Latinx Jews Rejoice Over News of Latina Disney Princess

Actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler will voice an as yet unnamed Latina Jewish princess for the Hanukkah and coronation specials of Disney’s show, “Elena of Avalor.”

It is not even Rosh Hashanah and people are already excited about Hanukkah.

On Tuesday, Latina Jewish actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler tweeted that she will be voicing an as yet unnamed Latina Jewish princess for the Hanukkah and coronation specials of Disney’s show, “Elena of Avalor.”

The news was particularly meaningful for Latinx Jewish families. Jennifer Stempel, who like Sigler has Cuban American heritage, was overjoyed by the news. “As a Latina Jewish woman, I’m thrilled that my children will be able to see aspects of their heritage and culture represented on a platform where they have largely gone unnoticed,” Stempel said. “We may not be royal, but when we see ourselves positively reflected on the media we consume, it definitely impacts self-image.”

For Rodopi Dafna, a Greek Colombian Jewish mom of triplets, the excitement is less personal and more for her kids. “They’re just coming to terms with what being Sephardic means, and they love this show and I know they’re going to be excited and empowered,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for them to see themselves represented in a magical and powerfully positive way. 

It is unclear whether or not the new Disney Latina princess is Sephardi. Among Latinx Jews, there are those who trace roots back to Spain and are Sephardi and those who trace their ancestry to Europe and are Ashkenazi.

Sephardi singer-educator and mother of two young girls, Sarah Aroeste was thrilled when she heard about the new Latina Jewish princess. She does not think it matters if the princess is Sephardi or not. “To show a Jewish princess – explicitly in the script – is something so exciting by itself,” Aroeste said. “To add the Latina element is an amazing added bonus! I love the fact that people will see a character that is not only Jewish but one that is not necessarily Ashkenazi. Of course just because she’s Latina does NOT mean she’s Sephardic, but to show a non-standard portrayal of a Jewish girl is something I didn’t think we’d see yet in mainstream kids’ media”

Rachel Figeroa hopes the new Disney Latina Jewish princess is “a real character and not a token here’s-a-minute-of-Hanukkah-in-the-middle-of-our-Christmas-special kind of thing.” Either way, she adds, “it means I’m about to spend all my money on dresses, accessories, and other merchandising because this is probably going to be the Purim costume.”

Media images matter greatly to Jesi Taylor Cruz, a journalist and doula. “As the mother of a Jewish, Afro-Latinx child, I’m thrilled that Disney is giving young Jews of color a princess they can look up to!” she said. “There are Jews all over the world whose racial and ethnic identities are diverse and impact how they experience life as Jews. This princess will be a great way to showcase that!”

As the father of two girls who love Disney princesses, Rabbi Juan Mejia is “looking forward to them discovering that there are people in the Disney universe that not only look like them but pray like them. It is a good contrast to the portrayal of Jews as Hassidic rabbis.”

For Mejia, who grew up in Colombia in a Catholic family and had little exposure to Jews as a child, it is also exciting “to see Jewishness being added to the clearly Latino ‘Elena of Avalor’ universe. It is not just that we are including Jews in a show. It also expands how people see Latinos. For kids who are fans it will expand their understanding and see that Latinos can be Jews.”

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