Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg came to Philadelphia yesterday to be inducted into the National Museum of American Jewish History Hall of Fame.
The 86-year old said her judicial philosophy is informed by her religious upbringing.
“The demand for justice runs through the entirety of Jewish tradition,” Ginsburg said. “I hope in all the years I have the good fortune to serve on the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States, I have the strength and the courage to remain steadfast in the service of that demand.”
Ginsburg is the subject of a temporary exhibition called “Notorious RBG,” about her surprising turn as a pop-culture icon late in life. The ceremony, hosted by NPR political commentator Nina Totenberg, inducts the story of her life and accomplishments into the museum permanently.
“I’m not sure why Justice Ginsburg at a relatively – forgive me, Ruth – advanced age has attracted the attention, love, and devotion of millennials, Gen Xers, and now Gen Zs,” Totenberg said. “Perhaps it’s because she exemplifies such a rare combination of traits: demure firebrand, architect of the battle for women’s rights, brilliant jurist, and respectful but fierce dissenter.”
In her speech, Ginsburg brought up two Jewish women she greatly admires: Emma Lazarus, the poet whose words are carved into the Statue of Liberty (“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”), and Anne Frank, the Holocaust diarist who had a surprisingly mature and articulate philosophy of women’s rights at the tender age of 15.
Ginsburg also said she keeps a Hebrew passage from the Torah on the wall of her chambers at the Supreme Court.
“Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof. Justice, justice shalt thou pursue,” she said. “Those words are an ever-present reminder of what judges must do, that they may thrive.”
The packed room where Ginsburg spoke at the Jewish museum contained several hundred people. There were additional spill-over rooms where Ginsburg’s speech was streamed. The interim CEO of the museum, Misha Galperin, said that in true rock-star fashion, the event sold out in two minutes and forty-eight seconds.