The debate over “Who is a Jew” is back in the headlines following the shooting in Tucson, Ariz., that critically injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. For Giffords, the daughter of a Christian Scientist mother and a Jewish father who is the grandson of a rabbi, there is no question of her Jewishness. She is a proud Jew who is an active member of her Reform congregation. She was married under a chuppah (wedding canopy) by a rabbi, albeit to a non-Jewish man.
As Giffords lay in a hospital recovering from being shot in an assassination attempt by a domestic terrorist, her Hebrew name has circulated the world to be used in the traditional Mi Shebeirach prayer for healing. Some rabbis have even questioned whether her non-Jewish mother’s name should be part of her Hebrew nomenclature for the prayer, while others have referred to her as Jewish but added the caveat “not halachically speaking.”