Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who served on the Supreme Court since 1993, died on Friday at the age of eighty-seven. Among much else, Ginsburg was one of the most prominent Jews in American public life. Herewith, her remarks at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in 2004 on the occasion of Yom Hashoah:
I had the good fortune to be a Jew born and raised in the USA. My father left Odessa bound for the New World in 1909, at age thirteen; my mother was first in her large family to be born here, in 1903, just a few months after her parents and older siblings landed in New York. What is the difference between a bookkeeper in New York’s garment district and a Supreme Court justice? Just one generation, my mother’s life and mine bear witness. Where else but America could that happen?
I am proud to live in a country where Jews are not afraid to say who we are, the second country after Israel to have set aside a day each year, this day, to remember the Holocaust, to learn of and from that era of inhumanity, to renew our efforts to repair the world’s tears. I feel the more secure because this capital city includes a museum dedicated to educating the world, so that all may know, through proof beyond doubt, that the unimaginable in fact happened.
It is fitting, I hope you agree, [to cite a] line from Deuteronomy: U-vaḥarta ba-ḥayyim. It means: Choose life. As did the survivors who somehow managed to stay alive, to carry on, and to tell their stories; as did Jews and Christians, in ghettos and in camps, who gave their lives endeavoring to save the lives of others; as did [the Jews of] Budapest, where Great Synagogue still opens its doors, the second largest synagogue in the world, the shul in which Theodor Herzl celebrated his bar mitzvah, a structure so impressive visitors from my home state might recognize it as the model for Central Synagogue in New York City.