Deadly Attack Against Rep. Giffords and Others Leaves Reform Movement Pained

 Rabbi Saperstein: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a remarkable public servant shot while meeting with constituents today."

Contact: Eric Harris
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WASHINGTON, D.C. January 8, 2011 -- In response today's attack against Representative Gabrielle Giffords, her staff, and residents at a constituent event in Tucson, Arizona, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a remarkable public servant shot while meeting with constituents today. Rep. Giffords is a member of Reform Congregation Chaverim in Tucson, and our entire community shares her family's concern and pain.


We send our condolences to the families of those killed in this horrible act of violence, including U.S. District Judge John Roll, and pray for those who were wounded. As dark a day as this is for our nation, we know that it is immeasurably more painful for those whose family members were killed or injured.


We have had a close and fruitful relationship with Rep. Giffords and her staff throughout her time in Congress. She is a leading advocate for sensible immigration reform, a strong and thoughtful voice on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is willing to cast difficult votes on issues she believes in, including health care reform. (It was her support for health care reform, which led to an earlier attack on her office in Tucson.)


We do not yet know the specific motive behind this despicable act. But there can be no ignoring the increasing culture of violence in our nation and particularly in our political discourse. Dehumanizing language and images of violence are regularly used to express differences of opinion on political issues. Such language is too often heard by others, including those who may be mentally ill or ideologically extreme, to justify the actual use of violence. It continues to be far too easy to acquire guns, including the weapon used in today's shootings. Americans must be able to have robust and healthy differences of opinion while respecting the humanity and patriotism of those with whom they disagree.


We, together with so many others, have supported and developed programs to address the disintegration of our political culture. As we can see from today's bloodshed, to call for "civility," only begins to scratch the surface of what is needed. We are committed to working with America's religious leaders of all faiths, and others, to elevate aggressively the state of our political discourse.


But today, of course, we stand stunned and deeply saddened. And we pray that Rep. Giffords' husband Mark and her entire family find support comfort and strength among their friends and family, as we join them in praying for her full recovery.