Notorious R.B.G: you are my hero!

This is me, doing my best RBG. Perhaps we could be shvesters?

Tell me a story about a young girl, born in 1933 during the height of the depression, growing up facing antisemitism, blatant sexism, and inequality, and I’ll know you are talking about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, my hero. Oh, Ruth, you are one powerful Yiddisheh momma that dares to live every day #livingfearlesslyauthentic. Let me tell you about her.

Nothing ever did or will stop her. If she disagreed, you knew about it. If she ever wanted something to change, she stood up and fought for it — and that is still true today. She lives and breathes strength, integrity, and elegance. She stands up for equality when others don’t even recognize the discrimination. She is a graceful heavyweight, a leader among all leaders, and at five feet tall, 84 years old, she heads up the liberal wing of the Supremes. She makes me proud to be a woman, a Jew, a feminist, an activist, a mom, and a human being.

Fight for the things that you care about. But do it in a way that will lead others to join you.

— Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice

Joan Ruth Bader was born to Jewish immigrants and grew up in Brooklyn, NY. Her sister died when she was just a toddler. Her mother, Celia, always stressed the importance of education (Celia was a very good student, graduating High School at 15, yet her family chose to send her brother to college. It was a time when sons were valued and daughters were meant to find husbands.). As a mom, she wanted more for her daughter. What momma doesn’t? Celia noticed that many girls in her class were named Joan, so to quickly avoid any tsuris (trouble), she asked her teachers to call her Ruth. She brought her to the public library often, where Ruth consumed Nancy Drew books, realizing that Nancy was a young girl in charge, who thought for herself (perhaps we add this series of books to our collective daughters’ gift lists? Nu?) both in her mystery solving and in her relationships. Ruth’s dream of becoming a lawyer was underway and early signs of Notorious R.B.G had begun.

  • Ruth was an excellent student (she listened to her momma, like a glikt shana maideleh (good girl)). Sadly, her mom died the day before her high school graduation
  • She went on to attend Cornell University, where she studied in the bathroom stalls, hiding from parties and social activities — she graduated as the top-ranking female student in her class
  • At Cornell, she met Marty Ginsburg, whom she would later marry. Ruth was demoted from her job for being pregnant. Marty and Ruth gave birth to a bouncing baby girl.  Everyone said she belonged in the kitchen, and at home with her daughter. Marty and Ruth knew better.
  • Marty ( a successful tax attorney in his own right) was supportive, unlike many men of their generation. He understood Ruth was no balaboosta (organized and efficient home-maker). He handled all of the traditional ‘mommy’ roles. Middle-of-the-night feedings, cooking, cleaning, baking, and tending to the kids… he was proud to do these things so that Ruth can later become the Notorious R.B.G. that we know and love.
  • She attended Harvard Law school and was often ridiculed by the dean for being a woman, taking up a man’s spot.
  • Marty took a job in NYC and Ruth transferred to Columbia University, where she graduated tied for top honors in her class.

She had a law degree and top honors, but being a woman, wife, mom, and a Jew made her dreams of becoming a lawyer very difficult. To say she became passionate about women’s rights and gender equality would be an understatement. After co-founding the Women’s Rights Project for the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), Ruth went on to fight six landmark cases on gender equality before the US Supreme court.

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History gave a species of praying mantis the name llomantis ginsburgae, after RBG. They say this species has a neckplate similar to the fancy neckwear Ginsburg wears at the outcome of a verdict. It is also based on how the insect was identified by her female genitalia – a nod to RBG’s lifetime fight for gender equality and women’s rights. Please note, this is a praying mantis I happily found on my car, not the newly, super cool RBG version.

President Jimmy Carter appointed RBG to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. She served there for thirteen years. President Bill Clinton, looking to increase the diversity on the highest bench in the land, appointed her to the US Supreme Court. She joined the Supremes as only the second female Supreme Court Justice (Sandra Day O’Connor was the first). She refers to the former justice as her “big sister.”

RBG battled colon cancer in 1999. She fought off pancreatic cancer in 2009. In 2014, she had a stent placed in her right coronary artery after feeling uncomfortable while working out with her personal trainer. Yes, she can probably kick a*s and take names in any gym she enters.

