Nov News We Said Go Travel: The Future is BRIGHT

November 2017 NEWS: The Future is BRIGHT!

Thank you for your ongoing support of both We Said Go Travel and me! I was so honored to share about Napa Valley for KTLA TV in Los Angeles. Did you see my segment? CLICK HERE to watch it now!

Where to Wander? Watch Lisa Niver on KTLA 5

Want to know more about my Napa Segment? I wrote two articles about it:

November News Travel Classics The Future is BrightIn November, I went to my third Travel Classics Journalism conference. Thank you to Maren, Cathy, Visit Tucson and everyone who created this a fantastic experience. Thank you to all the editors and writers who were there to share their experiences and wisdom!

Lisa is a Cowgirl at Tanque Verde Dude Ranch Nov News

After Travel Classics Tucson, I learned to be a CowGirl at my very first DUDE RANCH! I absolutely loved my time at Tanque Verde Dude Ranch. I cannot wait to share the video with you when it is ready. I took several lessons and I rode up to Cowboy Lookout twice! WOW!




Here are links to my video channels on YouTubeAmazon Fire Tv, and Roku Player. I hope you enjoy my “This is What it is Like” Episodes! I now have 759 videos, 659,587 views, 1497 subscribers on YouTube AND my total video views across all platforms is now over 1,450,000+ (1.4M)! ! Thank you for your support and I cannot wait to get to 1.5 Million views!

Recent videos:

Will you Love Kia Stinger? Lisa in KIA StingerVideo #755: Sky Diving for my birthday with GoJump Oceanside!

Video #759: Will You Love the Kia Stinger?

Watch me in SPANISH! My first video interview in another language! Learn about the new Kia Singer in Jose Carlos’ video: Kia Stinger 2018 – los periodistas opinan




Thank you to everyone who has participated in our We Said Go Travel Competitions! Find the winners for the 2017 Inspiration Award here. The entries from the 2017 Summer Independence Award have been published and the winners have been announced.  We hope you will participate in our 2018 Writing Awards.


Our first ever Travel Photo Award is now closed! Thank you to our judges, Gary Arndt from Everything Everywhere and Jeana from Surf and Sunshine. We hope you will submit a photo in our next award. We will begin sharing the entries soon.

Want to make your own video? Use code WESAIDGO10 for 10% on your project. Lisa loves working with EpicMakers and they were a sponsor for our first Travel Photo Award.

My fortune cookies said “Good Fortune Lies Ahead.” and “You know what you want–Get to work to make it materialize.  I hope that this time with family for Thanksgiving brought you rest, relaxation and renewed perspective to know the steps to make your dreams come true!

Thank you for your support. Lisa

Discover more on my social media accounts:  InstagramFacebookTwitterPinterestYouTube.

What do you think of my new site?

Loughner’s parents acted on signs of danger before Giffords attack

The parents of Jared Loughner, concerned by his erratic behavior, confiscated a gun and disabled his car in the months before the killing spree that critically wounded congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Documents released Wednesday by the Pima County Sheriff's office in Arizona and reported in the media detail measures taken by Randy and Amy Loughner in the months after their son was asked to leave a community college because of his behavior.

They confiscated Jared Loughner's shotgun, counseled him to receive psychological treatment and had him tested for drugs. Randy Loughner would surreptitiously disable his son's Chevy Nova each evening to keep him from going out.

The morning of the Jan. 8, 2011 attack in a Tucson strip mall, Loughner came home after purchasing ammunition for another gun.

When Randy Loughner asked his son what was in his backpack, Jared Loughner ran into the woods. Within hours he had killed six people and wounded 13 at a constituent meeting in the mall parking lot held by Giffords, then a freshly reelected Democratic congresswoman from the area.

Loughner, 24, a diagnosed schizophrenic, confessed to the shootings and is serving life without the possibility of parole.

Giffords, the first Jewish woman elected to federal office from Arizona, retired a year later and remains in recovery while she leads a gun control initiative with her husband, the former astronaut Mark Kelly.

Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords launches gun-control initiative

Former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was severely wounded two years ago in an Arizona shooting, is launching a group aimed at curbing gun violence and raising enough money to challenge the well-funded gun lobby.

