Ed Koch, Quintessential Jew and Brash New York Mayor, Laid To Rest in Style

Hizzoner's Casket Carried to Strains of 'New York, New York'

You Did Fine: Ed Koch’s casket is carried out of Manhattan’s Temple Emanu-El after the former mayor’s funeral.
getty images
You Did Fine: Ed Koch’s casket is carried out of Manhattan’s Temple Emanu-El after the former mayor’s funeral.

By Reuters

Published February 04, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch was memorialized on Monday as an in-your-face, wisecracking leader who helped transform the city from a symbol of urban decay to the vital, glittering metropolis it is today.

As Koch’s casket was led out of Temple Emanu-El, a soaring Fifth Ave. synagogue opposite Central Park, an organ played Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” while mourners including former U.S. President Bill Clinton and a who’s who of New York politics stood and applauded.

Koch died on Friday at the age of 88 in Manhattan – the only place other than heaven he could imagine living, as he was known to say.

“I come today with the love and condolences of 8.4 million New Yorkers who really are grieving with you at this moment,” said the city’s current mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

Speakers joked about the famously attention-loving Koch’s obsession with stage-managing his passing. His grave-stone, complete with an epitaph and a bench bearing Koch’s name, has been ready since 2008, and his friends said he had been planning the funeral for years.

“We started talking about his death in the ’80s,” said his former chief of staff Diane Coffey.

As mayor from 1978 to 1989, Koch, with his trademark phrase “How’m I Doin?”, was a natural showman and tireless promoter of both himself and the city. He helped repair the city’s finances as it teetered on the edge of bankruptcy, and later led a building renaissance that would see 200,000 units of affordable housing erected or rehabilitated in some of the city’s most crime-infested areas.

He could also be a divisive figure. His determination to shut Sydenham, a poorly-performing Harlem hospital that was one of the only city hospitals employing black doctors, angered black New Yorkers. And AIDS activists said he was too slow to react to the epidemic that ravaged the city’s gay population in the 1980s.

Tall, nearly bald and speaking with a high-pitched voice, Koch was an unmistakable presence. He was famously argumentative, and rarely walked away from verbal jousting.

His friend James Gill remembered Koch’s response to someone who had written a letter criticizing the former mayor.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.