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American Girl Introduces Rebecca
Written by Heidi Heideman   
Monday, 08 June 2009 19:08
rebecca-doll-and-bookA new member of the American Girl family debuted on May 31, 2009. She is 9-year-old “Rebecca Rubin” hailing from the Lower East Side of New York City, N.Y., circa 1914. Rebecca is the first historical Jewish American Girl and the second Jewish American Girl (the first was the 2001 Girl of the Year, Lindsey Bergman.) Rebecca and her family are recent immigrants from Russia, and they bring the turn-of-the-last-century immigrant experience to the children of today.

Development of Rebecca began in 2000 with plans for a doll who, like the American Girl “Kirsten,” chronicles the immigrant experience. However, whereas Kirsten’s story explores the immigrant experience of the rural, Midwestern homesteader during an earlier wave of immigration, Rebecca’s story brings to life the history of immigrants who settled in urban tenements during the last waves of immigration from Europe. It was decided early on that Rebecca’s family would be of Russian-Jewish descent, as many East-European Jews immigrated to America at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries to escape from social and political upheaval. Thus, Rebecca is a vehicle to tell the compelling story of these immigrants. Also, for years, the American Girl Co. has received many requests for a historical Jewish American Girl. The time period was a perfect fit to meet these much-anticipated requests.

The six Rebecca books are written by Jacqueline Dembar Greene, who lends an authentic Jewish voice to the telling of Rebecca’s story. In fact, Dembar Greene drew on her own family’s stories and experiences for plot lines in the Rebecca books. The books and the doll have won the approval of many prominent figures and groups within the Jewish community for their accurate portrayal of the Jewish-American immigrant experience.

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I'm also very excited about the new doll. Being of East-German descent and having taken a couple classes in East-European history in college (I double-majored History and English), I was thrilled to hear the this important piece of history is being passed on to the next generation through these dolls. In my opinion, in general American Girl as a company has done so much in building an interest in history in young people. I include myself in that comment! The American Girl books and debuted when I was eight, and I was a huge fan of the original three: Kirsten, Samantha and Molly. Even as a grown-up I continue to love both the books and the dolls.
Heidi H , June 11, 2009 | url
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It's a great that American Girl has included a historical Jewish immigrant doll. My father's parents, whom I never knew, immigrated from Poland before 1914, probably in the late 19th century. My grandfather came here to escape the Czar's (Nicholas) army for a second tour of duty. Guess he'd had enough. My mother's grandparents came here from Kiev, Russia around the same time, perhaps even earlier.

Unfortunately for Pleasant Company who makes American Girl dolls, I don't collect them. A doll has to be pretty and realistic for me to collect it, and I don't think American Girl dolls are, much as their clothing, books and other products are wonderful. They should have full vinyl bodies and a new line of nicer faces. The faces don't look anything like the characters in their books, which are life-like and pretty. It's sort of like the Cissy dolls and others of Madame Alexander Dolls. Same stylized faces since the beginning. I don't collect them, either, but I guess it's each to his own. I like 18" vinyl play dolls called West Coast Kids by Kathryn Pardee and the 21" vinyl play dolls, Karito kids. My favorite medium for dolls is vinyl because vinyl can take use and abuse and not break. I have hundreds of dolls in my collection (always growing) of every race, nationality, size type and artist one can think of from cheap Barbies to very expensive artist dolls.
Sharon Conaway , June 10, 2009

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