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February 1, 2013 10:10 am

Ed Koch (Yiedel Itzak), Proud Jewish Mayor of New York, Dies

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Former Mayor Ed Koch. Photo: Ruvi Leider.

Ed Koch, the brash former three-term mayor of New York City who made no secret of his love for Israel and his Jewish faith, has died. He was 88.

Koch passed away at 2 a.m., spokesman George Arzt said. The funeral will be held Monday at Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan.

Koch was never shy about discussing his Jewish faith, making no secret of his close connection to the religion and culture. He was beloved by New York’s Jewish community for his outspokenness on the matter and for his willingness to be a public advocate for Jewish causes.

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Koch wrote often for The Algemeiner,  especially about matters concerning Israel, a country close to his heart, which he supported unequivocally. But his writings weren’t limited to the Jewish state. He also wrote extensively, and frankly, on a wide range of subjects, and was always forthcoming in interviews about even the most personal details concerning his Jewish identity, once disclosing to The Algemeiner his Hebrew name, “Yiedel Itzak.”

Koch’s strong support for Israel wasn’t just a matter of personal faith, but was also based on a recognition of its necessity. “I have also long been cognizant of the fact that every night when I went to sleep in safety, there were Jewish communities around the world in danger. And there was one country, Israel, that would give them sanctuary and would send its soldiers to deliver them from evil, as it did at Entebbe in 1976,” he once wrote in the Jerusalem Post.

Mr. Koch was never reserved in his pronouncements and most recently made waves with his opposition to Chuck Hagel’s possible appointment as secretary of defense.

“It’s not good,” he told The Algemeiner, “but fortunately, Congress, overwhelmingly both Democratic and Republican supports the Jewish state, so I’m sure they will defend it against the defense department when it ruptures the current good relationship which exists.”

As mayor of New York Koch will perhaps be best remembered for steering the city away from bankruptcy and for a five year plan to solve the city’s perpetual housing crunch, launched in 1985, meant to revive its most dilapidated neighborhoods. The plan would become a “ten year plan” and cost $5.1 billion – but it was effective.

Koch leaves no children. He never married, and determinedly left his sexual preference ambiguous.

Koch was well known for the fact that he had already made his tombstone,  a memorial whose centerpiece contained a quote from slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who died on the same day as Koch eleven years ago. It also contained other references to his cultural and religious background, though it wasn’t exactly necessary if the intent was to make his spirituality public, since as he wrote in the Algemiener not too long ago:

“Almost everyone who lives in New York City knows that I am Jewish.  Most know that I am a secular Jew who believes in God, the afterlife, reward and punishment, and that I hope to be rewarded.”

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  • D Sabghir

    I wrote Mayor Koch after his article on Hagel. I mentioned that after looking at one of Hagel’s books, it seemed that he was not anti-Israel… Mayor Koch immediately wrote me that I was mistaken, that there was no question from his record of his anti-Israel bias, which I since came to better appreciate.

    I had another encounter with him when he was Mayor and I was an administrative law judge. In looking back, I can see that just below the surface there was a proud Jew!

    Kol HaKavod!

  • Hilda

    My heart cries because he has left no one to say Kaddish for him.

    • Gavin

      Ask your husband or father to say Kaddish for him if it means so much to to you!

  • Alex S.

    As someone who is also on the Left, a proud Israeli, and a loyal son of the Jewish people…y’he zichro baruch
    יהא זכרו ברוך

  • Despite the fact that Koch was a good Jew, he regularly attended Midnight Masss at St. patrick’s Cathedral.

    • Gavin

      Why bring this up after his death, is it going to make people think better of him?

    • Mattes Weingast

      As all Mayors should. He was there representing the people of NYC 8 million strong of all backgrounds and faiths. He didn’t accept communion, he didn’t worship there. He is famously known to have said, “I am a Jew in the front pew.”

  • Mark S. Devenow Esq.

    Ed can now ask Hashem how he’s doing and meet with final approval!