WASHINGTON (JTA) — Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was in critical condition after being shot in the head.
Giffords was outside one of her signature "Congress at your corner" events outside a Safeway in Tucson, the district she represented, when a gunman approached and shot her in the head.
The gunman, identified by media as Jared Lee Loughner, shot 17 people, killing six of them, including a 9-year old girl and a federal judge, John Roll. The gunman was tackled and arrested.
Doctors said Giffords was expected to survive, although it was not yet known what her condition would be.
Giffords was elected to Congress in the Democratic sweep in 2006. The first Jewish woman elected to Congress from the state, she made her Jewish identity part of her campaign.
“If you want something done, your best bet is to ask a Jewish woman to do it,” said Giffords, a former state senator, said at the time. “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.”
Giffords, 40, was raised "mixed" by a Christian Scientist mother and Jewish father, but said that after a visit to Israel in 2001, she had decided she was Jewish only. She attended services at a local Reform synagogue.
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; her hand is on the "Five Books of Moses."
Giffords fought a hard election this year, against the national anti-incumbent, anti-Democratic mood. She tacked to the right of her party on immigration, saying border security was of primary consideration.
The election was called in her favor weeks after the vote.
Giffords’ office had been vandalized in March, after she voted for health care reform. Friends said she had received threats for her positions on health care and for opposing her state’s new law allowing police to arrest undocumented immigrants during routine stops.
The National Jewish Democratic Council suggested that the heated rhetoric of the last year contributed to the climate that led to the attack.
"One suspect, now in custody, may be directly responsible for this crime," the group said in a statement. "But it is fair to say — in today’s political climate, and given today’s political rhetoric — that many have contributed to the building levels of vitriol in our political discourse that have surely contributed to the atmosphere in which this event transpired."