Giffords, starting the effort called Americans for Responsible Solutions with her husband former astronaut Mark Kelly, told ABC News that Congress must do more to prevent gun violence.

The two are gun owners, but in the wake of a string of recent mass shootings, they said more must be done to push common-sense efforts to reduce such violence.

“Enough,” Giffords, who was shot in the head while meeting with constituents in Tucson, Arizona, told ABC in an interview aired on Tuesday.

The initiative aims to “encourage elected officials to stand up for solutions to prevent gun violence and protect responsible gun ownership,” the group said on its website,

It will push for background checks for private gun sales and look at ways to better address mental illness, among other efforts, Kelly told ABC.

Gifford's group is set to take on the National Rifle Association, which in 2011 spent over eleven times more on lobbying than all gun control lobbyists combined.

Her group has set up a political action committee for donations to “raise the funds necessary to balance the influence of the gun lobby,” it said on its website.

“Until now, the gun lobby's political contributions, advertising and lobbying have dwarfed spending from anti-gun violence groups. No longer,” Giffords wrote in an opinion piece published Tuesday in USA Today

She added: “winning even the most common-sense reforms will require a fight … Achieving reforms to reduce gun violence and prevent mass shootings will mean matching gun lobbyists in their reach and resources.”

The announcement comes just days after Giffords visited Newtown, Connecticut, and met with families of the victims of last month's Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in which 20 children and six teachers were killed.

Giffords also recently met with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who heads his own mayors' initiative that is also pushing for what he calls “reasonable” gun controls.

In the wake of the Dec. 14 Connecticut shooting, President Barack Obama has pledged to take swift action to reduce gun violence and has tapped a task force due to report later this month with possible measures.

The task force, led by Vice President Joe Biden, is reportedly weighing action beyond reinstating a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines to include universal background checks and a national gun sales database, among other steps.

The wave of shootings and the threat of tighter gun restrictions has spurred intense reaction on both sides.

Consumer demand for guns appears to have soared in recent weeks, according to FBI data.

Gun control supporters worry that other looming issues such as the nation's debt crisis could hamper efforts in Congress to push through new legislation.

Bloomberg's group launched its own new ad on Tuesday with the mother of child who was killed in the Arizona shooting.

Giffords meets with Newtown officials to talk gun control

Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords traveled to Newtown, Conn., to discuss gun control with local and state officials.

Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, spoke with the officials last Friday about such issues as gun control legislation and identifying and treating the mentally ill, according to several news accounts of the 45-minute meeting. They also talked about the many forces in the United States that can desensitize people to violence.

The meeting came just days before the second anniversary of the attack on a constituents' event that critically injured Giffords, who had represented Arizona in the House of Representatives, and killed six people.

Attending the meeting were several Newtown selectmen and officials, as well as newly elected U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, according to USA Today.

Newtown is home to Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a gunman last month killed 26 people, including 20 children, before turning the gun on himself. The gunman, Adam Lanza, had killed his mother before the school rampage.

Since Giffords was shot in the head outside a Tucson, Ariz., grocery on Jan. 8, 2011, in an attack that left her partially blind with a paralyzed arm and a brain injury, Kelly has been speaking out for gun control. Nineteen people were shot at the Tucson event.

Giffords stepped down from the Congress to continue her rehabilitation.

Gabby Giffords faces Tucson assailant as he is sentenced to life

Former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords stood in federal court to face her would-be assassin on Thursday moments before he was sentenced to life in prison for killing six people and wounding 13 others, including Giffords, last year.

Jared Loughner, 24, a college dropout with a history of psychiatric disorders, received seven consecutive life terms plus 140 years in prison, without the possibility of parole, under a plea deal with prosecutors that spared him the death penalty.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns said the life sentences he imposed – one for each of the six people who lost their lives, and a seventh for the attempted assassination of Giffords – represented the individuality of the victims.

“He will never have the opportunity to pick up a gun and do this again,” Burns said before Loughner was led away by federal marshals.

Giffords suffered a head wound in the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting that left her with speech difficulties, a paralyzed right arm, diminished sight and a limp.

Loughner, who sat through the proceedings without addressing the court, showed no visible emotion as his sentence was pronounced or during statements delivered earlier in court by several survivors.

Giffords did not speak. Her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, spoke on her behalf.

