AJC mourns the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who loomed large over the American legal landscape for more than half a century, including, notably, her service on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (1980-1993) and the Supreme Court (1993-2020). She was 87 years old.
Her careful and methodical litigation for gender equality – a category that barely existed before she envisioned it – alone would put her in the first ranks of the American legal profession.
Beyond the positions she took and the precisely reasoned opinions she wrote, her dedication to the cause of law and justice was legendary. Neither illness nor family tragedy could deter her from performing her duties as a judge and, later, justice.
Her friendships across ideological lines – most notably with Justice Antonin Scalia – were an all-too-rare exception in an otherwise polarized Washington.
Although Justice Ginsburg is known publicly for her legal activities, those who were privileged to know her personally saw how deeply she cared about her late husband Martin, her children, and her grandchildren. Once, when asked by a high school student what her proudest achievement was (the questioner had in mind which judicial opinion she was proudest of), she said, “Well, of course, my children and grandchildren.”
Ginsburg was proudly Jewish. She articulated her identity in her address to the 1995 American Jewish Committee (AJC) Annual Meeting, and in an AJC newspaper ad series in The New York Times, What Being “Jewish Means To Me?”
“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 courage to remain constant in the service of that demand,” said Ginsburg in the ad, which appeared on January 14, 1996.