1. May I shop at a thrift store owned by a church, such as the Salvation Army Family Store?
  2. What if the only other thrift store is half an hour away?

There is a health food store in Maryland owned by the 7th Day Adventists Church; many of their canned products are certified kosher by well-respected kashrut organizations. Nevertheless, Rabbi Hillel Klavan, shlita, who is also the son of the great rabbi of the early 20th Century, Rabbi Joshua Klavan, zt'l, emphatically told my wife and I that we should not buy from that store because the profits go to the church.

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I asked these questions to one of the rabbis who worked for a local synagogue. He's a charedi Ashkenazi rabbi.

He said the following:

  • I shouldn't shop at a church-owned thrift store — that it's supporting idol worship. The only exception would be if it's one of the few denominations which treats Yoshke as a prophet, not as a god.

  • Even if I would have to travel half an hour to get to a non-church-owned thrift store, it makes no difference. I still can't do it.

Keep in mind that there are lots of other places to get cheap merchandise, though, including:

  • Garage sales.
  • Craigslist.
  • Ebay.
  • Refurbished-electronics stores.
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  • I think that your question would be muich enhanced if you could eventually edit some reasoning as to why your Hareidi rav states this. Mind you, there are probably many opinions on this subject, but, I would have trouble having an educated debate without understanding his reasoning. Re Salvation Army, I'm uncertain if it is directly "Church owned" in the sense of fitting into a halachic problem. That's a separate question, as they are "3rd party". – DanF Dec 18 '15 at 17:49
  • @DanF: What was his reasoning? I suspect the following: According to many opinions, worshipping Jesus is idol worship. Shopping in a church-owned thrift shop might therefore be supporting idol worship. – unforgettableidSupportsMonica Dec 18 '15 at 17:54
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    @DanF: Also, the Salvation Army is a church. – unforgettableidSupportsMonica Dec 18 '15 at 18:03
  • But someone on eBay could be supporting any number of pagan practises, how is that any better? – curiousdannii Dec 21 '15 at 0:28
  • @curiousdannii: Good question. My hunch is this: We know that shopping at the Salvation Army is definitely supporting a church, and so we avoid it. We could also investigate the religious practices of an Ebay user before doing business with them, but the common custom seems to be that we don't. Why not? I guess because, although some Ebay users might be idol-worshippers, most aren't. Side note: Despite all this, it's still meritorious to do business with Jews who keep Shabbat when practicable. – unforgettableidSupportsMonica Dec 24 '15 at 0:41

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