“You may have put a bullet through her head, but you haven't put a dent in her commitment to make the world a better place,” Kelly told him, with Giffords standing at his side as she impassively faced her assailant.

Loughner, seated next to his lawyer, Judy Clarke, appeared to gaze back at them without expression.

“Although you were mentally ill, you were responsible,” Kelly told Loughner in a clear, ringing voice. “You have decades upon decades to contemplate what you did, but from this moment, Gabby and I are done thinking about you.”

Giffords resigned from Congress in January to focus on her recuperation.


Kelly also used the occasion to take a political swipe at Republican Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a staunch gun-rights advocate, criticizing her for speaking out against proposed restrictions on high-capacity ammunition magazines, like the ones Loughner used, in the aftermath of the shooting.

“Jan Brewer said it had nothing to do with the size of the magazine. … She said this just one week after you used a high-capacity magazine,” Kelly said, also noting that she named a “state gun” weeks later instead of “fixing the education system.”

Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson declined comment on the criticism leveled against the governor.

“On this solemn occasion, Governor Brewer isn't interested in engaging in politics,” he said in a statement. “This is a day of justice and peace. Governor Brewer wishes both for the victims and their families.”

The proceedings marked a dramatic epilogue to a rampage of gun violence that shocked many Americans, added to the long-running debate over gun control and cut short the political career of Giffords, a rising star in the Democratic Party.

Loughner pleaded guilty in August in federal court to 19 charges, including murder and attempted murder, in connection with the shootings outside a Tucson area supermarket.

He admitted going to Giffords' “Congress On Your Corner” event armed with a loaded Glock 19 pistol and 60 additional rounds of ammunition with plans to kill the Arizona Democrat.

Loughner shot her through the head at close range. Six people were killed, including U.S. District Judge John Roll and 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green.

Court-appointed experts later said Loughner suffered from schizophrenia, disordered thinking and delusions. He was declared unfit to stand trial in May 2011 after he disrupted court proceedings and was dragged out of the courtroom.

Loughner was ruled mentally competent three months ago after being treated for psychosis at a U.S. Bureau of Prisons psychiatric hospital in Springfield, Missouri. He then agreed to plead guilty.

Few clues to the motives for the attack have emerged. Prison psychologist Christina Pietz has testified that Loughner had expressed remorse for the rampage and especially for the 9-year-old girl's death.

His calm, quiet demeanor in court on Thursday contrasted sharply with the wild-eyed image of Loughner from an early mug shot that captured the then-bald defendant grinning maniacally into the camera.

Asked at the outset of the hearing by the judge if he had chosen to waive his right to make a statement, Loughner answered in a low voice, “That's true.”

He was otherwise silent through the hearing, and made no attempt to avert the gazes of victims who testified before he was sentenced.

One of them was Giffords' former congressional aide Ron Barber, who also was wounded and ended up serving out the rest of her term after winning a special election.

Barber ran in Tuesday's election for a newly created U.S. congressional district in Arizona and was running neck-and-neck with Republican Martha McSally, with the outcome hanging on some 80,000 provisional and early votes that have yet to be tallied.

Speaking to Loughner's parents, Amy and Randy, who were seated in the front row of the courtroom, Barber said, “Please know that I and my family hold no animosity toward you, and that I can appreciate how devastating the acts of your son were.”

Additional reporting by Jazmine Woodberry and David Schwartz; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Will Dunham

Gabby Giffords returns home to Tucson

Former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has moved home to Tucson.

Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, reportedly bought a home recently in Tucson and moved in on Sunday. She had spent the last year-and-a-half in Houston undergoing rehabilitation after being shot during a constituent event in Tucson in January 2011.

The Arizona Democrat resigned from Congress in January to concentrate on her rehabilitation. She will continue her therapy in Tucson, according to the Arizona Daily Star.

Kelly had been living in Houston, but has since retired from the NASA space agency.

Giffords, who is Jewish and a member of a local synagogue, was shot in the head at a Jan. 8, 2011 meet-the-constituents event outside a supermarket in Tucson. The gunman, Jared Loughner, killed six people. Giffords was among 14 people wounded.

Loughner last week changed his plea to guilty in the attack. The change reportedly was in exchange for a plea bargain that would send Loughner to prison for life.

He has been diagnosed with schizophrenia; Loughner was declared mentally competent to understand the charges against him.

