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Jewish Twitter claps back at Christian-inflected condolences for RBG

Twitter users who applied seemingly Christian terminology and concepts to the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg came under fire over the weekend, as Jewish internet users and their allies struggled to process the death of the Jewish Supreme Court justice.

Some questioned the use of the term “RIP,” which is used in many Christian services — yet Jews have used the acronym on gravestones as well.

“As you mourn RBG’s passing, [please] avoid saying ‘RIP’/’she’s in a better place’ or other stuff that assumes a Christian afterlife,” said another Twitter user @pretzelbageldog, the “RBG was a Jewish woman and shouldn’t have Christian theology pushed on her, even in death.”

One Facebook post featuring that tweet saw more than 20,000 shares in less than 24 hours. (The tweet itself has been deleted.)

Narbonne grave

This 7th century Jewish gravestone in Narbonne, France includes the latin phrase Requiescunt in Pace alongside a menorah. Image by Wikipedia Commons

The English phrase “rest in peace” is generally understood to derive from the Latin phrase “Requiescat in Pace,” which along with its translations is used in a variety of Christian services and engraved on gravestones by several Christian denominations. However, Jews have used it, as well, as evidenced by gravestones dating back to the 7th century.

“RIP” also has Jewish equivalents: The Hebrew acronym “Ayin-Hey,” seen on Jewish graves all over the world, stands for Aleha or Alav Hashalom, depending on the deceased’s gender. The phrase most accurately translates to “peace be upon you” rather than resting in it, but the sentiment is the same. Even more on point, in the El Ma’alei Rahamim prayer which is said for departed souls, it ends with the Hebrew phrase “t’nuakh b’shalom el mishkeba,” meaning “they shall rest in peace where they lie.”

Others suggested using terms like Heaven or phrases like “she is in a better place” implied a Christian understanding of the afterlife.

However, while Judaism does not traditionally believe in permanent negative afterlife, such as hell, most rabbis and scholars agree that traditional Judaism does believe in a positive afterlife.

Names for it include: Shamayim, The World to Come, Gan Eden, Pardes, Yeshiva Shel Ma’alah, Mesivta D’Rakiyah and even, among Anglophone Jewry, Heaven.

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