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Published by Judy Bolton-Fasman

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Published by: Judy Bolton-Fasman on Jan 10, 2011
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Gabrielle Giffords: An American Hero Judy Bolton-Fasman
Last Saturday began as an ordinary enough day. I went to synagogueand sat on the left side of the sanctuary next to my friends Bunny andSam. The synagogue was buzzing with the lifecycle energy of a BatMitzvah, a baby naming and two aufrufs—when a bride and groom arecalled to the Torah on the Sabbath before their wedding—and a 70
birthday. A lovely, typical
kind of morning. The regulars sat intheir usual seats. The rabbi talked about grappling with G-d. And theKiddush that followed was, well, the same Kiddush that goes downevery week.Over two thousands miles away Gabrielle Giffords—40 years-old andthe Congressional Representative of Arizona’s 8
District—was shot atpoint-blank range with a 9mm luger as my fellow congregants and Ifiled out of the sanctuary. Thirteen others were wounded in thisincident, and 6 people were killed, including a 9 year-old girl. Giffordswas the target and she was hit in front of a Safeway in Tucson during agathering she called “Congress on Your Corner.” Giffords frequentlyheld these outdoor town meetings to stay in touch with herconstituents. I had coincidentally heard her on NPR a few days beforeand remember being impressed with her forthrightness.Her assassin was a 22 year-old man who is rabidly anti-governmentand lists
Mein Kampf 
as one of his favorite books. And yes, GabrielleGiffords is Jewish. Three years ago she married Captain Mark Kelly, anastronaut, in a Jewish ceremony that was featured in the Vows sectionof 
The New York Times
, which stated:about 300 guests wore yarmulkes, military medals, silverconcho studs or designer creations.As the ceremony opened, the wedding canopy was carrieddown the grassy aisle to the schmaltzy harmonies of livemariachi, accented by the rhythmic, homey slap of tortillasbeing made in the hacienda courtyard.A
moving down the aisle to the rhythms of Latino music! Nowthis is Diaspora Jewry at its best—religious tradition enhanced, notdiluted, by the diverse places where Jews live and practice.Giffords, a Democrat elected to Congress in 2006, took her seat in thethen Democrat-controlled House. Things had turned around in 3 yearsand she barely won re-election last November. I love facts and figures
and so I appreciate that Representative Giffords is the first Jewishcongresswoman to be elected in Arizona and only the third woman tobe elected to congress from her state. She is also only the thirdmember of congress in American history to be gunned down on the job.Over the past year I’ve pondered some of the issues RepresentativeGiffords has on her plate. Her district runs along a part of the Mexico-United States border and last spring she spoke out against Arizona’sdraconian immigration laws. But she also factored in the will of herconstituents in her largely Republican district and supports gun rights. The windows of her district office in downtown Tucson were shot atafter she voted for President Obama’s healthcare bill.As I write, Gabrielle Giffords’ life is still hanging in the balance. I knowthe prudent thing to do is not to be too quick to point to anti-Semitismas one of the deranged shooter’s motives. But I’m going to go out on alimb and observe that given his intense anti-government feelings andhis fondness for Nazi literature, anti-Semitism factors in theresomewhere. I’d also venture to guess that in the coming weeks, I willhave some company sitting next to me on my limb. You cannot read anti-tax or anti-government literature without seeingreferences to Jewish conspiracies and an America cursed with a ZionistOccupied Government. Of course, none of this garbage makes sense,but the steady accretion of hate continues—month after month, yearafter year. In earlier columns I’ve talked about my cocktailconversation-killing job in the mid 80s through the early 90s in which Imonitored right-wing extremists for a Jewish civil rights organization. Their pamphlets and sorry newsletters were a ludicrous, weak parodyof hate—that is, until it began to creep into mainstream American life.Remember the Oklahoma City bombing in the mid-90s? Take note of the intensity of political vitriol in the past decade on the airwaves. Inthis past year alone, cordial disagreement on issues has been overrunby angry talk singling out relatively liberal politicians as targetpractice. Two days before she was shot, Representative Giffords was among thelawmakers reading the Constitution aloud on the House floor to markthe beginning of the 112th Congress. She was randomly assigned toread the First Amendment.It’s fitting that Gabrielle Giffords entered the words "peaceably to

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