Ikea imagines a world without women in a catalog for ultra-Orthodox Jewish shoppers in Israel

Mommy’s on vacation. (Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann)
Mommy’s on vacation. (Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann)
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Ikea issued a catalog in Israel without a single woman that is targeted at the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. The men and boys featured in the catalog wear Orthodox Jewish attire, and live in households with religious objects, the Jerusalem Post reports.

The catalog was mailed directly to the Haredi community—(“Haredi” is the Hebrew term members of the group typically use to describe themselves)—and is different from the standard version distributed to the wider secular population in the country.

The Haredi catalog features objects typically seen in the homes of orthodox Jews, such as Sabbath candlesticks, shelves designed in sizes for holy books, and the folding tables and bunk beds often used when members of large families gather on the Sabbath, or other Jewish holidays. The catalog cover shows a man and two boys sporting kippah, white shirt, black pants, side-locks, and tzitzit, the knotted ritual tassels worn daily by orthodox Jews. He’s reading what seems to be a religious book.

Women, however, are conspicuously missing from the entire catalog.

The company says the catalog was created to cater to the religious values of the Orthodox community. ”In February, the local Israeli organization distributed a brochure”—the catalog in question—”customized specifically for the Haredi community in an attempt to reach this minority community in Israel with messages of our home furnishings offer,”  says Shuky Koblenz, a spokesperson from Ikea Israel, in a statement provided to Swedish website The Local. ”We realize that people are upset about this and that the publication does not live up to what Ikea stands for and we apologize for this. We will make sure that future publications will reflect what Ikea stands for and at the same time show respect for Haredi community.”

“Ikea is for many people and we want to respect local traditions and needs. That is also an aspect of not discriminating,” says another spokesperson from Ikea Group in Sweden, Jakob Holmström. ”BUT, we are convinced that it is possible to unite. Ikea in Israel obviously failed to do that. We want to be clear that Ikea Group in Sweden and globally does not stand behind the local brochure, and be clear on the fact that it does not live up to the Ikea Group values and what Ikea stands for.” The company did not state whether they will retract the catalogs.

This is not the first time Ikea has issued catalogs erasing all women and girls from scenes of daily life. The company did the same in 2012 in catalogs for Saudi Arabia, which prompted public outcry in Sweden, and led IKEA to apologize.

Ikea Group issued a statement to the BBC at the time that is similar to its response to the Haredi catalog, saying that ”excluding women from the Saudi Arabian version of the catalogue is in conflict with the Ikea Group values,” and attributing the incident to the fact that the Saudi Ikea was run by a local franchise.