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!
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • 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.