Rabbi Sherre Hirsch: Every grandmother, gaga, bubbe, nana is a sucker when it comes to buying their granddaughter her first doll.
My grandma Laura gave me my first Madame Alexander when I was five years old. It was a memory I will never forget. So last week, when American Girl Dolls announced that they were releasing the first Jewish-American Girl, I thought we better get to the mall before the store opens if we wanted one at all.
My mother, with my daughter Eden in tow, was like every other grandmother. She would have bought her the whole store if she could have. They waited until Eden was holding Rebecca in her hands -- a girl that looked like her with curly brown hair and dark eyes. And with a story that mirrors her own and that of our family: she is an immigrant, Jewish, and a middle child. And to boot, they both want to be actresses. Go figure.
Since Eden has come home, she has not put the doll down and I understand why. Getting your first doll is a rite of passage. But for me this doll represents so much more. It is history in the making. It enables girls of all religions and backgrounds to learn about Judaism in an organic way. Reading Rebecca's stories, Judaism seems accessible, understandable, and regular. Rebecca does not celebrate Christmas, so when Eden tells her friends she does not either, she has backup.
Rebecca makes Judaism less foreign and less weird. She is an American Girl. This is so different from my own experience. In my youth, for every Jewish holiday, my brother and I gave a presentation to our school. We were "The Jews" and this is how people learned about our culture and our identity. But it was hard. I did not want to be singled out as being different -- no kid does. I wanted to blend in. I was devastated when I was not invited to the Christmas fashion show for Catholic Charities when every single one of my non-Jewish friends was. My parents tried to console me, but I felt rejected anyway. And I grew up in Los Angeles -- only imagine a Jewish girl in Idaho facing some of the same challenges.
Today, it is different: my daughter and that girl in Idaho have Rebecca to lean on. As a Jewish mother, I am proud that they will not have to walk that path alone anymore.
|Rabbi Sherre Z. Hirsch, mother of three, is only the 60th woman ordained in the Conservative movement. She currently serves as spiritual consultant for the world-renowned Canyon Ranch. Hirsch authored "We Plan, God Laughs: 10 Steps to Finding Your Divine Path When Life Is Not Turning Out Like You Wanted." She holds two master's degrees and received her BA from Northwestern.|