WASHINGTON (JTA) — Rep. David Cicilline, the Jewish Rhode Island Democrat and influential pro-Israel progressive, is leaving Congress.
Cicilline said Tuesday he will exit Congress in June to head the Rhode Island Foundation, the biggest funder of nonprofits in the Ocean State. The foundation is massively influential in the state and leading it could offer Cicilline, 61, a pathway into statewide office.
Cicilline is a member of the Democrats’ Progressive Caucus. He and several other progressive Democrats belie the conventional wisdom that the traditional pro-Israel community is losing the party’s left. Other caucus members with traditional pro-Israel views include Frank Pallone of New Jersey, Brad Sherman of California and Ritchie Torres of New York.
He aligns with mainstream pro-Israel positions in a number of areas, including in his criticism of the United Nations for singling out Israel. Cicilline is gay, and recently, he expressed concerns about anti-LGBTQ prejudice among members of Israel’s new governing coalition. Cicilline was Providence’s first ever LGBTQ-identifying mayor.
He won the top Democratic spot on the influential Middle East subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee last year — a choice pro-Israel insiders were happy with, even though he wasn’t their preferred candidate. He received support from the political action committees affiliated with both major Israel lobbies — the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and J Street.
Cicilline also attracted attention as one of the managers of former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, which focused on Trump’s role in helping to spur the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Rhode Island’s other congressional representative, Democrat Seth Magaziner, also identifies as Jewish.