Sketching Out Blog: Sketches of art, watercolor, photos, recipes, books, interviews, Jewish topics, and Highland Park, New Jersey

10 Thousand Villages Letter

A while back I wrote about a rally in Highland Park in front of the Ten Thousand Villages store.

One of my friends, Harry Glazer, was one of the organizers of that rally. He wrote the following letter to the Highland Park Mirror (a local newspaper), explaining the nature of the rally (and graciously agreed to my posting the letter on my blog):

As one of the organizers of the rally held in front of the Ten Thousand Villages store in September, I hope to clarify.

The Mennonite Central Committee has hosted [Iranian President Ahmadinejad] for dinner not once, not twice, but three times as of his September visit. His pronouncements and actions have only become more menacing in the years since he’s hobnobbed with the Mennonite Central Committee and other like-minded peace groups.

And if the purpose of dining with an enemy is not influence their views or acts, then how does a faith community justify showing respect to someone who espouses such blatant religious hatred?

Our protest was held in front of the Ten Thousand Villages store in recognition of the fact that the store sends a significant portion of their profits to their parent organization, the Mennonite Central Committee. So in a very real sense, a purchase at Ten Thousand Villages supports the Mennonite Central Committee’s legitimization of Ahmadinejad, as well as other activities by the group that demonstrate a complete lack of balance with regards to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

I have no problem with the fact that Ten Thousand Villages sells goods made in Palestinian areas or that the Mennonites send humanitarian aid to those areas. I do take issue with the attitude of the Mennonites that the conflict is mostly Israel’s fault.

I can say, as well, that it pains me to have to oppose Ten Thousand Villages, since I respect and value ideals of the store – to sell handcrafted goods that are manufactured by workers in underprivileged areas across the globe, thereby providing income to those struggling to support themselves and their famillies. This is a noble mission and, sadly, few other avenues exist to support these artisans in the same honorable fashion.

With sorrow, though, I recognize that I cannot shop at Ten Thousand Villages because some of the money spent there goes to defame a struggling democracy, Israel, which is regularly besieged by enemies with no regard for civilized rules of conflict. Worse yet, the funds spent at Ten Thousand Villages also contribute to efforts to honor a mortal enemy of my friends and relatives, an enemy currently seeking nuclear arms to make good on his word.

A cause may seem noble on the surface, but sometimes when you find out more on how the money is spent, one gets more cautious about giving.

mother in israel says

Good post, Leora. I am always getting requests to post about humanitarian causes on my blog, but so often they turn out to have an anti-Israel agenda.

Michael says

There is a major piece missing from this discussion.

How much do the artisans actually make and are they better off?

My brother used to buy Nativity scene ornaments from a Bethlehem artist (for resale). He paid $.25-$.50 each. These same ornaments were on sale last year for $5.00. My questions is how much they are paying the local artisan in Bethlehem for this ornament and how much profit they are making? Is this also a pattern throughout the store?

Helen says

The idea behind the Fair Trade movement is that, because the items are being bought in wealthier areas, that the artisan CAN get a better price for his or her work than, say, if he sold it in a street market in his own country. It also helps artisans sell their work in many more places. That being said, it is a valid question to ask approximately how much of that $5.00 the artisan gets. Stores that subscribe to the Fair Trade movement like TTV are not out to exploit people; quite the opposite. However, their parent organizations do not have the right to cozy up to terrorist governments like Ahmedinajad and expect us to buy there. I do find it quite disturbing that they were invited to open and remain in this town.

Lorri says

What an excellent post, Leora! I totally agree with you. I would have been protesting along with you!

Ilana-Davita says

I find Harry Glazer's letter carefully written, moderate in tone and very clear. Thanks for raising this issue.

Leora says

Lorri and Ilana-Davita, I'm very excited to have Helen and Michael posting comments. Michael was at the rally, and Helen is a good friend. I find it heartening that even though both may disagree on a lot of political issues, here's one where they both agree.

Harry writes well; he speaks in a calm manner as well. I'd love to get Harry to leave more great divrei torah comments like this one on Sarah.


Please leave a comment! I love to hear from you.

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