From Jerusalem's Hebrew U and city council to running for Congress
Guido Weiss was a student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who would occasionally visit Mahane Yehuda market. Now, he is running for Congress on a pro-Israel platform.
WASHINGTON – Just five years ago, Guido Weiss was a student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who would occasionally eat at Pasta Basta and drink at the Casino De Paris, a trendy hipster bar at the heart of the Mahane Yehuda market. Now, he is running for Congress on a pro-Israel platform, and he is probably the only candidate to run a campaign ad featuring himself speaking in Hebrew.
Weiss was born and raised in Palm Beach County, Florida and is now challenging the incumbent Lois Frenkel in a long-shot Democratic primary bid. “She has $1.2 million in her campaign account, and we have much less. But I think we are going to give her a run for her money,” he told The Jerusalem Post.
He arrived in Israel on a Birthright trip in 2008. “I knew nothing about Israel. When I got back, I decided to learn Hebrew and Arabic and chose to work in Hasbara(pro-Israel public diplomacy),” he remembers.
Since then, he visited Israel many times and lived in the country from 2012 until the end of 2014. During this time he graduated from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem with a Masters’ Degree in Middle Eastern studies, and learned Hebrew and Arabic, but also got his first chance in politics.
It was in 2013 when he worked as a deputy campaign manager for Naomi Tsur, Israeli environmentalist, politician and former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, who ran for the city council. “It didn’t work, but being a foreigner working 16 hours a day in an Israeli election teaches you what campaigning is,” Weiss noted. During his time in Israel, he also worked at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs under Ambassador Dore Gold.
After returning to the US, he immediately enlisted in the Navy, where he currently serves in the reserves. “Israel exposed me to national service, and as soon as I got home, I joined the Navy,” he says.
His first job in the US was as a staffer for Brad Sherman, the second highest-ranking Democrat at the White House Foreign Affairs Committee. “I was fortunate to get a fellowship that turned into a job for over a year,” he says. “He is a very pro-Israel Democrat and focuses on Hezbollah and Hamas policy. I found myself as a young staffer [for Congressman Sherman] sitting in a meeting with Yair Lapid and with Avigdor Liberman. It was an experience of a lifetime.”
Later, he worked for another high-profile Democrat, Tulsi Gabbard, for two years. “I did a lot of work on the Arms Services Committee and learned about the Pacific national security world.”
After three years on the Hill, he decided to run for Congress with a progressive agenda that emphasizes fighting antisemitism. He promises that if elected, he would push for an increase in federal resources to protect synagogues and other religious institutions across the country.
When asked why he decided to run campaign ads in which he speaks in Hebrew, Weiss said.
“The Israeli community is large and growing. In Aventura, you can go to a kosher supermarket and hear more Hebrew than English. So, I want them to know that I understand many of the things concerning them. I want to offer credibility when it comes to Israel. I want to be able to testify in front of a committee and talk about the Iron Dome out of my own experience.”
Weiss also touched on the fact that the sizeable progressive faction in the Democratic Party often express vocal criticism of Israel, stressing that “My fellow progressives sometimes forget that Israel is the most progressive country in the region, from Morocco and Iran and from Turkey to Yemen. In the progressive camp, you need more people like me, who support $15 minimum wage, universal healthcare and Israel at the same time.”