32,000 Jews live in Baltimore district, Trump: 'No human' wants to

Elijah Cummings, bashed by Trump, helps sponsor month-long summer program in Israel for black students

American and Israeli youth take part in the Elijah Cummings Youth Program in Israel (photo credit: Courtesy)
American and Israeli youth take part in the Elijah Cummings Youth Program in Israel
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Elijah Cummings, the African-American Baltimore congressman who found himself on the receiving end of a Twitter thrashing from US President Donald Trump, has a LARGE number of Jewish residents in his district, is close with the local Jewish community, and for the last two decades has helped sponsor a trip to Israel for black students from his district.
In 2014, Maryland’s 7th district, where Trump said “no human would want to live,” housed some 32,000 Jews, 4.46% of the population in the district. According to data in the Jewish Federations of North America’s Berman Jewish Data Bank, this district would rank in the top 65 of America’s 435 congressional districts with the largest Jewish population.
The chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Cummings has been sharply critical of Trump’s immigration policies. Earlier this month he slammed acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan during a Congressional hearing over border conditions along the Mexican frontier, and his committee has launched a number of investigations of the Trump White House.
On Saturday, Trump hit back.
“Rep. Elijah Cummings has been a brutal bully, shouting and screaming at the great men & women of Border Patrol about conditions at the Southern Border, when actually his Baltimore district is FAR WORSE and more dangerous,” Trump tweeted. “His district is considered the Worst in the USA.”
Cumming’s district, Trump said, “is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess. If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous & filthy place.” The president said that Cummings’ district, WHICH INCLUDES western Baltimore, “is considered the worst run and most dangerous anywhere in the United States. No human being would want to live there. Where is all this money going? How much is stolen? Investigate this corrupt mess immediately.”
For the last two decades, Cummings has partnered with the Baltimore Jewish Council in backing the Elijah Cummings Youth Program in Israel (ECYP), a two-year leadership fellowship that aspires to build leadership and bridges between the African-American and Jewish communities.
Some 200 students have participated in the program, with its centerpiece being a month spent in Israel. The students live at the Yemin Orde Youth Village south of Haifa and are paired, as its promotional literature says, “with displaced teens from over 24 countries, including Ethiopia, Israel, South America, Europe and the former states of the Soviet Union.”
Among its most well-known alumni is CNN’s New Day Weekend co-host Victor Blackwell, who delivered an emotional retort to Trump on Saturday.
“The president says about Congressman Cummings’ district that no human would want to live there,” he said. “You know who did, Mr. President? I did – from the day I was brought home from the hospital, to the day I left for college. And a lot of people I care about still do.”
Appearing to fight back tears, Blackwell continued: “There are challenges, no doubt. But people are proud of their community. I don’t want to sound self-righteous, but people get up and go to work there, they care for their families there, they love their children who pledge allegiance to the flag just like people who live in districts of congressmen who support you, sir. They are Americans, too.”
Blackwell, who was in the ECYP’s first class and was the MC of a fund-raiser for the program two years ago, said that this program “made me a better man, made me a better journalist, and it gave me some of the most formative experiences and longest friendships of my life.”
According to the ECYP web page, “The Israeli and American students tour historic sites in Israel, such as Jerusalem, the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. While in Israel, these young ambassadors attend workshops on diversity, Israeli culture, group dynamics and leadership. The Israel experience allows ECYP students the opportunity to gain independence, develop a respect and appreciation for other cultures, and reflect on their self-worth and character.”
Howard Libit, executive-director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, said that the program has sent a dozen students to Israel each summer for the last two decades to “promote better African American-Jewish relations.”
After returning from 3½ weeks in Israel, including a Shabbat spent in Ashkelon – Baltimore’s twin city – the students return and speak in churches, schools and organizations in the community about their experience in Israel, he said. Cummings, Libit said, is fully involved in the program, participates in all the candidate interviews, regularly attends events and board meetings, and donates speaking honorariums to the project.
Cummings, he said, is “very supportive of Israel.” He was among the 398 representatives who voted last week in favor of an anti-BDS bill, and recently joined other members of the Maryland congressional delegation in writing a letter to student leaders at the University of Maryland who were considering a BDS motion. “He is helping raise money to send students to Israel to get them to experience it first hand, and that is a major commitment,” Libit said.
Libit has known Cummings for several years in a variety of roles. “He is a person who is so committed to bettering Baltimore, and so committed to bringing communities together and being a champion for all of us,” he said. “I can’t imagine that anyone would question his commitment or his effectiveness.”