Tucson Jewish Community Anguished Over Giffords Shooting

[By Sheila Wilensky]

PHOENIX (Arizona Jewish Post) — Following the Jan. 8 shooting that critically injured U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and left six dead, the Tucson Jewish community has come together to pray for Giffords and the other victims and offer their support.

Giffords, who is Jewish, was among 13 wounded in the shooting rampage in front of a Tucson supermarket. Jared Lee Loughner was arrested in connection with the shootings and appeared in a Phoenix courtroom Monday.

Among those killed were U.S. District Judge John M. Roll, 63, and Giffords‘ constituent services director Gabriel Zimmerman, a native Tucsonan who was widely reported as being Jewish, although he was not.

At candlelight vigils outside of Giffords’ congressional office, at the hospital in which she is recovering, and at local synagogues and other houses of worship, the community expressed agony over Saturday’s violence.

Congregation Chaverim, where Giffords is a member, held a healing service Sunday with more than 150 people attending.

Chaverim’s Rabbi Stephanie Aaron, who officiated at the congresswoman’s marriage to Capt. Mark Kelly in 2007, said, “As Gabby always has, may we listen. May we see each one as a shining human being who has a purpose in the universe. May these prayers reach our Tucson, our country, our world. It’s time to see what we hold together and find our common ground.”

As part of the service, Melanie Nelson of the Pima County Interfaith Council said, “We must heal the divisiveness in this country. Gabby’s always been a fighter and it’s up to us to continue fighting for a different level of conversation.”

On Saturday evening, Temple Emanu-El held a prayer service attended by more than 100 people.
“We are taught in Jewish tradition that each human being is created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God,” said a statement by Senior Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon, which was read to the congregation because the rabbi was out of town. “Today those images were shattered,. It is up to us to pick up the pieces, and to make of those broken lives some holiness in our damaged community.”

The Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona’ issued a statement saying, “Just as Gabby and her congressional staff worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life, this tragic event reawakens our spirit to work harder and embrace our mission to improve the quality of life here, in Israel, and around the world.”

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