The passing of Thurgood Marshall is a great loss for all Americans. But for the Jewish community, the loss is especially sharp and poignant. The NJCRAC had a special affection for Justice Marshall. In many ways, Thurgood Marshall articulated for all of us the vocabulary of civil rights, civil liberties, freedom of expression, and the separation of church and state. Justice Marshall, as much as any, and perhaps more than most other members of the High Court, understood the true purpose and function of the Bill of Rights: the protection of majorities and individuals; the protection of the state and individuals.
Thurgood Marshall understood that the Bill of Rights said, “We are there for you,” and if the institutions of government failed the individual or the minority group, Justice Marshall said, “I am there for you.” Justice Marshall taught these things to generations of Americans.
In the Jewish tradition the most revered leaders have been the teachers. The death of a great teacher is a universal tragedy.
May the memory of Thurgood Marshall be a blessing to all of us whom he taught.