12/14/2009

Are There Any Jewish Dolls?

After writing my last post about the American Girl doll Rebecca, and the Chanukah and Sabbath accessories that can be purchased for her, I did a search for Jewish Dolls on Google.
But before going there I want to share something I've wondered about on and off for the last few weeks. The Fashion Royalty doll called Night Warrior comes with a cross on a chain. It's not a crucifix but it is a cross. Jason Wu has created several pieces of jewelry for his dolls with crosses. One of the Homme dolls has a cross on a tiny bead chain. Several tiny rhinestone studded crosses have shown up on belts. I began to wonder - are his crosses fashion statements or are they religious jewelry? I wanted to post the question on my favorite doll boards but I envisioned the possibility of a crusade ensuing.
The necklace my Kaori is wearing is a Star of David. It is not a fashion statement.

Here's what I found when I did my search:
Gali Girls - Very similar to American Girl dolls but about half the price. Is Gali short for Galicia? Galicia
was a royal province of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire where many Jews lived. There was a great deal of "ethnic oppression." According to one source "the majority of Galician Jews perished in the holocaust. Most survivors immigrated to Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom or Australia." Interesting name for a group of dolls. Odd...she doesn't look Jewish. ;-O

Mini Mishpacha Doll Family
These dolls are for children under 3 years of age. The male dolls have yarmulkas and prayer shawls and the females are modestly dressed and frumpy-looking. I'm sure that any 2 year old would tear the clothes off as soon as they figured out how to do it. I'm sure these are not widely distributed.
Here's a quote from the site:
"Modest - Lady and girl dolls have subtly feminine features (not l ike the immodest "fashion" dolls) Hmmm...do you think they're talking about Barbie? Duh. So I guess it means these dolls don't have breasts because that would make them immodest and god forbid a 2 year-old knew that women have breasts, vaginas and stuff like that.
The grandpa doll:
The Ellis Island Collection Dolls Series

This is a wonderful collection of "turn-of-the-century replica dolls with beautifully featured porcelain faces. These dolls are dressed in historically accurate, detailed clothing. Each exquisitely detailed porcelain doll comes with its own stand. Fully dressed in clothing reminiscent of the late 1800's to early 1900's immigrants. Complete with accouterments as pictured. Includes certificate of authenticity."
I am impressed! They're beautiful dolls. I love the costumes. Priced at $59.99, they're certainly within reach of collectors. I might actually get one of the 18 different characters. This is Sadie:
You can buy the entire collection for $899.99. They're almost as tall as Cissy. I'm guessing that they have soft bodies although the description does not specify.
By the way, these are not the same dolls as those from the company that goes by the name ellisislanddolls.com. Their dolls are beautiful as well.

That pretty much concludes what I'd call Jewish dolls. I did find Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud beanbags, stereotypical caricatures of elder Jewish men, biblical figures such as Moses and adult gag gifts like Harvey Magila who is a sound activated thing that dances and plays Hava Nagila. (Batteries included. $18.00) Tongue-in-cheek. I came across this interesting blog post that ties in with this post although in a political way. Gollywogs and Jewish Dolls.
By this time you may be asking yourself what all this has to do with dolls wearing crosses. Why not come up with an answer yourself and post it here. Or not. At least I put it out there.

15 comments:

  1. I would say most Caucasian dolls can past for Jewish... unless you are looking for dolls that a obviously and stereotypically Jewish... then you will be walking on a fine line between racist depictions and ethnic othering... tricky and annoying! And by Jewish... do you mean ethnic Jewish or religious Jewish?

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  2. Tricky and annoying...anyone can be Jewish no matter what they look like and that includes non-Caucasians. The real question was about the cross.

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  3. ...kinda like the word "Hispanics"... anyone with any human look under the sun can be "Hispanic"... speaking of "Hispanic"... there is also a large population of "Hispanic" "Jews"...

    as for the cross. I think it is more of a fashion statement than religious... except maybe in the context of the Vanessa doll... she is a vampire hunter after all ;) but then to believe that vampires would be scared of signs of Christianity, one must believe in Christ first *goes round in circles... dizzy now*

    I don't know if the cross means that Vanessa's character is "Christian"... perhaps the symbol has pagan links!

    That said, it is trendy in some circles (mostly subculture eg. goth, punk, metal) to wear pentagrams, septagrams. other-grams... upways and downways... but we are not seeing those symbols on many dolls yet.

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  4. If you go by the shopping channels, crosses can just be fashion statements without any religious connotation. But in the next breath, they are pushing the religious aspect!

    I think Wu is just using it as a design element. No profile I have read of him mentions any religious side to him. I can understand someone who is non-Christian being a little ticked off at the use (not to say you are!).

    Two of the Hommes could be interpreted as being Catholics since they come from very Catholic countries. Having a tiny cross on them MAY refer to that.

    Fran in NYC

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  5. Interesting read, some stuff I wasn't aware of on the market.

