Sisterhood Blog

American Girl To Unveil Jewish Doll

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

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The pre-tween set is abuzz with the rumor that the newest American Girl doll is Jewish. Officials at the Wisconsin-based company confirm that she is, indeed, a Jewish character, calling her “a lively girl from New York City,” but have embargoed her name and most other story details until May 29th.

American Girl dolls, for those who haven’t yet been indoctrinated, are larger-than-usual (18-inches tall) dolls with well-made clothes and overpriced accessories that inspire cultish devotion among the demographic that can afford them.

The company, started by a Wisconsin woman in 1982 and bought by Mattel in 1998 is indeed part of the entertainment-industrial complex, but I’ve found the dolls a welcome relief from the Barbie doll universe, which is dominated by dolls in makeup, clothes and heels that look more appropriate for grown-up play in the old Times Square than they do play for little girls.

Don’t even get me started about inappropriateness of Bratz dolls, who dress like the Pussycat Dolls and are hardly the models of womanhood, even if only in plastic, that I want in front of my young daughters.

American Girl dolls have a different feel. The historical dolls that are the backbone of the AG enterprise are built around fully-fleshed-out characters, about 10 years old, who behave like real girls — full of spunk and intelligence.

The dolls are built like actual girls, with none of the unrealistic wasp waists and implant-inspired breasts that ruin other popular brands for me. Each character comes with books filled with details about the periods when the characters lived, from the 1700s through the 1970s, and give readers easy-to-imbibe history lessons along with the escapades.

The catch is, though, that they’re all expensive — about $100 for each doll, including a book and outfit — and sold only through the AG catalogue, Web site and stores, which also sell matching human-sized clothing for girls. Accessories can be lavish and are priced to match, ranging from a few dollars for a pair of doll shoes or glasses, to $349 for a doll storage cabinet.

American Girl Place stores are impressive exercises in savvy marketing. Each has a fancy café where a girl and her grown-ups can have high tea or lunch, complete with doll-sized teacups and chairs. The stores have salons where, for a price, used-and-abused dolls are put into beauty-parlor chairs and given the French braids or curls of their girl-owner’s choice, and the girls get matching hair do-dads.

The New York store’s personal shopper recently sent out an email promoting the Jewish AG doll’s official debut day on May 31st, with an array of activities at the store and at the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. In June,you can go on an AG New York City harbor cruise and dinner — kosher-style, with glatt-kosher available.

Plus, the AG Web site has just started offering a “Chanukah gift set” for $20 — replete with a doll-sized menorah, dreidel and gelt. Probably getting an early start on the rush for the newest American Girl doll.

My 10-year-old daughter and her pals can’t wait.



Comments
Lisa Coll Tue. May 19, 2009

There has already been a Jewish AG doll - Lindsey Bergman was the girl of the year in 2001. Will this be a chracter doll or the Girl of the Year? Linsdey came with some stereotypes I could have lived without, but was basically a sweet rendition of an assimilated, non-observant Jewish girl in a generic suburb as the family gets ready for her brother Ethan's Bar Mitzvah (at which they serve "pizza & all beef Hot Dogs for the kids..." The author of the book was a woman named Chryssa - so I guess she wouldn't have known about the milk and meat thing.....

Alanna Wed. May 20, 2009

this will be a new historical doll for them...a doll from the year 1914. although i have to say...it's already been done by Gali Girls, the Jewish doll company! i applaud AG for incorporating the Jewish culture into their line of dolls, but Gali Girls produces just as beautiful a line of 18-inch dolls, with ALL jewish clothing and accessories AND a jewish book series featuring jewish heroines from different periods in jewish history in different places! AND they're farm ore affordable (depending on which doll you get...they have modern dolls and historical dolls). if i want to teach my daughter about judaism...i'll go with the jewish company! www.galigirls.com

rivster Wed. May 20, 2009

Finally!!!

Rachel Mon. May 25, 2009

The problem with Gali Girls, and most knockoffs of American Girls, is that they're just plain *fug*. (the exception being Reyna, who's made by Carpatina, a smaller maker of similarly expensive, but lovely, all-vinyl dolls) The soft bodied dolls are made in China by Lotus, who makes and sells pretty much the same doll with the same unattractive pout for other companies to put their brands on and sell in Target or Wal-Mart...comparable quality. I don't know why they had to choose one of the ugliest knockoff doll companies as their supplier, but they're seriously shooting themselves in the foot, there, when they've got the stories and such nice accessories. :-(

Jack Tue. May 26, 2009

A couple years ago, it came out that the conspicuous absence of a Jewish American Girl™ was the result of Mattel's acquisition of the company. Apparently, a yiddish-amerikanishe meydl named Tasha had been in the works, but the Jewish-founded Mattel —which gave us the goyishe Barbie— found an immigrant Jewish doll with a labor union backstory too "edgy."

