Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
(photo credit: COLLECTION OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STAT)
Supreme Court President Esther Hayut on Wednesday told US Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that she gives a voice to the voiceless at a ceremony honoring her for receiving the Genesis Prize.
“Law is about justice, and the experience of injustice gives one profound insight as to what justice should look like. Through her decisions, Justice Bader Ginsburg upholds the values without which democracy would be an empty vessel,” said Hayut.
The Israeli chief justice continued, “She betters the lives of those who suffer injustice in society. Through her dissents, she gives voice to those who would otherwise remain voiceless and gives them hope that one day the law will change.”
In terms of experience injustice firsthand, Hayut noted that, “Justice Bader Ginsburg has often said that early in her career she had three strikes against her: being Jewish, being a woman, and being a mother.”
Hayut went on to say that looking back at Bader Ginsburg’s career “we know that none of those strikes should be a hindrance to excellence. But we also know that it takes a great deal of persistence, hard work, belief in oneself in order to successfully meet these challenges.”
Regarding antisemitism, she said that, “Justice Bader Ginsburg certainly faced discrimination as a woman, but as a Jewish woman, she also experienced antisemitism and has said that she often felt like an outsider.”
Moreover, she recalled that Bader Ginsburg was discriminated against for being a mother, underpaid and felt she had to hide her second pregnancy.
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Discussing the importance of social justice for Bader Ginsburg, Hayut said that, “Great judges do not simply settle disputes; they have the opportunity to make the world a better and more just place. Indeed, judging is a form of tikkun olam —the Jewish obligation to make the world a better place to live in.”
Hayut then quoted Bader Ginsburg as saying that tikkun olam is “the obligation to better the world carefully and steadily, to do one’s part to make our communities, nation, and universe more humane, fairer, more just.”
Moreover, she drew attention to the problem of polarization and Bader Ginsburg’s efforts to overcome it. “With societies all over the world being as polarized as they are today, it is difficult to understand how to relate to people whose views we may find deeply problematic,” said Hayut.
“I believe that if we really want to leave the world in a better state than that in which we found it, we should start by bringing people together,” and concluding that Bader Ginsburg had set the standard for that approach.
The US justice, likely the most well-known in US pop culture in recent years especially after “RBG” a 2018 hit documentary following her life, was also known for being very close personal friends with the late US justice Antonin Scalia. This was despite the fact that the two represented the polar opposite ideological ends of the US Supreme Court.
Ginsburg has been in the court majority in decisions strengthening abortion rights against requirements that abortion providers have admitting privileges at specific local hospitals and striking down gun ownership rights for domestic violence convicts even if the misdemeanor is only the result of recklessness rather than intent. But she is often in the liberal minority.
In 2015, Ginsburg got into the news when she “took off the gloves” (she had also made waves in a photograph of her donning black fishnet gloves which she placed around her mouth in a pose reminiscent of Dr. Evil) and “eviscerated” same-sex marriage opponents in court.
Ginsburg walloped lawyers fighting same-sex marriage firmly placing the rights of homosexuals as a civil rights and discrimination issue in a much more unapologetic way than anyone from the court had to date.
In 1996, she ordered Virginia Military Institute to open its doors to women despite its argument that its unique, adversative and physical training was unsuited for women, marking a career as one of women’s rights most prominent advocates. Ginsburg, in her mid-80s, was appointed to the court in 1993.
Despite having significant health problems, she refused Democrats pleas to retire in time for former US president Barack Obama to appoint a replacement with similar liberal values before he left office.
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