Tucson gunman Loughner pleads guilty to murder, attempted murder

A 23-year-old college dropout pleaded guilty on Tuesday to killing six people and wounding 13 others, including then-U.S. congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, in an Arizona shooting rampage last year, and will be spared the death penalty in exchange.

Jared Loughner entered his guilty pleas in federal court in Tucson shortly after he was ruled mentally competent to stand trial on charges, including first degree murder, by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns.

“I plead guilty,” Loughner, dressed in a khaki prison jumpsuit, said to each of the 19 counts read in court by Burns.

Giffords, a U.S. representative from Arizona who was seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party, was meeting constituents at a Tucson supermarket on Jan. 8 last year when she was shot through the head at close range. The six people killed include a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl.

Under a plea agreement, federal prosecutors, who originally charged Loughner with 49 criminal counts, have agreed not to seek the death penalty against him. Burns will sentence Loughner on Nov. 15, and he could face multiple terms of life in prison.

The 19 counts he pleaded guilty to include murder, attempted murder and the attempted assassination of Giffords.

During an exchange with the judge before formally entering his plea, Loughner admitted going to the Congress-on-your-corner event hosted by Giffords armed with a Glock pistol with a plan to kill the congresswoman.

He also admitted shooting other people there with the intention to kill them because they had attended the event.


Mark Kelly, Giffords’ husband, said in a statement before the hearing that the couple had been in touch with federal prosecutors and were “satisfied” with the plea agreement.

“The pain and loss caused by the events of Jan. 8, 2011 are incalculable. Avoiding a trial will allow us – and we hope the whole southern Arizona community – to continue with our recovery and move forward with our lives,” Kelly said.

Giffords resigned from Congress in January to focus on her recovery. Her former aide, Ron Barber, who was also wounded in the shooting spree, won a special election to fill her seat in June and will face re-election in November to serve a full two-year term.

Former U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Geneva on July 25. Photo by REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud

Barber was in court for the hearing but Giffords did not attend.

“It is my hope that this decision will allow the Tucson community, and the nation, to continue the healing process free of what would likely be extended trial and pre-trial proceedings that would not have a certain outcome,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement following the hearing.

“In making the determination not to seek the death penalty, I took into consideration the views of the victims and survivor families, the recommendations of the prosecutors assigned to the case, and the applicable law,” Holder said.

Loughner was determined unfit to stand trial in May 2011 after he disrupted court proceedings and was dragged out of the courtroom. Court-appointed experts said he suffered from schizophrenia, disordered thinking and delusions.

He has since been held at a U.S. Bureau of Prisons psychiatric hospital in Springfield, Missouri, where he has been forcibly medicated to treat psychosis and restore his fitness to face proceedings in his prosecution.

Additional reporting by Jazmine Woodberry, Alex Dobuzinskis and Steve Gorman; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and David Brunnstrom

Jared Loughner to plead guilty in Arizona shooting spree

Jared Loughner, the man accused of killing six people and wounding then-U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords in 2011, is set to plead guilty in a Tucson court on Tuesday, a person familiar with the case said.

The source confirmed that the federal government believed Loughner was now competent to stand trial and will argue that in court on Tuesday. Loughner is willing to change his plea to guilty at the previously scheduled hearing, the source said.

Psychiatric experts who have examined Loughner were scheduled to testify in a mental competency hearing on Tuesday that he was competent to stand trial and understood the 49 charges against him, the Los Angeles Times reported earlier.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Phoenix said he could “neither confirm nor deny” whether Loughner would plead guilty.

The team of four attorneys representing Loughner had not responded to emailed requests for comment.

Giffords, an Arizona Democrat seen as a rising star in the party, was holding one of her regular “Congress On Your Corner” events at a Tucson supermarket in January 2011 when she was shot through the head at close range by a gunman who killed six other people, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl.

Loughner, 23, is charged with 49 criminal offenses including first-degree murder over the shooting rampage, which wounded 13 people. A not guilty plea was entered on his behalf last year.

The Wall Street Journal, which also reported that Loughner would plead guilty, said Tuesday’s mental status hearing had been changed to a change-of-plea hearing, citing an official familiar with the case.

