David Guttenberg: Becoming a Zionist

"I absolutely never considered myself a Zionist. I kind of do now. Because of the antisemitism and attacks on Israel."
By | Apr 16, 2024
JPVP 2024
David Guttenberg

This interview is part of Moment’s Jewish Political Voices Project. To learn more about the project, click here. To see our other participants, click here. To see all posts from David, click here.

Age: 72
Occupation: Retired construction worker, state legislator. Now active in local government

Location: Great Falls, MT
Party Registration: Democratic
Jewish Denomination: Reform
2020 Vote: Joe Biden
Current 2024 Vote: Joe Biden
Family: Widower
News Sources: The Fairbanks Daily News Miner, The Anchorage Daily News, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Apple News, Heather Cox Richardson, Letters from an American, various social media outlets

How has the October 7 terror attack affected your politics?

It was horrific and a blatant violation of all norms and morals. And I am distinctly disturbed by the reaction from the left and the media, who don’t understand the situation at all. I don’t know where they get their news, whether it’s TikTok, but they’re blaming Israel for everything. The media has also simply forgotten that there are hostages who have been in captivity for months. It’s disconcerting.

I absolutely never considered myself a Zionist. I kind of do now. Because of the antisemitism and attacks on Israel. Israel was always there. It was always a safe place. I have family there, and if Israel’s gone, there’s no place left in the world where we’re safe, except maybe here.

Are you concerned about the future of American democracy?

Only one side is not willing to accept the results of our elections. I’ve worked as a volunteer in elections, watching them count ballots and late ballots coming in—the whole process. And every time I get with a Republican or a conservative who really wants to deal with this issue, they have no experience or understanding of what they’re talking about. 

What issues are important to people in Fairbanks?

The survival of this nation as a democracy. I served in the state legislature for 16 years, and I worked as a legislative staffer for four. Before that I watched people from the far right beating mainstream Republicans for office, because Republicans would win closed primaries by a few votes by yelling at the incumbent for working with Democrats or talking to Democrats. We’re on television all the time. And people would call up the Republican that I would be sitting next to sharing candy with during committee meetings and chatting, and they would scream at her for talking to Democrats and then she lost a close primary. They have constantly replaced conservative Republicans, rational conservative Republicans, with irrational, far-right people. 

Has your Judaism influenced your political views?

More than I ever thought. I value education, which I don’t have a lot of. I don’t have a college degree, but still I have an education through the trades. Learning things, how to step forward, how to do things are key to Judaism.

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