As Ruth Bader Ginsburg Turns 84, Revisit Her Greatest Moments From The Past Year

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has spent the last few years rocketing to pop culture stardom, as well as, you know, serving as a Supreme Court Justice. We loved her when, at 81, she admitted that she gave away “Notorious RBG” shirts as gifts. We loved her when, that same year, she introduced us to her “dissenting collar.” And we loved her when, a month before her 83rd birthday, she paid homage to her across-the-aisle friendship with the late Justice Antonin Scalia following his death.

Our adoration reached new heights in her 84th year, so much that we took the heinous step of beseeching her to eat more kale. It’s her birthday, so we hope she’s celebrating with something slightly more, uh, exciting than leafy greens — just this once! — while we celebrate by remembering her greatest cultural moments from her 84th year.

1) When she made her speaking operatic debut

In a one-night-only performance, Ginsburg played the Duchess of Krakenthorpe in the Washington National Opera’s “Daughter of the Regiment.” How did she do? As The Washington Post’s Anne Midgette reported, the audience roared for Ginsburg — multiple times.

2) When we got a sneak peek at her grueling workout routine

In addition to eating her kale, how does RGB stay fit? Politico’s Ben Schreckinger investigated the justice’s training regimen, and came out with words of reassurance for her many fans. “After going through one of her workouts I can confirm she could not be in better hands,” he wrote. “Sore, disoriented and cranky, I didn’t feel a day over 65.”

3) When she helped give Shakespeare’ Shylock a fair trial — finally

To mark the 500th anniversary of the establishment of the Venice Jewish ghetto, the justice trotted off to Italy, where she acted as one of a team of judges presiding over a mock trial of the Bard’s most famous — and most maligned — Jewish character. As A.J. Goldmann reported for the Forward, Ginsburg made sure the proceedings were orderly and clear, but also a little irreverent. Did she decide in Shylock’s favor? Only Goldmann (and, ok, Google) can say.

4) When she became the namesake of a praying mantis

Just another notch in her jabot: Last spring, researchers at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History named a newly-discovered breed of praying mantis after Ginsburg, calling it Ilomantis ginsburgæ. (We prefer Ruth Bader Gins-bug.) Why did they choose Ginsburg as a namesake? The insect has a lace-like neckplate that reminded the researchers of Ginsburg’s best-loved accessory, the decorative collar.

5) When she sent this charming note to a young girl who dressed up as her

When eight-year-old Michele Threefoot made internet waves for dressing up as Ginsburg for her school’s “Super Hero” day, Ginsburg noticed — and, in a heartwarming response, sent Threefoot a handwritten note of appreciation. “Dear Michele,” she gushed, “You look just like me!”

6) When she shared her wisdom with the world

This past fall, Ginsburg published “My Own Words,” a collection of some of her most important writings and speeches. Ginsburg’s incisive opinions and winking witticisms make for an inspirational, challenging read — just what we’ve come to expect from her.

So when did we not love Ginsburg? This author recently attended a performance of the Washington National Opera, and hoped to see her there. She saw Newt Gingrich instead. RBG, how could you betray her like that?


Talya Zax

Talya Zax

Talya Zax is the Forward’s deputy culture editor. Contact her at or on Twitter, @TalyaZax.

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As Ruth Bader Ginsburg Turns 84, Revisit Her Greatest Moments From The Past Year

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