As for the name, Notorious R.B.G., that comes for her feisty and fiery dissents. A meme virally toured the social media realm, comparing her rap star Notorious B.I.G.

On retirement, at 84, she is a self-proclaimed flaming feminist litigator and is showing no signs of losing her efficacy or her memory. Take a look at this recent tweet from our own twit-in-chief, and you know she still is a powerful force.

Guess who you think I wish would resign?

Ruth, I admire you and hold you in the very highest regard. You influence my life and my decisions, and I know this world is a better place because of you. Thank you for all you do.

A wonderful read for all ages!

What a gutte neshumah, she is. What a good person with a big heart, she is.

 

      

      

      

     

RIP, Edie Windsor. You are my Hero

*video courtesy of You Tube and Huff Post Live

Last week, the world lost an awe-inspiring hero for supporters of LGBTQ civil rights. Tiny, tough, lusty and outrageously fierce, Edie Windsor was the main plaintiff in the case that made it all the way to the Supreme Court, United States v. Windsor.

You see, Edie and her same-sex partner Thea were together as a couple for 40 years. After an absurdly long and loving engagement In 2007, they loudly and proudly said, I do,” in Toronto, a place where gay marriage was both safe and legal. Thea died two years later, in 2009, leaving her entire estate to her spouse, Edie, in the form of a revocable trust. But you see DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), and the people who built this hateful excuse of a law specifically defined ‘marriage’ as deliberately excluding same-sex couples. They couldn’t see ‘us.’  They went so far as to say that the term ‘spouse’ only refers to that of a ‘man and a woman.’

Edie filed taxes after the death of her lifelong love, and justly claimed the federal estate tax that allows exemptions for surviving spouses. The IRS not only barred the exemption, they forced her to pay $363,053 in taxes. Quiet and demure never described Edie. She boldly set off on the battle of a lifetime. All of us in the LGBTQ community, we were with her every step of the way. After forking over all of Thea’s loot to the government, she filed a federal lawsuit for a full refund of the nearly $400k, stating DOMA was unconstitutional, unfair and singled out legally married, same-sex couples.

Windsor fought to overturn DOMA where non-sensical legal language stripped equality from life as she and many others of us knew it. Oral arguments were heard in March of 2013.  On June 26th of that same year, ‘the Supremes’ sang out in favor of love. This court, in a 5-4 decision (thank you, Justice Kennedy! Please never, ever retire), affirmed that DOMA was unconstitutional “as a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment.”

In my household, as in gazillions of same-sex households across the US, it was the feeling of sheer, unfettered joy. Phones rang, hearts throbbed, hugs, kisses, and high-fives could be heard in most major metropolitan areas where we believed we would be safer far and wide, and we were all alive with the promise of equality happening right before our very eyes.

Book the hall, call the caterer, hot-damn, we were going to be legal. In this lifetime. In our lifetime.

Once, when my Big, she was about two, maybe three years old and she asked us to see our wedding pictures. We told her we weren’t married. She asked why, and we looked at each other and said, the law, it doesn’t allow us to marry. She started to cry. We told her that despite the law, love wins.

Edie will be remembered as a powerful trailblazer in the long history of the gay rights movement. A queen in the Yiddish fight club! I am forever grateful for her, and all the others before her who went out on a limb and stood up for what is right. The positive outcome of her battle against the establishment has led to many happy and loving nuptials with similar ridiculously long engagements. (Ours was a mere 17 years… and we married legally in 2013)

Edie, you will be missed. Thank you for giving me and my mishpocheh (family) the gift of equality and acceptance in a time where we are tested, challenged, and opposed daily. Your giant heart gave out on you at 88, but we can still feel your pulse of hope. You will live on in our hearts each and every day. We carry your torch proudly and hope to keep moving our case for equality, justice, and authenticity forward.

My deepest sympathies to your surviving wife and family that are left behind. You left a tacca (big) set of shoes to fill, and you have proven that love does win.

To make promises and to love don’t cost any money. Tsuzogn un lib hobn kostn kayn gelt nisht.

