Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Life

Remembering Martin Ginsburg: The Man Behind the First Jewish Woman on the Supreme Court

I had the privilege of meeting Martin Ginsburg only once. It was in March 2008, and I was directing the Peter Jennings Project for Journalists and the Constitution at the National Constitution Center. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Martin’s illustrious wife, was our keynote guest, and I had the honor of bringing the couple around the Constitution Center’s wonderful permanent exhibit.

He walked slowly, more slowly than she did, and stayed a few steps behind, almost as in deference to a queen. He was kind and unpretentious, and but for the presence of a federal marshal, they looked just like any elderly Jewish couple with a deep interest in the law touring an exhibit devoted to the relevance of the U.S. Constitution.

I thought of that scene last night, when I read that Martin Ginsburg died at 78 years old, after fighting cancer. A stellar legal mind and professor in his own right, he embodies the kind of man that is both rare and noble — a man who, long before it was fashionable, supported the career choices of his wife, no doubt sacrificing his own shot at the limelight along the way.

When she was appointed to the federal appellate bench, he moved to Washington with her. A self-acknowledged terrible cook, she relinquished kitchen duties to him early on in their 56-year marriage.

Justice Ginsburg has said that without the strong personal and political support of her husband, she might never have become only the second woman — and the first Jewish woman — to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Her husband’s take on all this: ”I have been supportive of my wife since the beginning of time, and she has been supportive of me,” he is quoted in the New York Times. “It’s not sacrifice; it’s family.”

As much fuss as we rightly make over the women who push through strong barriers to achieve a role that had been denied their foremothers, let’s not forget the husbands like Martin Ginsburg, whose support and encouragement made a lonely fight into a joint struggle.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.