If U.S. District Judge Larry Burns were to determine at Tuesday’s hearing that he was fit for trial, Loughner – who is being forcibly medicated to treat his psychosis – could face the death penalty if found guilty.

The Los Angeles Times said it was unclear on the details of the plea arrangement, or whether Loughner would plead guilty to all or just some of the charges in exchange for prison time rather than risk being sentenced to death at trial.

Tuesday’s hearing was to be Loughner’s fourth to determine if he is fit to stand trial. Burns ordered the hearing in June at the request of prosecutors and defense attorneys who wanted a status report after more than a year of treatment and legal wrangling over his mental competency.

The college dropout was determined unfit for trial in May 2011 after experts said he suffered from schizophrenia, disordered thinking and delusions.

Loughner has been held at a U.S. Bureau of Prisons psychiatric hospital in Springfield, Missouri, where he is forcibly medicated against his will to treat psychosis and make him fit for trial.

Giffords resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives in January to focus on her recovery. Her former aide Ron Barber won a special election to fill her seat and will have to win re-election in November to serve a full two-year term.

Reporting by Tim Gaynor in Phoenix, Karen Brooks in Austin and David Ingram in Washington; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Jackie Frank and Anthony Boadle

Case of murder-suicide of Jewish Phoenix family develops

While it has not been officially determined as such, police are convinced the case of James Butwin and his family was a carefully planned murder-suicide, the Tucson Citizen reported.

A charred SUV was discovered 35 miles in the desert outside of Phoenix, said to contain the bodies of James Butwin, his wife Yafit Butwin and children Malissa, 16; Daniel, 14; and Matthew, 7. Evidence uncovered in the investigation showed that the Butwins were in divorce proceedings, and James Butwin was battling a brain tumor.

The family were active members of the Jewish community in Tempe, Arizona. “He was totally soft-spoken and a devout Jew. He was very peaceful like that, very even-keeled,” said Steffani Meyers, a lawyer who handled Butwin’s business deals from 2001 until 2007 according to theTuczon Citizen. “He was like, ‘Oh, it will work itself out.’ I never saw a flash of anger from him.”

UPDATE: Gabrielle Giffords continues her recovery in Houston

March 4, 2011, 9:05 a.m.: Eight weeks after the tragedy that struck Arizona, Gabrielle Giffords continues to recover in Houston ” title=” reports”> reports.

Jan. 13, 2011, 9:12 a.m.: President Obama went off script last night to let the crowd in Tucson know that Gabrielle Giffords had opened her eyes for the first time since last weeks shooting. Those in the room believe she was aware of their presence and that she seemed to be responsive. CNN reports:

Giffords was squeezing and stroking Gillibrand’s hand, as doctors previously said she had been able to do.

Giffords “absolutely could hear everything we were saying,” Gillibrand said. “And Debbie (Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida) and I were telling her how much she was inspiring the nation with her courage, her strength, and we were talking about the things we wanted to do as soon as she was better.”

Jan. 12, 2011, 1:15 p.m.: Dr. Peter Rhee says Gabrielle Giffords is making ‘spontaneous movements,’ the ” title=”Washington Post reports” target=”_blank”>Washington Post reports.

Giffords, 40, remains in critical condition after she and 19 other people were shot Saturday at an event she was holding to meet constituents outside a Tucson supermarket. Six were killed and 14, including Giffords, were wounded when a young man with apparent mental problems opened fire on the gathering with a handgun. The suspect, Jared Lee Loughner, 22, was arraigned in federal court in Phoenix on Monday. He faces federal murder and attempted murder charges.

Read more at ” title=”” target=”_blank”>

Loughner pleads not guilty in Tucson shooting

A smiling Jared Loughner pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges related to the Jan. 8 shooting in Arizona, the ” title=”” target=”_blank”>

A Prayer for Tucson

On this Shabbat Shira, the Sabbath of Song,

We sing to God a song of grief

For innocent victims

Cut down too soon.

May their memories be a blessing,

May their lights shine brightly upon us.

Gather them into Your eternal shelter, God,

Your shelter of peace.

We sing to God a song of mourning

For the broken hearts,

The senseless loss, the shock, the emptiness.

Send comfort, God, to the grieving families,

Hear their cries.

Fill them with the courage

To carry on in the face of loss.

We sing to God a song of healing

For the wounded.

