"I am a judge born, raised, and proud of being a Jew. The demand for justice runs through the entirety of the Jewish tradition. I hope, in my years on the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States, I will have the strength and the courage to remain constant in the service of that demand." – Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Few people have had as long or as profound an impact upon the course of a nation as did Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Friday at age 87 – just as the Jewish year 5780 drew to a close and Jews around the world began their Rosh HaShanah observance.
As the first Jewish woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Ginsburg was seen as an icon not only to the progressive world but to the American Jewish community, in particular. In "Ruth Bader Ginsburg was passionate about Judaism’s concern for justice," Yonat Shimron writes, "For Ginsburg, who died at home surrounded by her family on Friday evening at the age of 87, the phrase from the Hebrew Bible, 'Tzedek, tzedek tirdof,' summed up perfectly her calling as jurist and a Jew."
As we mourn the loss of this pillar of justice, here are six ways you can honor her life and legacy with your actions.
1. Mourn with the entire Jewish community.
NPR reports on the way Jewish Americans are grieving Justice Ginsburg's death, and The Forward shares how clergy, in particular, are mourning. Read the Reform Movement's statement on her passing, as well.
You can also recite the Mourner's Kaddish for her this Shabbat. Mourners typically recite this prayer during the bereavement period and to mark the anniversary of a death of a loved one.
2. Read about her life and work.
In the New York Daily News, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, shares Jewish perspectives on Justice Ginsburg's life.
To go deeper, read Carol Ascher's review of Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a lively biography that mixes chatty stories, photographs, charts, letters, and cartoons with legal decisions to illustrate the illustrious career of the first Jewish woman to serve on the Supreme Court. Read more from Ascher about Justice Ginsburg, too.
3. Learn about the Jewish women who influenced her.
In December 2019, Justice Ginsburg became the 21st inductee into The National Museum of American Jewish History’s Only in America® Gallery/Hall of Fame. "The Jewish Women Who Influenced Ruth Bader Ginsburg" highlights some of the most illuminating selections sections of her acceptance speech.
4. Teach your kids about her legacy.
The children's book I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, addresses Jewish themes and customs such as machloket l’shem shamayim (dispute for the sake of heaven) and tzedek tzedek tirdof ("justice, justice shall you pursue"). Use our review and discussion guide to your children about Justice Ginsburg's perseverance and her continued pursuit for equal rights – and why doing so was so very Jewish.
5. Support Jewish summer camps.
As a teen, long before she was appointed to the Supreme Court, young Ruth Bader attended Jewish summer camp. In "The Most Jewish Thing that Ruth Bader Ginsburg Ever Did," Rabbi Jeff Salkin writes about its influence on her – and how attending Jewish camp influences thousands of young Jewish people around the globe. Visit URJYouth.org to learn more about Reform Jewish summer camping.
7. Urge the Senate to uphold precedent in confirming a new justice.
As the nation mourns the loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the legitimacy of the Supreme Court and our democracy depends on Senators following precedent when it comes to confirming a new justice. Learn more and use the Religious Action Center’s action alert to contact your senators and tell them that they should not vote on any nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy until after a new Senate is sworn in and the president inaugurated. The well-being of our democracy depends on it.
8. Act for a better future.
Justice Ginsburg cared deeply about the democratic process. As Reform Jews, we believe democracy is strongest when everyone participates – and it suffers when citizens are shut out or choose not to engage. Now is the time to get involved in Every Voice, Every Vote: The Reform Movement's Civic Engagement Campaign.
How did Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg inspire you on a personal level? What will you do to honor her legacy? Let us know on social media.