Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

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

February 1, 2013 10:10 am 8 comments

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.

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.”

8 Comments

  • 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!

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

  • 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.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/339499/ed-koch-rip-fr-gerald-e-murray

    • 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!

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture First English-Language Trailer Debuts for Natalie Portman’s Hebrew Film ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness,’ Based on Amos Oz’s Memoir (VIDEO)

    First English-Language Trailer Debuts for Natalie Portman’s Hebrew Film ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness,’ Based on Amos Oz’s Memoir (VIDEO)

    The first English-language trailer for Natalie Portman’s directorial debut — A Tale of Love and Darkness — based on Israeli author Amos Oz’s memoir, was released on Thursday. The movie, originally filmed in Hebrew, tells the story of Oz’s childhood in Jerusalem at the end of the British Mandate and the early years of Israel’s independence. Portman, who was born in Israel and speaks fluent Hebrew, plays the lead role of Fania, the author’s mother. She struggles to raise her son as she deals with inner demons, a […]

    Read more →
  • Features As Berlin Prices Rise, Israelis Turn East for German Real-Estate Bargains

    As Berlin Prices Rise, Israelis Turn East for German Real-Estate Bargains

    JNS.org – Sonnenallee, a street in Berlin’s Neukölln district, looks like it comes straight out of an Arab city — so much so that it goes by the nickname “Gaza Strip.” Kebab and bakery shops are advertised in Arabic; men sit in men-only coffee shops; and bridal shop windows showcase glittery, not-so-stylish gowns. But take a random turn, and you’ll find a swath of bars, burger joints, and Indian restaurants where hip Berliners announce that they have arrived to urban coolness. […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Slays in ‘Wonder Woman’ Trailer (VIDEO)

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Slays in ‘Wonder Woman’ Trailer (VIDEO)

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot engages in fierce action sequences in the new Wonder Woman trailer, which Warner Bros. premiered during the San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday. The nearly 3-minute trailer, the first to debut for the superhero film, shows scenes of Diana, princess of the Amazons, fighting alongside men in the battle against the world’s toughest enemies. The first shot of the video shows Wonder Woman discovering a man, Steve Trevor (played by actor Chris Pine), washed ashore. The clip then takes viewers to the all-female island where Wonder Woman was born. […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    Is diplomacy worthwhile, even if the end result isn’t what we hoped for? That is the question, among many others, posed by the new play Oslo, by J.T. Rogers. Making its New York debut at Lincoln Center, the play examines the secret diplomatic process that led to the historic 1993 peace accords. The character of Shimon Peres makes an appearance onstage — and he, along with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, tower over the proceedings. But they mainly do so in absentia. Instead, […]

    Read more →
  • Spirituality/Tradition Sports Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    JNS.org – Other than being part of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, Sandy Koufax and Dean Kremer have something else in common: a respect for Jewish tradition. Koufax — who was recently ranked by ESPN as the best left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball (MLB) history — decided not to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because the game fell on Yom Kippur. “I would do the same,” Kremer said in an interview. Last month, the 20-year-old Kremer became […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    The famed lead guitarist of British rock band Queen, Brian May, encouraged Jewish singer-songwriter Adam Lambert to perform in Hebrew during their upcoming joint concert in Israel, an entertainment industry advocacy organization reported on Tuesday. During a recent interview with Israeli television personality Assi Azar, May was played a 2005 video of Lambert singing the popular song Shir L’Shalom, (Song for Peace). May was so impressed by Lambert’s singing of the Hebrew track that he told the American singer, “We have to do that. Let’s […]

    Read more →
  • Sports Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    JNS.org – Kenyan-born marathoner Lonah Chemtai is expected to compete for Israel at the Olympics Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil next month after gaining a last minute approval. “I am very proud [to represent Israel] and I hope to achieve a new personal best time,” Chemtai told Reuters. Chemtai, who grew up a rural village in western Kenya, first came to Israel in 2009 to care of the children of her country’s ambassador to Israel. The 27-year-old runner recently gained […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    To date or not to date? That is not the question for most Modern Orthodox singles in New York. The question is when will they find their future spouses, and when will their families stop nagging them about having babies? Inspired by the success of the Israeli show “Srugim,” Leah Gottfried, 25, decided she would create and star in her own show, “Soon By You.” “Dating is so serious already,” Gottfried said. “We wanted to take a lighter approach and laugh at the […]

    Read more →