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We Are Absolutely Kvelling Over Tefillin Barbie

A Jewish take on America's favorite doll

By Kolture

Published Jul 14, 2023

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Get ready to embrace a new icon in the world of Judaism, a symbol of empowerment and religious devotion like you’ve never seen before. Introducing…Tefillin Barbie! That’s right, Barbie has donned her tallit (prayer shawl), wrapped her arm with tefillin, and is ready to take the Jewish community by storm. Move over, Malibu Barbie, because Tefillin Barbie is here to teach us all a thing or two about faith and fashion. 

The concept of Tefillin Barbie was born when Mattel released their Halloween Hip Barbie in 2006, wearing a fabulous frum denim skirt. It didn’t take long for someone to realize that this Barbie could be a perfect canvas for some religious creativity. And thus, the idea of Tefillin Barbie was born. With a tallit, tefillin, a siddur, and even a volume of Talmud, Tefillin Barbie became a symbol of inclusivity and a reflection of contemporary American Jewish life. 

COURTESY JEN TAYLOR FRIEDMAN

The response to Tefillin Barbie was nothing short of extraordinary. People couldn’t help but share their opinions, ranging from “seriously disturbing” to “finally Barbie has done something I can be proud of!” It was clear that this unconventional Barbie was making waves and challenging the status quo.

Tefillin Barbie made appearances in numerous media outlets, from Lilith to The Jewish Advocate to the Forward, capturing the attention of both the Jewish and general communities. In 2018, she was featured in the exhibit “Let There Be Laughter – Jewish Humor Around the World” at Anu Museum of the Jewish People.

Now, Tefillin Barbie is not just limited to the basics. She has evolved to embody even more facets of Jewish life. You can find Barbie reading Torah, leading a daf-yomi shiur (daily Talmud study), or engaging in deep Talmudic study. There’s even a version of Barbie doing hagbah (raising the Torah scroll) with glamour and strength. Tefillin Barbie shows us that women can be an integral part of religious practices. 

Jen Taylor Friedman, the mastermind behind Tefillin Barbie, saw the demand skyrocket. She began selling these unique dolls through her Etsy store, quickly becoming a go-to destination for those seeking a touch of religious flair in their Barbie collection.

COURTESY JEN TAYLOR FRIEDMAN

As much as we’d love to see Tefillin Barbie grace the front of greeting cards, tote bags, and mugs, copyright laws prevent Jen from featuring Barbie’s image on any merchandise. But fear not, for the spirit of Tefillin Barbie lives on in our hearts and minds. 

So, as we eagerly await the premiere of the upcoming Barbie movie starring Margot Robbie in July 2023, let’s take a moment to appreciate the unique and campy charm of Tefillin Barbie. She’s a symbol of empowerment, a reminder that we can bring our passions and identities together, even in the most unexpected places. Tefillin Barbie has shown us that faith and fashion can coexist, and that’s something we can all celebrate. Mazel tov, Tefillin Barbie! You’ve captured our hearts and inspired us to embrace our true selves, one miniature tallit at a time. 

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Not only do we select fun and fresh themes, but The Kolture team doesn't have to go far to gather content. You can say we are Jewish arts and culture fanatics. Every month, we will select a helping of Jewish arts and culture that we simply can't wait to put in front of your eyes. Don't worry, bubbeleh, you're in good hands...

Reflections

Barbie Totally Counts the Omer

What other Jewish rituals and traditions can you imagine Tefillin Barbie leading? What is she wearing for different Jewish holidays?

Legally Blonde (by Patent)

The creator of the original Barbie, Ruth Handler, was Jewish. When you think of the iconic blonde Barbie, what stereotypes come to mind? Why do you think these stereotypes exist? Did you ever think the original Barbie doll could have been a Jew?

In a Barbie World

The newer, more inclusive range of Hasbro's Barbie dolls represents a wide variety of identities and aren't limited in their choice of occupations. What do you think this says to young children (and their parents) who are the market for these dolls? Do you think Barbies present an accurate representation of the world, a progressive ideal, and/or a culturally sensitive one?

 

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