Lift them up God,

Ease their pain,

Restore them to strength, to hope, to life.

We sing to God a song of peace

For our nation.

Teach us how to rise above hatred

And cruelty and indifference.

Show us how to live up to the beauty You’ve planted within us.

Let us rise up from this tragedy,

Let us walk together hand in hand

United in hope

On a path of peace, Amen.

Rabbi Naomi Levy is the founder and spiritual leader of Nashuva and author of To Begin Again (Knopf), Talking to God (Knopf) and Hope Will Find You (Doubleday).

Jewish groups join faith call for civility

Jewish faith leaders joined a call for soul searching in the wake of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

“This tragedy has spurred a sorely needed time of soul searching and national public dialogue about violent and vitriolic political rhetoric,” said the open letter to Congress signed by 50 Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders appearing Thursday in Roll Call, a newspaper that covers Congress. “We strongly support this reflection, as we are deeply troubled that rancor, threats and incivility have become commonplace in our public debates.”

Giffords (D-Ariz.), who is Jewish, remains critically injured after a gunman shot her at a Tucson shopping center, killing six and injuring 13.

The alleged gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, is not attached to any recognizable political movement, but the fraught rhetoric during Giffords most recent campaign has led to calls for increased civility.

Jewish organizational leaders signing on to the statement represent the Reform movement, the Orthodox Union, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs umbrella group, the National Council for Jewish Women and Jewish Funds for Justice.

The letter, organized by the advocacy group Faith in Public Life, came after President Obama addressed the aftermath of the massacre in a Tucson speech and also called for greater civility.

“Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let’s use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together,” Obama said.

B’nai B’rith International endorsed Obama’s call.

“Of course in our democracy, it is important that different opinions can be expressed freely and without fear,” B’nai B’rith said in a statement. “But that can be done in an atmosphere free of hostility and, as the president said, pettiness and finger pointing.”

Separately, the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona said in a statement that in the wake of the killings, “we intend to redouble our efforts to encourage civil discourse by our community leaders and all those active in community life.”

Obama reported in his speech that she opened her eyes for the first time during a visit Wednesday by some of her closest women friends in Congress, including Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.).

Palin slammed for using ‘blood libel’ term [VIDEO]

Rabbi Marvin Hier calls Palin “Over the top.” Read why here.

Sarah Palin’s use of the term “blood libel” to decry blaming conservatives for the Arizona shooting has raised the ire of the Jewish community.

In a video statement released Wednesday, Palin said that “Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them. Especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.”

The blood libel refers to accusations that began in the Middle Ages that Jews used the blood of murdered Christian children to make matzah for Passover.

“The blood libel is something anti-Semites have historically used in Europe as an excuse to murder Jews—the comparison is stupid,” Hank Sheinkopf, a Jewish New York-based Democratic political consultant told Politico. “Jews and rational people will find it objectionable. This will forever link her to the events in Tucson. It deepens the hole she’s already dug for herself. … It’s absolutely inappropriate.”

Palin has been criticized since the shooting for using images of a gun crosshair to identify vulnerable districts in the November elections, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was shot in the head and seriously injured in the Jan. 8 attack at a Tucson shopping mall that left six dead and at least a dozen injured.

J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami criticized Palin’s use of the term blood libel.

“We hope that Governor Palin will recognize, when it is brought to her attention, that the term ‘blood libel’ brings back painful echoes of a very dark time in our communal history when Jews were falsely accused of committing heinous deeds,” he said in a statement. “When Governor Palin learns that many Jews are pained by and take offense at the use of the term, we are sure that she will choose to retract her comment, apologize and make a less inflammatory choice of words.”

David Harris, the president and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council, said that “All we had asked following this weekend’s tragedy was for prayers for the dead and wounded, and for all of us to take a step back and look inward to see how we can improve the tenor of our coarsening public debate. Sarah Palin’s invocation of a ‘blood libel’ charge against her perceived enemies is hardly a step in the right direction.”

It’s time to reject rhetorical violence

Sarah Palin did not shoot Rep. Gabriella Giffords. Neither did Glenn Beck. Or Rush Limbaugh. Or even Giffords’ opponent in the 2010 campaign, Jesse Kelly.

