RIP RBG, Tribute/Hallelujah, Central Synagogue

Image source: BTF Design.

Central Synagogue of Manhattan created a beautiful tribute to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg  with the singing of Hallelujah by Rabbi Angela W. Buchdahl. Her rendition is worth listening to even if you just need a few minutes to clear your mind and raise your spirits. Shout out to my dad who shared the video with me.

 

RIP RBG, “Brooklyn Lost a Native Daughter”

Image source: Voices of Labor on Etsy

The New York Times’ Metro reporter, John Leland wrote about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s ties to her hometown in:

The Nation Lost a Titan. Brooklyn Lost a Native Daughter.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg — “Kiki” to her Brooklyn family — was a product of the borough’s public schools and synagogues. She is revered on her home ground.

 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a child of Brooklyn long before she was Notorious — daughter of Jewish immigrants, graduate of P.S. 238 and James Madison High School (class of 1950), cheerleader known as Kiki Bader, member of the East Midwood Jewish Center.

She lived on the first floor of a two-story house on East Ninth Street in the multiethnic Midwood neighborhood and fed her mind at the local public library branch, upstairs from a Chinese restaurant and a beauty parlor.

“She’s part of the folklore of the community,” said Joseph Dorinson, who lives in the neighborhood and has taught at James Madison. “My neighbor’s brother dated her.”

Howard Teich, founding chairman of the Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative, said Justice Ginsburg resonated so profoundly with Brooklynites — the elders who followed her judicial career and the young people who loved the pop icon — because she represented the values of her block.

“It’s a place that lends itself to the values of modesty and people living with each other, and that has lasted her through her lifetime,” he said. As an emblem of pride, he added, “She’s singular in terms of who she was.”

Over the weekend, as news spread of Justice Ginsburg’s death on Friday, makeshift memorials of candles, signs, flowers and even an R.B.G. action figure went up outside James Madison High School and her childhood home. Hundreds gathered Saturday night outside the courthouse in Foley Square in Manhattan, holding candles and singing the civil rights anthem “Woke Up This Morning With My Mind Stayed on Freedom,” and a vigil was also held outside Kings County Supreme Court. Handwritten signs in different parts of Brooklyn urged neighbors to honor her legacy by voting.

“They’ve been coming and going all weekend to pay their respects,” said Diana Brenneisen, who has lived in the justice’s old house since 1969. “They’re outside now.”

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the state would erect a statue in her honor in Brooklyn. It will be only the fifth statue Mr. Cuomo’s administration has created since he took office in 2011.

“NY’s heart breaks with the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” Mr. Cuomo said on Twitter.

Over the weekend, state monuments were bathed in blue light, her favorite color.

Enterprising New Yorkers altered a subway mosaic at 50th Street to read “RUth St.” and added her initials to a street sign commemorating the rapper Notorious B.I.G.

At the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the display board posted her encouragement: “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

As national politicians spent the weekend debating whether to fill her seat on the Supreme Court before Election Day, Mayor Bill de Blasio honored her as a native daughter, saying, “I’m crushed that we lost an incomparable icon. A daughter of Brooklyn. A tenacious spirit who moved this country forward in fairness, equality and morality. She was Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She never backed down from a fight. Tonight her hometown and world mourn.” Flags around the city flew at half-staff.

 

 

 

RIP RBG, “Her Black Coffee Always Brewed Strong”

Image source: NvaArt on Etsy

I still have books to review and photos to share, but this week is all about RBG.

Opinion piece by Abbe R. Gluck and

 

There was our justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg: “At the end of the day, the government is throwing to the wind the women’s entitlement. …” She was forcefully intervening at oral argument in the last months of her life, in a case about access to contraception under the Affordable Care Act. Her dissent, issued in July, condemned the majority for leaving potentially half a million women to “fend for themselves.”

It was her last opinion about gender equality after a lifetime of advocacy and leadership on the court. She was keenly aware, as she always was, of how the law affects real women in real life. And as always, nothing could stop her from speaking up.

