Statement by Robert Bank, President and CEO of American Jewish World Service on the Death and Legacy of United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

“The global AJWS community is heartbroken by the death of United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the eve of the Jewish New Year. This loss feels particularly painful as we reflect on the difficulties of the past year and on our enduring commitment, shared by Justice Ginsburg, to build a more just world.

“We have lost a leader whose trailblazing lifetime of work for justice has made it possible for millions of people to have their dignity recognized by the highest court of our land.  Moreover, Justice Ginsburg was a voice of conscience who dissented clearly and forcefully when the majority overrode the rights of the marginalized: women and girls, Black and brown Americans, religious and ethnic minorities, LGBTQI+ people, disabled people, and prisoners, among others. From reproductive rights to marriage equality to defending affirmative action, Justice Ginsburg was a key voice in each and every victory on the court for progress and human rights. Hers was a stalwart voice when decisions by the court upheld oppressive systems rooted in sexism, racism, anti-LGBTQI+ prejudice and the arrogance of cultural majorities insensitive to the rights of minorities of all kinds.

“For our progressive American Jewish supporters, the loss of Justice Ginsburg feels deeply personal, as they share her deep commitment to justice, proudly, as Jews. In an open expression of her Jewish social justice identity, Justice Ginsburg proudly invoked the words of the Biblical command, “Justice, justice, you shall pursue,” which she displayed in her office, and she also often tied her experience as a Jew to the rights of marginalized groups whose rights were trampled by majorities.

“For all of our supporters and global partners who fight for human rights for marginalized people across the world, we mourn the loss of  a jurist of global significance, who understood that realizing human rights, whether enshrined in the U.S. Bill of Rights or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is an ongoing obligation and struggle. Justice Ginsberg dedicated herself to the hard work of justice. She understood that the power of victories and their transformational impact, while also knowing that because the roots of oppression are deep and systemic, we cannot desist, even in the face of enormous resistance.

A friend of AJWS, Justice Ginsburg generously co-authored a reading for our social justice Passover Haggadah, which focused on the heroic and visionary women of Passover. As she wrote with Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt, “the stories we tell our children shape what they believe to be possible—which is why at Passover, we must tell the stories of the women who played a crucial role in the Exodus narrative.” In keeping with her lifetime of legal advocacy, she concluded her reading with these words: “While there is much light in today’s world, there remains in our universe disheartening darkness, inhumanity spawned by ignorance and hate…. The Passover story recalls to all of us—women and men—that with vision and action we can join hands with others of like mind, kindling lights along paths leading out of the terrifying darkness.

“In the days and years ahead, we will heed Justice Ginsburg’s wise words and join hands with diverse allies here and around the world until the light of justice shines bright for all. Together with our global partners, we will honor Justice Ginsburg’s legacy by continuing to fight for the integrity of judicial systems and the rule of law where authoritarians are intent on undermining them. Finally, in advancing the human rights of women and girls, we will hold Justice Ginsburg’s legacy in our hearts every day as we support those around the world who are fighting for gender and reproductive equity.”

About American Jewish World Service (AJWS): American Jewish World Service (AJWS) is the leading Jewish organization working to fight poverty and pursue justice in the developing world. By supporting hundreds of social change organizations in 19 countries, we respond to the most pressing issues of our time—from disasters, genocide and hunger, to the persecution of women and minorities worldwide. With Jewish values and a global reach, AJWS is making a difference in millions of lives and bringing a more just and equitable world closer for all.


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