Ed Koch, Fiercely Secular Jew, Takes Unique New York Style to Grave

Letter From Temple Emanu-El

Stately Send-Off: The funeral for Ed Koch at Temple Emanu-El felt like a most Episcopalian kind of Jewish funeral. He probably would’ve reveled in the contradictions on display.
getty images
Stately Send-Off: The funeral for Ed Koch at Temple Emanu-El felt like a most Episcopalian kind of Jewish funeral. He probably would’ve reveled in the contradictions on display.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published February 04, 2013, issue of February 15, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

Temple Emanu-El, the massive, 2,500 seat Reform synagogue on 65th Street and 5th Avenue, was built to look like an cathedral, with stained class windows and ceilings that reach unbelievable heights. There were few yarmulkes. The rabbi, black-suited and bald, read a Hebrew prayer in the scholarly mode of the old-school Reform rabbis.

After the speeches and a short prayer, a six-cop honor guard lifted the coffin into the crowd. The pallbearers were enveloped in the throng and, from an aisle away, it looked like the oak coffin was hovering above mourners. The organ played “New York, New York,” and giggles of recognition were subsumed by waves of applause for the departing mayor.

Afterwards, Bruce Ratner, the mega-developer behind the Barclays Center, skipped out through a side door.

So did most of the New York notables and Koch administration alumni. The politicians, however, were stuck. They wanted to leave through the main exit, where they would pass in front of the flatbed NYPD truck packed with photographers. The civilians swept out and the elected officials waited behind, so it was largely notables who jammed in the bottleneck in the synagogue’s foyer.

City Council speaker Christine Quinn and former MTA chairman Joe Lhota, who might face each other in the New York City mayor’s race in November, waited near each other to walk through the front doors. New York City Comptroller John Liu, another mayoral hopeful, wasn’t far behind. City Councilman David Yassky, who Liu beat in the 2009 Comptroller race, was on the other side of the room. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who will likely run for governor someday, stood in the same pack as George Pataki, who has already held that post.

Today, Ed Koch wasn’t playing politics. Everyone would get one last endorsement.


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!
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • 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.