Rebecca is a brown-haired doll with hazel eyes.
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...While other dolls represented ethnic backgrounds with distinctive visual characteristics, what constitutes a Jewish girl’s appearance is much more open for debate.
The goal is that no one be offended and that Jewish and non-Jewish little girls alike will want to play tenement house with their new toy, which costs $95 — plus more for accessories like a sideboard with a challah resting on it.
The preliminary research that led to Rebecca’s development started in 2000, said Shawn Dennis, the senior vice president for marketing. American Girl had wanted to do a doll focused on the immigrant experience. After work by two in-house historical researchers, and interviews with focus groups, it was decided to make the character Jewish.
“Russian-Jewish immigration, that group has an effect on the labor movement, that group has an effect on the burgeoning Hollywood entertainment business,” Ms. Dennis said. “We thought it would have the makings of what would be a relatable story to tell.”
My mother, and her two sisters, were born on the Lower East Side in 1919.