In an exclusive interview with OpEdNews.com, Rabbi Stephanie Aaron, Giffords' rabbi at Congregation Chaverim said, "We have never had any contact with the Loughner family. They are not members of the congregation and never have been members of the congregation. And I've been with the congregation for 40 years, since it's inception, since I was very young."
Responding further to the question of whether Loughner or his family are Jewish, Rabbi Aaron stated, "We had a meeting of the Tucson Board of Rabbis. We all looked at our rosters from many years back. No one has ever heard of the family - him, his parents, any of them. I can say with absolute certainty that we do not know him in pretty much the entire affiliated community."
Today, many Jews are not affiliated with a synagogue. But, this interview does put an end to the rapidly escalating rumor that Loughner's mother, Amy Joanne Loughner (according to JTA , Totman is her maiden name), is a member of the same synagogue as Representative Giffords.
Commenting on the Mother Jones article in which Jared Loughner's friend, Bryce Tierney, reported that Loughner's mother was Jewish, Rabbi Aaron said that she did not know Tierney adding "I would be curious about that information, how he got that information, what he knows, how he knows it."
Questions have also been raised as to whether anti-Semitism played a part in Saturday's shooting spree. Rabbi Aaron said that she was unaware of any problems that Rep. Giffords may have had with anti-Semitism in Tucson but added, "We would really have to speak to her staff. I never heard that. I haven't seen it in the press, that there's been a problem with anti-Semitism. In Tucson, the kinds of really overt signs of anti-Semitism have not been huge in our community at all."
"Of course," she explained, "there's been anti-Semitic graffiti, but it hasn't been something that's been on the front burner. It's always on the back burner in Jewish life. It feels like...I hope this isn't it, rearing it's ugly head. It's scary."
Asked about how the congregation has responded to the tragedy, Rabbi Aaron replied,
"We've been devastated by what happened to Gabrielle Giffords and to the members of the Tuscon community who were murdered and the ones who were wounded.
We've all drawn closer together and the Jewish community is sponsoring a blood drive at the Jewish Community Center and all the synagogues are participating. I was just in an interfaith service...with Bishop Cacanas praying for our city and our country.
There's a sense of coming together, very much... a lot of positives are coming out. I'm not sure why negative things need to be said that are erroneous. It's nice to move to the postive, especially the outpouring for all of the families from all over the world. There are emails, vigils being held. It's just been a very strong outpouring. The Tucson community is feeling that they want to send a message of thank you to the world for the outpouring of sympathy that has been expressed."
See this article for more information:
Loughner Jewish? Member Same Synagogue as Giffords?