WASHINGTON (JTA) — 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.).