Jewish Journal


December 6, 2001

Bring a Rabbi Home


New this Chanukah: "The Rabbi Says..." doll.

New this Chanukah: "The Rabbi Says..." doll.

Stumped by what to buy as a Chanukah present? This year, you can give "The Rabbi Says..." doll to someone on your list.

The lovable stuffed rabbi, a creation of the Motor City's Gary Barris, debuted this season as "the Jewish response to teddy bears."

"A couple of holidays ago, I was at Fred Meyer [a store similar to a Super Kmart]," Barris recalled, "and I realized that there's really nothing out there for Jewish people in terms of gift-giving."

This is the first such venture for Barris, 30, the creator of "Rough Edge," a public access show frequented by Detroit rocker Kid Rock.

Contrary to popular belief, the bearded Jewish dolls do not talk. Barris has spent some energy clarifying the misunderstanding that they kvetch and plotz when squeezed. The stuffed rabbis, which retail at $11.95, come with customized tags bearing different greetings such as: "Oy, Vey," "L'Chaim," "Mitzvahlicious."

Barris, who consulted with Orthodox and Conservative rabbis before creating his initial batch of 3,000 dolls, drew inspiration from Jews in "Fiddler on the Roof" and the Neil Diamond remake of "The Jazz Singer." He went with an Orthodox look because it was ostensibly the most recognizably Jewish.

For Barris, there are no immediate plans for follow-ups, although he has not ruled out "The Rebbetzin Says..." or huggable rabbis of other denominations. However, he insisted that his toy isn't based on either of the rabbis at Temple Israel of West Bloomfield, Mich., the Reform shul he belongs to.

So, for anyone offended by "The Rabbi Says...," count your blessings -- Barris could have invented "The Rabbi's Mother-in-Law Says..." instead.

For information on "The Rabbi Says," visit www.therabbisays.com  

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