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“I believe the recent vote in the 9th Congressional District in New York affected in a positive way the policy of the U.S. on the Mideast,” Koch wrote supporters in an email.
Last year, Koch enthusiastically endorsed Obama in a long video released just before the election – an appearance Jewish Democrats credit with helping boost Obama’s Jewish numbers in Florida, a critical swing state.
Yet in recent weeks Koch turned on Obama again, making no secret of his disappointment in Obama’s choice of Chuck Hagel, a former Republican senator with a fraught relationship with the pro-Israel community, for secretary of defense.
“Frankly, I thought that there would come a time when he would renege on what he conveyed on his support of Israel,” Koch said of Obama in a Jan. 7 interview with the Algemeiner, a Jewish publication. “It comes a little earlier than I thought it would.”
Rabbi Joe Potasnik, the executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis, said Koch told him his hero was Harry Truman, another Democratic Party leader unafraid of defying his base. “He admired independence,” Potasnik recalled in an interview Friday.
Koch, who never married, held twin passions he guarded ferociously: the Jewish people and New York.
After the stone-throwing incident in 1990, Koch took the stone and blood-stained handkerchief to a frame shop, but the shop lost the stone and substituted a fake – which Koch immediately spotted. He was placated only by a letter from Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who praised him as “the first eminent American to be stoned in the Old City.” Instead of the stone, Koch framed Shamir’s letter along with a photo of his wound.
Koch’s tombstone is engraved with his name, his years as mayor, the Shema prayer, and the final words of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter murdered in Pakistan on Feb. 1, 2002, the same date Koch died: “My father is Jewish. My mother is Jewish. I am Jewish.”
His chosen burial place is a non-denominational churchyard at the corner of 155th Street and Amsterdam – selected because he could not imagine spending eternity outside Manhattan.