Having recently interviewed Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg about her newly released The Passionate Torah: Sex and Judaism, I’ve got Jewish feminism on the brain. So when I came across an article about Rebecca Rubin, the 9-year-old daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants growing up on New York’s Lower East Side, I couldn’t help feeling intrigued. Rebecca is the newest addition to the American Girl arsenal.
After wising up to the feminist mommy boycott of Mattel’s bubble-headed, body-negative Barbie, the company created acquired American Girl, a series of dolls that aim to teach children about girls’ and women’s history in the United States through storybooks, as well as period clothing and accessories. Though the company has come under fire from groups for failing to make dolls that are culturally representative of the entire US population, as well as criticized for the toy’s outrageous price tag ($95 per doll!), many parents are supportive of the American Girl franchise; in fact, the company made $463 million last year from the sale of the dolls and their accessories. Parents like the educational aspect of the dolls, and the May 31st release of Rebecca brings the early 20th century Jewish experience into many modern American homes.
“The author realistically captures the Jewish immigrant experience as well as the conflict and complexity of living as a Jewish minority in a predominately Christian culture,” Orthodox feminist author Blu Greenberg told New American Media. “I simply cannot wait to read this to my grandchildren.”
Anti-Defamation League Director Abraham Foxman reported to the
Name gaff aside, Rebecca and The Passionate Torah have something in common: both seek to give voice to the ever-evolving Jewish American female experience. The doll constructs what it means to be a Jewish girl negotiating one’s religion and complex cultural identity while the book deconstructs and rebuilds a Jewish American feminism in the present. The intersection of pop culture and academic theory is a beautiful thing, y’all.