One year later, Jewish organizations reflect on Elijah Cummings’ death

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) in June, 2019
U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) in June, 2019 (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images).

The Elijah Cummings Youth Program in Israel is preparing a virtual tribute to the late Baltimore Congressman Elijah Cummings. Organized with the backing of groups that include The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore and the Philip and Harriet Klein Foundation and scheduled for Oct. 14, the tribute will take place three days before the anniversary of his passing.

The evening will focus on the congressman’s work on behalf of ECYP, a two-year leadership program for students who live or go to school in Maryland’s 7th Congressional District, and which involves a three-and-a-half week trip to Israel in order to “cultivate relationships between the Black and Jewish experience in Baltimore,” said ECYP Director Kathleen St. Villier Hill.

Speakers for the event include the Congressman’s wife, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings; Sen. Ben Cardin; and Rep. Kweisi Mfume.

“Congressman Elijah Cummings was a good friend of The Associated and the Jewish community,” Associated President Marc B. Terrill said in an email. “It is hard to believe a year has passed since he died. We miss his partnership, unwavering commitment and leadership that is much needed in this world.”

Howard Libit, the executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, expressed that there was “such a big hole, in our community and our nation, over his loss.”

While Libit was grateful that Mfume had stepped up to advocate for Baltimore and serve as the honorary chairman of ECYP, he stated that Cummings’ loss continued to be felt by many, as the congressman was “such a powerful figure in working with communities, and being present, and being engaged with the youth of the city and the community and being a role model.”

Libit said the virtual tribute would give Cummings’ family, community leaders and young people who were impacted by the congressman the opportunity to express how much he meant to them.

St. Villier Hill remembered Cummings as being deeply involved in ECYP, from participating in student interviews to bringing St. Villier Hill herself on board the organization.

“He cared about every single young person,” St. Villier Hill said. “He would always say that, as much as he was touching their life, they were touching his. He just believed greatly in lifting them up and ensuring that he could be part of their journey as they found opportunities.”

St. Villier Hill remembered Cummings as a great storyteller, and particularly recalled Cummings’ story of his relationship with the Jewish pharmacist who helped him go to Howard University. St. Villier Hill stated that the Congressman recounted this story many times, “to pinpoint that building a relationship with someone different than you can have a deep impact on your life,” she said. She also noted that the pharmacist’s grandson, Andrew Dansicker, currently sits on ECYP’s board of directors.

Libit said that he would imagine that Cummings “would be thrilled to have seen the number of young people, and people of all ages, who have engaged on the issues of racial equality. I can’t help but think about that hearing he held where he [emphatically said] ‘We’re better than this.’”

On a related note, Cummings’ autobiography “We’re Better Than This: My Fight for the Future of Our Democracy,” was released to the public in late September.


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