Move aside, magic 8 ball.
A new mystical advice-giving toy is taking over the shelves this Chanukah, and this doll is always right – after all, it is modeled after your stereotypical Jewish grandmother.
The Ask Bubbe Talking Grandma Doll hit the shelves at J. Levine Books and Judaica this fall, in time for the first night of Chanukah, which falls out this year on December 24.
The talking doll “answers any question with advice and chutzpah – just like a real Jewish grandmother,” according to the packaging. It is part of the Mensch on a Bench Family, a group of dolls inspired by a book that a Jewish father created to teach his sons about Jewish holidays while adding new traditions to his family.
“I think it’s the cutest talking doll that we’ve had,” said Danny Levine, the 4th generation owner of J. Levine Books and Judaica, who has been in the business for 40 years. He added that it’s been “quite rare” to come across quality talking dolls for the Jewish market. Talking dolls are more common in the non-Jewish toy market. The last quality Jewish talking dolls that Levine used to sell were a set of dolls that would speak in Hebrew and teach kids how to speak the language, but the Hebrew speaking doll was eventually discontinued.
While the Ask Bubbe doll won’t be able to fry latkes or dole out chocolate gelt, a gentle squeeze of the hand prompts Bubbe to spew advice to her listeners, like “go sit on a bench and ask me later,” “oy vey, I’m tired – all these questions,” and “go ask your mother!”
“It’s such a nice, loud voice,” Levine said about doll. “This woman just blurts out her answers.”
With her smiling blue eyes and soft gray hair, Ask Bubbe is the first talking doll to join the Mensch on a Bench family. The Mensch on a Bench concept began as a book written by Neal Hoffman, a Jewish father who used to work at Hasbro and was living his dream job by making toys. Hoffman was inspired to create the Mensch on a Bench book when his oldest son asked for an Elf on the Shelf, a Christmas doll. That night, Hoffman wrote the first draft of his Mensch on a Bench book, and shortly afterwards the book gave rise to a Mensch doll, Hannah the Hanukkah Hero doll, a singing Menorah and Ask Bubbe.
“Usually it gets a big smile out of you,” Levine said about the talking grandma doll. “People just love it. I think it’s destined to be one of our bestsellers.”