Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first Jewish woman to serve on the Supreme Court and a tireless advocate for gender equality, has died at 87.
A fierce jurist known for her outsized presence and outspokenness, Ginsburg died from “complications of metastatic pancreas cancer,” the Supreme Court announced Friday night. She had survived multiple bouts of different cancers over the course of two decades, vowing that she was healthy enough to continue her work and at times returning to the bench shortly after hospital stays.
Ginsburg’s death comes on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, six weeks before the presidential election and at a time of intense political polarization.
Four years ago, the Republican-held Senate refused to consider President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will attempt to fill any spots that open up on the court while President Donald Trump is in office. He repeated that pledge on Friday night following news of Ginsburg’s death.
Trump has already appointed two judges, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, during his presidential tenure.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the minority leader, released a statement warning McConnell to wait out the election.
“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice,” said Schumer, who is Jewish. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
McConnell used precisely the same words to justify delaying a Supreme Court nomination in 2016 following the death of Antonin Scalia, a conservative justice, much earlier in the election year than Ginsburg’s passing.
Ginsburg reportedly told her granddaughter Clara Spera in her final days: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
In her 27 years on the court, Ginsburg emerged not only as the putative leader of the court’s liberal wing but as a pop cultural phenomenon and feminist icon, earning as an octogenarian the moniker Notorious R.B.G. — a play off the deceased rapper Notorious B.I.G.
She won liberal acclaim by penning blistering dissents in high-profile cases concerning birth control, voter ID laws and affirmative action even as she maintained a legendary friendship with Scalia, the staunchly conservative firebrand who died in 2016.
Ginsburg was frank as well about the importance of Jewish tradition in influencing her life and career, hanging the Hebrew injunction to pursue justice on the walls of her chambers.
“I am a judge, born, raised and proud of being a Jew,” she said in an address to the American Jewish Committee following her 1993 appointment to the court. “The demand for justice runs through the entirety of Jewish history and Jewish tradition.”
Ginsburg was nominated to the nation’s highest bench by President Bill Clinton following the retirement of Byron White. In her Rose Garden nominating ceremony, Clinton lauded Ginsburg for standing with the “the outsider in society … telling them that they have a place in our legal system, by giving them a sense that the Constitution and the laws protect all the American people, not simply the powerful.”
Ginsburg attributed that outsider perspective to her Jewish roots, pointing often to her heritage as a building block of her perspective on the bench.
“Laws as protectors of the oppressed, the poor, the loner, is evident in the work of my Jewish predecessors on the Supreme Court,” she wrote in an essay for the AJC. “The Biblical command: ‘Justice, justice shalt thou pursue’ is a strand that ties them together.”
Source: Jerusalem Post