Giffords was shot by a mentally unstable terrorist, who after attempting to assassinate Giffords, kept shooting into the crowd that had gathered outside a supermarket in Tuscon, Ariz.

Americans reacted with shock and horror, which should tell us something about our expectations. In a world rife with political carnage, in a country whose history is laden with ideological bloodshed, it matters greatly that in 21st century America, political violence is rejected wholesale.

Now we have to start rejecting rhetorical violence.

The media personalities and politician listed above may not be guilty, but perhaps we should set our bar a little higher. Are they, to borrow a phrase from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, responsible? And what about the rest of us?

Language sets a tone, creates an atmosphere and points us toward what’s acceptable. In the months leading up to the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Yitzhak Rabin, each man was vilified in the most crass, violent language imaginable, routinely presented as a legitimate target for rage—rage that ultimately robbed the world of great, visionary leaders.

This is why the Jewish tradition has long warned against harmful words. We are told again and again that “lashon hara,” evil speech, hurts not only the target but also the speaker, listener and broader community. Indeed, lashon hara is considered a sin on a par with murder.

But it’s not enough to simply not engage in hateful rhetoric. If we don’t actively oppose its use, if we don’t replace vitriol with respect and consideration, we perpetuate the dangerous cycle, and each step down in our public discourse paves the way to the step below it. The outer edges of acceptable behavior are pushed closer and closer to the margins, and behavior that once was considered beyond the pale finds its way in.

Palin and Beck specialize in demonizing people and organizations who don’t share their views. Is it difficult to listen to them and not be afraid?

“Death panels!” Palin warns.

“Death camps!” Beck exclaims.

Jared Lee Laughner may not have been a devotee of right-wing talk shows, but there are avid listeners and watchers who have resorted to violence. The most horrifying example is Beck-devotee Byron Williams, who last summer loaded up his car with guns and ammunition and drove to San Francisco. Had he not been stopped and arrested by state police after a highway shootout, Williams might have succeeded in, as he said, “kill[ing] people of importance at the ACLU and Tides Foundation.” His choice of the Tides Foundation was clearly inspired by Mr. Beck’s regular attacks on the otherwise largely obscure institution.

Leaders who become victims of smear campaigns are invariably those who have shown courage and resolve, just as Giffords did when faced with scathing opposition to her support of the health care law and comprehensive immigration reform. So, too, we must be courageous, and like Giffords, refuse to bow to the demands of expediency.

We must speak out plainly against extremism and provocation, unafraid to hold our media and our politicians accountable, while presenting real solutions to the very real problems facing millions of Americans. We must recognize the humanity of those with whom we disagree and honor the dignity of all our fellow citizens. Rather than frame our differences in the starkest of terms, we must find a way back toward reasoned debate and honest engagement.

In short, let us demonstrate the same courage, the same resolve as Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. And let us find comfort in the hope that we may yet play a part in healing our nation.

(Simon Greer is the president and CEO of Jewish Funds for Justice.)

Obama calls Giffords’ rabbi

President Obama spoke with the rabbi of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords during a series of calls to friends and families of victims of the weekend shooting in Tucson.

A White House official said Rabbi Stephanie Aaron of Tucson’s Congregation Chaverim was among the Tucson-area officials, victims and families Obama reached Monday in the wake of the Jan. 8 attack that left Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, critically injured and six dead.

Giffords turned to Aaron after a visit to Israel in 2001 ignited an interest in her Judaism, and the two were close. Aaron performed the ceremony when Giffords married Cmdr. Mark Kelly, an astronaut, in 2007.

Tucson Jewish community anguished over Giffords shooting

Following the shooting Saturday that critically injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and left six dead, the Tucson Jewish community has come together to pray for Giffords and the other victims and offer their support.

Giffords, who is Jewish, was among 14 wounded in the shooting rampage in front of a Tucson supermarket Saturday morning. Jared Lee Loughner was arrested for perpetrated the shooting and appeared in a Phoenix courtroom Monday.

Among those killed were U.S. District Judge John M. Roll, 63; Christina-Taylor Green, 9; Giffords constituent services director Gabriel Zimmerman, 30; and Phyllis Schenk, 79; Dorothy Morris, 76; and Dorwan Stoddard, 76. Zimmerman, a native Tucsonan, was widely reported as being Jewish, although he was not.

