Gabrielle Giffords Shot in the Head

Jewish Congresswoman Survives Surgery, in Intensive Care

Israel Matters: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, second from right, meets with members of AIPAC at her office in Tucson, Ariz., in August 2010.
Flickr.com
Israel Matters: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, second from right, meets with members of AIPAC at her office in Tucson, Ariz., in August 2010.

By Gabrielle Birkner

Published January 08, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Gabrielle Giffords, who in 2007 became Arizona’s first Jewish congresswoman, was shot in the head Saturday outside of a Tucson, Ariz. supermarket. As of Saturday afternoon, the congresswoman had survived surgery, and was being transferred to an intensive care unit.

The attack took place while Giffords, a Democrat, was meeting with constituents in her home district. She had been sworn into her third term on January 5.

According to the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, 18 people were injured during the incident. At least five people were killed, including Federal Court Judge John Roll and a 9-year-old girl, President Obama said during a televised statement from the White House. A congressional aide was reportedly also among the victims.

The suspected gunman, identified as Jared Lee Loughner, has reportedly been taken into custody.

Giffords, 40, is a member of the powerful Committee on Armed Services, the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Science and Technology. A third-generation Arizonan, she is part of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog and New Democrat coalitions.

She is a vocal advocate for renewable energy, particularly solar energy, and has said improving security along the U.S.-Mexico border is among her top priorities. She is also a supporter of Israel, and is considered a safe pro-Israel vote in the House.

Giffords’ Jewish roots run deep. As the Forward reported back in 2006, her paternal grandfather, the son of a Lithuanian rabbi, was born Akiba Hornstein. He changed his name, first to Gifford Hornstien and later to Gifford Giffords, apparently to shield himself from anti-Semitism out West.

The congresswoman is the daughter of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother. In 2001, then a state senator, Giffords traveled to Israel on a trip sponsored by the American Jewish Committee. It was that trip, she said, that solidified her connection to her Jewish roots and her commitment to living as a Jew.

“I was raised not to really talk about my religious beliefs,” Giffords said, in an interview with Jewish Woman magazine. ”Going to Israel was an experience that made me realize there were lots of people out there who shared my beliefs and values and spoke about them openly.”

Giffords is an active member of Congregation Chaverim, a Reform synagogue in Tucson, where she said Rabbi Stephanie Aaron is her spiritual mentor. She is also among five members of Congress to serve on United States Holocaust Memorial Council.

The congresswoman has been married since 2007 to NASA astronaut and Navy pilot Mark E. Kelly.

The 112th Congress opened last week with a reading of the U.S. Constitution. According to CNN, Giffords was assigned to read the First Amendment, which affirms “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • Sigal Samuel's family amulet isn't just rumored to have magical powers. It's also a symbol of how Jewish and Indian rituals became intertwined over the centuries. http://jd.fo/a3BvD Only three days left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.