It was one day before our nation lost Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that I discovered a little gem in my high school folders—relics from the 1970s where I keep some poetry I wrote then. What I found in the folders was a 12-page stapled document the school distributed that sets forth rules and responsibilities for students and educators. I didn’t realize the importance of the first page of the document until many years later (pictured below). TITLE IX is the heading, following which the law is presented “in accordance with Federal Regulations set forth in the Federal Register, Vol. 40, No. 108 June 4 1975, does not discriminate on the basis of sex in any education program or activity which it provides, promotes or promulgates. This non-discrimination policy extends to employment and admissions procedures.”
Without Title IX in place, our beloved RBG—the pop culture title for which Justice Ginsburg embraced—would not have been admitted as one of nine women into Harvard Law School and persevered to become a legal leader in a world typically reserved for men. And it was her work as a ferocious defender of women and minorities that propelled her to the U.S. Supreme Court and continued to make us all feel like we were protected as she upheld our constitutional rights.
Justice Ginsburg may only have been five foot and four inches tall however, she was a power center that was larger than life. Chief Justice John Roberts referred to Ginsberg as “A jurist of historic stature that was a tireless and resolute changer of justice.” Indeed, there has been an outpouring of praise from national leaders on both sides of the political fence: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said “Every woman and girl and therefore every family benefitted from her brilliance.” I’ve heard phrases like “Lasting Legacy,” “Champion of Equality,” and “Powerhouse for Women’s Rights” from every TV channel and social media feed. What struck me the most is the symbolism of the Jewish New Year a newscaster referenced, since Justice Ginsburg was the first Jewish woman member of the Supreme Court. The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah is today, and Jewish teaching says that those who die just before the new year are ones that God has held back until the last moment because they’re needed the most and they are the most righteous. The qualities of a righteous person are those Justice Ginsburg exemplified: honorable, moral, and respectable.
On this Jewish New Year, with the forthcoming presidential election, our country is hopeful for a new leader that will bring healing and dignity to our nation. Likewise, there is hope that Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement will embody the qualities of righteousness that the two-time cancer survivor and fierce advocate utilized as she fought to uphold our constitutional rights (even if it meant her dissent). And this nominated justice must be strong and determined to continue the fight for equality just like champion Justice Ginsburg did.