(New York Jewish Week) – Born in 1905, Rebecca Rubin was a Russian-Jewish immigrant who lived on the Lower East Side. Typical of girls her age, she attended public school, lit Shabbat candles with her siblings, watched her father conduct business at his shoe store and loved going to the movies.
And now, this Sunday, the Museum of Jewish Heritage-A Living Memorial to the Holocaust will host a family-friendly event designed to celebrate her life and that of other young Jewish immigrants. On the event’s agenda are special tours, crafts and a panel discussion about Rebecca’s story, as well as others like her who lived in New York in the early 20th century.
But here’s the thing: Rebecca Rubin is not a real person. She is an 18-inch tall American Girl doll — who, like the others in the brand’s uber-popular series of historical dolls, represents the life of a girl who lived during an important period of American history. The aim of American Girl, which launched in 1986, is to inspire “girls to grow up with courage, confidence and strength of character,” according to its web site, and invites young children to learn about history on their own terms.
That mission, as it happens, dovetails nicely with that of the Battery Park-based museum. “We celebrate Jewish life before, during and after the Holocaust, and immigration is a big theme of what we do,” said Joshua Mack, the Museum of Jewish Heritage’s vice president of marketing. “I had been thinking about our immigration pieces and ways to get people into the museum so that they can discover what we do, especially younger people. What’s amazing about American Girl dolls is how historically relevant they are. It’s a way for so many children to get proper history, so it totally fits into our lane.”
Sunday’s “Rebecca Day” is the museum’s first-ever event dedicated to a doll. The idea originated nearly 10 years ago when Mack took his own child, Willa, to the Tenement Museum — a Lower East Side “living history museum” that tells the story of New York’s immigrants by recreating the conditions they lived in — and they toted along their Rebecca doll.
“It seemed like a great way to celebrate Jewish heritage and get fans and enthusiasts to visit us and learn more about the museum,” Mack said of Rebecca Day, adding that when he pitched his team — who are mostly Gen-Z and millennials — they immediately latched onto it.
As one of 12 historical dolls in the active lineup of historical American Girls, Rebecca was the first American Girl doll with a Jewish story when she came on the scene in 2009. (This spring, American Girl released 1990s twin dolls Isabel and Nicki Hoffman, whose father is Jewish.) “The much-anticipated latest addition to the American Girl series of historical characters, Rebecca goes on sale May 31 along with six books about her life,” JTA’s Sue Fishkoff wrote at the time. “No cheap date, she costs $95 with one book, or $118 if accompanied by the complete set.” (Inflation has been kind to American Girl: The Rebecca set today costs $146.)
Each of the dolls in the series comes with period clothing and accessories to flesh out her life story, as well as a set of books that describes the year in their lives when they turn 10. Rebecca’s line includes props like a menorah, Shabbat candles and a Russian-style shawl, as well as a purple bouclé outfit and satin purple hat.
Sunday’s event is also also designed to get people in the building to view the museum’s new exhibit, “Courage To Act: Rescue in Denmark,” its first-ever exhibit geared towards children, Mack said. The interactive exhibit tells the story of how Jewish and non-Jewish communities in Denmark banded together to save 95% of the Danish Jewish population from the Nazis, including by transporting them on rescue boats to Sweden — an endeavor helmed by 22-year-old Henny Sinding Sundø.
Rebecca Day — which is free, though $10 donations are encouraged — includes kid-friendly guided tours of the museum’s exhibits, as well as a festive lunch of latkes for kids and their dolls at the Lox Cafe, the museum’s restaurant, and Hanukkah crafts like dreidel-decorating.
A highlight of the event is a discussion with Jacqueline Dembar Greene, the author of 11 American Girl novels featuring Rebecca Rubin. She plans to answer questions about Rebecca’s story and about what life was like as an immigrant in 1914. Some of the research she did for the books was conducted at the Museum of Jewish Heritage 15 years ago, Dembar Greene told the New York Jewish Week, adding that other stories were lifted from her own family’s experience as Russian Jewish immigrants in the 1920s.
“I tried to write it as if there were readers who didn’t know much of anything,” Dembar Greene said. “But then, for the kids who were Jewish, I wanted to make sure that they felt that they learned a little extra something and see their own lives reflected in some of the traditions.”