    As for religious imagery, crosses predate christianity. They are so ubiquitous that they are seen as fashion rather than religion quite often. It's probably more commercial oppression than anything. You can put a cross on a doll and it's just fashion, but if you put a Star of David on a doll, I doubt the same would be true.

    That might be a good thing. Is it good to have a religious icon diluted until it can be stripped of all meaning other than "I thought it looked cute with this outfit?"

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  6. @Uriah: Let's raise the awareness of those who grew up seeing crosses on family members and in churches, wearing crosses and generally accustomed to crosses in their lives. Those for whom the cross does not symbolize their religion do not see the cross in the same light. Crosses are seen as symbols of Christianity by most non-Christians.
    This is the idea behind the question of whether to say Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas. Do you consider whether or not the person you are wishing Merry Christmas to actually celebrates Christmas? When I started photographing my dolls, I set them in Christmas scenes and Chanukah scenes. I was fine with both but here's something interesting I found out about myself. In the past when I posted a Chanukah picture, I said "Happy Chanukah to those who celebrate Chanukah." When I said Merry Christmas, there was no 'to those who celebrate' attached. This year I decided to just say Happy Chanukah. People aren't used to that and don't know what to say for the most part...and I'm not responsible for their comfort level anymore.

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  7. ".and I'm not responsible for their comfort level anymore."

    I feel the same way in other areas of my life. Religion isn't important to me so I often overlook it. I generally say "happy season of vapid consumerism" because that's really how I see it.

    Good for you for not qualifying yourself anymore.

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  8. I never thought of saying "merry Christmas" as being an assumption that everyone celebrates it... Now that I think about it, I would dislike the "...to those who celebrate it", because it sounds so exclusivist, like saying "season's greetings, except to the following people..." But that is just my personal view, and I do come from a very christian country (as in, a very large majority of the population identify as christians or non-religious compared to the next largest religion).
    I do not consider myself a christian, but I do wear crosses, because my being not really christian does not in my opinion prevent me from agreeing with Jesus about the things he said and the values he taught. So, if there has to be a religious reason behind my choice of jewelry it is that. There are also pieces of jewelry that happen to be crosses, but are more importantly heirlooms from beloved friends and family, or have been given to me at special moments in my life, and that is their connotation first and foremost, and only after that, if at all, something religious.
    In general, I do not like this sort of categorisation. If someone wears camouflage, nobody jumps to the conclusion that the person is a fascist or even very militant, even though that is another "symbol" with very clear connotations. Some people wear crosses as fashion. Japanese couples have fake-christian weddings because it's cool, not because of its christian religious meaning. Symbols have mutually agreed upon meanings, but it does not remove the fact that they might mean something entirely else to a single individual.

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  9. @Anonymous: You said, "If someone wears camouflage, nobody jumps to the conclusion that the person is a fascist or even very militant,"
    How do you know what "nobody" thinks?
    As far as your having "never thought" about what saying 'Merry Christmas' means to non-Christians, perhaps now you WILL think about it and some of the other things you said as well. Move out of your comfort zone and get an education.

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  10. Terri, I know exactly what you mean. In fact, I just dressed one of my dolls in a little black dress, & I was going to use a cross necklace from a NuFace girl, but took it off because I felt it was a Christian symbol & I was uncomfortable about it. I'm not sure why a cross can be just a fashion statement, but a Star of David is always a religious symbol. Why isn't it ever a fashion statement too?

    I am not sure what the difference between a crucifx & a cross is, do they look different? I always thought they were the same thing.

    As for the whole Jewish doll thing, that sort of brings me to something that always annoys me. When people say somebody does or doesn't "look Jewish". How do you look like a religion? You don't hear people say "funny, Sue doesn't look Baptist" or "Tom looks like a typical Catholic" so why do Jews have to look a certain way? Unless you happen to be Hasidic, or you're wearing a bubushka & shawl, & you just landed at Ellis island, Jewish people look like everyone else, & so do dolls. That little Gali girl looks like a Jew to me.

    As for qualifying Happy Chanukah or Merry Christmas, I don't. It drives me insane when I go to a store & as part of their customer service, the sales or checkout people ask me if I got all my Christmas shopping done, or if my tree is up, or if I'll be with my entire family for Christmas. It absolutely never occurs to them that I might not celebrate Christmas & it makes me want to scream. I usually just stick to Happy Holidays unless I really mean to get specific for a specific person. That way I don't make anybody else feel like screaming either.

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  11. @Marna: A crucifix is a cross with the figure of Jesus on it. Thanks for your post.
    Terri

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  12. I think the reason that the cross works on vampires isn't neccessarily because Jesus died on a cross. Vampires are (in fiction) older than Christianity, and I assume it would always have worked.

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  13. Hi Terri!

    This blog reminded me of a movie I watched called Wedding Daze. I found a clip on YouTube of the part it reminded me of but it's cruddy quality.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dUu9-qEa8s
    Hugs, Jessica

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  14. Jessica: That is a riot! Thanks for the link.

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