Rebecca Rubin: Yiddishe American Girl

American Girl, those dolls that real-life Russian Jewish immigrants from the Pale of Settlement (Odessa)  could never afford when I was growing up, has added a Russian Jewish doll to its collection, no doubt plagued by guilt and the opportunity to sell to Jewish girls disenfranchised in a Bratz world.

Here she is, Rebecca Rubin (nee Rivkaleh Rabinovich, probs.) ,  straight outta the tenements in 1914.

Apparently the tenements in 1914 had meticulous hairdressers and Jews that were easily distinguishable from their goy brethren by the Ethnic Shawl.  She will also be tap dancing in Porgy and Bess shortly. Little Rivka retails for $95 with one book, or $118 for the whole set.  It’s chai if you buy everything.  Genius.

Ms. Rubin, all of 18 inches tall, is the newest historical character doll to be released by American Girl, the company in Middleton, Wis., whose products have a rabidly devoted following among the female 7- to 12-year-old set. She is a 9-year-old girl living on the Lower East Side in 1914 with her Russian-Jewish immigrant parents, siblings and a grandmother known only as Bubbie.

The fact that this doll didn’t offend even Abe Foxman says a lot.

The New York Times writes that,

As Ms. Greene worked on the books, company designers set about figuring out what Rebecca should look like. The company’s research had found that Rebecca’s Russian-Jewish descent allowed a range of physical characteristics, creating a wide palette of choices, said Megan Boswell, the director of design and development. Facial structure is not typically an issue because the company generally chooses from an existing set of molds.

Guess they didn’t research what Russian Jewish girls looked like back then.

Yeah, that would be my homegirl, Golda.  Retailing for $95 for just her plus her autobiography.  $118 for her to administer an ass-kicking.


  1. froylein

    5/25/2009 at 9:37 am

    Can she curse if you press a button? Something like, “sookah blyet!” 🙂

  2. beershevaboheme6

    5/25/2009 at 10:14 am

    I could never afford one as a kid either…and they were a good bit cheaper then they are now.

    And did you ever notice they all have an identical face, minus the color of the “skin” and eye color? Even though they say they’re all so individual…

  3. Rabbi Yonah

    5/25/2009 at 12:38 pm

    Maybe they should have goggle her name first:

    She’s only 9 and already wanted by the FBI!

  4. Vicki

    5/25/2009 at 9:01 pm

    Rabbi Yonah and Froylein, Ha! Both excellent points.

    And beershevaboheme6 (lovely name, btw), Yeah, I did notice that. No “semitic” features at all.

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  6. Kokapelye

    5/26/2009 at 6:27 pm

    American Girl is using the “Josefina” face mold for Rebecca… mebbe she’s crypto-Jewish!

    The artwork leaked for the requisite accompanying book looks like Kitty Pryde from the X-men. I guess that’s kinda Jewish.

  7. nrt

    5/27/2009 at 11:43 am

    Been there, done that


  8. nrt

    5/27/2009 at 11:46 am

  9. vicki

    5/27/2009 at 1:53 pm

    They don’t look very Semitic, though, NRT.

    I mean, that’s fine for me because I look totally ethnically Russian. My mom used to joke(?) when I was little that if there was a pogrom, they could stick me out the window and the mob would go away. So, that’s cool.

    But what about more Jewish-looking dolls?

  10. Modern Girl

    5/27/2009 at 8:22 pm

    I definitely think the American Girl looks more Semitic than the Gali Girls…

    I’m Canadian (and not Jewish) so I’m a bit out of the loop on these trends. What ever happened to childhood imagination? I understand representation and identifiable role modeling, but not every toy has to look like a child. I didn’t grow up with dolls that looked like me. My boyfriend was given a “My Buddy” doll that looks like him, which I find creepy.

  11. Shira

    5/27/2009 at 11:55 pm

    Those Gali Girls are offensive – have you looked at them? They are ugly! Semetic doesn’t mean homely people! There are a lot of sexy Jewesses out there.

    Shocking, truly shocking.


  12. vicki

    5/28/2009 at 7:31 am

    Modern Girl,
    Right, but if you’re specifically making a doll to target an ethnic group, wouldn’t you want it to look like at least some of that ethnic group? I didn’t have dolls that looked like me when I was little either, mostly because I was too chubulous.

    Oh, it’s bad both from a facial AND clothing design standpoint. I nominate you and the ladies of Tchotchkes for the redesign. 🙂

  13. Allen

    5/29/2009 at 10:06 am

    Rebecca herself does not live in a tenement. Her family lives in a row house on East 7th Street.

  14. Michael Shepherd

    5/30/2009 at 1:53 pm

    Just blew my chow all over the screen laffing my ass off! Thanks for the ha-ha! Just now reading today – Saturday, 31 May. I needed the laff.

    “Guess they didn’t research what Russian Jewish girls looked like back then. That would be my homegirl, Golda. Retailing for $95 for just her plus her autobiography. $118 for her to administer an ass-kicking.” Word!

  15. masha

    6/5/2009 at 11:36 am

    Her face reminds me of Barbara Streisand!

  16. masha

    6/5/2009 at 11:38 am

    Modern girl, you look like a regular Jewish girl, you do not look goyim, don’t worry the mob would not go away. 🙁

  17. Alanna

    6/14/2009 at 11:14 pm

    i think the gali girls are cute!! and their miriam doll has gorgeous red hair too… http://www.galigirls.com/miriam-p-266.html

    i do think it’s strange, though, that american girl couldnt come up with something different..i mean it’s the same historical year 1914, and the same back story (russian immigration) – it’s like they just ripped right off from gali girls.

    and by the way – there is no way any doll company could create an “ethnic” looking jewish doll and not offend SOMEONE. whaddaya want? a bigger nose? tight brown messy curly hair? come on…jews come in all shapes and sizes…i’d rather they not perpetuate the stereotype and as a jew you certainly shouldn’t be either!

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