Congressman Elijah Cummings' legacy carries on in Israel

“I want to send a message that we cannot as African-Americans progress without coalitions, and our greatest coalition partner has been the Jewish people in America,” cummings told WBALTV 11 in May.

FILE PHOTO: House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) addresses a National Press Club luncheon on his "committee's investigations into President Donald Trump and his administration," in Washington, U.S., August 7, 2019 (photo credit: REUTERS/MARY F. CALVERT/FILE PHOTO)
FILE PHOTO: House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) addresses a National Press Club luncheon on his "committee's investigations into President Donald Trump and his administration," in Washington, U.S., August 7, 2019
(photo credit: REUTERS/MARY F. CALVERT/FILE PHOTO)
The death of Congressman Elijah Cummings, the Democratic chairman of the US House Oversight and Reform Committee and representative for Maryland's Seventh congressional District, on Thursday was met with an outpouring of condolences from the Jewish community over the weekend.
Cummings was first elected to Congress in 1996 and became chair of the committee in January 2019. The committee, along with two other committees, is conducting an inquiry into what may lead to the impeachment of US President Donald Trump.
“We are devastated by the passing of Congressman Elijah Cummings, known to many as ‘the conscience of the House’ and chairman of the House Oversight Committee,” Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) Vice Chair and Maryland board member Barbara Goldberg Goldman said in a statement.
“Cummings was uncompromising in his commitment to the values that truly define what makes America great, including equality and justice for all. Congressman Cummings’s remarkable legacy serves as an inspiration to all who aspire to lead with their values, and the Jewish community is incredibly grateful to Rep. Cummings for his persistent leadership, partnership and support.”
Spokesperson for the Embassy of Israel to the United States, Elad Strohmayer, tweeted his condolences, calling Cummings “a true community leader.”

The Elijah Cummings Youth Program in Israel (ECYP), a program which Cummings created, celebrated its 20th anniversary this year and has sent more than 200 African-American, non-Jewish high school students to Israel.
“Through this experience, our fellows – who come from diverse backgrounds – learn from one another about tolerance and gain appreciation of different cultures,” Cummings said in a statement to The Baltimore Sun in 2017.
“This cross-cultural immersion helps to foster lifelong bonds and create fertile ground for peace.”
ECYP is a two-year program, which starts with bimonthly meetings where fellows discuss topics such as African-American and Jewish relations and Holocaust remembrance.
After their first year, the fellows travel to Israel and stay in the Yemin Orde youth village in Haifa for one month during their summer vacation.
“Fellows are paired with Israeli teens with ancestry from more than 20 countries – including Brazil, Ethiopia, Germany and Russia,” ECYP’s website said. “Together, the American and Israeli teens tour modern and historic sites in Israel, such as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Nazareth, the Jordan River and the Dead Sea.”
After their trip to Israel, fellows spend their second year improving and practicing their leadership skills while speaking to community groups, such as the DuBois Circle, the Congressional Black Caucus, 100 Black Men of America, Inc., the Hispanic Youth Institute Diversity Day, and the Jewish Teen Leadership Council, as well as at synagogues and churches.
The fellows are also tasked with mentoring middle school students during this time. “At the end of a fellow’s second year in the program, they will be able to facilitate conversations among their peer groups on racism, antisemitism, diversity and social justice,” ECYP wrote on its website.

ECYP has strong ties with the Baltimore Jewish Council, which is an agency of The Associated, the Jewish Federation of Baltimore, which was part of Cummings’s district.
Several former participants have spoken out in support of Cummings and his program, some even saying that he kept in touch with them for years after the program ended.

Reuters contributed to this report.