Book Name: I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark
Author: Debbie Levy
Illustrator: Elizabeth Baddeley
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Intended for Ages: 8+ years
Jewish Customs: Machloket l’shem shamayim (dispute for the sake of heaven); tzedek tzedek tirdof (justice, justice shall you pursue)
Additional Topics Mentioned: perseverance, equal rights
Celia Amster Bader thought girls should be educated and have opportunities to impact the world outside the home – so she took her daughter, Ruth, to the library.
Ruth found strong female role models in her books. She excelled in school and fulfilled her mother’s dream to go to college. Ruth married Martin Ginsburg, a man who shared her ideas of equality and fairness. Together, they went to law school, established a home, and raised two children while pursuing their law careers.
Throughout her life, Ruth resisted expectations and persisted in fighting for equality. In 1993, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the first Jewish woman on the United States Supreme Court. Reflecting on her long career, she says, “Fight for the things that you care about. But do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
- This book features persistence and perseverance: While she was still a young child, Ruth Bader Ginsburg learned from her mother’s example to meet challenges and obstacles with creativity and persistence. Her mother, Celia, took steps to ensure her daughter would have access to a good education.
Children can be quite persistent in their preferences or in doing things their own way. As a child, Ruth’s experiences in school taught her that sometimes her persistence got her what she sought (writing with her preferred hand), and sometimes it did not (woodshop instead of cooking class.)
How can you support your child in expressing their personality and exploring their interests? How do you navigate conflict between two different sets of interests – for example, when one child wants music in the car and another child wants quiet? Even the youngest children can engage in the problem-solving process.
- This book reminds us that we are more alike than different: Ruth noticed that women, Black people, and Jews were not treated equally under the law, and she worked to make change. She persevered in her study of law and in becoming a lawyer and a professor, even when those pursuits were not typical of women at that time.
Once appointed to the Supreme Court, her written opinions – including those in which her dissenting opinion represents the minority of justices – have influenced future laws for equal treatment of people of different genders and races at work, at the polls, in school admissions, in marriage and more.
Children are keen observers of what’s fair. The challenge is, sometimes circumstances are different, and being equal in that moment is not fair. How do you help your child(ren) understand the essence of fairness?
Jewish Topics for Family Discussion:
- Machloket l’shem shamayim, arguing for the sake of heaven): Justice Ginsburg enjoyed a close personal friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia, who passed away shortly after this book was written. They had very different opinions on most of the cases that came before the court, yet they managed to argue the issues in a way that made the search for truth the focus of their debate.
This is an illustration of a Jewish model for constructive conflict, machloket l’shem shamayim – arguing for the sake of Heaven. The great Jewish sages Hillel and Shammai also disagreed about most things – like whether we should light one Hanukkah candle on the first night and add one each night or light all nine on the first night and count down to one on the final night.
These rabbis and their followers debated for the sake of clarifying the law, while maintaining good relationships – just like Justice Ginsburg and Justice Scalia.
- Tzedek, tzedek tirdof, “Justice, justice shall you pursue”: In an interview with PJ Library® following publication of this book, Justice Ginsburg said, “Cherish your daughters as much as your sons and teach them both to stand up for what is right, and to be brave, and not be put down. If at first you don’t succeed, then you try and try again.”
In Deuteronomy 16:20, the Torah tells us, “Tzedek, tzedek tirdof,” “Justice, justice shall you pursue.” Why is the word justice doubled? Our sages say it’s because pursuit of justice is an active endeavor, and we must not rest until we achieve a society with justice as its foundation.
PJ Library® provides the gift of free Jewish books and music to families raising Jewish children between the ages of 6 months and 8 years. In January 2018, PJ Library® mailed I Dissent to 17,000 subscribers with 8-year-old children. To subscribe a child to PJ Library, visit pjlibrary.org/reformjudaism.