We clerked for Justice Ginsburg in the 1997 and 2003 terms. She was a role model for us in law and in life; how to work, how to write, how to advocate, how to partner, how to mentor. She was already famous when we clerked for her. But that she later became a feminist icon in her octogenarian years for millions of little girls around the world is nothing short of extraordinary.

This didn’t happen through loudness of voice, harshness of words or a biting cynicism about the world. It was through a remarkable legal intellect, an incomparable work ethic and a powerful vision of what justice and equal treatment for men and women mean in reality. Her once-radical vision of gender equality penetrated the law in countless areas, not just reproductive rights but also workplace discrimination, class-action law, criminal procedure — in every aspect of how women interact with the world. And she lived that vision through every aspect of her personal life, too.

Justice Ginsburg was the last justice on the court to have spent time before the bench as a legal advocate for equality. (Justice Thurgood Marshall was the last before her.) Today we take for granted her vision of gender equality. But we should never forget that it was not until 1971 that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for the first time that the Constitution prohibits discrimination based on sex. That was Justice Ginsburg’s case — Reed v. Reed, which challenged the rule that men were the preferred administrators of estates of deceased persons, and that gave a grieving mother the right to administer the estate of the son she lost.

For Justice Ginsburg, equality did not mean special­ — she would say “pedestal” — treatment for women. Equality meant the same treatment for women and men. Stories from her childhood — as when she complained it was unfair that boys had wood shop while girls had sewing — are renowned. As an advocate, her litigation strategy zeroed in on that radical vision and realized it for all of us.

She often used male instead of female plaintiffs to show sex discrimination prevents all people from realizing their full potential. Why shouldn’t a man, for example, receive the same Social Security benefits a woman would receive, so he could stay home to care for his child after his spouse died? She successfully brought that question to the court in the 1975 case Weinberger v. Weisenfeld. She has said in interviews: “The aim was to break down the stereotypical view of men’s roles and women’s roles.”

Over the next 45 years, Justice Ginsburg would extend that vision into every corner of American life. In 1996, she wrote a pathbreaking opinion striking down Virginia’s provision of single-sex public education for men only (at a military institute), giving us both the law and the vocabulary to describe her vision. She eschewed the term “women’s rights.” Instead, equal protection demanded that both women and men be given “full citizenship stature — equal opportunity to aspire, achieve, participate in and contribute to society.”

Then there were the dissents — they had an extraordinary impact even before she became the leader of the court’s liberal wing and gained the moniker “notorious R.B.G.” In 2006, with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s retirement, Justice Ginsburg became the only woman on the court. She spoke ever louder. In a case upholding a federal ban on late-term abortions, Justice Ginsburg’s dissentattacked the majority for its paternalistic concern that women could not be trusted to make decisions they would not regret: “The Court invokes an anti-abortion shibboleth for which it concededly has no reliable evidence,” she wrote. “This way of thinking reflects ancient notions about women’s place in the family and under the Constitution — ideas that have long since been discredited.”

In a criminal procedure case about a strip search of a 13-year-old girl for ibuprofen, the justice reacted to a male colleague’s asking why stripping in the gym was “a major thing.” Shaking out one’s bra and underwear and then being forced to sit in the hallway for two hours, she said, was not mere locker-room play. It was an “abuse of authority.”

In a 2007 equal pay case, Justice Ginsburg — herself a victim of early-career workplace discrimination — chided her colleagues for deciding that a woman who does not file a claim immediately can never file at all. This ignored the actual “characteristics of pay discrimination.” “Small initial discrepancies,” she wrote, “may not be seen as meat for a federal case, particularly when the employee, trying to succeed in a nontraditional environment, is averse to making waves.”

In a 2011 employment discrimination class action, she faultedcolleagues for overlooking how “subjective decision making can be a vehicle for discrimination.” She referenced a favorite example from a favorite pastime: Orchestras with blind auditions hire more women.

The magnitude of her legal legacy cannot be overstated. But her impact was even greater because she modeled for us and for women and girls around the world how to live a life that reflected her legal vision. She demanded a lot from her law clerks, but demanded even more from herself. She was the hardest working, most deliberate person either one of us has ever worked for. She taught us to be strong and to stand behind our work. She gave countless women and men opportunities and support in the life of the law. She got to know all of our children. Her famous faxes came across the channels at all hours of the night. Her black coffee always brewed strong.

