Hope that everyone had a nice chag. Since the traditional aspect of Shavuot is to couple Moses presenting the Ten Commandments with an all-nighter of Torah study, I’m bridging the link between this holiday and the advent, on May 31, of American Girl’s latest historical doll/book collection… Jewish-American Rebecca Rubin. Check out her pix at Doll Diaries!
Rebecca Rubin (still not featured on the homepage) is a Russian immigrant escaping the pogroms with her parents, siblings and “Bubbie” in 1914 New York City. Her six novellas, standard of any AG doll, are penned by young fiction author Jacqueline Dembar Greene, and they touch on the issues, which many of our ancestors faced in assimilating to a new country at the turn of the century.
Therefore, I’ve been a little put off by the Jewish blogosphere’s snarky or dismissive takes on this new toy to be marketed to young girls. Even Rabbi Brad, perhaps staying true to his pluralistic attitude, is hesitant to embrace Rebecca as “the prototype Jew” of American Girl.
Though I respect Rabbi Brad’s legitimate point about the Yiddishe Jew on the Lower East Side being only one portion of our diverse and complex American history, it is arguably one of the bigger slices of the pie. American Girl is not a Jewish-themed company, and therefore must focus more broadly on all ethnic/cultural groups.
For more of a complex, Jewish angle, parents should perhaps consider Gali Girls, but their cultural offerings, though diverse, seem limited right now. (Maybe a little less focus on contemporary “modesty” dolls and a little more on creating books and accessories about Jewish communities? /editorial)
My big beef is with people who sneer at American Girl dolls as nothing more than expensive toys with a shallow, educational mission. The truth of the matter is, it depends on how much effort you put into it.
Several years ago, my parents got me a Molly McIntire doll and she helped facilitate a relationship with my grandmother about what it was like growing up during World War II. I was also an avid reader of all of the books—and I question some claims about the historical accuracy when, in Rebecca’s case, for example, researchers consulted with the American Jewish Historical Society and the Yeshiva University Museum, according to the New York Times. Undoubtedly, they won’t be perfect, but they should be pretty damn close.
My one complaint to American Girl is that apparently, in making way for Rebecca, they are discontinuing another great offering (and my sister’s doll) from that period—Samantha Parkington. I’m not quite sure what caused this move, but I hope they reconsider. In fact, I remember Samantha being the most popular doll when I was growing up (though arguably, they’ve added a lot of dolls since then. :P) Either way, it would be a shame to lose her—though, thankfully, her books will continue to be sold.