U.S. Jews Mourn Death of 'Champion of Stronger Black-Jewish Relations' Elijah Cummings

The Maryland congressman, who died Thursday at the age of 68, is hailed for work as an advocate for civil rights and closer Black-Jewish relations

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Cong. Elijah Cummings
U.S. Congressman Elijah Cummings, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, presiding over a committee session on June 12, 2019. Cummings died on Oct. 17, 2019.Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon

WASHINGTON – Prominent Jewish and pro-Israeli organizations in the United States mourned the passing of Congressman Elijah Cummings, who died on Thursday.

Cummings, a veteran Democrat from Maryland, represented a district that included a significant portion of the Baltimore Jewish community. He was an ally of the community and worked to strengthen ties between the Jewish and the African-American community. 

The pro-Israel lobby AIPAC called Cummings "a strong advocate of the U.S.-Israel relationship" and made mention of an initiative begun by Cummings two decades ago, the Elijah Cummings Youth Program, which has brought hundreds of African-American teenagers from Baltimore to visit Israel. 

In mourning Cummings' death, Israel's ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, noted the youth program and described the congressman as someone who "for many years worked to strengthen ties between the African-American community and Israel."

American Friends of Peace Now noted his work to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace. The American Jewish Committee called the congressman "a powerful advocate for justice and civil rights and a champion of stronger Black-Jewish relations." Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, tweeted that he was "devastated" by Cummings' passing and called him "a champion of civil rights and justice for all."

Cummings died  at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore due to complications from longstanding health challenges, his office said. He was 68.

A sharecropper's son, Cummings became the powerful chairman of a U.S. House committee that investigated President Donald Trump, and was a formidable orator who passionately advocated for the poor in his district, which encompassed a large portion of Baltimore. Cummings’ district is home to more than 30,000 Jews.

As chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Cummings led multiple investigations into Trump's governmental dealings. The investigations angered the president, who in July dubbed the congressman's district a "rodent-infested mess" where "no human being would want to live."

Cummings responded that government officials should stop making "hateful, incendiary comments" that only serve to divide and distract the nation from its real problems.

Howard Libit, the executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, declined to comment at the time on Trump's remarks, due to the nonpartisan nature of his organization, but he told Haaretz that the community “has been able to count on Rep. Cummings time and again for assistance and leadership.” 

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.