American Girl is not sponsoring Rebecca Day at the museum. But spokesperson Julie Parks said the company is “excited” about the event, particularly the fact that Dembar Greene “will be on hand to share how Rebecca, a first-generation Jewish American growing up in early 20th-century New York City, made her own positive mark on the world.
“American Girl is a brand rooted in story,” Parks said, “and each of our beloved characters, like Rebecca, has helped to create a sense of connection and community among our fans.”
Dembar Greene said one of the biggest challenges in writing the Rebecca books was nailing just how observant the Rubin family might have been — Rebecca’s father opens his shoe store on Shabbat, for example, but her parents wouldn’t let her go to a movie then — while acknowledging that part of the immigrant experience at that time was assimilating to American culture. It’s one of the themes that Rebecca contends with throughout the series.
“I tried to reflect that the most important thing in the families, that was not changeable, was the acceptance of moral traditions,” she said, adding that “tikkun olam, making the world a better place, and the way you treat other people,” are major factors in both Rebecca’s story and Jewish life in general.
“Partly why these books are still popular and still very relevant, even though the story is based so long ago, is that we have new immigrants coming in and contributing to the American story their energy, their drive, their fresh ideas and new ways of looking at things that drive progress,” she added.
“Rebecca Day” will take place at the Museum of Jewish Heritage at 36 Battery Pl. on Sunday, Dec. 3 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Register here.
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Montreal’s Jewish Public Library moves books by local children’s author Elise Gravel to closed stacks in response to her series of illustrated messages criticizing Israel
Montreal’s Jewish Public Library has relocated renowned Montreal children’s author Elise Gravel’s books to the closed stacks after Jewish advocacy groups singled out some of her social media posts as antisemitic. Gravel is “one of Quebec’s most beloved children’s book authors. Her work is vibrant, thoughtful, funny, and educational,” said a statement from the Jewish […]
The post Montreal’s Jewish Public Library moves books by local children’s author Elise Gravel to closed stacks in response to her series of illustrated messages criticizing Israel appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.
‘I’m Speaking Up Against Evil’: Israeli Columbia University Professor Addresses Smear Campaign
Columbia University professor Shai Davidai, a Jewish Israeli, defended his right to condemn Hamas’ atrocities on Thursday after learning that an anonymous group of graduate students has accused him of anti-Palestinian racism and demanded a professional association of which he is a member to publicly censure him.
Anti-Zionist TikTok influencer Jessica Burbank first reported the accusations the graduate students lodged in a letter to the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP), an organization founded in 1974 to promote the social psychology field and its usefulness to society. Comprising over 7,500 student and faculty members, it provides invaluable funding and networking opportunities.
Accusing Davidai of “targeting individuals — especially Palestinians and students of color,” the students’ letter describes his efforts to hold pro-Hamas student groups accountable for harassing Jewish students and defending terror as “decolonization” as “blatant dereliction of duty with respect to his responsibilities and ethical standards as a professor and faculty member of SPSP.” The students additionally accused him of promoting “doxxing” and “misrepresenting” the views of pro-Hamas groups, all of whom have defended Hamas’ atrocities on Oct. 7 while calling for a ceasefire, a strategy they have employed to portray themselves as a pro-peace movement.
On Thursday, Professor Davidai told The Algemeiner that the man depicted in the letter is not someone his community, students, and peers would recognize, and he accepts that enduring assaults on his character is a consequence of defending the Jewish people wherever they are, be it Israel or New York City.
“Look, I’m speaking up against evil, and against the support of evil,” he said. “I’m willing to take the reputational hits because people that won’t like me for saying what I’m saying — I don’t need them to like me. This isn’t about the performative virtue signaling that is en vogue right now. This is about having a moral compass and standing up for what’s right.”
Davidai went on to express concern that his colleagues in the field have not defended him, a silence which suggests that criminating pro-Israel activists with baseless accusations will not be denounced or resisted even by moderates holding nuanced views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Israel’s war against Hamas.
“If I have to pay the price, I’ll pay the price. Thousands and thousands of Jews and non-Jews contact me to say that calling out pro-Hamas support on US college campuses is the right thing to do,” he continued. “And the irony is that I won’t be silenced. They might take away my reputation. They might take away my job and my career. But I’m not the kind of person who will be quiet now that there’s a personal cost for telling the truth. They’re just proving my point.”