“It’s shocking something like this would happen in our town,” Rodney Glassman, a former U.S. Democratic Senate candidate, said. “Gabby and I shared a really strong enjoyment of being out with constituents. This hits really close to home.”

At candlelight vigils outside of Giffords’ congressional office, at the hospital in which she is recovering, and at local synagogues and other houses of worship, the community expressed agony over Saturday’s violence.

Congregation Chaverim, where Giffords is a member, held a healing service Sunday morning with more than 150 people attending. Some six Tucson Police Department cars were on the scene, with officers providing security. Chaverim’s Rabbi Stephanie Aaron officiated at the congresswoman’s marriage to Capt. Mark Kelly in 2007.

“Envision Gabby in her fullness with her radiant smile,” Aaron told those at the service on Sunday.

Cantorial soloist Lori Sumberg led the congregation in a song of healing, saying, “When we have no more words we let music take us to a different place.”

Congregants also stood and recited the names of shooting victims or family members in a prayer for healing.

As part of the service, Melanie Nelson of the Pima County Interfaith Council spoke, noting Giffords’ support of the organization.  “We must heal the divisiveness in this country,” she said. “Gabby’s always been a fighter and it’s up to us to continue fighting for a different level of conversation.”

“As Gabby always has, may we listen,” Aaron said at the end of the one-hour service. “May we see each one as a shining human being who has a purpose in the universe. May these prayers reach our Tucson, our country, our world. It’s time to see what we hold together and find our common ground.”

On Saturday evening, Temple Emanu-El held a prayer service led by Rabbis Jason Holtz and Richard Safran and cantorial soloist Marjorie Hochberg. More than 100 people attended.

“We are taught in Jewish tradition that each human being is created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God,” said a statement by Senior Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon, which was read to the congregation because the rabbi was out of town. “Today those images were shattered,” Cohon wrote. “It is up to us to pick up the pieces, and to make of those broken lives some holiness in our damaged community.”

On Sunday morning, after Congregation Chaverim’s healing service, the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona’s Women’s Philanthropy “13 Extraordinary Women Tell Their Secrets” event took place at the University Marriot.

Introducing the event, Jeff Katz, chairman of the JFSA, said, “We come together to grieve, to connect and to share the values that bind us together. Noting that the long-scheduled event was planned as a lighthearted morning, he said, “While it may seem hollow to laugh and celebrate,” celebrating the strength of our community would help move participants forward and heal.

He added that during her first campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2004, Giffords said, “If you want something done, your best bet is to ask a Jewish woman to do it,” and so it was appropriate to celebrate the 13 women “doers” honored at the brunch.

Rabbi Thomas Louchheim of Congregation Or Chadash gave an opening prayer, also referring to Saturday’s shooting. Aaron offered a healing prayer at the close of the event.

The federation issued a statement Monday “joining the greater Tucson area in mourning the loss of life and praying for the speedy recovery of those wounded in the senseless acts of violence.” The statement noted that Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Southern Arizona could provide counseling for individuals and families struggling with the aftermath of Saturday’s rampage.

“Just as Gabby and her congressional staff worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life, this tragic event reawakens our spirit to work harder and embrace our mission to improve the quality of life here, in Israel, and around the world,” said Stuart Mellan, JFSA president and CEO. “Specifically through our Jewish Community Relations Council and other program arms of the Federation, we intend to re-double our efforts to encourage civil discourse in our community leaders and all those active in community life.”

On a personal note, Mellan told the Arizona Jewish Post that his wife, “Nancy, worked for Gabby, adored her and her staff, including Gabe Zimmerman, who was a truly wonderful young man. Nancy told me at that time of the belligerent behavior that emerged during the Tea Party protests outside Gabby’s office, and how that spilled into intimidating behaviors toward the staff regardless of how diligently they attempted to make constituents feel heard. This makes me even more certain that those who think that there is no connection between the vitriol and this act should reconsider.”

The shock of Giffords’ being targeted brought forth remembrances of her first campaign in 2004. Heather Alberts said she hadn’t known Giffords but agreed to hold a Meet and Greet on her patio that spring.

“After hearing her magnificent passion, engaging with her warmth, and recognizing her intellect, I just fell in love with her,” Alberts said.

Arizona Jewish Post Executive Editor Phyllis Braun contributed to this report.