Windows and Doors

Windows and Doors


Poor, Jewish and on the Lower East Side: The New American Girl Doll

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Normally, I save my musings about American Girl dolls and their roll in life for home – we have three daughters ranging in age from 15 – 8, so it’s not unfamiliar territory. But comments about the release of the new doll, due out May 31st, are stunningly revelatory about common attitudes towards Jews and Jewishness in America. And I don’t mean on the part of the manufacturers, but on the part of Jews.
Let’s start with the fact that this is the 14th doll in the American Girl series, but it’s being greeted like something for which we have been waiting with as much anticipation as we do the Messiah. I mean I understand the value of having dolls which reflect and affirm the experience of the kids who play with them, but I also like the fact that my youngest daughter chose a doll that is not even Caucasian, let alone Jewish!
I also find it a little weird when other writers and bloggers make declarations like “this is our history, right here in this doll”. Oh really, which “our” do they mean?


I know that a large percentage of American Jews have roots in eastern Europe, but a large percentage today also have roots in Ireland, Mexico, and Japan, just to name a few. And that doesn’t even address that the first Jews to come to America, more than 200 years before this doll’s parents arrived from Russia, were Sephardim!
We are a community that has entered Jewish life through inter-marriage, adoption, conversion, etc. And it would be far more interesting to address what it means to celebrate the Jewishness that could be found in any of the 13 previously created dolls, for none of whom that I know, does religion play nearly the role it does in the biography of little Rebecca Rubin.
It’s not that I think this is a bad thing. In fact, the more dolls the better….except for my budget. I am just not sure why having dolls whose “life” stories are written by an author who struggled to come of age as a Jew in the 50′s, is the place to begin for little Jewish girls today.



  • Giora

    One tiny doll is to represent or streotype a diverse population. A mission impossible for a blood line as diverse as the Jewish bloodline.

  • Randy Rossilli

    I agree with your finding the culture throughout the others, however, it would be a deep story to find the connection with Kaya, the Native American Indian American Doll (Two daughters 7 and 9 – I hear you on the budget LOL)
    My feelings are that you need to begin discussions somewhere. Maybe the books that will follow this doll will speak of her ancestors that followed 150 years before her family brought her to America. My family has been here from Italy and Hungary for 100 years, but there are still Rossilli’s that live in Italy and
    Kopin’s that live in Hungary that are my “relatives.”
    Sounds like a great recommendation for someone with the platform you have to make to the American Girl company. You know you have a friend in New Jersey, that would be willing to help you =).

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