January 15th, 2011
10:30 AM ET

Giffords' rabbi: 'what really matters in this world: love, justice, truth, and shalom'

From Pamela Sellers, CNN

Members of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Gifford's synagogue met Friday night for the first Jewish sabbath services since she was wounded in a shooting attack one week ago that left six people dead and 13 others wounded.

Rabbi Stephanie Aaron of Congregation Chaverim used the occasion to call for the renewal of the Tucson community and to urge members to reject violence and hatred.

"Remember that we are tied to what really matters in this world: love, justice, truth and shalom," Aaron said, wrapping her finger in a long white tassel of her prayer shawl as she spoke.

"Shalom" means "peace" in Hebrew.

Giffords is a member of the congregation, as was Gabriel Zimmerman, the congresswoman's director of community. Both were shot in an attack during a constituent meeting outside a Safeway grocery store on January 8.

Despite being shot in the head at close range, Giffords survived the attack. Zimmerman died, along with a federal judge, a 9-year-old girl and three others.

Federal prosecutors have charged 22-year-old Jared Loughner with murder, attempted murder and attempting to kill a member of Congress in the January 8 attack.

More than 100 members of the small Tucson congregation, along with some members of Giffords' family, arrived at the temple Friday night to warm greetings and hugs before the two-hour service.

Aaron told congregants that she had visited Giffords in the hospital just hours earlier, issuing her a new Hebrew name and quietly whispering a prayer meant to bring the "light of healing" to the congresswoman, who remains in critical condition at a Tucson hospital.

She repeated the prayer Friday night.

"This is a week of terrible pain, and terrific loss," Aaron said. "We need to pray that our precious Gabby has a complete return to wholeness."

She also spoke passionately against violence and intolerance, quoting Martin Luther King Jr.

"May we live our lives so that we never have to take up weapons," she said, while praying over the sons of congregants, including her own, whom she specifically called out by name.

Members of the congregation were asked to call for special blessings for the group and the Tucson community.

They called for compassion, empathy, courage, health, safety and the ability to "know our neighbors."

At the end of the service, Aaron praised President Barack Obama for coming to Tucson and delivering a memorial speech for victims of the attack.

"What an incredible mensch he was to do all that and to reach out to our community and to the world," she said.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Arizona • Houses of worship • Judaism • United States

soundoff (146 Responses)
  1. Muneef


    January 15, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
  2. Sara

    Love, Justice, truth and peace – That is all what most humans want and it has nothing to with religion. I don't understand the debate.

    January 15, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
  3. Liz

    A country divided against itself can not stand beloved americans

    January 15, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
  4. muti

    Different Sects of Judaism
    The Difference Between Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox Branches of Judaism

    Tracing the Tree of Life


    The path to Orthodoxy is long and labyrinthine. Does G-d exist? Did He give the Torah? Did He also provide an oral tradition? Like many Jews rediscovering their heritage, I had to confront and resolve each of these challenges. Eventually, we pre-ba’alei tshuva arrive at the denominational crossroads. Convinced of the Torah’s Divine origin and aware that, to be decipherable, the Pentateuch must have been given with an oral explanation, I sought the Jewish movement in possession of that ancient Mesorah.

    Identifying the Historical Trunk
    Working chronologically, I began with the Orthodox. About two thousand years before the Reform and Conservative movements arrived on the scene, Orthodox sages recorded the claim that the oral tradition was received from G-d at Sinai in 1312 B.C.E. and passed down intact to the sages of the Mishna.[1]Later talmudic texts affirm belief in a G-d-given oral tradition [2], as do the writings of medieval and post-medieval Orthodox scholars.[3] Although the Sadducees and Karaites rejected the oral tradition of the Orthodox, secular scholars concur that these groups were short-lived splinters off the historical mainstream of Orthodoxy.[4] Until today, Orthodoxy claims, the oral tradition has been passed intact, parent-to-child and teacher-to-student.[5] Theoretically, the Orthodox could possess

    January 15, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
  5. muti

    reform judiasm is not judiasm its mostly atheist jews that dodnt follow the bible they follow what ever is convenient, thats their bible

    January 15, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
  6. Brian

    "Jews lived in the ME for almost 3700 years, at least 1,000 years prior to any tribest that called themselves Muslims. ".....

