Skip to comments.Learning Judaism from Giffords
Posted on 01/11/2011 5:44:42 AM PST by SJackson
With all our desire for a universally accepted definition, we can't ignore reality that many non-Jews are more Jewish than their Jewish fellows. Talkbacks (15) As we join in praying for the speedy and complete recovery of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, we cannot help but note how splendidly the Democratic congresswoman from Arizona has served and, we are hopeful, will continue to serve as a Jewish role model.
It was her sense of the Jewish value around how we treat the stranger that informed Giffords on the highly divisive issue of rights for undocumented immigrants in her border state, according to Josh Protas, former director of the Tusconarea Jewish Community Relations Council. At the same time, she did not lose sight of her constituents security concerns over the unchecked influx of illegal aliens.
Perhaps this was thanks to her acquaintance with Israels defense challenges. As representative for the 8th District in southern Arizona, Giffords had to straddle the disparate political opinions of liberal Tucson and its rural hinterlands. The eminently Jewish strategy she employed was a willingness to hear diverse opinions. In fact, it was during one of these exercises in intellectual openness outside one of her signature Congress at Your Corner events at the entrance to a mall in Tucson that Giffordss strength as an attentive lawmaker was despicably exploited, becoming, at the pull of a trigger, her tragic vulnerability.
Giffordss very Jewishness might have even been a motive in the shooting, according to a US Department of Homeland Security memorandum. Jared Loughner is believed to have had links to American Renaissance, an anti-government, anti-immigration, anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic organization. The memo notes that Giffords is the first Jewish woman elected to high office in Arizona and that Loughners alleged anti-Semitism is being considered as a possible motive.
SPEAKING HALACHICLY, of course, Giffords is not even considered a Jew. Her father is Jewish, but her mother is a Christian Scientist.
This genealogy did not prevent her from stating in 2006, In my family, if you want to get something done, you take it to the Jewish women relatives. Jewish women, by and large, know how to get things done.
According to JTA, her grandfather, Akiba Hornstein, changed his name to Giffords after moving from New York to Arizona, in part because he did not want his Jewishness to be an issue in unfamiliar territory. Perhaps, the grandfathers visceral survival instinct was right on target. The shooting definitely raises concerns about renewed anti-Semitism (and about the highly polarized nature of political discourse in todays America).
But the attack, which brought to the forefront Giffordss noble and very Jewish personal traits, highlights the changing nature of Jewish identity in America. An increasingly more inclusive answer to the question of Who is a Jew? has developed in recent years. In part, this is a result of the Reform Movements 1983 decision to recognize patrilineal descent. This decision, which recognizes Giffords as a full-fledged Jew, made it easy for the congresswoman to integrate into her local Reform shul, Congregation Chaverim, when she began to actively embrace Judaism after a transformative 2001 trip to Israel.
But the broadening definition of Jewishness is not restricted to the Reform Movement. A similar trend is sweeping Conservative Judaism, as Dr. Adam Ferziger, senior fellow at Bar- Ilan Universitys Rappaport Center for Assimilation Research, noted in a recent article in Oxfords Journal of Jewish Studies. In Between Catholic Israel and the Krov Yisrael: Non-Jews in Conservative Synagogues (1982-2009), Ferziger showed that halachicly non-Jewish offspring of intermarried Jews were no longer excluded from membership and active ritual life in American Conservative congregations. This change in policy is due, in part, to the unprecedented intermarriage rates during the last decades of the 20th century. Another possible reason might be that more and more people like Giffords have made a conscious choice to identify as Jews, yet have no intention of undergoing a conversion.
As it should, Israels Law of Return accommodates this complex Jewish reality by granting automatic citizenship to people like Giffords, her husband and her offspring. Critics of the Law of Return might complain that it has extended citizenship to more than 300,000 former Soviet Union immigrants who are not halachicly Jewish. But is it conceivable to exclude these non-Jews despite the fact that the vast majority integrate fully into Israeli society, serve in the IDF and become productive citizens? Is it conceivable to exclude Giffords, another non-Jew, who is so unequivocally Jewish?
With all our desire for a universally accepted definition of Who is a Jew? that would unify the Jewish people, we cannot ignore the complicated reality that many non-Jews are much more Jewish than their Jewish fellows. Congresswoman Giffords is one of them.
I really doubt that religion had anything to do with it. There are rumors that the shooter’s mother is Jewish.
A lot of Jews changed their “Jewish sounding” names to not stand out. Many Jews were/are fearful of insults, attacks, and discrimination so it is an attempt to ‘blend in’. Not uncommon at all.
