What The Rebecca Rubin Doll Means For Real Jewish American Girls

rebeccarubin1Earlier this week details were revealed about Rebecca Rubin, the first Jewish American Girl doll, and the latest addition to the company’s steadily growing line of historical characters who hail from different ethnic backgrounds.

Like those who came before her, Rebecca’s figurine comes paired with a series of books that weave her fictional backstory into a real era of American history. In the case of 9-year-old Rebecca, the scene, partially based on the author Jacqueline Dembar Greene’s own family history, will be set in a row house on the Lower East Side in 1914 where she lives with her Jewish-Russian immigrant parents, her siblings and her grandmother known as Bubbie.

While the doll may fill another niche in a long line for the brand, Rebecca’s debut marks a significant moment for young Jewish American girls and women like me who don’t often get to see themselves in the commercial space. Especially in doll form. In part, because defining what a Jewish girl looks like can be such a touchy issue. Not only for the toy industry, but also within the culture where it’s increasingly common for girls to seek out surgical and cosmetic procedures to correct their “Jewish noses” or straighten their “Jewish hair.” Even girls who don’t fit the stereotype, can be made to feel uncomfortable about the Jewishness or lack thereof of their appearance with ambiguous comments like, “You don’t look Jewish.” (It’s been 23 years and I still don’t have a good comeback).

Although specific physical traits like these become non-issues with the brand’s uniform look, and many would agree that their inclusion would be unnecessary regardless, the mere visibility of a well-defined Jewish character makes a statement. A statement that’s further reinforced by the company’s years of extensive research, including…

 
 
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Oh, Barbie. She's had a rough year, and Mattel recently released an Entrepreneur Barbie in an attempt to tap into girl power marketing, and revive flagging sales. But is the reality that Barbie is just too perfect for today’s kids? The brand’s offbeat, weirdo Monster High dolls do far better than pristine, “clean cut” blond icon. Tapping into new trends in toy tech and giving Barbie a renewed sense of “imaginative play” might help, but at the same time post-Millennials, like the generation before them, could be turned off by anything that doesn’t show some flaws. (The StarPhoenix)

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