Several kosher grocery stores around the United States have decided to pull Ben & Jerry’s from their shelves after the company’s announcement this week that it would stop doing business with a licensee in Israel that sells ice cream in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
Dani Secemski, the owner of Glatt Express, a kosher supermarket in Teaneck, New Jersey, said the company made the decision to drop Ben & Jerry’s almost immediately upon seeing its announcement.
“I thought this was an anti-Semitic statement about the evil situation in the Middle East,” Secemski told CNN. He says that before this, Glatt Express sold about $8,000 worth of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream per year. “If they can reverse their decision, then we’ll 100% carry them on our shelves again, and I’ll be the first person to tell other businesses to do the same thing.”
Secemski says Glatt Express still has about $1,200 worth of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream left over from before the decision was made, but they’re keeping it in a storage freezer while they wait and hope for the company to reverse its decision. If that doesn’t happen, they might donate it.
Glatt Express is one of several kosher grocery stores along the East Coast that dropped Ben & Jerry’s as a supplier this week. Others include Shop Delight, Seasons Kosher, Aron’s Kissena Farms and Gourmet Glatt, all based in New York.
Eli Siegel, the owner of Market Maven in Baltimore, is also saving Ben & Jerry’s inventory in the hopes that the company retracts Monday’s statement. If it doesn’t, he said, dropping the ice cream brand is “something we’re willing to commit to long-term.”
Market Maven serves mainly Orthodox Jews who Siegel says love Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy products because they meet high kosher standards, and religious Jews don’t eat dairy and meat in the same meal. “People love it, people look for it, people request it,” he said. “Financially, it was a hard decision to make.”
Siegel says Market Maven would have done the same thing if it felt another community was being discriminated against. Last summer, he says, they put up a Black Lives Matter sign to show solidarity with the Black community of Baltimore. “As a community supermarket, we feel that the right thing to do is to stand up for everybody,” he said.
One grocery store in South Florida posted an Instagram story of a man taking pints of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food from the shelves and throwing them directly into a garbage can. “I was really hoping to create some more freezer space,” the man said. “And then Ben & Jerry’s did it for me!”
The largest supermarket to take a stance against Ben & Jerry’s so far has been New York-based Morton Williams, which decided Monday evening to reduce the brand’s products in its 16 stores by 70%, according to the New York Post.
The ice cream company, which is owned by Unilever, has been doing business in Israel since 1987. But the socially conscious brand has come under pressure in particular because its products are available in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which are considered illegal under international law. On Monday, Ben & Jerry’s opted not to renew its contract with its Israeli manufacturer, saying it was inconsistent with the company’s values.
The company’s ice cream will, however, continue to be sold in Israel, “through a different arrangement,” Ben & Jerry’s said.