The Genesis Prize Foundation announced on Wednesday November 15 that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be the first recipient of their Lifetime Achievement Award, which they are awarding to mark the fifth anniversary of the Genesis Prize. According to the Foundation, the prize has been marked “the Jewish Nobel” by Time Magazine. Justice Ginsburg will be presented with the award in Israel next summer by Israel’s former Supreme Court Justice President, Aharon Barak. The committee of former Genesis Prize recipients that chose Justice Ginsburg for the award were Michael Bloomberg, Michael Douglas, Yitzhak Perlman, Sir Anish Kapoor, and Natalie Portman. These previous winners of the Genesis Prize described Justice Ginsburg as a “perfect role model for young Jews.”
As the first Jewish woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court, Justice Ginsburg has been vocal about her identity as a Jewish woman and has spoken at several events celebrating Jewish holidays. According to US News, she was a surprise speaker at an event celebrating Rosh Hashanah in Washington this year where she spoke about how her faith has guided her to be empathetic towards members of minority groups who experience discrimination. Justice Ginsburg, along with Justice Stephen Breyer, who is also Jewish, was instrumental in ensuring that the Court not hear arguments on Yom Kippur in 1995. Nathan Lewis of Jewish Telegraphic Agency noted that they argued Jewish lawyers who had been preparing their arguments for several weeks would be forced to choose between arguing before the court and observing their religious holiday. Since then, the Supreme Court has not been open on Yom Kippur.
Along with Justice Ginsburg, Justice Stephen Breyer and Justice Elena Kagan, who is also Jewish, have spoken publicly about their religion, such as when Breyer and Kagan spoke at the Jewish Federations General Assembly in November of 2014.
Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan are far from the first Jewish Justices on the Court. Five more Jewish Justices have previously served: Abe Fortas, who served from 1965 to 1969 Arthur Goldberg; who served from 1962 to 1965; Felix Frankfurter, who served from 1939 to 1962; and Benjamin Cardozo, who served from 1932 to 1938; and Louis Brandeis, who served from 1916 to 1939.
This post was drafted by ISCOTUS Fellow Zoe Arthurson-McColl, Chicago-Kent Class of 2019, edited by ISCOTUS Fellow Matthew Webber, Chicago-Kent Class of 2018, and overseen by ISCOTUS Co-Director and Chicago-Kent faculty member Carolyn Shapiro.