Learning Jewish Culture from “American Girl Doll”

I found myself the other night reading a book about Rebecca, one of the American Girl dolls.  Now let me say off the bat that my children do not actually possess American Girl dolls, and that is because I am just way too cheap to spend that much on a doll and accessories for my children.  So what I am doing reading the books to my kids?? Well, the books are actually very well done.  They are stories about the sort of lives these dolls would have lived as children in various time and places.  Rebecca is a young Jewish girl living in New York in 1914.

Now something I recommend for Jewish intercultural couples in particular are to find fun and interesting ways to teach your kids about your respective religions, cultures and histories.   Kids don’t gravitate to a lecture or a bunch of dry facts or information, but they love a good story.  So here I am reading Rebecca to my children, and they don’t want me to put it down.  The book I was reading was taking place during the week of passover.  My children, while loving a good story, are learning about the culture of Rebecca’s grandparents, her “bubbe” who always toes the line when it comes to everything Jewish.  Rebecca laments that she is not allowed to eat anything not made at home this week, because Bubbe doesn’t trust that it is kosher for passover.   The book not only does a great job of giving a sense of New York city and culture in 1914, but helps my children understand about why Jewish people immigrated and what it was like to be in a new country and to be poor.  Rebecca also struggles being on the edge of two cultures.  She wants to integrate into American society, but she also wants to respect her family and their ways.  Here, her cousin Max, the actor, takes her to watch him make a movie, but Rebecca’s family makes sure she packs a lunch with proper passover foods.  She is embarrassed at lunch to take out the lunch at the studio, until she sees the director and starring actress also pulled out packed lunchs with Matzo and herring.  The book goes onto explain how central Jewish people were to the development of the movie industry.

I had wonderful conversations about the story with my kids.  So here I was reading a story they were loving.  They were learning Jewish words, history and culture without even trying.  It made me smile.  I thought to myself…Perfect!

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