Guardian posthumously erases Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Jewish identity

The Guardian’s obituary of US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, written by Godfrey Hodgson, attempted to erase her Jewish identity.

Here are the relevant passages:

Ruth was brought up in a Conservative Jewish tradition and learned Hebrew as a child, but abandoned her religion because she was not allowed to join a minyan (a group of men) to mourn her mother’s death when she was 17.

[In 1993, President] Clinton was anxious to make the supreme court more diverse, so Ginsburg’s Jewish religion, which she had given up 46 years earlier, may have counted for more than a lifetime of commitment to women’s equality before the law.

However, the writer’s claim that Ginsburg had “abandoned” or “given up” her Judaism is completely without merit. It’s unclear how much Hodgson knows about Judaism, but it doesn’t take too much familiarity with the community to know that it’s very common for Jews to have strong and proud Jewish identity without being ritually observant.

Evidence of RBG’s strong Jewish identity abound.

For starters, when, in 1993, RBG was appointed the first Jewish woman on the US Supreme Court, she decided to be sworn in a Hebrew Bible.  She also was active,  throughout her career, in Jewish causes, had a mezuzah affixed to her office door, and a poster in her office that read “Tzedek, tzedek tirdof,” the Torah injunction meaning “Justice, justice shall you pursue.”

“I am a judge born, raised, and proud of being a Jew,” RBG wrote in an 1996 essay for the American Jewish Committee, and, in 2004, she contributed a short essay to the book, edited by Judea and Ruth Pearl in honour of their murdered son Daniel, called ‘I am Jewish’.

And, though Ruth and her husband weren’t observant, they would, according to JTA, routinely attend Passover seder with relatives, and Ruth herself co-authored a feminist interpretation of the Passover Hagadah in 2015.

RBG frequently visited Israel over the years, and, in 2017, received a lifetime achievement award from the Genesis Prize Foundation – an award informally known as the Jewish Nobel.

Here’s her speech in Tel Aviv accepting the award.

It literally wouldn’t have taken the Guardian writer more than a few Google clicks to realise that RBG hadn’t “abandoned her Judaism”, and we’ve complained to editors about the egregious error under the terms of the accuracy clause.


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  1. says: Jay Wortsman

    Jews are a nation, from a land now called Israel, with their unique religion. Jews can choose to be, or choose not to be religious, but are all Jews. The British are from a country with various peoples, born anywhere, with various religions, or none at all. Does being a British atheist make them any less British? I would believe so, judging from the guardian editorial illiterates who are having a difficult time understanding this concept. Am Israel chai–the nation of Israel lives.

  2. says: Rebecca

    Glad you recorded the absurd quotes. Now that it’s been corrected the blatant and outrageous erasure of her Jewish identity has also been erased. This is a testament to how society is trying to reduce Judaism to a dying and extreme religion as opposed to an ethnicity, identity, and reality that’s not going away.

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