Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Is Wal-Mart Kosher in Monsey?

In this past week's Financial Times, Jonathan Birchall takes a look at the proposed Wal-Mart store in Monsey with a particular eye for the retailer's impact on the area's Orthodox Jewish community. Birchall captures the concern of the Jewish retailers who, in the words of Mordechai Grunsweig, owner of Monsey Kosher Plaza, "...are the people who help support the local organisations...So if it hurts the merchants it will hurt the community."

This is exactly the position of the Alliance and it is especially resonant in Monsey where retailers are intimately connected with the communal institutions. The importance of the retailers is, however, only part of the picture. The Monsey community is also concerned about the impact that traffic and transiency will have on the mostly walk-to-shop neighborhoods of Monsey.

AS Joseph Kizelnick, owner of Auction Mart, told an October meeting called by the Alliance, "Wal-Mart...would be bad for the traffic on the area's main road, where, just a few week's before, a mother was killed as she walked back from visiting sick members of the community." Kizelnick also warned about the increase in crime that Wal-Mart's six million visitors would bring to the quiet Monsey community.

The FT article also outlines what the Alliance's Richard Lipsky call the "two levels" of politics-focusing on the fact that Supervisor St. Lawrence, the key decision-maker in the land use process, depends on the Orthodox vote for his political survival (He's up for re-election this November).

This being the case, it is instructive that the article cites the position of Rabbi Horowitz, "an important community leader, running am association of 42 Jewish private schools and helping the poor secure access to social services..." Horowitz, also described as "a public conduit to the more reclusive rabbinical leadership...," tells the FT, "Wal-Mart should understand that we think the concept is no good."

Still more work is needed so that St.Lawrence gets a clear picture of the consequences of his silence on this crucial development issue. It is our belief that the supervisor will react accordingly once he sees the handwriting on the wall.