    And who lived there before the Jews? The Pentateuch tells how those people were butchered. Is Judaism a religion or a real estate agency? A large number of Jews have left Judaism because of this question.

    January 15, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
  7. sanjosemike

    OK, I admit that I am an atheist. But I still wonder when and if a woman can ever be an Imam?

    Hold on folks, I know you're all laughing at that impossibility. sanjosemike

    January 15, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
  8. george in texas

    a woman rabi? a woman rabi? what's wrong with the world out there? g-d's word is immutable. he is elohim, not eloha.
    these modern day jews are so removed from history, so removed from propriety, so conjews.

    January 15, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • Jew in DC

      You are obviously not Jewish nor do you understand hebrew.

      elohim is plural masculine. However the plural masculine form can include both men and women.

      January 15, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
  9. Muneef

    Easy said than done...

    January 15, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
  10. PARROT


    January 15, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
  11. Gene

    The speech the President gave at a "memorial" turned in his first campagn rally for 2012..the shrieking girls and the college twitter crowd will re-elect him for sure. The school should have forbidden that behavior in a message prior to them being admitted to the hall.

    January 15, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  12. Gary Garrison

    It is apparent from some of rh biased and bigoted comments regarding the Jewish religions that we have a long way to go to heal our society and our nation from the ignorance that exists in far too many groups and individuals. It is time to put side he false rhetoric and show the rest of the world that we are caring and loving people.

    January 15, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
  13. Big Al

    Those who snicker at a female rabbi really miss the point. First off, it is not against Judaism for a woman to be a rabbi. 2nd, to believe that source of wisdom, comfort or truth must only be male is a mistake. Finally, the belief that gives one strength at no cost to the community around him or her is always valid. G-d bless.

    January 15, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
  14. Gary

    Love Truth Justice are scewed and manipulated with all religions ..

    January 15, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  15. Gary

    Love,Justice,Truth, all important. As an agnostic I realize all the great attributes of man have nothing to do with any religion.

    January 15, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  16. lrd

    i will be praying for gabby's healing and may God bless them all!! I believe in the Rabbi's words. God is an awesome one and will heal her and the rest of the people who were hurt. I am guessing she will be able to walk, talk, speak, and everything she used to do. I feel that and stand by it praise God!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 15, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  17. Brian

    "Judaism is a matrilineal faith. If Rep. Giffords' mother isn't Jewish, then Rep. Giffords herself isn't!!! ".....

    That was true in Roman times but it's more complicated now. Judaism is really a philosophical quest – a state of mind.

    January 15, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • george in texas

      hey, that's some state of mind there. reminds me of greed-is-good gekko. they built a jewish country after annihilating some people in their homes, usurping their land with that state of mind, making culprits out of them, didn't they? and now we are out of 3 bils a year to help them with that of mind, aren"t we?

      January 15, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
  18. Andrea P.

    What is wrong with so many of you? A woman is shot, her religious leader offers comfort to her friends and family and you're debating the Arab-Israeli conflict? Or the right for women to be rabbis? Or whether the gunman was Jewish? No one is debating whether or not pastors or priests who said a blessing or prayer over Christian victems was just or not just. Seems to me antisemitism is alive and well in the good old USA. So much for Obama's call for reduction of the rhetoric.

    January 15, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  19. george in texas

    is it illegal if it is unsinful?

    January 15, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  20. george in texas

    i don't see why they have to seek solace in a synagog. moses had millions of pagans hacked to death.

    January 15, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • Tom S

      Sure, he also had horns and a tail and spoke fluent Armenian. Don't most Texans also believe our president is Muslim? What a pit of idiocy you live in.

      January 15, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • bdm

      tom: austin is an island in texas where obama rocks and right wing christian conservatives feel uncomfortable. not all texans are bigots.

      January 15, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • rs1201

      The last texan I spoke to was when I was a graduate student at Cornell University Medical College. He told me that he grew up being told that Jews had horns and a tail.

      January 15, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.