A 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.