Associated Event Explores the Notorious RBG

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A recent online exhibit examined Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life and accomplishments.

The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore and The Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center presented the exhibit July 13 via Zoom. Almost 300 Baltimoreans tuned in.


The “tour,” or video, opened with an interview clip of Ginsburg on PBS. “Notorious B.I.G. and I do have one thing in common,” she said. “We’re both from Brooklyn!”

The video backtracks to her beginnings as a baby nicknamed “Kicky” and her Jewish childhood. Ginsburg’s character shines through at an early age. As a child, she wrote an article for her local synagogue about putting prejudice aside.

Growing up, she was not allowed to have a bat mitzvah, and when her mother died, she wasn’t allowed to count in the minyan at her shiva. For these reasons, though Ginsburg is spiritual, she is not a strict practitioner of Judaism.

RBG slide from presentation, (screenshot by Carolyn Conte)
RBG slide from Notorious RBG presentation, (screenshot by Carolyn Conte)

Ginsburg attended Cornell University with her future husband, who shared similar career goals. She got married, and when she became pregnant, she was demoted at her job at a social security office. This would fuel the fire of her feminist ambitions.

RBG slide from presentation, (screenshot by Carolyn Conte)
RBG slide from Notorious RBG presentation, (screenshot by Carolyn Conte)

Later, her husband was diagnosed with cancer. It was during this time that she developed a habit of sleeping only two to four hours a night and working long hours.

Eventually, she became one of the first nine women to attend Harvard Law School. “If you didn’t perform well you’d be failing not only yourself but all women,” Ginsburg said in the video.

The exhibit also looked at her accomplishments as a judge.

Reed vs. Reed was the first major Supreme Court case that addressed discrimination based on gender. Originally, males were preferred to females in appointing administrators of estates. After the death of their son, both Sally and Cecil Reed sought to be named the administrator of their son’s estate. The American Civil Liberties Union and Ginsburg wrote Sally Reed’s brief. The judges unanimously decided that sex discrimination was unconstitutional and the ACLU established its Women’s Rights Project in response.

Another important piece of legislation to Ginsburg is the Equal Rights Amendment. This proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution would guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex. It would end legal distinctions between men and women in regard to property, divorce, employment and more. To this day, it keeps being held up in committee.

The exhibit emphasized that Ginsburg was clever in how she approached cases. She took on male gender discrimination cases to show that sexism can affect anyone. To open up the conversation on abortion rights, she took on a case where a woman did not want an abortion.

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter nominated her to the appeals court. In 1993, Clinton nominated her to the Supreme Court. In her acceptance speech, she pointed out that few law schools had less than 40% female enrollment, compared to her graduating class of only nine women.

The presentation then looked at her exceptional health and fighting spirit. Her trainer called her “a cyborg, a machine.” Clips of her lifting weights and doing push-ups rolled by.

RBG slide from presentation, (screenshot by Carolyn Conte)
RBG slide from presentation, (screenshot by Carolyn Conte)
RBG slide from presentation, (screenshot by Carolyn Conte)
RBG slide from Notorious RBG presentation, (screenshot by Carolyn Conte)

Tragically, her husband Martin Ginsburg died in 2010 while Ruth Ginsburg was in court.

The video then caught up to 2020 by summarizing how she has continued to fight for justice since then.

This exhibit was hosted by The Illinois Holocaust Museum hosts on its website. The museum believes Ginsburg exemplifies the type of person who shows courage to take positions that are not popular but are right, which supports their mission as a Holocaust museum to educate and promote justice.

The exhibit is based on The New York Times bestselling book and Tumblr page of the same name, “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.” It is the first-ever museum exhibit focused solely on this Jewish justice.

The tour concluded with a Q&A session. Then, Sarah David, Jewish Baltimore prosecutor and co-chair of the Baltimore City Partnerships Commission, spoke about the responsibility of bringing up the next generation. She stated that BCPC’s goals align with Ginsburg’s and looked at Ginsburg’s ideals though a local lens. “When my children are grown, I want their Baltimore to be more inclusive.

 

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