In her home life, she modeled to us how to translate the radical legal change she worked to the personal. She and her husband, Martin, were insistently equal co-partners in marriage and parenting and had a marriage for the ages.

Her commitments were always the same and grew ever louder. Even at the very end, she reminded us how much more work there is left to do.

Abbe R. Gluck is a law professor and faculty director of the Solomon Center for Health Law and Policy at Yale Law School. Gillian E. Metzger is a law professor and faculty co-director of the Center for Constitutional Governance at Columbia Law School.

 

 

Down the Shore!

Heart in the sky!

The “Week of Positives” may be over but I have more pics to share. This summer, more than ever, “finding the extraordinary in the ordinary” wasn’t just a tagline to my blog.

Growing up in Baltimore, everyone I knew loved Ocean City, MD. It may be have been three hours away, but that didn’t stop my friends and I from making day trips to Chesapeake Bay and beyond. (We’d leave at the crack of dawn and get back at midnight!) Family vacations to OC always included days on the beach, hours in the ocean, French fries with vinegar, popcorn, ice cream, and salt water taffy. Who can forget the smell of salt air mixed with heat-press transfers at tee-shirt shops on the boardwalk? Who can forget collecting seashells? Who can forget the enormous sandcastles spotlighted at night? Who can forget the feeling of summer?

Living in New Jersey, we go “down the shore” whenever we can. Guess what, hon? My mom loved the beach too, and since she grew up in Morristown, NJ, went “down the shore” with her family to Bradley Beach. Yesterday would have been her 79th birthday, so this post is dedicated to her, one extremely Brave Girl.

Surfer at Avon-by-the-Sea.

Barnegat Lighthouse.

A Week of Positives: Patterns in Nature

The week after Labor Day feels like the start of a new year when it means Back-to-School, back to work and, sadly, the end of summer. Even though summer’s not officially over, and sunny, warm days may last through fall, I often sense a switch has been flipped and the atmosphere knows the date.

This year, that after-Labor-Day-feeling is one of uncertainty, anxiousness, and worry. How is it almost Fall and we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic? What will happen when it’s too cold and snowy to socialize, study, and exercise outside? So many questions and no clear direction has left me searching for beauty, color, patterns, humor, and cuteness (any small animal video will do). When I find them, I have to share them. Maybe the small joys will soak into our pores and in some way cleanse the filth that is our politics, divisiveness, inequality, race relations, antisemitism, economy and, yes, the virus.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Book Review

During quarantine and this unprecedented time, there are the projects I’ve gotten done, the things half finished, and a bunch of projects I haven’t even started. And then there are books. I’ve been reading a lot so, hon, so get ready for a bunch of book reviews.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets to the Universe is a beautifully written coming-of-age YA contemporary novel by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. It’s no wonder the novel, published in 2012, garnered so many awards! I was invested in the main characters’ relationship, families, backgrounds, and thoughts on the worlds they lived in. The story drew me in, made me laugh out loud, and brought tears to my eyes.

What’s the book about?
Fifteen-year-old Aristotle (Ari) has always felt lonely and distant from people until he meets Dante, a boy from another school who teaches him how to swim. As trust grows between the boys and they become friends (a first for Ari), Ari’s world opens up while they discuss life, art, literature, and their Mexican-American roots. Additionally, the influence of Dante’s warm, open family (they even have a “no secrets” rule) is shaping Ari’s relationship with his parents, particularly in regard to a family secret; Ari has an older brother in prison, who no one ever mentions. In a poetic coming-of-age story written in concise first-person narrative, Sáenz (Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood) crystallizes significant turning points in the boys’ relationship, especially as Ari comes to understand that Dante’s feelings for him extend beyond friendship. The story swells to a dramatic climax as Ari’s loyalties are tested, and he confronts his most deeply buried fears and desires. It’s a tender, honest exploration of identity and sexuality, and a passionate reminder that love—whether romantic or familial—should be open, free, and without shame.  Publisher’s Weekly
Memorable Quotes:
“One of the secrets of the universe was that our instincts were sometimes stronger than our minds.”
“Another secret of the universe: Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere. The clearest summer could end in a downpour. Could end in lightning and thunder.”
“Sometimes, you do things and you do them not because you’re thinking but because you’re feeling. Because you’re feeling too much. And you can’t always control the things you do when you’re feeling too much.”
“Why do we smile? Why do we laugh? Why do we feel alone? Why are we sad and confused? Why do we read poetry? Why do we cry when we see a painting? Why is there a riot in the heart when we love? Why do we feel shame? What is that thing in the pit of your stomach called desire?”
Have you read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets to the Universe? What did you think?

