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...

  • Blogs Features Israel and the Apartheid Narrative: 2 South African Student Leaders Weigh In

    Israel and the Apartheid Narrative: 2 South African Student Leaders Weigh In

    JNS.org – About two-dozen people file into Dodd 175 at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) campus on a Thursday night, scouting out seats and picking at the kosher pizza in the back of the lecture hall. Miyelani Pinini knows the drill. A former student president of the University of Cape Town in South Africa, she’s attended and even organized her share of free-pizza events. But now she and a fellow South African student leader were the stars of this […]

    Read more →
  • Food Spirituality/Tradition The Brewish State: Israel Taps Into Growing Craft Beer Bazaar

    The Brewish State: Israel Taps Into Growing Craft Beer Bazaar

    JNS.org – It’s widely known that Israel has penetrated the wine market, with some of its sophisticated Israeli blends surpassing historically excellent wines from areas such as the Napa Valley or Bordeaux. But what about beer? For decades, Israel has offered solely the Maccabi and Nesher brands. Not anymore. “There is a huge push of people making beer at home. The country is approaching over 30 craft breweries in the last year or two, making nearly 200 beers,” says Avi Moskowitz, […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Natalie Portman Says She Behaved Like ‘Average Everyday Jewish Mother’ on Set of Latest Movie

    Natalie Portman Says She Behaved Like ‘Average Everyday Jewish Mother’ on Set of Latest Movie

    Actress Natalie Portman acted like a typical “Jewish mother” on the set of her latest movie, Jane Got a Gun, the Israeli-born star told the New York Post‘s Page Six on Sunday. The 34-year-old, who also co-produced the western, said she made it her job to look out for everyone involved in the project, because the film has had to overcome “so many obstacles,” such as losing its director early on. She explained: “Actors changed. We suffered financial and legal challenges. We endured so many replacements. There were delays. […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Music Scorpions Lead Singer Sends Message to Israel Ahead of World Tour, Tel Aviv Performance (VIDEO)

    Scorpions Lead Singer Sends Message to Israel Ahead of World Tour, Tel Aviv Performance (VIDEO)

    “We’re looking very much forward to coming back to Israel this summer,” said the lead singer of the German rock band Scorpions in a video on Monday. “Make sure you don’t miss it because we rock you like a hurricane!” said a jovial Klaus Meine, quoting the band’s seminal 1984 anthem, “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” The hard rock band lands in Israel for a show at the Menorah Mivtachim Arena on July 14 as part of its 50th anniversary tour. It will be the band’s third time […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews The Collected Works of Primo Levi, Edited by Ann Goldstein (REVIEW)

    The Collected Works of Primo Levi, Edited by Ann Goldstein (REVIEW)

    Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel were the two most immediate and authentic literary voices who gave witness to the Holocaust. Wiesel was an extrovert and a very public figure who wrote initially in French. Levi was a modest retiring chemist who wrote in Italian. Whereas Wiesel was rooted in the Eastern European Jewish Hassidic world, Levi was the product of an assimilated, secular Italian society that saw itself as Italian first and Jewish as an accident of birth. As Levi himself said, “At Auschwitz I […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Lifestyle Wine Brings Judea and Samaria to Tel Aviv

    Wine Brings Judea and Samaria to Tel Aviv

    JNS.org – Wine has long been considered a social lubricant, and it’s Nir Lavie’s hope that wine from his Har Bracha Winery in the Samarian hills will serve as a social lubricant between the city-goers of Tel Aviv and the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria, two locales split geographically, and often politically, on the left and right of the country. The new flagship store of Har Bracha has recently popped its corks on 190 Ben Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv, […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Gentile Actor Zachary Levi Says He’s Denied Roles for Being ‘Too Jewish’

    Gentile Actor Zachary Levi Says He’s Denied Roles for Being ‘Too Jewish’

    Actor Zachary Levi said casting directors have denied him roles for being “too Jewish,” despite the fact that he is not a Jew, the New York Daily News‘ Confidenti@l reported on Wednesday. “I guess they were looking for more of a corn-fed, white boy look,” he said. “My family is from f****** Indiana! Come on, I’m like dying here!” The Thor star clarified that he is Welsh, and that Levi is actually his middle name, while his real last name is Pugh. He said he […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Spirituality/Tradition Tracing Chabad’s History and Success (REVIEW)

    Tracing Chabad’s History and Success (REVIEW)

    The secret of Chabad’s worldwide success is revealed by veteran Chabad shliach (emissary) Rabbi David Eliezrie in his new book, The Secret of Chabad. The Chabad movement was founded by Rabbi Schnur Zalman of Liadi, Belarus, in 1775. Years later it came to the US with the arrival of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn in 1940, after his escape from Nazi-occupied Warsaw. Upon his arrival in New York, a number of his co-religionists advised him that there was no place for traditional […]

    Read more →