The Ascension of Ed Koch

Is Hizzoner in Heaven? You Better Believe It!

Not Forgotten: Ed Koch chats with Hillary Clinton during her run for U.S. Senate.
getty images
Not Forgotten: Ed Koch chats with Hillary Clinton during her run for U.S. Senate.

By Simon Yisrael Feuerman

Published February 08, 2013, issue of February 15, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

More recently, at age 83, after Koch picked out his burial place and had a large tombstone pre-engraved, he said he wanted another five years of life (he got them). For his graveside monument, Koch chose the last words of Daniel Pearl, the journalist who was beheaded by Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan in 2002: “My father is Jewish. My mother is Jewish. I am Jewish.”

Yet how could a man who oscillated between purple blasphemy and restless confidence in the Lord, a man with a rudimentary Hebrew school education, with that penchant for half-quoting and misquoting snippets from Torah and Talmud (he regretted having learned so little Hebrew, and not attending synagogue), seriously pretend to have such intimacy with Him?

Perhaps an answer to this riddle can be found in Koch’s own brand of what I as a psychoanalytic thinker might call “delicious” narcissism. The delight that Koch took in his own utterances, statements and actions was so contagious, so full of life, it may have reached the heavens, as well. Somehow, sometimes artfully, sometimes sloppily, but always adorably, no matter what was happening on the great big stage around him — war in Iraq; the intifada; subway strikes; snowstorms; shameless, king-sized, state-sinking corruption scandals around him — he always brought it back to himself: “How’m I doing?”

He was like a big Baby Huey, an ugly duckling thrust onto the world stage, a wobbling yet sturdy potpourri of competence, crass humor and delectable arrogance. “I don’t get ulcers, I give them,” he said. Koch infused the arid and bleached parts of politics with id. No mincing of words for him. “Andrew Cuomo is a pompous ass,” he said. What would have been phony and polite political discussion, he filled with life.

But still, do we have any sign from heaven of the former mayor? Is there even the slightest indication that the Almighty has received him, as he had hoped?

This is hard to know with certainty, of course, but God did keep most of his deals with Koch. It should be noted that Hizzoner was taken quickly and without pain, as was purportedly agreed. Also, he got the extra five years of life he wanted, and now, as if it were a divine nod, Koch improbably shares a yahrzeit with Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter he so respected.

But then again, we may not need celestial signs. Of course Koch is going to heaven, why shouldn’t he? He was, after all, Ed Koch.

Simon Yisrael Feuerman, a psychotherapist in New Jersey, is the director of the New Center for Advanced Psychotherapy Studies.


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!
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • 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.