If Barbie dolls were Jewish,theyd have cordless phones

My friend Lori Wittlin has an idea or two for the Mattel people.

Lori is an active volunteer in Jewish circles and was honored recently at a dinner at her synagogue. She was recognized, along with a few other ladies, as a past president of the congregation's sisterhood. Each of the past presidents was called to the podium, given a lovely gift, and asked to make a few remarks.

When Lori's turn came, she took a novel approach. A woman of great warmth, Lori is known for her professionalism as a social worker helping older people, her hard work as a volunteer, her attentive parenting, and her sense of humor. She can say almost anything, completely deadpan, and get away with it.

She stood up at the dinner and said (as best as I can get her to recall it for me), "When I was at the toy store this week, next to Dentist Barbie, Veterinarian Barbie and Teacher Barbie, I saw a line of Jewish Barbies."

First, Lori told them, straight-faced, "I saw Morah Barbie. She comes with mitzvah notes, a beginner's prayer book and comfortable flat shoes."

In the audience, people began murmuring to each other, in all seriousness, "I was in Toys R Us last week and I didn't see that!"

Then, Lori explained, `I saw Rebbetzin Barbie, complete with an extra-large diningroom table and a very big pocketbook with everything in it that anyone could need –extra aspirin, a few hair clips and plenty of tissues."

Even the slowest, least toy-aware people began to grin.

"Last," Lori stated, "I saw Sisterhood President Barbie. She comes with so many great accessories. There are two telephones — a cordless for the house and a cellular for the car. Also included are several pizza boxes for those nights when Sisterhood Barbie can't possibly get around to cooking. The neatest thing is that she can talk. I pushed a button and Barbie said, `I'd like to thank the outstanding chairwomen who organized this wonderful evening,' `How much did we make on the Purim carnival?' and that all-time favorite, `Not tonight dear, I have a meeting.'"

Needless to say, in an audience where everyone came to honor former sisterhood presidents, people were in stitches. By the time Lori talked about the deluxe Sisterhood Barbie, which comes with a live-in Skipper, who baby-sits with no notice at all, or the traditional edition, who comes with baby-sitter Kelly, who can watch the kids on school nights if she doesn't have too much homework, everyone was in humor-induced pain.

If the toy manufacturer was interested, I'd order the whole set. However, in the current climate of Barbie-bashing — for example, several students at U.C. Berkeley recently attacked the busty, blond and blue-eyed classic in a seminar titled "Barbies We'd Like to See" — Mattel is unlikely to capitulate.

Still, I'd like to add some suggestions to the set. Lori, thank you so much for the delicious concept. In return, here are a few more Jewish Barbies.

There's Bubbe Barbie, a little more zaftig than the current (or even the renovated) model, but with energy to spare. She's got a ticket to the philharmonic, a program-planning book for her Hadassah chapter and a list of the grandchildren's birthdays. Just to keep her contemporary, she's also got a golf bag and a red sports car.

Then there's Carpool Barbie, who is only available in a seated pose. She comes with the standard pink plastic van including portable snacks, a local road map and little Skippers who attend three different schools on three different schedules.

There's Day School Teen Barbie, with a phone growing out of her ear, a chic little backpack carrying a list of her friends' e-mail addresses, and a department store shopping bag filled with skin medications, hair potions and chocolates.

And then there's my favorite, Clone-Me-Mom Barbie, which is actually five identical models that function in complete coordination with each other: It starts as Sisterhood Barbie and Carpool Barbie, but it goes on to offer Domestic Barbie, Office Barbie (note the crispy little suit) and Mom Barbie — who can pay quality attention to all the little Skippers all the time because Domestic Barbie is cooking and cleaning, Carpool Barbie is driving, Sisterhood Barbie is handling the annual luncheon and Office Barbie is earning some bucks.

See, toys are for grown-ups.

How many Barbie-clones would it take for you to farm out some chores to Mattel? Give it a shot: you'll just have to stand in line behind me and Lori, who is in a meeting at the synagogue nominating Sisterhood Barbie for next year's slate of officers.