Ruth Bader Ginsburg Compares Exclusion of Women in Israel to Discrimination Against African-Americans in U.S.

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks after the screening of 'RBG,' the documentary about her in Jerusalem, July 5, 2018.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks after the screening of 'RBG,' the documentary about her in Jerusalem, July 5, 2018.Credit: Caron Creighton/AP

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has compared the exclusion of women in Israel to the discrimination against African-Americans in the United States, noting the “separate but equal” doctrine that the court overturned starting with Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.

Ginsburg, who picked up her Genesis Lifetime Achievement Award in Tel Aviv this week, was speaking at a meeting with women’s groups.

When asked about gender segregation at colleges and universities in Israel – explained as the only way the ultra-Orthodox would take part in higher education – Ginsburg said the United States had an unfortunate history of segregation, the notion of “separate but equal.”

This included separate schools for African-Americans, which were far from equal. That period is long gone, she said, so public institutions have to be neutral and accept the principles of secular society.

Ginsburg noted that in the United States there were ultra-Orthodox Jews who did not study under conditions of gender segregation. She assumed that if religious communities in Israel were stronger like the Reform community, the problem and the solution would be different.

She said there cannot be any discrimination in public schools, which is why many people in religious communities prefer their own schools.

Speaking Friday at the U.S. Embassy, Ginsburg said it was not clear if U.S. President Donald Trump would be able to appoint a Supreme Court judge to replace the outgoing Anthony Kennedy before the November midterm elections. Trump has said he will announce his pick on Monday.

“How much time it will take to investigate him? Now it takes just a majority of the Senate, which the Republicans have at the moment – they may not have after the midterm elections,” Ginsburg said.

“So we don’t know if the president will be successful in rushing his nominee through before the midterm. If it gets to the midterm and the balance in the Senate shifts, it will be a different story,” she added.

As she put it, “There are endless forms for the nominee to fill out – disclosure, financial disclosure – and then the committee has hearings.”

At the woman’s talk earlier in the week, Ginsburg showed that she was familiar with the Israeli legal system, saying that the core idea behind the law was human dignity for all, and that this principle stood at the center of many rulings by Israel’s Supreme Court. She added that she did not believe that if someone thinks that a certain behavior is not criminal, it is acceptable. It is not, she said.

Referring to the #MeToo movement, Ginsburg said that some of the people accused would stand trial, but most would not, even if they would be ostracized.

The #MeToo movement shows that there is strength in numbers, she added, noting that when one person files a complaint not much happens. But it is different when women unite and say that such behavior is wrong and they will not accept it any longer.

In her acceptance speech Ginsburg quoted Jewish women from the early 20th century such as Emma Lazarus, whose poem is inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty. Switching to her own generation, she then read out a quote wondering why women were regarded as inferior. She then noted that this was one of the last entries in “The Diary of Anne Frank.”

Six Supreme Court justices attended the ceremony when Ginsburg received her achievement award. The prize was handed out by Aharon Barak, who served on the court from 1978 to 2006 and was president from 1995.