This week on the Blog, Assistant Director Ethan Lane-Miller reflects on the immense impact that Ruth Bader Ginsburg has had on the world, on the Jewish community, and on our youth.
The end of Session One, Summer 2018 was rapidly approaching and camp was abuzz as staff worked hard to prepare for the end of the session. Part of the job of an Assistant Director is to always be thinking several steps ahead. So while Mindy Lee, a fellow Assistant Director, and I were coordinating schedules and making arrangements for closing day, we were also thinking of how to promote GFC’s year-round programs to our campers before they returned home. We had chosen the theme of “Superheroes” for Fall Camp 2018 and given the slate of blockbuster movies that had already been released that year, leaning-in to the superhero theme was an easy choice. We decided to perform a skit the last night of camp and went our separate ways to create our costumes. I took the superhero theme quite literally and created what I dubbed, “Low-Budget Captain America.” Mindy took a different approach and came back with a costume that was as simple as it was instantly recognizable and brilliant: black robes, glasses, a festive collar, and a gavel. Her superhero was Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The news of Justice Ginsburg’s death stopped me in my tracks Friday evening. Getting the news on Erev Rosh Hashanah felt like a terrible final surprise on behalf of a 5780 that had already brought so many surprises. My thoughts instantly turned to Mindy and the countless young people in our community. Through my work with our Melachim, S’ganim, and Kibbutz units over the summer as well as our teen population at year-round programs and NFTY events, I’ve come to see just how many young people, particularly young women, idolized and looked up to Justice Ginsburg. Sure enough, my Instagram feed was quickly filled with moving images and tributes to “Notorious RBG” from GFC teens and counselors.
The overflow of love from young Jews is more than coincidence; she made clear on numerous occasions that her Judaism was a core part of her identity and role as a Justice. In a speech delivered on Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2004, Justice Ginsburg said,
My heritage as a Jew and my occupation as a judge fit together symmetrically. The demand for justice runs through the entirety of Jewish history and Jewish tradition. I take pride in and draw strength from my heritage, as signs in my chambers attest: a large silver mezuzah on my door post, gift from the Shulamith School for Girls in Brooklyn; on three walls, in artists’ renditions of Hebrew letters, the command from Deuteronomy: “Zedek, zedek, tirdof” – “Justice, justice shall you pursue.” Those words are ever-present reminders of what judges must do that they “may thrive.”
She was not a Supreme Court Justice who just happened to be Jewish; she was a Jew who just happened to be a Supreme Court Justice.
To Mindy, myself, and others, Justice Ginsburg is a reminder that superheroes come in all shapes and sizes. Our heroes can be the muscular Captain America and his shield, the clever Shuri and her technology, or the eloquent Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her gavel. When asked how she would like to be remembered after her passing, Justice Ginsburg said, “[as] someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has.” Together, we join with the Reform Jewish Movement in mourning Justice Ginsburg. May her memory be a blessing and a continued inspiration for Jews everywhere to pursue justice.