Area Jews struggle with the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg


Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg attends a public conversation at the University of Chicago on September 9, 2019, in Chicago. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/TNS) (Newscom TagID: krtphotoslive893672.jpg) [Photo via Newscom]
Ann Clemons of Potomac learned of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death during Rosh Hashanah dinner with her family. When Clemons’ daughter blurted out the news, Clemons said her immediate reaction was “shock and extreme sadness.”

“She was a brilliant jurist. She was a strong Jewish woman. I think it was just so poignant” that she died as the Jewish New Year began, Clemons said. “She always did better. Every day, she did better. She inspired us. She was a trail blazer.”

Clemons continued, “She was just this powerful, steady voice, even in dissent, her opinions mattered. “This country is better because of her.”

Later that evening, “I tossed and turned. I just couldn’t sleep. I panicked about the future. She was an icon, a trailblazer. She was a strong Jewish woman.

Throughout the Washington area, Jews expressed their shock over Ginsburg’s death on Sept. 18 at age 87, and admiration for her accomplishments as a litigator for women’s rights and Supreme Court justice who, in her 80s, had become a cultural icon.

“I did feel like she was my rock star,” said Potomac resident Phyllis Solomon.

Solomon read Ginsburg’s autobiography, “My Own Words,” with her book club, enjoyed viewing two movies about the Jewish justice and was in the audience when Ginsburg spoke at Adas Israel Congregation in Washington in 2018.

“I found it unreal,” she said of the justice’s death.

Rabbi Evan Krame, of The Jewish Studio and president of the Washington Board of Rabbis, addressed Ginsburg’s death during his morning sermon during virtual services on the first day of Rosh Hashanah.

“She was a woman of great courage, deep knowledge and profound thought,” Krame told his congregants. “She advocated for women and minorities, those who were disadvantaged within this American democratic system. She succeeded in spearheading significant changes in American jurisprudence from civil rights to environmental protection.”

He continued, “Do not mourn in silence. Do not mourn in seclusion. Do not mourn in vain. Whatever you are feeling, channel that into ways of honoring her legacy. If one woman could have such a great impact, think what all of us can do together. Write. Call. March. Vote. Give.

“I think that the mourning period will last quite a while,” Krame said, “because the community is quite bereft.”

Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt of Adas Israel Congregation led the private funeral service for Ginsburg’s family, friends and colleagues in the Supreme Court’s Great Hall. Nearby was Ginsburg’s American flag-draped casket and a large portrait of the justice, whom Holtzblatt called “an American hero.”

“To be born into a world that does not see you, that does not believe in your potential, that does not give you a path for opportunity or a clear path for education, and despite this, to be able to see beyond the world you are in, to imagine that something can be different, that is the job of a prophet,” Holtzblatt said.

“And It is the rare prophet who not only imagines a new world, but also makes that new world a reality in her lifetime. This was the brilliance and vision of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”

Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, issued a statement calling Ginsburg “a champion of justice, an inspiration to women and girls everywhere, and a hero to all who value equality.”

Ginsburg, the daughter of a Jewish immigrant who had to fight her way to each position she held, “fought adversity and discrimination throughout her life,” Halber wrote, noting that the diminutive Jewish justice had a “strident sense of what is right.”

He continued, “And we take comfort from her legacy of fighting to make our world a better, more just, and more righteous place for all who inhabit it.”

Upon learning of her death, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) tweeted, “Words are insufficient to describe the loss to our country. Justice Ginsburg was a trailblazer, a jurist and a public servant. She set a standard of excellence that few will ever match. On this Rosh Hashanah evening, my prayers are with her family and all those who cherished #RBG.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) tweeted, “America has just suffered another terrible wound with the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an extraordinary Justice and before that a brilliant and dazzling lawyer. May her memory be forever a blessing to her family, and her passion for justice be forever a light forward for America.”


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