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It was with much sadness that we heard of the recent death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1993 until the end of her life.
There have, of course, been many tributes written about her since her passing, but we would like to remember her in our own way by recalling our association with her in 2002.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, known universally as RBG, was a close friend of the late William Frankel CBE, who was Chairman of the Institute of Jewish Affairs from 1989 to 1992, (as JPR was called until 1996). Frankel remained closely linked with us until his death in 2008. He played an important role in Jewish and public life as a barrister, and as Editor and then Chairman of the Jewish Chronicle.
Thanks to this connection, RBG agreed to make a special visit to JPR in London in 2002 to deliver the fifth William Frankel Lecture at Chatham House, which was chaired by our President Lord Rothschild OM GBE. The lecture was followed by a reception for 100 guests in the River Room, in The Lord Chancellor’s Residence, hosted by the Rt Hon Lord Irvine of Lairg.
The lecture was entitled Thoughts of a Jewish Justice on Jews who paved the way and RBG spoke of the Jewish US Supreme Court Justices who preceded her: Louis Brandeis, Benjamin Cardozo, Felix Frankfurter, Arthur Goldberg and Abe Fortas. (An abridged version of the lecture is available here).
She spoke in front of an audience that included some of England’s finest legal minds, including Cherie Booth QC, Lord Woolf, Lord Millett, Lord Goldsmith and David Pannick (now Lord Pannick).
Her impact was mesmerising. She began by asking: “What is the difference between a book-keeper on the Lower East Side and a Supreme Court Judge?” “A generation,” she told us. “My mother was a Lower East Side bookkeeper when I was a child.”
We mourn her passing and those of us at JPR who heard her speak were privileged to have been granted that unique opportunity.
* Image - Lord Haskel (then President of JPR), Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and William Frankel CBE.