My Mrs., Big, Little, I love you! Ich hob dier lieb!

     

      

      

      

 

Swimming Upstream

Guatemalan worry dolls… been working them in over time

Hello, my friends. I have been quiet of late — very unlike me, I know. It has been a hell of a couple of years weeks. First, strep throat knocked us all to our knees. One by one, we fell. Despite hand washing, Lysol wipes and new toothbrushes, we were coated with cooties and all swilling shots of penicillin. Strep is literally, like swallowing a brick. Not fun times as an adult — I can only imagine the pain for my kinder (children). Gatsby was literally, the last man standing. Vey iz mir (OMG, but worse), it was bad. 

What followed in the aftermath was tougher to bear than the bacteria-baked bricks… Our, my journey of late has been tough. No harder than the next person mind you… of that I am well aware. Still difficult, nonetheless.

I have been living the plight of the salmon. (Not the delicious kind that ends up atop your shmear (cream cheese) on a toasted everything bagel…) I’m talking about the astounding event where the momma fish like any other but the mother would do this leaves years of comfort in ocean dwelling, genetically alters its very form to seek out and return, upstream, against the tides, waterfalls, bears, and all odds, to the roots of their birth. Without google maps, these salmon, they locate the exact freshwater stream of their birth, to lay the eggs of a new generation on the gravel river beds. And then they die, knowing the kinder are well-tended and will carry on.

These salmon, they are fighters. They are filled with courage and defiance to do what they must do — to follow their core. They are the definition of #rebelgirls and #strongwomen. They defy all limitations and persevere, despite obstacles, predators and sheer exhaustion. They do this because they have no other choice but to be true to themselves and those they love. 

This Yiddisheh momma has been #livingfearlesslyauthentic, much like the salmon. I swam hard and long. I reached my freshwater riverbed, and I spoke my truth. I did so for injustice and all that is unfair. I did so for my Mrs., my Big, and my Little. I did so for ME. And I truly believed that:

If you lie on the ground, you cannot fall. Az mi ligt oif der erd, ken men nit fallen.

What I learned, was that you can still fall. That the truth is not always enough. That there are so many who can easily look away from truths. That so many can label, misrepresent, smear (very different from a nice shmear), and lie. And that the latter group that can win. And that in itself can be mentally and physically crushing.

My silence is over. My quiet has passed. I still grieve the loss, nurture my courage. I will become whole again. After all, I have two shayneh maidelehs (sweet little girls)  that must know that despite everything, it is always an obligation, to tell the truth. That we must always stand tall and respectfully fight, not only the injustices that we face, but those of our fellow humans too. I have learned in no uncertain terms that the battles that surround us are much larger than we know. That the work ahead is complex.

And despite my loss, I would stand up again, and risk the same fall. My Mrs. and me, we will raise two mighty girls with voices to engage and take a stand for their sisters and brothers who need them.

Injustice won this time, a shonda (crying shame). But this particular salmon, I am not rolling over and playing dead.

A liar tells his story so often that he gets to believe it himself. A ligner hert zikh zeineh ligen azoi lang ein biz er glaibt zikh alain.

Plus, I know karma is a bitch for all nogudniks (someone on the wrong side of the law).

     

    

      

      

 

I AM WOMAN, the musical

Nu? This mr t, he has me farklempt (all choked up) with his evil and hatred. Not too long ago, I wrote a post, I AM WOMAN HEAR MY VOICE. Well, I’ve taken it to the stage folks. Please, bear with my (awful) voice as I stumble through my own, personal feminist anthem.

Please feel free to sing along. If only to cover up my voice! Vey iz mir…I’m meshuggeneh (crazy), but I am so motivated to peacefully make a change. Because Never Again, is now folks. 

Great big hugs and love to Mackenzie for her gorgeous participation and support! And Kristin, where would I be without the bug you put in my ear? And to all of you brave, men, women and children who showed up, and continue to show up in protest. That’s what I’m sayin.’
Why’d I do it? Well, I am trying hard to teach my kinder (little kids) to be brave, not perfect.
Hey, mr t, I Am Woman, and you, little orange man, are going to have to deal with that!
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