Davidai first achieved national notoriety after delivering a thunderous speech before a crowd of students and others gathered on campus in which he called the school’s president a “coward” for refusing to condemn Hamas apologists and anti-Zionist demonstrations on campus.
“I’m talking to you as a dad, and I want you to know we cannot protect your children from pro-terror student organizations, because the president of Columbia University will not speak out,” Davidai said to the students, whom he asked to film and send the remarks to their parents. “Citizens of the US are right now kidnapped in Gaza, and yet the president of the university is allowing — is giving — her support to pro-terror student organizations.”
In many ways, becoming a public figure has been a detriment, Davidai said. His email is flooded daily with notes from antisemites accusing him of being an “Elder of Zion” and a “genocidal baby killer.”
His colleagues, furious that his exposing antisemitism and left-wing radicalism at Columbia University has caused important donors to pull their support from the school, have never commented on the hate mail even though they are always copied as recipients of it, he alleged.
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
The post ‘I’m Speaking Up Against Evil’: Israeli Columbia University Professor Addresses Smear Campaign first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
‘We Have Lost All Confidence’: Bipartisan Letter Urges Blinken to Demand Top UN Officials Resign
A bipartisan group of 12 US legislators sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier this week urging him to demand that United Nations Secretary General António Guterres and the head of UNRWA — the UN agency dedicated to Palestinian refugees — Philippe Lazzarini resign over the recent revelation that UNRWA employees were involved in Hamas’ October 7 terrorist attack.
“We have lost all confidence in Secretary-General António Guterres’ ability to ensure that the U.N. is not actively supporting terrorism or giving refuge to known terrorists. Therefore, we ask you to demand that Secretary-General Guterres and UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini immediately resign from their posts,” the letter states.
The signatories were Democratic Representatives Josh Gottheimer, Don Davis, Jared Moskowitz, Brad Schneider, Haley Stevens, and Ritchie Torres — along with Republican Representatives Don Bacon, Anthony D’Esposito, Brian Mast, Max Miller, Michelle Steel, and Claudia Tenney.
The letter laments what the legislators say was an inappropriate response to October 7 by the UN, pointing out that “While innocent blood was still fresh on the ground, the UN’s first response to these atrocities was to draw a moral equivalency between the Hamas terrorists and Israel, who acted in her own self-defense and the defense of innocent civilians, including Americans.”
“UN Women,” the letter continued, “also failed to condemn the heinous attacks on women in a timely manner — even after widespread, well-documented cases of sexual assaults, rape, and genital mutilation.”
It then turned its attention to UNRWA, the UN agency dedicated solely to Palestinian refugees. Recent reports have revealed that at least twelve UNRWA employees — including teachers — took part in Hamas’s October 7 attack. Seven infiltrated Israel itself along with Hamas terrorists, others helped to kidnap Israelis and provide ammunition.
Not only that, but the Israeli ground offensive in Gaza has exposed that “Hamas has stored weapons in UNRWA buildings, used UNRWA resources for terrorist activities, and built tunnels under UNRWA facilities,” the letter says. The reps ask: “How long before we acknowledge the truth and label UNRWA as a tool for Hamas and others to recruit and train?”
A recent Wall Street Journal report estimates that around 10% of UNRWA employees are terrorist-linked — about 1,200 of the 12,000 UNRWA employees in Gaza.
Blinken has not yet responded to the letter. But after the initial allegations against UNRWA were made, he wrote in a statement that The United States is extremely troubled” by them and that “The Department of State has temporarily paused additional funding for UNRWA while we review these allegations and the steps the United Nations is taking to address them.”
The reports, based on evidence gathered and shared by Israel, caused more than a dozen countries to pause funding to the agency.
However, the statement also noted that “UNRWA plays a critical role in providing lifesaving assistance to Palestinians, including essential food, medicine, shelter, and other vital humanitarian support. Their work has saved lives, and it is important that UNRWA address these allegations and take any appropriate corrective measures, including reviewing its existing policies and procedures.”
The post ‘We Have Lost All Confidence’: Bipartisan Letter Urges Blinken to Demand Top UN Officials Resign first appeared on Algemeiner.com.