Jewish American Girl

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Guess what? Yet another toy that we’re not giving my daughter.

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.

So says the Forward, fueling intense speculation among the 5-8-year-old set over the identity of a new American Girl, who have already created such lovable and lasting stereotypes as Josefina, “a hopeful New Mexican girl” (causing Latino parents to shell out $95 or more for a realistic Cabbage Patch reject, along with all the associated books and props) — as well as Addy (a slave girl, forcing black parents to do the same thing), Kaya (ditto for native Americans) and Kit (a “resourceful” girl of the Great Depression…although her doll will probably be canceled, since I can’t imagine real-life poor people putting up $178 for the “starter pack” of a doll, books, outfits, and — I kid you not — a baby llama.

jewish american girls

Maybe I’m complaining too much about money. I don’t mind spending money on my kid — the fact is, toys are expensive, and I’m totally cool with buying a $100 wooden wagon instead of some cheap plastic crap that my daughter will bite a chunk out of and digest some sort of chemical pathogens, or Lego blocks, which are crazily expensive, but you can build anything you can imagine out of them.

Dolls, on the other hand. My daughter has a bunch of dolls. And she really only plays with one of them. She has the fully-articulated ones, the ones with movable eyelids, and even her first doll, a People Like Us black doll that she bought at the Phat Albert department store. But the only doll that really exists in her worldview is a tiny, unadorned ragdoll, falling apart and floppy as anything and probably constructed on an assembly-line machine in about 20 seconds flat — she doesn’t even look like a Jewish doll, with her blond hair and blue eyes. (But that’s okay — our daughter is blond, too, so maybe she’ll learn that she’s not the only one to be Jewish and blond.)

She barely even has a face — just a couple of dots for eyes, ears, and mouth. The nose, of course, has been overlooked, or perhaps it was simply taken for granted that the doll would be one day bent out of shape.

But all she really needs is someone to take care of, and someone to drag around with her. Not a genetically identical doll. Not a doll that conforms to her religious level or cultural demographic or hashkafah (although, side note: the Lubavitcher Rebbe said that kids should only play stuffed animals that resemble kosher animals. Does that exclude humans?) — just a good, honest toy who she can cradle and chew on and identify with.

So take that, American Girl Posse. And, if you need any consultants, I’m just down a bit on 5th Avenue. Feel free to stop by.

(Thanks for this to Frum Satire, who will know one day what it’s like.)

Posted on May 22, 2009

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One thought on “Jewish American Girl

  1. I especially like the NYTimes article about it that calls for Jewish and non-Jewish little girls (both kinds!) can play “tenement house” with their $95 doll. Yikes. (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/24/fashion/24Doll.html)

    My favorite childhood relic is a floppy brown teddy bear named Toby bought at a Salvation Army for 88 cents when I was six months old. He’s too fragile to wash anymore.
    -Miriam

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