The Lower East Side Jewish American Girl Doll goes on sale soon with a strong Teaneck marketing connection!
The line of American Girl toys has proven lucrative for its owners, the Mattel toy company, yielding $463 million in revenue last year. The Times reports,
...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.Note well that the accompanying books were reviewed by our neighbor in Teaneck, Elie Rosenfeld whose company will help market the product [hat tip to Henry - we initially missed the connection]...
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.”
To write the books, the company found Jacqueline Dembar Greene, who had written a historical novel for young adults set in 1654 about Jewish immigrants to New Amsterdam.
Ms. Greene and company researchers made a trip to Manhattan, visiting the Lower East Side Tenement Museum and a row house on East Seventh Street.
There was back and forth between Ms. Greene and American Girl executives about how to handle certain situations, including the fact that in the first book Rebecca and her father work in his Rivington Street shoe shop on Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath.
“There were full meetings about that,” said Ms. Dennis, who learned a lot about Judaism during the project. “There were so many different styles of Jewish practice, some stricter than others, in 1914 and today. What our research told us was the greater pressure during that time period was assimilation and blending in and becoming American.”...
To Elie Rosenfeld, the chief operating officer of Joseph Jacob Advertising, whose firm was hired to help market Rebecca through Jewish publications and direct mailings to Jewish households, historical matters were of less concern than ones which would trigger a reaction in modern Jews.
Mr. Rosenfeld read the books with an eye to weeding out mentions of garish physical characteristics, obscure religious practices, or stereotypical professions. But he said he found nothing to cut. “By the time we saw everything, it was so well put together there was nothing we had to pull out and say stop the presses you can’t run this,” he said.
Rebecca’s release date was originally scheduled to be June 1, but it was moved to coincide with Manhattan’s Israel Day parade.
The company hopes the doll will appeal to everyone. If a blond Christian girl in North Dakota enjoys pretending she is living in a tenement on the Lower East Side in 1914, helping her Bubbie make latkes for Hanukkah, American Girl will be happy to sell her a toy menorah...