RBG rose above discrimination to become a role model for women

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Jewishness was intrinsic to her standing as a great judge and an upholder of justice.

The 6th Jewish US Supreme Court Justice, and only the second woman, she took to heart the exhortation of Shoftim: “Justice justice shalt thou pursue”, and made the Jewish people proud of her.

The contribution she made to equality before the law will endure. The pioneering Jewish woman judge is an icon in our history – think of Deborah, and nearer to home, Rose Heilbron and Rosalyn Higgins, former President of the International Court of Justice.

RBG, as she was affectionately known, combined transformative judicial qualities with motherhood and a strong and supportive marriage to a husband who shouldered many of the household burdens.

It is said that she lost her faith when at the age of 17 she was not allowed by Jewish law to join a minyan to mourn her mother’s death.

No doubt she found the traditional Jewish view of women was hard to reconcile with her drive for equality of the sexes. RBG rose above that and became a role model for women of all persuasions.

She fought for equality not by protest or disobedience but by reliance on the US Constitution, which she interpreted with skills that a Talmudic scholar would recognise.

Whether it was establishing an equal right for widowers to receive the benefits accorded to widows; or women to train for military service; or the legalisation of gay marriage, she took on the opposition with meticulous but impassioned legal argument, fortified by her own experiences in overcoming the obstacles put in her way as a woman lawyer. She did the Jewish people credit. May her memory be a blessing.

About the Author
Baroness Ruth Deech DBE QC sits as a crossbench peer in the House of Lords. She is a former Principal of St Anne’s College, Oxford and a former Chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the Bar Standards Board. She is Patron of UK Lawyers for Israel. Baroness Deech has been an invited speaker at Limmud and at the Board of Deputies.
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