Ruth Bader Ginsburg Receives Top Jewish Award: 'Demand for Peace Runs Through Jewish Tradition'

U.S. Supreme Court justice gets Genesis Lifetime Achievement Award in Tel Aviv, says she's 'proud of being a Jew' ■ Ex-U.S. President Bill Clinton writes Ginsburg that he will 'always be proud' of appointing her

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg receives the Genesis Lifetime Achievement Award in Tel Aviv, July 4, 2018
Genesis Award Press Release

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg received an award from the Jewish organization snubbed earlier this year by actor Natalie Portman.

The inaugural Genesis Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to the U.S. Supreme Court justice in a private event at the Yitzhak Rabin Center, Tel Aviv, on Wednesday evening.

Upon receiving the award, Justice Ginsburg said that she was "a judge, born, raised, and proud of being a Jew."

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaking about her life and work during a discussion at Georgetown Law School in Washington, April 6, 2018.
Alex Brandon/AP

"The demand for justice, for peace and for enlightenment runs through the entirety of Jewish history and Jewish tradition," Ginsburg continued.

"I hope, in all the years I have the good fortune to continue serving on the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States, I will have the strength and courage to remain steadfast in the service of that demand,” she said.

Ginsburg received her award from Israel’s former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak.

Aharon Barak said that "it is an honor to bestow the Genesis Lifetime Achievement Award on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

“Without a doubt, she is one of the great legal minds of our time; an outstanding Jewish jurist whose fearless pursuit of human rights, equality and justice for all stems from her Jewish values. It is a privilege to celebrate her here in Israel.”

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who appointed Justice Ginsburg to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993, sent her a congratulatory letter in which he wrote that the award was a testament to Ginsburg's "remarkable contributions to building a fairer and more just society" and to her "lifelong effort to widen the circle of opportunity."

"Your groundbreaking legal work has pioneered civil liberties and women’s rights in the United States. … I will always be proud to have appointed you to the Supreme Court,” Clinton added.

Producer Natalie Portman attending a special screening of "Eating Animals" at the IFC Center in New York, June 14, 2018.
Evan Agostini/AP

The Genesis Prize was established five years ago by a group of wealthy Jewish-Russian businessmen, to “recognize [Jewish] individuals who have attained excellence and international renown in their chosen professional fields.” Past recipients are Michael Douglas, Michael Bloomberg, Anish Kapoor and Itzhak Perlman.

Haaretz’s Yossi Verter reported last November that Ginsburg had originally been tapped to receive the prize. However, according to Verter, the decision was reversed when the prize committee realized that the U.S. Supreme Court justice had been critical of Donald Trump prior to his election, and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not want to be seen on the same stage with a liberal who had attacked the president. The committee itself, however, said it had overturned its decision when the panel’s legal adviser discovered that U.S. judges are barred from receiving monetary prizes from a foreign country.

As a result, the Genesis Prize Foundation announced in November that Ginsburg would receive the Lifetime Achievement Award and that Israeli-born, Academy Award-winning actor Portman would receive its top prize, which comes with a $1 million award. Israeli philanthropist Morris Kahn then agreed to provide a matching donation of $1 million. All past recipients have gifted the prize toward causes of their choice, and Portman said she planned to donate hers to women’s organizations in Israel.

In April, however, Portman notified the foundation that she would not be attending the prize-giving ceremony in Jerusalem. She later explained that her nonattendance was not connected to groups calling for a boycott of Israel, but because she did not want to be seen as supporting Netanyahu, who was scheduled to speak at the event.

The foundation later announced it would not allow Portman to donate the money, but would instead distribute it to women’s organizations of its own choosing.

The ceremony for Ginsburg was jointly hosted by Dalia Rabin, the daughter of the murdered prime minister, and Stan Polovets, the CEO of the foundation.

On Thursday, Ginsburg will attend a Jerusalem Cinematheque screening of “RBG,” the acclaimed documentary about her life that has been a surprise hit at the U.S. box office this summer. The screening will be followed by a conversation with Ginsburg, moderated by a representative of the Genesis Prize.

A spokeswoman for the foundation said that Ginsburg would not be answering audience questions because of restrictions imposed by her position.

Judy Maltz contributed to this report.