, protesting a contract that the Massachusetts-based company insists is fair, according to The Associated Press.
A number of rabbis in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island have been supporting the strikers and telling their followers to shop elsewhere, if possible. One analyst told AP that the grocery chain, owned by a Dutch conglomerate but founded in the 1900s by a Boston Jewish family, has the highest sales of kosher products among New England grocery stores.
“The food that you’re buying is the product of oppressed labor and that’s not kosher,” Rabbi Barbara Penzner of the Reconstuctionist Temple Hillel B’nai Torah in Boston told AP. “Especially during Passover, when we’re celebrating freedom from slavery, that’s particularly egregious.”
Penzner and other rabbis acknowledge that honoring the strike could be tough on those who might not otherwise have access to Passover essentials like matzah meal, gefilte fish and other kosher-for-Passover foods. The holiday begins Friday at sundown.
Burt Flickinger, a grocery industry analyst, estimated that the company has been losing about $2 million a day since the strike started.
Stop & Shop apologized to customers for the inconvenience.
“We are grateful for members of the Jewish community who rely on our stores for kosher and Passover products,” the company said in an emailed statement. “We’re doing everything we can to minimize disruptions ahead of the holiday.”