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!
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • 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.