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By Rhonda Spivak, January 12, 2011

[Editor's note: to read Gifford's op-ed written in 2006 about Israel and the  Middle East, please scroll down nearer to the bottom of this article]

Ha'aretz has reported that Jared Lee Loughner, the key suspect in the shooting attack that critically wounded Arizona Jewish Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords outside of Safeway in Tuscan,  listed Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto as two of his favorite books on his MySpace page.

The 22-year-old posted masses of anti-government ramblings on his MySpace page and on a YouTube account "Classitup10" that was linked to him.

 A U.S. Department of  Homeland Security memorandum reportedly noted that the fact that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is a Jew may have a factor in the motives of her alleged assailant. Giffords remains in critical condition.  

FOX News, reporting on the memorandum it obtained this past Sunday night, said that “strong suspicion is being direceted (sic) at American Renaissance,” an organization the  Jared Loughner referenced on the Internet, and said that federal law enforcement authorities are investigating Loughner’s possible links to American Renaissance.

The memorandum refers to the American Renaissance as “anti government, anti immigration, anti ZOG (Zionist Occupational Government), anti Semitic.” The memo notes that Giffords is the first Jewish woman elected to high office in Arizona.

American Renaissance leaders said in a posting on their website Sunday that Loughner had never subscribed to their magazine, registered for any of the group’s conferences or visited their Internet site.

Elected to the U.S. House of Representative for the  Democrats for the first time in 2006, Giffords was the first Jewish woman from Arizona to serve in Congress. Rather than hide her Jewish background, she embraced it during her campaign:

“If you want something done, your best bet is to ask a Jewish woman to do it,” Giffords, a former state senator, said at the time, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported. “Jewish women – by our tradition and by the way we were raised – have an ability to cut through all the reasons why something should, shouldn’t or can’t be done, and pull people together to be successful.”

The Anti-Defamation League [ADL] has taken the position that Giffords wasn't shot becasue of her Jewishness, as reported by  JTA.

"In the end, the writings so far revealed seem to indicate no particular leanings about race, and it is difficult to come away from the postings with such a conclusion," according to the analysis published Tuesday by the ADL.

The ADL analysis also said that the writings do not "point to a particular ideology or belief system."

Loughner's "semi-coherent" writings "are indicative of an individual who has been exposed to a number of different ideas, from across the political spectrum, and has sometimes appropriated external concepts -- often seemingly divorced from their original context," the analysis said.

After the shooting , the  New York Times reported that over  100 people  attended a special healing service this past Sunday morning for Giffords at Congregation Chaverim, the Reform Tucson congregation. Giffords was married three years ago at a ceremony performed by Rabbi Stephanie Aaron , the leader of Congregation Chaverim, where she married Cmdr. Mark Kelly, an astronaut,.

According to JTA,  Giffords, 40, was raised "mixed" by a Christian Scientist mother and Jewish father, but said she decided she was Jewish only following a visit to Israel in 2001. She attended services at  Congregation Chaverim.

Giffords turned to Aaron after a visit  to Israel in 2001 sparked her interest in her Judaism. This was shortly after the September 11 terror attacks and at the height of the Second Intifada. The trip was sponsored by the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange, which sends politicians, journalists and opinion leaders to meet with their counterparts in Israel. At the time she was a member of the Arizona state legislature.

“It was a profound experience [for me] to reconnect with that philosophical approach to life and to humanity, and to look at the big picture and understand our interconnectedness,” Giffords said in a 2007 interview with Jewish Woman Magazine. “I was raised not to really talk about my religious beliefs. 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.”

According to the forward, [ ] Giffords later wrote an account of her trip, in which she traces the Mideast conflict back to 1947, “when the Arabs rejected the [U.N. partition] plan which the Jews accepted,” and said that Israel’s peace efforts have been met with “a campaign of violence and terrorism.” She also criticized then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s hard-line approach to relations with the Palestinians, and called his 2000 visit to the Temple Mount “deliberately provocative

In one of her last photos, she posed with the new U.S. House of Representatives speaker, Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) at her swearing in in which her hand is on the “Five Books of Moses.”

About eight years ago, Giffords decided to have a formal Hebrew naming ceremony, at which she took on the name “Gabriella. Rabbi Aaron told the Forward that Giffords was involved in  Tikkun Olam and the pursuit of  justice (tzedek, tzedek, tirdof). 

Giffords’ father is the first cousin of director Bruce Paltrow, whose daughter is actress Gwyneth Paltrow, reports The UK Daily Mail

The following is a copy of  Gifford's 2006 opinion piece about Israel and the Middle East peace process:


Israel needs U.S. to push the peace process
My grandfather, Akiba Hornstein, was the son of a Lithuanian rabbi. My grandfather changed his name to Giff Giffords for reasons of anti-Semitism and moved to Southern Arizona from New York more than a half century ago. In the 1940s, he founded my family's tire and automotive business, El Campo Tire, which grew into a successful and thriving business for 50 years, which I ran for several years before serving in the Arizona Legislature.
Growing up, my family's Jewish roots and tradition played an important role in shaping my values. The women in my family served as strong role models for me as a girl. In my family, if you want to get something done, you take it to the women relatives! Like my grandmother, I am a lifetime member of Hadassah and now a member of Congregation Chaverim.
When I served in the State Senate in Arizona, I had the opportunity to visit Jerusalem. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I had the opportunity to meet with the then-mayor of Jeru¬salem, Ehud Olmert, and I got to see firsthand the sacrifices that Israelis make in the name of security because of the dangerous state of affairs there.
I will always be a strong supporter of Israel. As the

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.