Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is always celebrated with sweet apples and honey, resolutions and big dinners with family and friends. It falls in September, so each new year is ushered in with the smell of crisp fall leaves and the promise of autumn. The holiday is a happy one.
This year, however, Rosh Hashanah was met with the loss of a titan of American politics and one of the only notable Jewish women in government, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
As the sun set and night fell, millions of people across the country received a notification on their phones, announcing her passing. Shock settled in. Then the grief came.
Ginsburg had been battling cancer while continuing to fight for the rights of millions. She famously fought for women’s rights, including but not limited to reproductive rights, sex discrimination in the workplace, and being able to sign a mortage or lease without a man. Ginsburg was a self-proclaimed feminist and lived up to the name.
Aside from her accomplishments and influence in American politics, I looked up to her as a powerful Jewish woman who did not back down from a challenge and fought for what she believed in. There are not many Jewish figures in government, much less Jewish women, and as a Jewish woman myself, I viewed her as a trailblazer and warrior of our people. I looked to her for inspiration and protection. Ginsburg made me feel safe as well as heard as a Jewish woman.
RBG’s death was especially hard for me in regards to the circumstances leading up to her passing. Her health was constantly broadcasted to the media and she was in and out of the hospital while working a full work week at the age of 87. Both sides of the political spectrum were continuously monitoring her health, some fervently wishing for her to make it to the election while others did not. She did not get a moment of peace before her death.
Furthermore, Ginsburg was no stranger to misogyny and anti-Semitism. Some would undermine her work or spread conspiracies regarding Jews in government. It was hard to see people attack her work simply because of her ethnicity or gender, especially because of my own pride in both Judaism and being a woman.
As Rosh Hashanah came and went, Ginsburg’s death continued to circulate in the media. President Donald Trump almost immediately began to act against her dying wish, which was not to replace her position on the Supreme Court until after the election. Ginsburg’s body was not even in the ground yet by the time Trump publicized a working list.
I am still coping with her death, however, I am doing my part to engage in the upcoming election because I believe in what Ginsburg fought for. My home state of California, I’m assuming, doesn’t need my vote as much as Pennsylvania. Northampton County, especially, needs my ballot more than San Francisco. Northampton is one of the three “pivot” counties in the state, meaning that it could flip either way depending on the election. For context, this county went blue in both 2008 and 2012 and then red in 2016.
I hope that RBG’s place will remain vacant for the time being as the election looms closer. Her spot should not be filled by a rushed nominee. Ginsburg deserves to have her one dying wish listened to. She should be respected even though she is no longer with us. After decades of fighting for women’s rights, for people like me, I believe her spot should be filled after an extensive vetting process and after Nov. 3.
While it has been difficult to grapple with the fact that she is no longer here, I believe her passing on Rosh Hashanah is extremely significant. In Jewish culture, only the most righteous and worthy pass on Rosh Hashanah; they lived a full year and accomplished all they could and then passed on the holiest of holidays. Ginsburg was a mensch, a person of integrity and honor, and I am happy she got the opportunity to pass when she did, giving both the country and Jewish people alike the ability to mourn her.
Now more than ever, you must vote. Vote because it is your civic duty. Vote because millions of lives depend on your voice. Vote because Ginsburg would have wanted you to.
Thank you Ruth for everything you did. Thank you for fighting for as long as you did, and thank you for being my role model for all these years. May you rest easily and know I will be fighting for what you fought for until my own passing.
Thank you Ruth Bader Ginsburg.