Why Ruth Bader Ginsburg Had an Intimate, Yet Ambivalent, Relationship With Judaism and Israel

The late justice took pride in and drew strength from her Jewish heritage, but as a young woman her growing feminist awareness led her to make a decision about religious observance

Allison Kaplan Sommer
Allison Kaplan Sommer
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail

In July 2018, the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with an intricately patterned blue-and-white scarf swathed around her shoulders like a prayer shawl, sat next to a woman who was the closest thing to her local counterpart: former Israeli Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch.

The two talked at the American Center, Jerusalem, about the common struggles of their two countries when it came to legal and parliamentary power, and the interplay between Judaism and the fight for equal rights in political and religious cultures – which purport to revere women but where “the pedestal often turns out to be a cage.”