RBG Lying in State

What This Means for Women and The Jewish Community

Jadyn Gelfand, Staff Writer

On September 25, 2020, Ruth Bader Ginsburg became both the first Jewish American and the first woman to lie in state.

This was a pivotal moment: a leader in the fight for gender equality winning one more battle against the patriarchy. A prominent figure in the Jewish community buried with great honor when across the world Jewish graves are being desecrated .

The momentousness of these two firsts must not be forgotten or brushed aside.

Lying in state is a highly prestigious honor afforded to only Presidents, military commanders, members of Congress, and Supreme Court Justices by custom. It must be authorized by a congressional resolution or permitted by the congressional leadership.

According to the Architect of the Capitol, the federal agency responsible for the protection and preservation of the United States Capitol Complex, lying in state is for, “[a]ny person who has rendered distinguished service to the nation.” Justice Ginsburg joined John Lewis, a civil rights leader and member of the House of Representatives, Dwight D, Eisenhower, the 34th president of the United States, and many other great American figures. Simply put, it’s a tremendous honor.

Justice Ginsburg was a trailblazer in the fight for women’s rights. She was the first Jewish woman on the Supreme Court and the second woman, only behind Sandra Day O’Connor.

She was the first female tenured professor at Columbia University, and now, the first woman to lie in state.

This legacy of firsts is meaningful. Every time someone is the first to do something, others feel that they can do the same. Justice Ginsburg’s firsts continue to teach women across the country that they too could claim positions of power. Even in death, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is still paving the way for women.

While Justice Ginsburg wasn’t known for her Jewish heritage, her prestige mattered to the American Jewish community. In life, Justice Ginsburg was a proud symbol of the success and progressive strength of the American Jewish community. Now, as she lies in state, her honor has added a new layer of significance to this community.

The legacy of Jewish bodies being desecrated and disrespected after death is long and horrid. Last year, 59 Jewish graves were vandalized with Nazi symbolism in Massachusetts (The Washington Post).

Holocaust victims are being imitated on Tik Tok, and up until 1995 when they promised to stop, the Mormon Church posthumously baptized dead Jews against their consent. So, Justice Ginsburg, a Jewish woman, being buried honorably in state, sends the significant message that Jewish bodies are to be treated with respect.

On that early fall day in September, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg achieved two last firsts as she lies in state at the Capitol ceremony. While her death means a profound loss for those who fight for civil rights and a change in the political leanings of the Supreme Court, her lying in state has meant that even at the very end, RBG was a pioneer for women and brought respect to the Jewish community. It feels fitting that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death contained great significance, as her life did the same.