Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose legal career in the fight for women’s rights, equal rights, and human dignity, culminated with her ascent to the U.S. Supreme Court, and who — as an octogenarian — became a cultural hero and arguably the most beloved justice in American history, died from complications of cancer, on Sept. 18, in Washington, D.C., at the onset of Rosh Hashanah. She was 87.
Working at the American Civil Liberties Union in 1972, she founded the Women’s Rights Project. She researched and argued six gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court in the 1970s, winning five.
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed Ginsburg to the U.S. Court of Appeals Columbia Circuit. President Bill Clinton nominated her to the Supreme Court to succeed retiring Justice Byron White in 1993.
For most of her 27 years on the nation’s highest court, Ginsburg, the second woman to ascend the court — after Sandra Day O’Connor —± often led from behind the scenes. But in her last decade, she became a favored figure of pop culture known as “Notorious R.B.G.” She was loved for her insight, biting wit, and trademark lace collars.
She was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1999, and pancreatic cancer in 2009. She spent nearly a decade in remission. A new struggle began in 2018 when cancerous cells were found in her lungs and, the following summer, a tumor in her pancreas. Earlier this year, she was declared cancer free, but the relief was short lived. In July, her cancer returned. Throughout her illness, the justice remained hopeful and determined.
[May her memory be for a blessing.]
When we say “may her memory be for a blessing,” what exactly does that mean? The blessing is not “may we remember her fondly” or “may her memory be a blessing to us.” The blessing implied is this: May we be like Ruth. Jewish thought teaches us that when a person dies, it is up to those who bear her memory to keep her goodness alive. We do this by remembering her, we do this by speaking her name, we do this by carrying on her legacy. We do this by continuing to pursue justice, righteousness, sustainability.
—The Forward/Molly Conway
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the first woman and the first Jewish person to lie in state in the rotunda of the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, shown here on Sep. 25, 2020. NYTimes photo
Commentary On The Death Of R.B.G.
Most often, commentaries on events as profound as the death of someone like Ruth Bader Ginsburg are well-chosen words of praise for the departed — compelling, insightful. But sometimes, the words cut so deeply to the heart that a simple expression of admiration rises to high art. Such is the case of an op-ed by contributing opinion writer Jennifer Weiner in the Wednesday, Sept. 30, issue of The New York Times. Below are excerpts from that writing:
The Very Jewish R.B.G.
Referring to a characterization in The Guardian that Justice Ginsburg had “abandoned her religion,” it was reported that American Jews were quick to push back against the newspaper. Jennifer Weiner wrote: “The controversy, however, left me with a question: What does it mean to be Jewish in America?
“I can’t answer for R.B.G. But most Jews will tell you that a Jewish identity has little to do with whether you keep kosher or attend services every Friday, and everything to do with your culture, your ethnicity; with the way you see the world and the way the world sees you. It is an identity we can’t slip, even if we want to.
“From what I can tell, Ruth Bader Ginsburg didn’t want to. She might not have been a regular at synagogue or at Sisterhood meetings, but she lived a Jewish life.
“Jewish values run through her writings like a shining thread. If you’ve been excluded, you fight for inclusion. If you’ve been made to feel less-than, because of your gender or your sexual orientation or your race or your religion, you stand up for others who’ve been denied a seat at the table. The notion of tikkun olam, that the world is broken and that each of us has a role in its repair, is a value that would lead someone to a life like hers. It is a value that overlaps with the highest American ideals.
“I haven’t become significantly more observant in the last four years. But I have never felt more Jewish. The rise in anti-Semitism, the torrents of toxic online abuse directed toward Jewish women, the idea that Jews are not ‘really’ Americans — all of it has only rooted me more deeply in my faith and my identity, and made me more committed to Jewish values.
“In this terrible year of so much sorrow, losing Ruth Bader Ginsburg — and losing her on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, at the start of the High Holy Days, at the end of an old year and on the cusp of a new one — felt especially painful. But I remember the words from the Torah exhortation framed on Justice Ginsburg’s wall and woven into one of her lace jabots: ‘Justice, justice, shall you pursue.’ And another Jewish teaching that she must have known, which says, ‘You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.’
“Giving up is a luxury that none of us can permit ourselves. It is the last thing the Notorious R.B.G. would want — and the least Jewish thing we could do.”
Stephen F. Cohen, an eminent historian whose books and commentaries on Russia examined the rise and fall of Communism, Kremlin dictatorships, and the emergence of a post-Soviet nation in the 21st century, died Sept. 18 at his home in Manhattan. He was 81.
A professor emeritus of Russian studies at Princeton University and New York University, Cohen chronicled a Russia of sweeping social upheavals and the passions and poetry of a people who had endured a century of wars, political repression, and economic hardship.
“Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” the goofy animated mystery series featuring a ragtag quartet of teenage sleuths and a cowardly Great Dane with a gruff bark, who leads the gang in and out of trouble, was a hit from its first episode in 1969.
It would become a Saturday morning staple. And it would grow into one of the most lucrative franchises in the history of animation, making the reputations of its creators, Ken Spears and Joe Ruby.
Mr. Ruby, a long-time writer and producer of animated television shows, died on August 26 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 87.
A half century after that first episode, “Scooby-Doo” is still being broadcast, and it is considered the most spun-off series in the history of television, having spawned other series as well as feature films, video games, comic books and other merchandise, Newish News Service reported. In 2004, the show beat “The Simpsons” to set a Guinness record for “most prolific cartoon” at 350 episodes.
Carole Ruby, Joe Ruby’s wife, recalled that when she and Mr. Ruby had been married for a year, Mr. Ruby’s father gave them $50 as an anniversary present. He gave them cash, he said, because he was certain his son was never going to make it as an artist.
They were both outsiders in the starched white world of elite 1950s tennis, superb players but excluded from tournaments and clubs and shunned on the circuit because of their heritage. Angela Buxton, a white, Jewish English woman, was a granddaughter of Russian Jews who had fled the pogroms in the early 1900s; Althea Gibson, a Black American, was born in a sharecropper’s shack in South Carolina and grew up in Harlem.
Eventually, they found each other and forged a powerful doubles partnership. In 1956, they won the French Championship and Wimbledon, the jewel in the crown of a sport that had hardly welcomed them.
But for all Ms. Buxton’s prowess on the court — she was ranked in the women’s top 10 in the mid-1950s — she is best remembered for the long-lasting support and encouragement she gave Ms. Gibson, the first great Black player in women’s tennis, the first Black to win Wimbledon and, for a time, the No. 1 ranked female player in the world.
Ms. Buxton died at 85 on August 14 at her home in Fort Lauderdale.
Professor Moses Rischin, emeritus professor at San Francisco State University and a pioneering scholar in the field of American Jewish history, died on August 21.
Born in Brooklyn, the son of two Russian immigrant parents who loved Hebrew, young Moses was sent to study in the then recently-opened Yeshiva of Flatbush, providing him with a foundation in Hebrew and Judaica that later served him well. In 1947, he entered the graduate program at Harvard, where he encountered pioneering historian Oscar Handlin. Rischin was one of Handlin’s most influential disciples, following him into the field of American Jewish history.
Rischin worked on the first analytic bibliography of American Jewish history, sponsored by the American Jewish Committee and published as a pamphlet by Harvard University Press under the title An Inventory of American Jewish History. The volume defined the contours of the emerging field and alerted students to the breadth and depth of its literature, with insights that helped shape future scholarly directions.
Rischin received his doctorate from Harvard, with the publication of The Promised City: New York’s Jews 1870-1914. It defined the highest standards of scholarship in the field, and it remained in print for decades.
Arnold Meyer Spielberg died August 25 at age 103. The father of celebrated film director Steven Spielberg, the senior Spielberg was an electrical engineer of uncommon invention and productivity. Having developed research that would make the personal computer possible, the elder Spielberg’s contributions to modern life worldwide are almost impossible to avoid.
He helped design and build the first business computer, patented the first electronic library system, and designed the first electronic cash register. Before that, as a communications chief in the Army Signal Corps in 1942, he joined the Burma Bridge Busters, a B-25 bomber squadron based outside present-day Kolkata that targeted Japanese railroad lines, shipping and communications in Burma.
When Steven Spielberg founded the USC Shoah Foundation — The Institute for Visual History and Education, he recruited his father to lead the development team of the digital Shoah Institute archives, organizing more than 100,000 hours of visual history in 52,000 video testimonies in 32 languages of Holocaust survivors and other witnesses from 56 countries.
Gerald Shur, a lawyer who created the federal witness protection program, died August 25 at his home in Warminster, Pa. He was 86.
In 1961, Mr. Shur became an early recruit in the crusade by Robert F. Kennedy, then the attorney general, to break the grip of organized crime in the United States. Joining the Justice Department that year as a lawyer assigned to New York, he was tasked with investigating the mob.
“In the course of that,” he told The Associated Press in 2007, “I began to hear people say, ‘I can’t testify; I’ll be murdered before or after I testify.’”
During Mr. Shur’s 34 years at the Justice Department, 6,416 witnesses and thousands of their dependents, including wives, children and mistresses were given new identities and relocated, according to Pete Earley, who with Mr. Shur wrote the 2002 book WITSEC: Inside the Federal Witness Protection Program.