A Six-Year-Old Orthodox Boy and His Barbie Dolls

From a Babysitter, Lessons on Gender and Judaism

Getty Images

By Roz Warren

Published June 17, 2014, issue of June 20, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

The last time I took care of Hanina, the 6-year-old I baby-sit, we played Salon, a game in which Hanina’s Barbies visit the salon, otherwise known as the second-floor bathroom, and we peel off their clothes, do their hair, then dress them up.

You may wonder what a 6-year-old boy is doing with Barbies in the first place. They belonged to his mom. She’d hung on to them, no doubt hoping to pass them along to a daughter. But Hanina is her thirdthrough son and last child, so they ended up his.

Hanina’s Barbies participate in the same activities as his action figures: They explore. They fight battles. They act out Torah stories. After all, Hanina is an Orthodox Jew.

When my own son became a teenager who needed independence and space rather than moment-to-moment mothering, I filled the void this left in my heart by babysitting. Because I am a secular, atheist Jew and Hanina is religious, caring for him for the past six years has meant, among other things, learning what it means to live a Torah-centered life. Hanina, the son of an eminent Torah scholar, has always been happy to instruct me.

Today, Hanina informed me, the Barbies, once coifed and dressed, would take part in a contest in which Ken would choose “the most beautiful one” to marry. (Hanina, I‘m guessing, has been learning about Queen Esther at school.)

“Beauty isn’t everything,” I pointed out. “When it comes to getting married, you also want a partner who is nice, kind and intelligent.”

Hanina picked up Ken, who then addressed the prettiest Barbie. “You are beautiful,” Ken told her. “And you look nice and kind and intelligent. If you win the contest I will marry you.”

The winner, Hanina told me, would get an additional prize: “When she dies, she will get to be buried in this lovely coffin!” He showed me a beautiful hand-painted wooden box that his Aunt Nancy gave him recently.

Wedded bliss plus a lovely coffin? Weirdest “Bachelor” reality show ever.


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!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • 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.