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Rebecca, Jewish-American Girl

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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.

new american girl doll rebecca

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.

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5 comments so far | Post a comment now
Kristen June 17, 2009, 8:28 AM

Our girls LOVE there american girl dolls. Both of our daughters are history nuts and we have ALL of the books. I think this series is amazing. At first I thought the dolls were way too expensive but after our entire family pitched in and bought them for our girls birthdays it is now very apparent that they ARE worth the money. We have gone on to add a few more to our collection. They are very special and our girls cherish them everyday.

Devi S. June 17, 2009, 5:48 PM

My Mom read her book series All of a Kind Family to me when i was little and then gave me the books. I turned my barbies, skippers and kellies into the sisters and other characters in All of a Kind Family books and played out the chapters with my friends. They are books about a Jewish family in New York in the 1900’s. They are the best books about my heritage. I don’t know if they are still printed, but your daughter might like them too. BTW, I am 13 now and i don’t play with the barbies anymore but I still love the books.

Rabbi Sherre Hirsch June 23, 2009, 2:21 PM

Dear Devi,
I was delighted to hear your recommendation. I will definately look into the series for my girls. As a thirteen year old, I hope that you are celebrating your bat mitvah and inspiring all those around you as you inspired me.
Warmly, Rabbi Hirsch
ps Is Devi short for Devorah?

Adela Haverly March 12, 2011, 12:37 PM

This is a really good post. It really gets to the heart of good design not only for the web, but often for print as well.

Princess Duffey April 7, 2011, 9:24 AM

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