New Yorkers Honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Child of Brooklyn

By Troy Closson and 
Sept. 21, 2020, 5:24 a.m. ET

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Memorial
Photo by Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

Over the weekend, makeshift memorials of candles, signs, flowers and even an action figure went up outside a two-story house in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn and at a high school about a mile away.

They were left to honor the legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court and a pioneering champion of women’s rights, after she died on Friday. Decades before becoming a much younger generation’s unlikely cultural icon, she grew up on East Ninth Street in Midwood and attended James Madison High School.

“She’s part of the folklore of the community,” Joseph Dorinson — who lives in the neighborhood and has taught at the high school where Justice Ginsburg graduated in 1950 — told my colleague John Leland. “My neighbor’s brother dated her.”

Howard Teich, the 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.”

Hundreds gathered at a vigil in Foley Square in Manhattan on Saturday.
Credit Saturday.Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

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.

And over the weekend, state monuments were bathed in blue light, her favorite color. 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.”

Her roots in Brooklyn

Ruth Bader, the daughter of Jewish immigrants, was a graduate of P.S. 238 and James Madison. She was a member of the East Midwood Jewish Center, a Conservative synagogue.

And she lived on the first floor of the two-story house in Midwood while often nourishing her mind at the neighborhood public library branch, upstairs from a Chinese restaurant and a beauty parlor.

Later, she would attend Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., where she studied government and met Martin D. Ginsburg, whom she married shortly after graduation. He died in 2010.

Her old synagogue

At Friday night’s Rosh Hashana service at her old synagogue, which was conducted on Zoom, news of her death reached the group just as the congregants were about to log off. “I was choked up,” Rabbi Cantor Sam Levine told Mr. Leland. “People were crying.”

The following day in his sermon, the rabbi read from an essay Ms. Ginsburg had written as a student at the synagogue’s Hebrew school in 1946, at age 13, arguing against complacency after World War II ended. He called her the Hebrew school’s “most famous alumna” and said the congregation was still trying to process the loss.

Her memorials

Hundreds gathered Saturday night outside the courthouse in Foley Square in Manhattan, holding candles and singing. Handwritten signs in different parts of Brooklyn urged neighbors to honor her legacy by voting. In Midtown, an enterprising artist altered a subway mosaic at 50th Street to read “RUth St.’”

Ruth Street

The new Ruth St stop ADRIAN WILSON

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

Her legacy in the state

The state will form a commission to select an artist to create a statue of Justice Ginsburg to be erected in Brooklyn.

Across the state, landmarks were lit up in blue, her favorite color, on Saturday.

“While the family of New York mourns Justice Ginsburg’s death, we remember proudly that she started her incredible journey right here in Brooklyn,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement. “Her legacy will live on in the progress she created for our society, and this statue will serve as a physical reminder of her many contributions to the America we know today.”