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!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • 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.