I am honored to play a role in this project, culminating in a marvelous book that portrays the human side of the tragic shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others, together with the miraculous wave of healing that continues to permeate our community and our nation in the wake of that terrible event.

My relationship with Gabrielle Giffords began roughly 15 years ago while she was serving in the Arizona State Legislature. Growing up in a family with a mixed religious background, Gabrielle came to me in her mid-twenties out of her desire to fully embrace her Jewish roots. Over the ensuing years as her Rabbi and her friend, I have gotten to know this marvelous young woman both as a member of our congregation and as an elected leader of our community.

On the morning after the shooting we held a special service to pray for healing, for Gabby and the other shooting victims and their families. At this prayer service we acknowledged her exemplary service to our town, our Arizona, our country and our world with her passion, her wisdom, her practicality, and the generosity of her heart and soul.

In our Jewish tradition, a hero is looked upon as a person who can learn from all people. Throughout her career to date as a public servant Gabby has definitely worn the hero’s mantle through her ability to resonate with people of all generations and from widely divergent backgrounds and perspectives. She also brings to bear the rare ability to fully listen – as a listener she is always present, focused, wise and compassionate.

As Dr. Newport eloquently expounds upon in this insightful book, in the wake of these tragic shootings that took six lives and destroyed many dreams, our community continues to experience an incredible healing process emanating from our ability to listen and respond to each other with true compassion, while learning from each other. Our nation continues to work through this slow, deliberate process of healing.

The call to heal our wounds and come together with strength and vision was strongly present in President Obama’s passionate memorial speech four days after the shooting. This continues to grow in momentum as we come together to create a community of listeners and compassionate responders, who are willing to step into our neighbor’s place and hold that place for her or him with compassion, vigor and respect should the need arise.

I am heartened to see so many valiant people step in to hold Gabrielle’s place as she continues her healing journey. First and foremost is her husband, Mark Kelly, who has tenderly stood by her side and carried her in his heart ever since the horrible day of the shooting. Gabrielle’s dedicated staff, including Pia Carusone, C.J. Karamargin, Ron Barber, Pam Simon and others have, in the midst of their own grieving, tirelessly stepped forward to fill Gabby’s shoes in moving her legislative priorities forward and tending to the many needs of her constituents – always driven by the mantra “what would Gabby want?”

As I read the manuscript for The Tucson Tragedy I was continually impressed by Dr. Newport’s ability to take the reader right to the scene and into the hearts and minds of the victims and their families, the heroes arising from this tragedy, the suspected assailant and everyone else impacted by this painful tragedy. As a Tucsonan, he brings to bear a unique insider’s perspective in rendering a soul-searching treatment of both the underlying dynamics at play in this tragic event and its aftermath, together with the lessons to be learned. This is truly a book written from the heart.

I agree with Dr. Newport that The Tucson Tragedy is indeed a tragedy – and much, much more. He does an excellent job of portraying the creation of a community of healing out of the ashes of this tragic shooting (to use his words), and brings to bear both compassionate and perceptive insights in his “lessons to be learned” sections at the end of each chapter. He is definitely an ardent fan of Gabrielle Giffords, as he places the lessons to be learned from the shooting and its aftermath within the context of Gabby’s distinctive qualities as a bridge-builder and champion of bipartisan cooperation, in the context of a contentious political environment sorely in need of these attributes.

Dr. Newport closes this book with a “call to action” for readers to become personally involved in bringing to a halt the growing specter of violence that is all too prevalent in today’s world – presenting cogent suggestions as to how we can become involved in this important undertaking. In summary, The Tucson Tragedy provides a most inspirational, informative and much needed message for people of all ages and from all walks of life.

Rabbi Stephanie Aaron

  • Rabbi Stephanie Aaron serves as Rabbi of Congregation Chaverim in Tucson, Arizona.