COVID-19 · holidays · Jewish · slice of life

May her memory be a revolution. #SOL20

There are five days each year I cease from using my phone. They are both days of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the first two days of Passover. I’ve been strict about that through the years for I want to stay present rather than getting pulled away by the dinging and pinging.

I knew I would be unable to stay away from technology this year since we would need it to access services. On one hand, I was saddened by the fact I wouldn’t be getting dressed up to celebrate in synagogue because of the global pandemic. On the other hand, I was thrilled I could stream services from my former synagogue in Manhattan, which I haven’t worshipped at on the High Holidays since 2007.

Last night, I walked upstairs and changed out of my dress. (Yes! We dressed up for Erev Rosh Hashanah even though it was just four of us dining together since I fell down the steps last Erev Rosh Hashanah and spent hours in the ER, not in synagogue.) I grabbed my phone to join our Lancaster synagogue’s services since it was past the start time of the one in New York. I gasped when I saw The Washington Post breaking news: Justice Ginsberg died at 87.

Many liberal and progressive Americans felt gut-punched by the news. But for those of us celebrating Rosh Hashanah, it was even harder. Writer Carly Pildis summed it up perfectly in her piece for The Forward:

Her loss is unthinkable. She seemed like Moses, like she would live 400 years. Grief filled our Rosh Hashanah tables. We Jewish mothers who had been working for days to try to somehow make a sweet holiday in these bitterest of times became overwhelmed with mourning. What use to us were apples and honey when Justice Ginsburg was gone?

Carly Pildis (Source:

Carly encapsulated every feeling I had in that paragraph. I had spent the previous four days preparing for Rosh Hashanah. I made honey cake, brisket, and kugel. I created a Rosh Hashanah Seder plate with items Ari and I shopped for together. I did craft projects with the kids to get them ready. I ironed clothes. (My parents, who will read this, will attest to my disdain for ironing.) I pulled off an abridged Rosh Hashanah Seder — my first ever — after we said our Shabbat prayers. And then, just when I thought it was time for me to enjoy the holiday as a participant, I read that breaking news alert. And while Justice Ginsberg passing in the final moments of 5780 was totally on-brand for that Jewish year, it was just too much.

Yes, there were moments of joy on Rosh Hashanah, which included dancing around our great room with Marc and Ari during the children’s service while singing “B’shanah Habaa” and making a second honey cinnamon pound cake that was better than the first honey cake. But this year wasn’t as sweet and it wasn’t just because COVID-19 kept us at home.

Jewish people don’t say “rest in peace” when someone dies. Instead we say “Baruch Dayan Ha’Emet,” which means “Blessed is the true judge.” When we want to share our condolences, we typically say, “May their memory be for a blessing.” But let’s go a bit further with Justice Ginsberg. May her memory be a revolution.

Something to ponder: How will you let her memory be for a revolution with what you do in the next weeks and months of your life?

Honey Cinnamon Pound Cake
(Recipe from Leah Koenig’s Modern Jewish Cooking bakes in a mold from Days United.)

13 thoughts on “May her memory be a revolution. #SOL20

  1. It was a painful Rosh Hashanah, but we need to recover, join forces and continue to fight for
    RBG’s ideal for a “more perfect Union.” Thank you!

  2. It is profound that Ginsburg should pass on Rosh Hashanah. The article that likened her to Moses … I cannot help recalling that he passed just at the brink of the Promised Land, having brought the people that far, but wasn’t able to enter it himself. I can’t imagine receiving the news as you prepared for the new year celebration. How powerful, how amazing in this context, is that phrase, “Blessed is the true judge.” I will carry that with me from now on. I am thankful there were still moments of joy, and dancing, with the holiday observance. Your post seems not just a slice but a microcosm of all of life. I also admire your phone refrain and that honey cinnamon pound cake – how I wish I could reach in for a slice of it!

  3. I really enjoyed this piece, Stacey. From the leaving the technology to the pleasure at using it to join a far but beloved congregation. From finding the sweetness in the holiday and rituals (which you celebrate so well with your young children) to the depth of sadness at the news. I have always loved the phrase “May their memory be a blessing” and you nail the ending of your piece by changing it to revolution.

    1. I’ve seen the people lined up in front of the Supreme Court paying their respects today. A college friend brought her two children down there from NJ to say goodbye. I was so very moved by it.

  4. Lovely, and again, I’m teary. PBS NewsHour broadcast featured Nina Totenberg’s thoughts about losing her dear friend, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In it she ends with the auspicious timing…As if G_ kept her until the very last moment. If you haven’t heard it already, you might want to:
    Your recounting of the family’s celebration is precious, and the detail of getting dressed up as an act of honor, I don’t know why, but it moved me so.

  5. I got the news from my mom. When she called and asked if I’d heard, I was shocked and saddened. We both stayed on the phone in silence for a moment letting the weight of it settle on ourselves. I wish I could wrap my arms around the women of the country and somehow ease the concern and burden. Instead I will find ways to propel candidates and policies that matter to me and that mattered to her because it is true, we must carry it on now.

  6. As a husband, a father of daughters, a coach of teenaged girls, and an informed citizen, I was heartbroken at her passing. So many people, with so many memories and stories it’s been overwhelming to read. However, that idea of “May her memory be a revolution,” sits with us. Two nights ago, we wrote postcards to prospective voters, and last night we delivered political signs. Small gestures, but the beginnings of something more.

    Thank you for sharing your perspective with us. Like so many, I appreciate how open you are with your faith, allowing us inside your home and heart. However, I must say, to post a picture like that at the end was just not right! It looks (almost) too good to eat! 🙂

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