The Rise of American Girl Rebecca Rubin

Today's Most Famous Jewish Character Is 18 Inches Tall

Courtesy of American Girl

By Michelle Wildgen

Published January 02, 2013, issue of January 04, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

I am too old to have grown up with American Girl dolls, and my daughter, at 17 months, is too young. But I mentioned the dolls to our 22-year-old nanny, Ellie, a nursing student at the University of Wisconsin who grew up near Milwaukee, and a few weeks later she brought me two heavy shopping bags of her old American Girl paraphernalia: a hairbrush, a wee wooden-framed chalkboard tucked into a cloth bag with a peg of chalk, plus books, clothes and shoes that are stitched, laced and nearly as sturdy as baby shoes.

As for the dolls, Ellie has brought an infant Bitty Baby, in lace-trimmed pajamas, and three 18-inch dolls: Swedish immigrant Kirsten Larson, in braids and a red-checked bonnet; Depression-era Kit Kittredge, sporting neatly bobbed blond hair, and a “My American Girl” doll who has light-brown hair and eyes, and who is currently standing, unassisted, on my desk and gazing at me as I write.

Beside her is a handsomely bound hardcover collection of novels about Rebecca Rubin, the first-generation daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants, who lived on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1914. Rebecca, who debuted in 2009, is the second Jewish doll in the company’s line (the first, in 2001, was Lindsey Bergman, part of the contemporary Girl of the Year series; her religion was less of a focal point for the character) and the fourth historical doll to be of an ethnicity other than traditional white European descent.

The historical collection also includes Josefina Montoya, a Hispanic girl in 1824 Santa Fe; Kaya, a 1764 Nez-Perce girl living in what is now America’s Northwest, and two African-American girls: Addy Walker, who escapes from slavery with her mother and settles in Philadelphia, and wealthy Cécile Rey in 1853 New Orleans. Though the contemporary line also includes characters of Latina, Indian, Hawaiian and Chinese descent, the rest of the historical line and the contemporary line of dolls tend toward the Caucasian.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.