Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. A fierce advocate against gender discrimination, she was only the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
The following reflection was written by Jada Eisenbud ’23.
On September 18th, the country lost Ruth Bader Ginsburg; an icon, a feminist, a believer in activism and equity. I am writing at a unique time; as a Jewish woman, I am observing Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, this weekend. Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the 10-day period of atonement and is one of the High Holy Days in Judaism. During Rosh Hashanah, we usually welcome the holiday with sweetness; eating apples and honey, enjoying the company of friends and family, and looking forward to the sweetness of a new year. Tonight, however, we mourn the bitter loss of a public figure who spent her career championing equality and leaning in to the face of adversity.
As many know, RBG was the first Jewish female justice on the Supreme Court and is the longest-serving Jewish justice ever. RBG was iconic in every sense of the word; she passionately fought for civil rights, women’s rights, and LGBTQIA+ rights for this country. Even as she aged, she was dedicated to health and fitness and was probably much more physically fit than many people I know. She beat cancer. Twice. Regardless of one’s political alignment, there is no denying that the woman had fervor, stamina, and grit.
In the 7th grade, I had the incredibly rare opportunity to sit in a room with her in the Supreme Court, along with the rest of my classmates, and share the air with her for a few hours. My class listened as she recounted the story of her youth, of her journey into law and politics, and of her monumental successes and times of hardship as a Supreme Court Justice. When it came time for questions, I was in the front-row and eagerly asked her what single thing she could attest to that got her where she was that day. Her response was a question back, “why?” I told her that I wanted to know “for future reference,” hinting at my impossibly high standards for my own future. She told me that all I needed to know was that there was no one way to do it, but that I should just go for it. As I sat across from her, locked eye to eye, I felt, with every fiber of my being, her essence. Her grin, her stout height that I certainly related to, and her endless wisdom.
I share this not to brag about my encounter with the icon, but in the hope that others may read this and feel it well sums up how we as a nation–and furthermore, we as the HWS community– should grapple with her death. We all know just how big, bold, and brilliant she was as a justice and political advocate. But a human life is not simply measured by a successful career; it carries the weight of the souls of those that person was able to touch and impact in ways that are invisible to the human eye.
No matter your political affiliation, it is a fact that RBG changed the course of our nation countless times, and has helped better this country in ways I can’t even begin to list. It is our duty within our respective communities to treasure and reflect upon the sweetness of the lives we have lost and the ways those lives continue to impact us in immeasurable ways. As the Jewish new year begins, we should all take this loss with a sadness but also with the same contagious energy that RBG contributed to the world for her 87 years of beautiful life.