In Memory–Aleta

A dear ceramics class friend died this week, and a large group of teachers and students at the Visual Arts Center of NJ are devastated. In a year of compromised health, Aleta contracted Covid-19. Amazingly she recovered and, at a recent ceramics class social distance picnic, she declared herself, “The luckiest girl in the world!” We were beyond thrilled she had beaten the virus. Was her heart attack related to the illness? Research shows it may have been.

Aleta was incredibly smart, becoming a lawyer and professor of law at time when women were just making inroads into those professions. She was funny, curious, creative, talented, encouraging, kind, and a joy to be around. When I tell friends that I love my ceramics class because of the people in it, and because I can make a thimble and it’s still celebrated, I think of Aleta showering us all with, “It’s beautiful! Just beautiful!”

She loved her dog Gracie, had a thing for owls, always wore a Mets baseball hat, was ecstatic about the recent purchase of a dream vacation home, asked for and received an anniversary gift of a home pottery studio, loved to travel and, after a trip to Amsterdam, created hand-built tilting houses. She dispensed jokes and funny stories, shared family lore, talked politics and policies, and always expressed how much she loved her family. Her openness to learning, studying, and practicing was an inspiration. There will be an imprint in the atmosphere surrounding her favorite wheel.

I will always remember Aleta’s smile, laugh, and how she called all of us, “Honey.” My heart is heavy and my mind swirls with memories.

Sources: The Harvard Gazette, Oregon State University’s Jack Dymond

NYPL’s Juneteenth Reading Recommendations for Kids

In honor of Juneteenth and the importance of conversations with children about race (related post– Kidlit Opens the Door to Conversation), today’s topic is the New York Post’s article by Hannah Frishberg “NYPL Releases Juneteenth Reading List For Kids.”

In honor of Juneteenth — now set to be a statewide holiday — the New York Public Library has released a Black Liberation Reading List for young readers.

The list comes from the NYPL’s 95-year-old Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and includes 65 book titles geared toward teaching children and teens about the black experience, history and current events.

“It is so important to remember, honor and celebrate Juneteenth, such a critical moment in the history of our nation, and one that continues to have tremendous impact on today’s events,” says Schomburg Center director Kevin Young in a press release. The June 19 holiday, one of the oldest in America, marks the freeing of the last US slaves — in Galveston, Texas — on June 19, 1865.

“Without honest contemplation and discussions, there won’t be progress,” Young continues, adding that if everyone takes the time to better understand the black experience, “real change can happen.”

The list includes the board books “A Is for Activist” and “Antiracist Baby,” as well as Jacqueline Woodson’s “Brown Girl Dreaming” and “The Day You Begin.”

The Library has made “as many e-copies as possible of the titles,” available to browse and borrow for free via the Library’s digital collections.

The Schomburg Shop’s manager, Rio Cortez, began compiling the list following the killing of George Floyd.

“Many of our patrons connect with the Schomburg Shop specifically for the books by black and brown authors whose work enables black and brown children to see themselves in complete and dynamic ways,” says Cortez.

Last week, the Schomburg Center released a Black Liberation Reading List for adults. In eight days, that list has already received 7,000 checkouts, the library says.

On Juneteenth and throughout the following week, several of the listed books will be read by authors, politicians and librarians on the library’s social channels. The full virtual programming roster will be shared on NYPL’s site.