On the very eve of this most unusual and bewildering Rosh Hashana, we received the deeply saddening word that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died.
As I write this column, Justice Ginsburg has not yet been laid to rest. (So, I hope you will understand that I am writing about what is about to take place). She will be buried beside the love of her life, her dear husband Martin at Arlington National Cemetery. Her casket will lie in state upon the Lincoln catafalque, first at the Supreme Court and then in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol. She will be the first woman ever so honored by the nation and only the second Justice of the Supreme Court. What a touching and completely appropriate tribute to that tiny but mighty woman who, by virtue of her wisdom, determination, and vision, changed America forever. It is impossible to overstate the immensity of her contributions to our nation. Every woman and girl in America, now and into the future, will be the beneficiary of the greatness of the Notorious RBG.
So many of us wished that she could have lived forever, or at least through the upcoming election, as was her hope. Her death has left a void in the Supreme Court and in the conscience of our nation can is not likely to be filled soon or perhaps ever. It has been said that what Justice Thurgood Marshall was to people of color, Justice Ginsburg was to the women and girls of America.
We, the Jewish people, are incredibly proud that she was one of us. more important than her Jewish identity or her Brooklyn neighborhood of origin, the ideals that shaped her life came directly from our Jewish heritage of justice. What made her so much more than a famous Jewish woman is that she personified Judaism’s highest values, the belief in the equality of all people, the ceaseless pursuit of justice Although all members of the Supreme Court are referred to as Justice, this word deserves to be her first name.
How can America best pay its respects to this remarkable woman? There have already been two films made about her. There will be many books, including her own words. Law students will read her decisions and will use her precedents to argue future cases. There will be a statue created and placed in Brooklyn. Eventually that statue will become part of the New York landscape, invariably unnoticed by most of future generations. Pigeons will rest on that statue. But I doubt that would bother her in the least. She would probably find it humorous.
However, I do know what would disturb her immeasurably, namely if her successor will not be committed to the fight for full equality for women: equal pay for equal work, reproductive choice, the preservation of Roe v Wade, maternity leave and paternity leave too. Should whomever be nominated will not be as committed to these principles, then whatever posthumous honors may be bestowed on her will matter little. As I said in my sermon of September 25th, for an opponent of these hard-fought rights to be nominated and/or confirmed as the next Justice of the United States Supreme Court would be the equivalent of spitting on Justice Ginsburg’s grave.
This must not be allowed to happen. Our immeasurable debt to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg here and now is “to move heaven and earth” to make sure that her successor will be faithful to her steadfast principles. Regardless of who wins this election, it is of utmost importance to this nation and future generations that the individual to whom such great trust will be bestowed will stand proudly and courageously on the shoulders of Justice Ginsburg. This is the best way to honor her memory. This is the only way to honor her memory. May she rest in the peace she so richly deserves.