Dear Commons Community,
The New York Times has an article today on the funeral services for former mayor Ed Koch. It particularly examines his Jewishness and how he lived it on his own terms. Here is an excerpt:
“As with everything else in his life, Mr. Koch did being Jewish on his own terms. He was a fierce defender of Israel and extremely proud of his Jewish heritage, often speaking about the many Nobel Prizes and other accolades fellow Jews had earned. He felt strongly that he had a Jewish soul. But he did not keep kosher, and was not traditionally religious.
His funeral, at 11 a.m. Monday, will be at Temple Emanu-El, At 1 East 65th Street on the Upper East Side. Mr. Koch chose the Reform congregation for his funeral in part because an Orthodox rabbi would not officiate at the ensuing burial in a non-Jewish cemetery, and in part because of Emanu-El’s large capacity — it holds 2,500 people, and Mr. Koch wanted a full house. The funeral will feature three flags, for the United States, New York City and Israel. Ido Aharoni, Israel’s consul general in New York, will be among the speakers. So will Bill Clinton.
On Tuesday, mourners, led by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, will sit shiva for Mr. Koch at Gracie Mansion. Mr. Koch sat shiva there for his own father while he was mayor, Rabbi Schneier said.
“He is the quintessential New York Jew,” said Rabbi David M. Posner, Temple Emanu-El’s senior rabbi, who will preside at the funeral. “Strong and passionate, just like everything else about him. He’s not necessarily Orthodox, but he certainly is observant in his own way.”
Mr. Koch, in a 2007 video interview with The New York Times, which was not published until after his death, repeatedly made it clear how central his Judaism was to his identity.
“I’m just this little Jewish kid from the Bronx!” Mr. Koch said. And then, asked how he wanted to be remembered, Mr. Koch said, “I want to be remembered as being a proud Jew, who loved the people of the City of New York, and did his best to make their lives better.”
Among the phrases he chose for his headstone were the chilling last words of the slain journalist Daniel Pearl: “My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish.”
My prayers to Mayor Koch soul and for his grieving family. May he rest in peace.