In 2001, AG’s first “Girl of the Year” was Jewish, Lindsey Bergman. November of that year, Lindsey Vuolo was the Playboy Playmate, one month before the Chris... er, Hanukkah sales onslaught.

Fast forward to 2009, AG has announced that Rebecca Rubin, their first Jewish historical doll, will be released 31 May. Whoo-hoo! Now Jewish pre-tween girls can have their introduction to consumerism with a sense of ethnic pride. The story has been featured in various Jewish media outlets, including the venerable FORWARD. Elsewhere, the _New York Times_ reports that Rebecca meets Abe Foxman's approval. [So that's it! It wasn't the labor angle, Mattel was afraid she was an antisemitic stereotype! I guess Mattel got burned with a warehouse-full of interactive “Tales from the Old Country” Grandpa Boris dolls.]

According to the _Times_, there was considerable discussion about what Rebecca should look like. AG went with the face mold originally designed for the Josefina Montoya, a doll representing a Hispana living in 1820s New Mexico. Does that mean Rebecca Rubin is a crypto-Jew!? The artwork leaked from the books that accompany every American Girl™ looks like Kitty Pryde from the X-men. I guess that’s kinda Jewish.

If AG continues to develop the storyline for Rebecca Rubin, one wonders if she will go to work on a kibbutz in the Yishuv —she needed something to do while her boyfriend was in the Lincoln Brigade during the Spanish Civil War—where she wears Levi's "work pants" because they were union-made. According to Rebecca’s current backstory, her family is poor and involved in the nascent labor movement. Mebbe we can hope AG will make Rebecca and her friends more affordable and manufacture them with fair labor practices.

Cindi Muller Wed. May 27, 2009

I, for one, am very supportive of a major company finally getting it and recognizing that not everyone is Christian. American Girl's products, while expensive, are very well made and generally well researched. Personally, I've seen the Gali girls and they don't even begin to compete in terms of product. The Gali girls are hard and out of proportion and really only about $5 to $10 cheaper for that difference I would rather buy a better product for my child. Don't kid yourself, Jewish or non-Jewish, all companies are the same - they are all trying to survive in a difficult economy.

Wendy Thu. May 28, 2009

Enough with the mindless spending. Play, dance, sing, learn with your daughters. They don't need more toys.

American Girl Tue. Jun 9, 2009

Excellent article - thanks! Another site to check out that has loads of cool Dolls info is http://dollgirl.com They have pictures, videos, profiles and more.

Have fun!

American Girl Thu. Jun 18, 2009

Thanks for the wonderful read. American Girl Dolls are definitely the love of my life, so I will definitely recommend your website to my visitors – I’m a big fan! Some of my favorite dolls include Lindsey Bergman, Kailey Hopkins, Marisol Luna, Jess McConnell, Nicki Fleming, Mia St. Clair, and Chrissa Maxwell.

All the best!

http://dollgirl.com

American Girl Thu. Jun 18, 2009

Excellent information - thank you. I will definitely recommend your site to my visitors. Most people don't know how important the things that you highlighted are.

Thanks for helping spread the good word!

http://dollgirl.com

American Girl Thu. Jun 18, 2009

Excellent article - thanks! Another site to check out that has loads of cool American Girl Doll info is http://dollgirl.com They have pictures, videos, games, tutorials, product comparisons, and more.

Have fun!

American Girl Sun. Jun 21, 2009

Great article - thanks! It is so important for people to do their homework when choosing an American Girl Doll. If you're interested in purchasing a new American Girl Doll, here is another great site to consider http://dollgirl.com

American Girl Fri. Jun 26, 2009

You have answered most all of the best questions regarding American Girl Dolls: What are the histories? How to get started collecting? I will refer my site visitors to you.

Thanks!

http://dollgirl.com

Linda Wed. Jul 15, 2009

A different Chanukah gift set was available years ago. It had a menorah, candles, gelt and a Jewish star necklace. Suddenly, it was no longer offered.

Also, I wonder if the bagel lunch is historically correct.

Linda Wed. Jul 15, 2009

A different Chanukah gift set was available years ago. It had a menorah, candles, gelt and a Jewish star necklace. Suddenly, it was no longer offered.

Also, I wonder if the bagel lunch is historically correct.

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