Hopewell Valley residents hold candlelight vigil for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Candlelight vigil in Hopewell Township, 2020

In solidarity with others throughout the world, Hopewell Valley residents mourned the loss of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bater Ginsburg at a candlelight vigil at the Hopewell Township Municipal Building Saturday night. “RBG,” as she was affectionately called, died on Friday morning, leaving a powerful legacy and the respect of many across the political divide.

Catherine Fulmer-Hogan, Hopewell Township resident and organizer of the vigil on Saturday evening, said: “I was devastated by the news of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing. Losses during this time feel weightier somehow. Perhaps because we are often robbed of the ability to publicly mourn and pay respect to the lives and legacy of the people we have lost. I wanted to create a safe space where we could do this collectively for a woman who was a warrior, a trailblazer, a champion for justice, a staunch advocate for equality, and a consummate jurist, all whilst exercising unparalleled grace and dignity.”

About the Jewish aspects of vigil, Fulmer-Hogan shared: “As a Woman of Color, I am acutely aware of how my particular identities uniquely define me. That understanding and the time I have spent learning from dear friends whose cultures are unlike my own drove me to make certain we spent some time during the vigil acknowledging RBG’s identity as a Jewish woman. It framed her life experiences and was one of the lenses through which she viewed the world.”

Friday, the day that Justice Ginsburg died, also was the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. As the masked group gathered outside, Pennington resident Reba Holley, lead volunteer at MOMS Demand Action, wished everyone a “Shanah Tovah!” and explained that in Jewish tradition, dying on Rosh Hashanah is markedly meaningful – a person who passes on Rosh Hashanah is called a “tzedek / tzaddeket”, a good and righteous person.

“This morning at services my Rabbi challenged us to think of one thing each of us could do to advance the justice and principles that Ruth Bader Ginsburg stood for,” said Holley. “If each of us does this, we will succeed in the promises made on Rosh Hashanah to improve ourselves and the world around us.”

Elissa Grodd Schragger, president of the Mercer County Federation of Democratic Women, led a reading of the Jewish Mourner’s Prayer, called the Kaddish and blew blasts on three shofars, a traditional ram’s horn trumpet.

Fulmer-Hogan, who holds many hats herself, then invited all women in attendance who hold public office or serve the community in any way including working for local non-profits, to the front of the group. Left standing in the audience was nearly no one. Hopewell-area residents, primarily women, who serve as the backbone of the community included elected officials Hopewell Township Committee members Julie Blake and Courtney Peters-Manning and Pennington Borough Council member Beverly Mills were there as was nonprofit executive directors, Lisa Wolff of Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space and Laurie Cleveland of the Sourland Conservancy. Fulmer-Hogan is a board member of Hope Rises Up, the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum, and the Hopewell Museum, as well as being the Hopewell Valley Heritage Weekend event founder and committee chair.

“When you live a life like RBG you do so with the knowledge that your work not only provides you with a clear path forward, but it paves the way for others to follow suit. We understand that her legacy leaves space for others, particularly women, to engage in important work ‘in places where decisions are being made,’” said Fulmer-Hogan.  

“I am justice-minded and will forever hold a special place for those that have inspired me to roll up my sleeves, volunteer my time, open my wallet and generally fight to shift the needle towards justice,” she continued. “Grief can be paralyzing and I wanted the powerful women gathered to know that they are valued, that they are supported, and that we desperately need them to keep charging ahead in service to our communities.”

Marylou Ferrara, Hopewell Borough resident and founding board member of Hope Rises Up, shared: “For me, the vigil was an opportunity to share the sadness I felt at the passing of the tiny giant RBG with others who felt the same. But it was also important for us all to feel shored up in our commitment to moving her work forward. Then hearing the shofar blown, and learning that it is considered both a mitzvah and, at the same time a call to battle just summed up perfectly the reason I was there.”

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