the schmooze

Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

The woman who has been called the “Notorious RBG,” has been making news this month.  The New York Post, July 14, 2016, had the headline, “Darth Bader.”  Another piece by Daniel Halper said, “Trump-bash Bader hit from both sides.”

The Huffington Post, 7/10/16, had this newspaper headline (“tsaytung kop”):  RUTH BADER GINSBURG JOKES SHE COULD MOVE TO NEW ZEALAND IF DONALD TRUMP IS ELECTED PRESIDENT.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg started an epic battle when she publicly ranted about Donald Trump.  She said, “He is a faker.  He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment.  He really has an ego…How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax return?  The press seems to be very gentle with him on that.”

Ginsburg added, “I can’t imagine what this place would be—I can’t imagine what the country would be—with Donald Trump as our president.” 

The Times called her behavior “baffling”; Trump called for her to step down.  Speaker Paul Ryan said she went way over the line.

Ginsburg has regrets about her recent comments on Donald Trump:
“On reflection, my recent remarks in response to press inquiries were ill-advised and I regret making them.  Judges should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office.  In the future I will be more circumspect.”
(Note:  The Yiddish word for “circumspect” is “sirkumspekt.”)

Shown below is a Yiddish Guide to Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

“geboyrn” (born):   
Ruth Joan Bader, 3/15/33, to a working-class (“arbetn klas”) family in Brooklyn, New York, in the middle of the Great Depression.

“tsunemenish” (nickname)
Her family nicknamed her Ruth “Kiki.”

“spaus” (spouse): 
Martin D. Ginsburg (married:  1954-2010), a prominent tax lawyer.

“bildung” (education):
  James Madison H. S., Cornell Univ., Columbia Law School

“kinder” (children): 
Jane Ginsburg and James Steven Ginsburg “bobe” (grandmother):  4 grandchildren

“religye” (religion): 
Jewish.  Her family belonged to the East Midwood Jewish Center.  Ginsburg became non-observant when she was excluded (“ixkludid”) from the minyan for mourners following the death of her mother.  She notes that her attitude might be different now, following her attendance at a bat mitzvah ceremony (“tseremonye”) where the rabbi and cantor were both women.

“matsliakhdik  khsunh” (successful marriage). 
Martin Ginsburg said, “My wife doesn’t give me any advice about cooking and I don’t give her any advice about the law.”  Note:  A day after her husband’s death, she was at work on the Court for the last day of the 2010 term.

“perstijas” (prestigious)
Ginsburg became the first female member of the prestigious Harvard Law Review.

“tenyer” (tenure)
Prof. Ginsburg was the first female tenured professor at Columbia University.

“fray” (independent)
“My mother told me two things constantly. One was to be a lady, and the other was to be independent.  The study of law was unusual for women of my generation.  For most girls growing up in the ‘40s, the most important degree was not your B.A., but your M.R.S.”

“prost ‘mal” - (rough times)
“You can’t have it all at once.  Over my lifespan, I think I have had it all.  But in different periods of time, things were rough.”

“baytn” (to change)
“If you’re going to change things, you have to be with the people who hold the levers.”  (quote)

“kolege” (colleague)
Ginsburg considered the late Antonin Scalia her closest colleague on the Court.  The two justices often dined and attended the opera together.

“shtark” (powerful)
In 2009 Forbes named Ginsburg among the 100 Most Powerful Women.  Glamour magazine named her one of their “Women of the Year 2012.”

“shnirl” (lace)
A Jabot is an ornamental frill or ruffle on the front of a shirt or blouse, typically made of lace.  Ginsburg is known for wearing a Jabot.  Her favorite is from Capetown, South Africa.

“kalering bukh” (coloring book)
In February 2016, The Ruth Bader Ginsburg Coloring Book, by artist Tom F. O’Leary was published. (Note:  The Yiddish words meaning “to color” are “tsu kolirn.”

“tsveypintl rak” (colon cancer)
Ginsburg was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1999 and underwent surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiation therapy.  During the treatments she did not miss a day on the bench.  In 2009 she again underwent surgery related to pancreatic cancer.  In 2014, she had a stent placed in her right coronary artery (“arterye”).

“tsheymberz” (chambers)
Ginsburg decorated her chambers with the phrase from Deuteronomy:
  “TZEDEK, TZEDEK, TIRDOF” (Justice, justice, justice shall you pursue) as a reminder of her heritage and professional responsibility.

“faygele” (gay)/sexuality
[on the gay rights movement]
“In recent years, people have said, ‘This is the way I am.’  And others looked around, and we discovered it’s our next-door neighbor - we’re very fond of them or it’s our child’s best friend, or even our child.  I think that as more and more people come out [as gay] and said that ‘this is who I am,’ the rest of us recognized that they are one of us.”

“gazirte vasser” (sparkling water)
Ginsburg was famously caught napping (“naping”) at the 2010 State of the Union Address.  “I vowed this year just sparkling water—stay away from wine—but the dinner was so delicious, it needed wine.”  Ginsburg reported getting home from the event to a call from one of her granddaughters.  She said, “Bubbe, you were sleeping!”

“fun aoysland” (from abroad)
“You would have a huge statelessness problem if you don’t consider a child born abroad a U. S. citizen.”  (quote)

“konstitutsye” (constitution)
“I would not look to the U. S. Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in 2012.”  (quote)

“bashlus fabrickant” (decision-maker)
“I said on the equality side of it, that it is essential to a woman’s equality with man that she be the decision-maker, that her choice be controlling.”  (quote) Note:  The Yiddish word for “equality” is “ikvalati.”

“oysglaykhn aoys” (straighten out)
Reproductive choice has to be straightened out.  There will never be a woman of means without choice anymore.  That just seems to me so obvious.  The states that changed their abortion laws before Roe are not going to change back. So we have a policy that only affects poor women and it can never be otherwise.”  (quote)
Note:  The Yiddish word for “abortion” is “aborshan.”  The Yiddish word for “obvious” is “klor vi der tog.”

“aleynkayt” (privacy)
“The emphasis must be not on the right to abortion but on the right to privacy and reproductive control.” (quote)

“bloyz women” (only woman)
“I would not like to be the only woman on the court.”  (quote)

“shtitsn sikh” (support themselves)
“She never envisioned a legal career for me, but she did think it was very important that I be able to support myself, and I think she would be pleased to see what has become of me.”  (quote about her mother)
“toyb” (deaf) - “In every good marriage, it pays sometimes to be a little deaf.”  (quote)
“kinderlech” (affectionate term for children)
[on having children] “The decision of whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, her well-being, and her dignity.”  (quote)

“diva” (diva)
[on her dream job] “People ask me, ‘If you could be whatever you wanted to be, what would you be?”  My first answer is not ‘a great lawyer.’ It is, ‘I would be a great diva.’  But I totally lacked that talent, so the next best thing is the law.” (quote)



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Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

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