In the past, Orthodox patrons of Walmart, and similar stores, found themselves in uncomfortable circumstances, waiting in line with pictures and magazines that did not necessarily conform to their standards of modesty laid out before them. Now the Walmart in Monroe, which is often visited by shoppers from the Orthodox enclave in nearby Kiryas Joel, has established an aisle and three cash registers that are “magazine-free”. While these aisles currently do not sell any publications, the hope is that, in due time, magazines, newspapers, and other materials of interest to the local religious communities will be displayed.
According to an article first appearing in Vos iz Neias?, Rabbi Eliyahu Shlomo Kahn of the Bais Rochel Girls School in Kiryas Joel has been the leading Orthodox representative pressing Walmart to make the change.
“People can be waiting on line in the checkout aisle for a long time and the magazines displayed there were extremely offensive,” Rabbi Kohn told VIN News, according to Vos iz Neias .
Rabbi Kohn had contacted Walmart managers in Monroe, Monsey, and Lakewood—three towns largely populated by Orthodox Jews—to see if they could do something to fix the issue. He suggested they either cover up the magazines, or make aisles that were magazine-free. Evidently, Walmart opted for the latter in Monroe.
Rabbi Kohn had learned from previous experience that such business moves had few economic downsides, and figured he would try asking for a switch on these grounds.
“The Monsey Pathmark had certain aisles where the magazines were kept covered for years, with only the titles visible in order to accommodate Jewish residents,” Rabbi Kohn explained. “While the store is no longer in business, the store manager had told me that covering the magazines in certain aisles did not hurt magazine sales in any way.”
Scott Satterfield heeded Rabbi Kohn’s advice.
“I made sure to set aside an aisle that had both regular cashier checkouts as well as a self serve checkout in order to best accommodate our Kiryas Joel customers,” the Walmart manager said. Above the registers hang signs designating the magazine-free aisles for patrons.
But Rabbi Kohn’s efforts to make the shopping experience a more kosher one for his Orthodox kin have only begun. He has expressed hopes in pushing the Monroe Shop Rite and Target stores and the Monticello Walmart Supercenter to make a similar move.
In all of this, the question of community members have to shop at Walmart, at all, has surfaced. Rabbi Kohn said that while local Orthodox shops generally serve all housing and familial needs, there are certain situations in which a Walmart is the only option.
“When the baby is crying at two o’clock in the morning and you are out of diapers, where are you going to go if not Walmart?” he asked.