Justice Ginsburg Discusses Career, Role Models at Moment Awards Dinner
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the recipient of the inaugural Moment Magazine Human Rights Award on Wednesday, September 18, at an awards dinner at The Yale Club in New York City. Moment board member Lloyd Goldman was the recipient of the Moment Magazine Community Leadership Award.
Ginsburg discussed her most recent cancer treatment in a conversation with NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg. Her comments came in response to a question posed by Totenberg, which also drew laughs from the audience: “Why are you here?”
“This latest has been my fourth cancer bout,” Ginsburg said. “And I found each time that when I’m active, I feel much better than if I’m just lying about and feeling sorry for myself.”
One of the Justice’s remarks during her interview with Totenberg made national news: Ginsburg pushed back against critics who have suggested she should have retired during Obama’s second term. Totenberg asked, “People have wondered, since you’ve had two bouts of cancer in the last year, if you have any regrets about not stepping down during the Obama administration?”
Ginsburg’s response was clear and firm: “When that suggestion was made, I asked the question: Who do you think [Obama] could nominate that could get through the Republican Senate who you would prefer on the court than me?”
Philanthropist and Moment board member Lloyd Goldman received the Moment Magazine Community Leadership Award. He was introduced by Rivka Carmi, the former president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, which is one of the many causes Goldman supports. In his remarks, Goldman noted that philanthropic causes help bring disparate groups within the Jewish community together. “I know it can be hard to discuss some social issues. But when we can support an organization that crosses so many categories that we each like to support and get a synergy between them, it is momentous.”
Moment chose Ginsburg to receive the magazine’s first-ever human rights award because of her strength, perseverance and willingness to defy long-held traditions. “She embodies one of the central tenets of Judaism: ‘justice, justice you shall pursue,’” said Moment editor-in-chief Nadine Epstein.
Moment also commissioned a collar designed by artist Marcy Epstein as a gift for the Justice. It is named the “Tzedek Collar,” in recognition of that tenet, which in Hebrew is “Tzedek, Tzedek, Tirdof.”
In her remarks, Ginsburg discussed her female Jewish role models, including Emma Lazarus and Henrietta Szold, “two Jewish women, both raised in the USA, whose humanity and bravery inspired me in my growing up years.”
The evening also included a performance by Denyce Graves, who USA Today has called “an operatic superstar of the 21st century.” She appeared courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera. In addition to singing George Gershwin’s “Summertime,” Graves sang a series of “half-minute songs” written by 20th-century American singer and pianist Carrie Jacobs-Bond, which contain “little pearls of wisdom,” according to Graves. Some crowd favorites were, “I’d rather say you’re welcome once than thank you a thousand times,” and “Aint it gay that what they say can’t hurt you, unless it’s true.”
Also in attendance were singer-songwriter Regina Spektor, comedian Nick Kroll, writer and director Debra Granik (Winters Bone and Leave No Trace), Dr. Ruth Westheimer and other luminaries. Spektor, posting on her Instagram page after the event, wrote: “Listening to the wise and funny and profound and witty RBG and being surrounded by such philanthropic and active people was just what my heart needed. Going to try and take some of that wisdom and hang out with it for a long time.”
Read Justice Ginsburg’s remarks from the awards dinner.
Update: Justice Ginsburg wore the Tzedek Collar on the first day of the new U.S. Supreme Court term October 7, 2019.