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!
  • 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.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • 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.