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January 30, 2012 11:02 am

Mayor Michael Bloomberg Presides Over Naming of Ed Koch Center (PHOTOS)

avatar by Maxine Dovere

Two nice Jewish boys - The Mayors of New York, Edward I. Koch and Michael R. Bloomberg. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

Oh what a night!

Mayor Michael Bloomberg presented (former) Mayor Edward I. Koch to an admiring crowd gathered in New York City January 25 to honor Mr. Koch and celebrate the naming of the Center for Public Policy and Jewish Ethics at Beit Morasha, Jerusalem, in his honor. In the packed hall, both were enveloped in the warmth and admiration of the supporters of the Institute which “fosters a vibrant inclusive vision of Judaism.”

“He’s become a major hit on U Tube” proclaimed the younger Mayor – now in his seventh decade – about his colleague, the older Mayor – self -declared at 88 years old. Bloomberg continued, saying the honor received by Koch bespeaks the iconic mayor’s “legendary devotion to the State of Israel,” saying Koch “always stands by and stands up for the best friend the United States has in the Middle East.”  “In the case of Ed Koch,” concluded Bloomberg, “honors have the added advantage of being true.”

Described as “a force in the understanding of Jewish pluralism,” Beit Morasha is entering its third decade dedicated to “creating a committed, intellectual leadership empowered to inform, inspire, and enhance Jewish and Zionist identity,” a “champion of a vibrant and inclusive vision of Judaism.” Its program is designed to enhance the understanding of Judaism and the Jewish “core” of the State of Israel, providing Israel’s young leadership with the understanding that “being a Jew means being able to depend on other Jews, caring for one another, being there for one another.”

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Following greetings on video from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Yaalon took the podium to praise Beit Morasha’s program for the IDF, saying it is “intended to raise the morale of the commanders through knowledge of their Jewish heritage and history… a response to the challenges facing the Jewish people and Jewish identity.” The former general noted its work in several areas, including the Koch Center for Public Policy and Jewish Ethics and the College’s conversion classes, “a bridge building experience,” of essential need to the more than 300,000 Israelis from the former Soviet Union who, according to halacha (Jewish law) are not Jewish and must complete a formal conversion.  Beit Morasha, said the former IDF General, enhances “our confidence for the benefit of the national security of the State of Israel.”

Beit Morasha was founded by Professor Benjamin Ish Shalom, whose vision of “a post denominational Jewish world” guides the school’s program. Its college is named for Robert M. Beren, a noted supporter of Jewish education in Israel and the United States. His “extraordinary contribution to the community, his position as a person of devotion to his family a wise counselor of highest ethical and moral principles” was noted as was his commitment “to outreach inclusion and pluralism.”

DPM Yaalon noted that Beit Morasha “the best educational institute to meet the challenge of strengthening the confidence in Zionism and way of Jewish life and Jewish values.”  He noted that the College is “the first to honor Koch for his support of Israel.” He thanked the former Mayor for his “leadership and work for the Jewish State.  Saying he was “here to salute Koch for passionate commitments” Yaalon calling him “fiercely proud of his Jewish faith.” The Center was cited as a “fulfillment of Mayor Koch’s vision in the world” and commemorated with an official Proclamation of Gratitude given “in the name of the Government of Israel.”

Arriving at the podium with a little help from his friends, the former Mayor noted that he was “in his 88th year,” and proceeded to detail “what it is that motivates me.”

“I love America and the City of New York,” he began we should kiss the ground that we walk on – it’s the golden age of the Jewish people in America. Koch said he “believes Zionism should be described by support of the Jewish nation, by Jews and Christians. I am an American and love this country.  I also love the State of Israel.  We are asked by our tradition never to forget from whence we come…There is always a Jewish community somewhere in the world that is in need of a sanctuary.”  He emphasized that threats were not only against Jews but also of “Christians facing an extraordinary change because of Islamic terrorists,” citing the current dangers faced by the Christian communities in Egypt and Iraq.

Koch, who served under General Patton in the United States Army, recalled that “when Hitler offered to allow the Jews of Germany to leave, no country was willing to take them, even the United States. “I know if Israel had existed it would have taken every Jew; that is why I stand up whenever, where ever, in support of this beleaguered nation deserted by so many. It is a miracle. The fact that Israel exists as it does is proof of God.”

Noting the minute worldwide Jewish population (approximately 13 million), Koch asserted “we need allies! “He noted that the Catholic Church, since the time of Pope John 23 and John Paul II, “now want to be great allies” and we “must reach out in friendship “and “expand and intensify that bond.”

Rabbi Arthur and Mrs. Elizabeth Schneier greet the evening's honoree, Edward I. Koch. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

Amy Beren Bressman, daughter of College namesake Robert M. Beren, with Professor Benjamin Ish-Shalom, Founder of Beit Morasha. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

Former Mayor Ed Koch with Deputy Prime Minister of Israel Moshe Yaalon. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

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