Is Barbie a Jewish Baby Name? – Kveller
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Jewish baby names

Is Barbie a Jewish Baby Name?

We investigate.

Auction of Barbie Dolls – London

via Fiona Hanson - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

A bunch of fresh-faced sweet babies are about to be named Barbie, at least if name search statistics and the popularity of a history-making summer blockbuster are anything to go by. told TMZ this week that they have seen a 300% uptick for searches on the name of the doll at the heart of the “Barbie” movie, named after Jewish inventor Ruth Handler‘s daughter, Barbara.

So, is Barbara a Jewish name?

Well, its roots aren’t Hebrew, Ladino or Yiddish. It’s of Greek origins and means stranger or foreigner. In Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions, Barbara is a popular saint whose pagan father tried to behead her for her Christian faith and was then struck by lightning as punishment (…whoa). That association with lightening and explosives is why she’s a patron saint of artillery and mining.

So yes, that history is not very Jewish — and yet, Barbara, alternatively spelled Barbra, was an incredibly popular name for Jewish women of a certain generation, including that of Barbara Handler, 82, whose parents, Elliot and Ruth Handler, were the co-founders of Mattel, and both children of Jewish immigrants.

There was the late great broadcast journalist Barbara Walters, who passed away this year at 93 (may her memory be a blessing). There’s fierce former senator Barbara Boxer, 82, Academy award-winning anthropologist Barbara Myeroff, French singer Barbara (whose birth name was actually Monique Andrée Serf) and pioneering artist Barbara Kruger, 78, whose collages changed art history.

Then, of course, there’s our own Jewish patron saint (if you pardon my language) of the arts: Barbra Streisand, 81. No doubt many a daughter has been named after the legendary singer, actor, directory and soon-to-be memoirist.

To be fair, Barbara was generally a popular girl’s name for quite some time. According to the Social Security Administration, it was in the top 10 most popular girl’s names between 1927 and 1958, but has steadily declined in popularity since the 1960s. In 2022, it ranked as the 976th most popular girl’s name in the United States.

While there are plenty of remarkable non-Jewish Barbaras, you would definitely be paying tribute to some incredible Jewish women by naming your newborn Barbara, Barbra or, yes, the diminutive Barbie.

Is Barbie herself Jewish? That is in the eyes of the beholder. Some are adamant the doll is canonically so; others vehemently disagree. In my opinion, Barbie is certainly a symbol of Jewish American assimilation — the product of one fierce Jewish woman making her dream come true.

I for one sincerely hope that this particular name makes a comeback, and while we’re at it, I’d like to campaign for the Jew-ish uncle/grandparent name Allan (or Allen, or Alan) to also rise in the baby name charts. The doll was named after Barbara Handler’s ex-husband Allan Segal, and its portrayal in the Greta Gerwig film by Michael Cera was incredible.

And hey, if you’re looking for more Barbie-related Jewish baby names, we’ve got you covered.

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