We were honoured to be included in The Australian Jewish News special feature on Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) z’l her legacy, published today. Our CEO, Alexandra P. Silver, shared her personal connection to RBG; the qualities and accomplishments she admires; and important life lessons for the next generation of young women.
While streaming Rosh Hashanah services early Saturday morning, I learned of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing. I broke down and cried. Even though I had never met her, the sense of loss was profound, and the fear was real. One of the most accomplished, groundbreaking Jewish women leaders of our time was gone. As the new CEO of NCJWA Vic, an organisation whose mission is to empower women and girls to create a better world, her death hit close to home. I told our twin daughters the closest living woman to Wonder Woman had died.
Raised in Northern New Jersey, I spent a significant part of my childhood at my Grandma Tillie’s in Brooklyn; not too far from where RBG grew up. After graduating high school, I, like many of my American peers, went away to college 500 miles from home. I was determined to become an educated, self-sufficient, and independent woman. It was during this time, after facing antisemitism on campus, that I first became involved with organised Jewish community. And it was also during this time that RBG became the second woman and the first Jewish person to sit on the highest court in the land.
I was in awe and inspired. If she could be a Supreme Court Justice, what could I become?
Throughout my college career and beyond, I aspired to be a leader like RBG; one who builds consensus and builds others up instead of tearing their opponent down. The genius behind her accomplishments was her demeanour and approach. She did not carry a big stick. She carried herself with class and dignity.
As a Jewish working mother, I am inspired by RBG’s ability to graduate number one in her ivy league law school class – even after becoming a wife and mother, way ahead of her time. I am in awe of what she achieved, especially given how society treated women during that period. One could say her achievements and success were likely to be considered impossible. When Hillary Clinton ran for president, she often spoke of cracking the highest glass ceiling in the land. Well, let me tell you, it was RBG who broke the door down. She paved the way for women like me and you to find our voice, develop it and use it for the greater good.
RBG is a cultural icon and the beacon of hope for many. Regardless of political affiliation, she was a woman to watch and a force to be reckoned with. Even while battling cancer and undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments, she never missed a day on the bench. She had strength, determination and grit. I equate RBG to a featherweight fighter; she may not look strong or tough but don’t count her out, she carries quite a punch. She did not just fight for those who agreed with her, or for people who were like her or just for Jewish women – she fought for all of us – all women and even for men.
RBG fought for people who despised her and those who even thought she was un-American. She persevered, dissented, and she never stopped working to ensure we were all treated equally, fairly and without prejudice.
This is the world I want for my girls and yours.