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June 19, 2009

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 19, 2009 Greene From page 10A most popular girls' names for Yiddish-speaking immi- grants in New York City in the 1910 census. Greene liked the name because it sounded "spunky" and had a nickname (Beckie) that would allow the character to be called by her full name when she was in trouble or at school. Even with the careful research, there has already been some controversy over elements in the Rebecca books. Two weeks ago, Paula Hyman, a professor of mod- ern Jewish history at Yale, claimed in a New York Times article to have found his- torical inaccuracies in the Rebecca series--notably the descriptions of pogroms and the conscription of Jewish boys into the Russian army. Greene stands by her ac- count. "I've been writing histori- cal fiction for almost 30 years. I didn't think there could be anyone who was more con- cerned about every historical detail than I am, but I will tell you that American Girl is," she says. "There isn't a word or a name or a street or a food or an item of clothing--down to underwear--that hasn't been double-checked, triple- checked, quadruple-checked in a number of places and with experts." She adds, "We thoroughly disagree with the opinion of that professor. We could cite our own sources to show why we wrote what we wrote, and we are totally confident that those facts are supported." While Greene was busy researching the era for her books, the doll designers at American Girl were studying the appearance of Russian immigrants in the early 20th century. There were tough decisions to be made. "Once the author and the editorial team had settled on a Russian Jewish immigrant, the design team knew that they had a wide range of op- tions to consider in creating this doll," Parks says. "The hair choices, eye color-- there wasn't anything that would be considered histori- cally inaccurate." But there was the question of what people would expect from a Jewish doll. Rebecca's first working hair color was a dark reddish-brown. "We thought, yes, that's accurate, but maybe not as typical as people might expect," Parks says. Because of Rebecca's de- layed release, her lookwas re- freshed and tweaked several times over the years. In the end, the designers settled on a mid-tone brown with russet highlights, and hazel eyes. The basic doll costs $95 and comes clothed in a burgundy dress with a black collar and gold buttons, and black-and- white side-button boots. An extended accessory set adds a paisley shawl, blackvelvet hat and an enameled brooch, the origin of which is explained in the series' first book, "Meet Rebecca." Other accessory sets, sold separately, include a school outfit, a bed and a "Sabbath set" with ~niatur6~habbat candlesticks, a challah and a shiny samovar. Other acces- sories, including a Chanukah set, will be coming out in the fall. Although Greene didn't work on the design of the doll, she was shown prototypes while the team was develop- ing the hair and eye color. The company sent her one of the completed dolls-- which she gave to her mother, Greene says with a laugh. Having raised two sons, Greene was largely unaware of the American Girl phenom- enon until a young girl living next door showed Greene her beloved Samantha doll. After being chosen to write the Rebecca books, Greene began to study the brand seriously, reading several of the other girls' series to get a sense of how one character was traced through six books. Like the other American Girls, each of Rebecca's books has the heroine dealing with a major dilemma, interlaced with colorful details of life in her era. In "Candlelight for Re- becca," for example, she is confronted with her teacher's insistence that Christmas is a national holiday, and is conflicted over the class as- signment of making a holiday centerpiece. In "Changes for Rebecca," she learns about the harsh conditions in the city's factories and joins in a protest calling for workers' rights. For readers expecting the crowded tenements and mea- ger wages that pervade most books about Jewish immi- grants on the Lower East Side, Rebecca's life may seem a bit unusual. Though the books mention the family's origins in the Or- chard Street tenements, when the series opens the Rubins have long been settled in an apartment in a sunny row house. Rebecca's father owns a shoe store, and her uncle is on his way to becoming a successful actor. On the other end of the spectrum is Rebecca's cousin PAGE 11A Ana, introduced in the second books for Jewish girls -- she book when she arrives with was writing for a non-Jewish her family from Russia. Ana's audience, too. That required family moves into a crowded, certain adjustments. smelly tenement, with her In the books, Rebecca's family celebrates Shabbat, Chanukah and Passover, and her brother Victor has his bar mitzvah. "I had a lot of discussions with the editor about how much we wanted to include various customs and tradi- tions. How much detail, how religious would the family be, how much of the religion would we show," Greene says. "All readers need to be able to feel comfortable with these stories. They need to see themselves in there--they need to feel that they could be father and brother working Rebecca, they could walk in in aswea~shop, her shoes 2 S~ tile storylines The decision to contrast havetobeveryuniversal.They Rebecca's relatively comfort- have to reach every reader." able lifestyle with Ana's was a Butin ~he end, Greene says, conscious one, Greene says, iPS ~eb~a's Judaism that noting that she wanted to show what a new immigrant looked like as well as what could be achieved after several years of hard work. "[Rebecca's] parents started out in a shoe factory doing sweatshop labor, and then they were able to get ahead a little bit and establish themselves and move out of the tenements, which is the first thing every family did as soon as they could possibly do it," she says. Throughout the process of writing the series, Greene was cognizant of the fact that she wasn't just writing the forms the heart of her story. "As Rebecca watches those around her, she forms her view of the world from the three most important Jewish ideals," she says. "First is rach- mones, or compassion. Next is tikkun olam, or repairing the world, And finally, tzedakah, giving to others. "While each book is simply a story about one adventure in Rebecca's life, these ideals are always part of her actions." Reprinted with permission from j. the Jewish weekly of northern California, www. Sentence reduced for Pentagon analyst who leaked to AIPAC WASHINGTON (JTA)--A former Pentagon analyst who pled guilty to passing secret information to two former AI PAC staffers had his sentence drastically reduced. Larry Franklin was sen- tenced to probation and 10 months of "community confinement," or a halfway house, along with 100 hours of community service. In 2005, he had received a sentence of 12 and 1/2 years in prison but was free pending his cooperation with prosecutors in the case against the two formers AIPAC staffers, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman. The charges against those two men for passing classified information were dropped by federal prosecutors last month who said that restric- tions the judge had placed on the case made the government unlikely to prevail. In a hearing last Thurs- day afternoon in U. S. Dis- trict Court in Alexandria, Va., prosecutors asked Judge T. S. Ellis to reduce Franklin's sentence to eight years, saying he played an important role in the case but was "not what you'd call an ideal cooperator." Franklin attorney Plato Cacheris said Franklin had "paid his penalty and suf- fered greatly," and should not have to serve any time in prison. Ellis said he didn't have an opinion on the dismissal of the case against Rosen and Weissman, but the fact that the case was dropped was a "significant" factor in the sentencing of Franklin. El- lis also noted in Franklin's defense that other leakers of government secrets in recent years have not been prosecuted. On the other hand, he noted that "this case is different from Rosen and Weissman because Mr. Franklin is a goverment of- ficial." For that reason, Ellis said Franklin's community service should consist of speaking to young people about the importance of public officials obeying the law, he said. Franklin has said he leaked information to the former AIPAC staffers, as well as an Israeli diplomat, because of "frustration with policy" on Iran at the Pentagon. He believed that they would be able to relay that information on Iran to friends on the U. S. National Security Council. There's a difference in our service You'll see it in your yard MLc Maurice Lawn Care Maintenance. 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