Gabrielle Giffords Is in Critical Condition; Synagogue Hosts Healing Service

By Gabrielle Birkner

Published January 09, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The synagogue where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is a member held a healing service in her honor Sunday — one day after the Arizona congresswoman was shot in the head outside of Tucson supermarket. She had been meeting with constituents at the time of the attack, which killed six and wounded 14.

Giffords, 40, remained in critical condition Sunday night. Her doctors said she was able to respond to simple commands after surviving brain surgery, a promising sign, but had been placed in a medically induced coma to control brain swelling.

Also Sunday, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner was charged on five federal counts stemming from the attack, including the attempted assassination of a member of Congress. He was also charged with the murder of two federal employees, John Roll, a federal court judge, and Gabriel Zimmerman, a Giffords aide, and with the attempted murder of two other federal employees, both members of the congresswoman’s staff.

Giffords recovery, and that of the others injured in the shooting, was the focus of Sunday’s healing service at Congregation Chaverim in Tucson. Rabbi Stephanie Aaron, whom Giffords has called her spiritual mentor, led the service that packed the sanctuary with an estimated 225 people.

Aaron said the congregants sang a series of healing prayers — including “Mi Shebeirach,” composed by Debbie Friedman, the popular Jewish songwriter who, coincidentally, died Sunday of pneumonia. The rabbi said that her message to those in attendance — a group composed of members of many different faith groups — was the importance of “recognizing the image of God in each other, and that each person has worth and a value.”

“That’s exactly what Gabrielle is able to do,” Aaron told the Forward. “She recognized, appreciated, celebrated and honored that b’selem elohim [God’s image] in others.”

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’s grandfather, the son of a Lithuanian rabbi, changed his name from Akiva Hornstein to Gifford Giffords — apparently to shield himself from anti-Semitism in the desert Southwest. The congresswoman serves on the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, and, like her grandmother before her, is a lifetime member of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America.


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!
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • 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.