There’ s a new girl in town (four girls actually) ready to face off against the enormous popularity of American Girl dolls and other models that come baring too much plastic skin.
Gali Girls (two blondes, a brunette and a redhead) are 18 inches high like the American Girls but come with Jewish values expressed through modest dress, Star of David bracelets, Hebrew/English doll name certificates and Shabbat toy kit.
Aliza Stein, a 34-year-old mother of two young sons, came up with the idea for Gali Girls after visiting a Toys ‘R’ Us with her boys and catching a glimpse of the tween-oriented dolls called Bratz. The dolls were scantily clad and available with a prom night accessory featuring a nightclub and hotel/bedroom above it.
"They seemed to be about sexuality," said Stein, of Teaneck, N.J. "This is what we’ re putting out there for 9-year-olds? I was fascinated and horrified all at the same time."
Stein, who works in the publishing industry and has never delved into toy making, decided to create a version that would convey values she thought appropriate for young Jewish girls. She assembled a consulting crew of mothers (one Orthodox, one Conservative and one Reform) to help.
"I get people who assume this is an Orthodox doll, but it’ s mainly Orthodox people who make that assumption," said Stein, who grew up in a Modern Orthodox home but now calls herself "a work in progress." She said her goal is to make Gali Girls accessible to all denominations within Judaism.
Gali Girls aren’t the first modestly dressed dolls put out for niche markets. Others include an Islamic line with headscarves and conservative Christian Barbie-sized models. And there have been other attempts to market less flashy dolls to a Jewish audience.
But Gali Girls seem to be the first to tap into the vortex that is the American Girl dolls. That empire is anchored by a series of dolls in period American dress with accompanying accessories and books about their lives. Legions of young girls and their grandmas are spending upwards of $100 each on the pricey playthings, if a few accessories are thrown in.
More than 11 million American Girl dolls and 105 million books have been sold through its Web site and stores in Chicago and New York, where late-night parties are booked at a cost of $250 per child.
Inspired by that phenomenon, Stein has bigger plans for her $60 Gali Girls. In the works are Gali Girls books featuring the characters in different periods of Jewish history, due out by the end of the year, and more accessories including a Chanukah kit.
Everything’s available at GaliGirls.com, and at Judaica stores such as Eichler’s and J. Levine.
Also on Stein’s agenda: Gali Girls with curly hair and darker skin tones, and perhaps even a Chinese-looking Gali Girl.