News & Politics

Watergate Residents Remember Their Longtime Neighbor Ruth Bader Ginsburg

At the building's last Hanukkah party, RBG declined the latkes, but did inquire about a glass of wine.

Justice Ginsburg, with her Watergate South neighbors Myron and Rachel Belkind, at the building's Hanukkah reception in December 2019. Photo by Michelle Kim.

Though she was known around the world as a feminist icon, and more recently as the Notorious RBG, around Watergate South in DC’s Foggy Bottom, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was simply a longtime neighbor—albeit a revered one.

“We’ve lived here, my wife and I, for five years, and she always said ‘hi,'” says Henry Sondheimer, president of the Watergate South board. “She talked to everybody at the mailbox, and with the staff.”

Justice Ginsburg and her late husband, Martin Ginsburg, moved to the famous Washington address 40 years ago. It was conveniently located next to the Kennedy Center, where Ginsburg was a fixture in the audience of the Washington National Opera. Though Martin, who died in 2010, was known around the building as the much more outgoing half of the couple, residents say Justice Ginsburg was always warm and friendly.

In a remembrance emailed to neighbors over the weekend, past Watergate South president Myron Belkind recalled visiting with Ginsburg at the community’s last Hanukkah reception. “I went over and thanked Justice Ginsburg for attending, thinking she might want to return to her apartment immediately,” Belkind wrote. “But with so many of her fellow Watergate South residents gathering around her to wish her well, she stayed on for some time and graciously consented to have her picture taken with her neighbors.” Belkind noted that the party was the last time many of the neighbors saw Ginsburg. (He also recalled that she declined the latkes, but did ask about having a glass of wine.)

Sondheimer remembers running into Ginsburg a few years ago, during another Jewish tradition—catching a movie on Christmas Day. “Of course, she was unmissable because she was quite slight.” They were both at the theater to see “The Big Short.”

Because of Covid-19, Sondheimer says Watergate South has not planned an in-person memorial for Ginsburg. But during a community Zoom event Monday evening celebrating his new autobiography, resident Sanford Greenberg spoke about his friend, and asked for a moment of silence. He and Ginsburg had lived two doors away from one another since she’d moved to the building in 1980, and she actually wrote the foreword to his book. A pretty good neighbor, indeed.

Senior Editor

Marisa M. Kashino joined Washingtonian in 2009 and was a senior editor until 2022.