Saturday, September 19th, 2020


Ruth Hashanah

I've never published on a Jewish high holy day, and I likely never will again. But I'm making an exception for an exceptional moment involving an exceptional person; one who is likely the most notable Jewish woman in American history. I'm hopeful my rabbi will understand. I'm quite sure my mom and dad will. The Jewish holiday being celebrated today is called Rosh Hashanah. Those words translate as "the head of the year." God knows we could use a new year, and with any luck, this will be a Ruth Hashanah, a year when America returns to the ideals of one if its greatest leaders in the fight for equality and justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The biblical name for this holiday is Yom Teruah, literally "day of shouting or blasting." So consider this less of an affront to a Jewish holiday and more a special edition news blast. Today, Nina Totenberg tweeted: "A Jewish teaching says those who die just before the Jewish new year are the ones God has held back until the last moment because they were needed most and were the most righteous." It's considered a big deal if a person dies on Shabbat, and an even bigger deal when it happens on Shabbat and Rosh Hashanah. Ginsburg died as the sun set into both. In Jewish tradition, this would make her a Tzadik (RBGT); a person of great righteousness. It's a shame to lose another one of those when America needs them the most. Time for the rest of us to pick up the slack. Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 1933-2020.


Wishful Thinker

"Just days before her death, as her strength waned, Ginsburg dictated this statement to her granddaughter Clara Spera: 'My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.'" The obituary to start with is the one from her close friend, Nina Totenberg: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Champion Of Gender Equality, Dies At 87.

+ A 5-Decade-Long Friendship That Began With A Phone Call.



John Lewis, who we also lost to this unforgiving year, liked to tell young people to get into Good Trouble. RBG did something even more rare. She went Good Viral. "A law student, Shana Knizhnik, anointed her the Notorious R.B.G., a play on the name of the Notorious B.I.G., a famous rapper who was Brooklyn-born, like the justice. Soon the name, and Justice Ginsburg's image — her expression serene yet severe, a frilly lace collar adorning her black judicial robe, her eyes framed by oversize glasses and a gold crown perched at a rakish angle on her head — became an internet sensation." NYT: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court's Feminist Icon, Is Dead at 87.

+ "May her memory be a revolution." Internet tributes pouring in.


Sex Post Facto

"Over a long career on both sides of the bench — as a relentless litigator and an incisive jurist — Justice Ginsburg helped us see that discrimination on the basis of sex isn't about an abstract ideal of equality; that it doesn't only harm women; that it has real consequences for all of us. It's about who we are — and who we can be ... Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought to the end, through her cancer, with unwavering faith in our democracy and its ideals. That's how we remember her. But she also left instructions for how she wanted her legacy to be honored." Barack Obama: My Statement on the Passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.


Resting Mitch (About)Face

Shortly after the 2016 death of Justice Antonin Scalia, "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that his chamber would not consider a nominee to replace Scalia until after the 2016 election. 'The American people‎ should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,' he said. 'Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.'" And thus Merrick Garland's nomination was held up and never given a vote. It should surprise no one that McConnell has changed his tune. He waited about five minutes after news of RGB's death to announce: "President Trump's nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate." That leaves America with one key question, and one more massive fight in an era that has been marked a never-ending string of them. Can Mitch McConnell Get the Votes to Seize Ginsburg's Seat?

+ Joe Biden: "In the coming days, we should focus on the loss of the justice and her enduring legacy. But there is no doubt — let me be clear — that the voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider. This was the position [the] Republican Senate took in 2016, when there were almost 10 months to go before the election. That's the position the United States Senate must take today."

+ A Long List of GOP Senators Who Promised Not to Confirm a Supreme Court Nominee During an Election Year.

+ "Trump signals swift nomination to replace Ginsburg as tributes continue to pour in." Here's the latest from WaPo.

+ Meet Amy Coney Barrett. Right now, she appears to be the most likely judge to be selected by Trump. (But seriously, who knows...)

+ David Frum in The Atlantic: Four Reasons to Doubt Mitch McConnell's Power. This part seems so obvious, especially with the polls favoring Biden: "The smart play for Trump is to postpone the nomination to reduce the risk of Democratic mobilization, and to warn Republicans of the risks should he lose. Trump's people do not usually execute the smart play."


Instructions Included

"While the loss of Justice Ginsburg is gutting and lacerating and brutally sad, her entire life and work has been in service to the idea that the rest of us are in fact capable of being allies and helpers and boosters and supporters, and also that the generations that are disconsolate tonight, for the lack of a hero, are themselves capable of stepping into her teeny-tiny, mighty, 3-inch-heeled, terrifyingly fabulous shoes and taking up the work she didn't begin but merely inherited from those who came before." The excellent Dahlia Lithwick (who also worked the Rosh Hashanah beat): What Ruth Bader Ginsburg Would Want America to Do Now. (RGB literally left instructions.)

+ Jill Lepore in The New Yorker: "The change Ginsburg ushered into American politics began a half century ago, and reckoning with its magnitude requires measuring the distance between now and then. At the time, only three in a hundred legal professionals and fewer than two hundred of the nation's ten thousand judges were women." Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Great Equalizer.


The Arc of History Must Be Bent

"The feminist with a fundamentally optimistic vision, who believed that people, especially men, could be better, might be soon replaced by the rankest misogynist. The litigator and jurist who long subordinated her own immediate desires to the good and legitimacy of institutions, who had preached that slow change would stave off backlash, lived long enough to see Trump and the Federalist Society tear off the Court's thin veneer of legitimacy anyway. In the 2013 voting-rights dissent that earned her the Notorious RBG nickname, Ginsburg offered an addendum to Martin Luther King Jr.'s suggestion that the arc of history eventually bent toward justice: 'if there is a steadfast commitment to see the task through to completion.' She was thus committed. Still, today she leaves the work not only unfinished but at risk of being undone." Irin Carmon in New York Mag: The Glorious RBG I learned, while writing about her, that her precision disguised her warmth.


Decisions Decisions

"Generalizations about ‘the way women are,' estimates of what is appropriate for most women, no longer justify denying opportunity to women whose talent and capacity place them outside the average description." Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Most Memorable Supreme Court Opinions.


Tuning Out

"Another often-asked question when I speak in public: 'Do you have some good advice you might share with us?' Yes, I do. It comes from my savvy mother-in-law, advice she gave me on my wedding day. "In every good marriage," she counseled, "it helps sometimes to be a little deaf." I have followed that advice assiduously, and not only at home through 56 years of a marital partnership nonpareil. I have employed it as well in every workplace, including the Supreme Court. When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one's ability to persuade." NYT: Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Advice for Living.


Nobody Told Me There’d Be Days Like These

Look, I'm not going to pretend I added some great value to the conversation with this special edition, or that you didn't already know what RGB meant during her life and what's at stake after her passing. But we've been together for the big stuff in 2020, so it felt like we should be together today. I'll leave you with this scene of citizens gathered at the steps of the Supreme Court chanting the Mourner's Kaddish for RBG. It is a year of ugliness, sadness, and anguish. Embrace the moments of beauty, unity, and tradition. And with that, I'm off to Zoom Temple.