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.”