Members of the UC Santa Barbara and Isla Vista community mourned the death and celebrated the life and legacy of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — known best for her work as a crusader for gender equality — during a vigil last Wednesday at Devereux Beach.
The event, attended by nine people, was hosted by the local chapter of the national environmental justice group Sunrise Movement. Several speakers shared what Ginsburg’s life and legacy meant to them before holding a candlelight vigil and singing traditional Jewish songs to honor her passing, which occurred on the Jewish holy day Rosh Hashanah.
“She knew no limits,” Alex Valdez, a fourth-year psychological and brain sciences major, said at the service. “She is the universal Jewish grandma … in some weird way, she’s my Bubby too.”
“All of the things I have in my life personally, I have because of her. My dad’s in the Navy, so that’s the reason he has health care. I’m gay, and she’s the reason I can get married. And she was the first one to legitimize Jewish holidays, and that’s my religion,” they said.
Ginsburg was a pioneer of women’s rights in both her legal and judicial career. The second woman ever elected to the Supreme Court, she spent her career fighting for equality, from co-founding the American Civil Liberties Union’s Women’s Right Project in 1972 to her relentless defense of abortion rights.
Chris Kracha, an organizer and member of the Sunrise Movement, acknowledged the small number of attendees but appreciated it for being a “nice, candid event.”
Kracha also noted the importance of Ginsburg’s Jewish heritage, which was honored in a variety of ways, including placing rocks at the foot of her picture.
“To me, she really embodied what it means to be Jewish. Service and commitment to others. She has exemplified what it means to be a person of faith,” Kracha said.
Marissa Samuels, a second-year economics major who attended the event to “honor someone that’s done a lot for us as a society,” said she enjoyed how students honored Ginsburg in a variety of ways, including paying tribute to her religion.
“It tied in all the aspects of RBG’s life, how she was Jewish, her service, her activism and what a complex woman she was,” Samuels said.
Now, the attendees at the vigil said they are looking at the consequences of Ginsburg’s death. With the Supreme Court Seat open and 29 days left before the election as of Oct. 5, a race to fill the seat from the Republican party and a wave of opposition from the Democrats has consumed public conversation about the late Ginsburg.
Mikala Butson, an organizer of the event, emphasized the importance of community coming together to support marginalized communities who could be potentially impacted by President Donald Trump’s recently named Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett.
“The new nomination is going to impact climate change legislation, it’s going to [impact] women’s rights, the rights of BIPOC, the rights of indigenous people, it’s going to impact everyone. That’s why it’s so important to us that we honor her wishes and wait until a new president is elected before we fill that space,” Butson said.
Julia Vicard, who attended the event, emphasized that Ginsburg served as a role model for her and many others across the country.
“She was really important to me personally and informed my view of the world. When I hear the saying ‘may her memory be a blessing,’ to me that means, ‘may I be more like her, and may we all be more like her,’” she said.
Correction [10/5/2020, 05:18 p.m.]: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Chris Kracha’s name as Chris Craigston. This article has been corrected to accurately reflect Kracha’s last name.