As far as ‘identifying as Jews’, there are a lot of things going on here. First, the intermarriage of the father to a non-Jew, and second the desire to remain connected to one’s Jewish heritage. Also, not uncommon in the diaspora. The reform movement and the conservative movement make their business to teach intermarried couples that the children of non-Jewish women are Jewish, merely because they desire it to be so. If it was an issue, it would invalidate their conversions. Hocus pocus, your kid is a Jew. It is also very common in America.
In essence, Giffords represents many Jews in this country who are very much lost to their Jewish identity and yet still wish to be called a Jew. Demand to be called a Jew. I have been in long and frustrating discussions on FR about this. Non-traditional Jews have much invested in this point of view. It is a no-win argument. Every time.
I believe in treating strangers who come to the door and ask leave to enter with the utmost hospitality and kindness. And treating anyone who tries to sneak in the window with a dose of lead pills. These are not only Jewish values, but simple common sense.
It sickens me that leftists with some sort of Jewish ancestry keep on dragging it through the mud and muck of their political agenda. “Treating strangers hospitably” does not mean letting them vote for the home-bound and the dead, using questionable ID and a Democratic machine chartered bus.
He's a member of the DNC?
Excuse my ignorance but what is a JINO?
JINO= Jew in name only
Again, you hit the nail on the head. If that's the case, then it's obvious that it does not mean letting them run for public office as well - if you get my drift.
“it’s obvious that it does not mean letting them run for public office as well - if you get my drift.”
Well, there are some jobs Americans simply will not do, such as being President and running the country into the ground. So they got an illegal alien to do it instead.
Essentially that's what she did. The article doesn't state the patrilineal descent issue correctly, Reform recognizes it only when the individual has accepted and practices Judaism, participating in the Congregation and the Jewish community. They consider this the equivalent of a shorter time frame, more formal conversion, which she may well have had. The obvious difference between a Reform and Orthodox conversion is clearly a very different issue, but to her denomination, she's Jewish.
Wish I had a better link,
but Barry had to be aware of the problems inherent in his fathers faith, when the KKK was picketing his dad's store. That's the Prescott store in 1928, when Barry was 19.
As I noted in 30, presuming she didn’t have a formal conversion, Reform would consider this a defacto conversion based on her father. Neither of which would be recognized by Orthodox or Israeli authorities, which is the real issue. Probably won’t be good for Israel, but at some point it’s going to have to be realized that there are divisions amongst the various Jewish “denominations” every bit a serious as amongst Christians.
My Great Grandfather and Grandfather who both had very jewish sounding first names but not last names purchased a business in 1916 that was named after an Anglo family name. That business today still has the name some 95 years later and they didn’t change it in 1916 as they didn’t want it to sound too Jewish. The threat of anti-semitism has always been there so it was never changed. Today that is not the case but the mindset in the 1916 to 1980 time frame was such that it was best not to make any waves. Today we keep the name as its a very established company that is over 102 years old.
If I had a name like Akiba Hornstein and lived in the wild west then I would probably changed my name to fit in and run a business.
We are commanded to take care of the poor. What falls to the ground during the harvest is to be left there for the poor, and the poor are to be permitted to come in at night and eat their fill, but not to carry any away with them.
When strangers, such as the Midianites, came in and ravaged the land and stole the products of the Israelites, G-d chose someone, such as Gideon, to drive them out. Some, such as the Amalekites, were so evil that Israel was commanded to kill them all.
There is nothing preventing individual Americans from sending aid to poor people in Mexico, but there is nothing that commands us to sit idly by while Mexicans come in and ravage the land.
I read Barry Goldwater's autobiography and, to the best of my recollection, he made no mention of this incident.
From where did you get that photo?
Fine, I can understand that. But wouldn't the logical thing be to change "Hornstein" to "Horn," not to "Giffords"?
BTW, the "wild west" in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was arguably the most tolerant section of the country with regard to Jews in general, part of the pioneer mentality. There were Jewish-owned businesses that displayed their family names without problems. Even to this day, there are maybe two hundred mostly small towns named after Jewish settlers.
I pointed out the success of Goldwater's retail stores (to cite just one example) in my previous posts.
“Next up, ham and cheese sandwiches on the bima! And who dares tell us what ksoher really means!”
Closer to truth than you think. I watched a history of America recently and the alleged rabbi who started reform had a big meeting of Jewish leaders at some fancy location -— 8 course meal -— turtle soup, lobster, ham and cheese, etc, effectively making a stance that Judaism in the USA would conform.
Made me ill.
I’m with you - these people have no idea of what Judaism is about!
Wyatt Earp’s last wife, Josephine Marcus, was Jewish - didn’t stop her from being with a great man.
University of Arizona archives. Somewhere I have a better link where the store name is more visible. I've never heard him mention the incident either, but it wouldn't have been all that unusual at the time.