Sunday, February 26, 2017

Here's the Crotchety Letter I Wrote to My Grocery Store in Advance of Passover


In this age of activism, let our advocacy not be limited to the halls of Congress & the Twitter feeds of our Cheeto-toned president. Recently, I decided to be that cranky old lady who writes a letter to my local grocery store, the downtown Cleveland Heinen's (which is, by the way, the prettiest grocery store you've ever seen). I wrote:
To whom it concerns at Heinen's,

Each year during the week-long Jewish holiday of Passover, Jews around the world cut from their diets all products made from wheat, barley, rye, oats, and spelt. During this time, the only bread we may eat is unleavened bread, commonly known as matzah.

Last year, the Heinen's in downtown Cleveland - the only grocery store in the city's center - did not carry matzah. In fact, when I entered the store to inquire about the product, three separate employees looked at me as though I'd grown three heads, & when I tweeted to @Heinens to ask, I was told, "...we have a limited kosher offering downtown due to space constraints." The downtown Heinens did, however, find room on its shelves for non-kosher-for-Passover matzah, which, incidentally, cannot be consumed during the holiday of Passover - the only time of year that most Jews would ever need or want to eat matzah.

I can certainly understand that space is typically limited in your small store for kosher foods that are, during most times of the year, only consumed by a fraction of the American Jewish population. Passover, however, is the most celebrated Jewish holiday in North America, even by secular Jews who don't keep kosher. As of 2012, there were an estimated 80,800 Jewish people in the Greater Cleveland area.

Twenty-seven percent live in the Cleveland Heights area - but that leaves 73% of Cleveland's Jewish population to reside elsewhere, & surely a great many of us live or work on the west side & in the downtown area.

I find it unacceptable that, as downtown's only grocery store - & a high-end one, at that - that Heinen's has made the conscious decision not to carry kosher-for-Passover matzah during the Passover season (which this years runs from April 10-18). Cleveland has one of the biggest Jewish populations in the U.S., & we're not restricted to the East Side. It's troubling that a west side Jew should have to travel upwards of half an hour to Pepper Pike or University Heights to find the one food vital to celebration of the most widely celebrated Jewish holiday, rather than being able to purchase it at the singular grocery store in the city center.

As Passover approaches, I hope the downtown Heinen's will reconsider last year's decision not to carry kosher-for-Passover matzah during this important holiday. Thanks for your consideration.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear from Heinen's customer relations representative less than a week after writing:
Thank you for taking time to share your comments about the lack of matzah and Passover products at our Downtown store last year.

We apologize to you for the inconvenience and frustration this caused you and any other customers. We did order these products last year, but we didn’t anticipate it selling out so quickly. I have shared your email with the team of buyers and the Downtown store management team and they will be making adjustments to the ordering for this Passover. Again, our sincerest apologies to you.
Congress may not be listening, but at least my grocery store is. Thanks, Heinen's! 

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