What Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Online Mourners Got Right and Wrong about Jews, Death, and the Afterlife

When news of the Jewish justice’s death spread last week, so did a lot of weird claims about how Jews should mourn and what they believe. It’s time to clear things up.

A memorial outside the Supreme Court where Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lies in repose on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

A memorial outside the Supreme Court where Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lies in repose on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

Observation
Sept. 25 2020
About the author

Rabbi Shlomo Zuckier is the Flegg postdoctoral fellow at McGill University. A founder of The Lehrhaus, he recently completed a PhD at Yale University and serves on the editorial committee of Tradition.


Opening my computer after the end of Rosh Hashanah this past Sunday, having seen a headline about her death on a newspaper on the street over the holiday, I expected to find tributes to Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s accomplishments and legacy, as well as projections about the political battle I knew must be brewing in its wake. All this I found and more, much of which I was not expecting, namely the bevy of questionable claims on behalf of “Judaism” that had gone viral while I was logged off. A high-profile Jewish person had passed away—one of the most powerful Jewish people in the country—on one of the most significant days on the Jewish calendar. So it makes sense that those spending Rosh Hashanah on their computers would spread Jewish ideas in connection with her passing.

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More about: Afterlife, Death, Jewish Thought, Mourning, Religion & Holidays, Ruth Bader Ginsburg