OPINION: ‘May her memory be a blessing’


Hailey Stessman

We may be grieving more than just the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but we shouldn’t have to live in fear. Graphic by Hailey Stessman/The Gateway

Rosh Hashanah, meaning the “Head of the Year”, is one of the holiest days in the Jewish tradition. The new year celebration is observed by reflecting on the past year and asking G-d to grant the world a year of peace, prosperity and harmony.

On the evening of Sept. 18, 2020, the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, it was announced by the Supreme Court that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died at the age of 87 from complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer.

I remember opening Twitter after I had submitted a paper, my usual (not entirely healthy) form of relaxation between assignments, and experiencing a culmination of emotions at once. Despair. Sadness. Disbelief. I had to reread the headline multiple times to ensure that what I was seeing was true.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first Jewish woman and the second woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court, was a beacon of hope for many in the United States. As an advocate for women’s rights, especially regarding reproductive rights and gender equality, Ginsburg was an influential figure who used every bit of strength her body, even in her last months, to ensure a sense of balance among the politically right-leaning Supreme Court.

Scrolling through Twitter was incredibly eerie as there seemed to be a collective fear of what Ginsburg’s death may come to symbolize. With anxious remarks in relation to important past Supreme Court decisions such as Roe vs Wade and same-sex marriage, many, including myself, were openly grieving for the possibility of future losses if President Trump appoints a new Supreme Court justice as a replacement for Ginsburg.

But mixed among the tense and frightened comments, there were sentiments of respect, honor and admiration for the life that Ginsburg fiercely lived.

On Twitter, author Ruth Franklin tweeted, “According to Jewish tradition, a person who dies on Rosh Hashanah, which began tonight, is a tzaddik, a person of great righteousness. Baruch Dayan HaEmet.”

This loss is monumental for our country and the Jewish community alike. It was her dedication to her faith and upbringing that can be attributed to her endless fight for justice.

As we mourn, let us remember to do it respectfully by uttering words shared by the Jewish community in the event of a death.

“May her memory be a blessing.”

Ginsburg was a role model for many and an embodiment of strength in the midst of an unstable system that continues to unfairly treat the people it is meant to serve. As we continue to move towards the election, let us use her memory and character as motivation to fight for the rights of all.

Though it is important to not overlook the flawed moments during Ginsburg’s time as a justice on the Supreme Court—specifically regarding indigenous communities– we must come to realize how deeply flawed our own system is. When the death of an 87-year-old woman causes the American public to fear the future of the democracy they live in, is it truly a democracy? Ginsburg should not have had to waste her final moments of strength on telling her own granddaughter that her “most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

Death is inevitable and its existence is a hard-to-swallow truth. But in the face of loss, there is an opportunity for growth. Within this fear that you may be feeling for what may come, dig deep for the strength to continue pushing for what is just.

Let us grieve, but then let us fight. Fight for what is true and for what is right.

Let us vote.

May this new year for those who celebrate Rosh Hashanah be abundant in peace, prosperity and harmony. May her memory be a blessing.