And the consummate New Yorker is determined to spend the hereafter reposing in the heart of the city that he governed from 1977 to 1989. “The idea of leaving Manhattan permanently irritates me,” Koch tells The New York Times.
This determination, it appears, left him with only one option for a final resting spot: the Trinity Church Cemetery in Upper Manhattan, a nondenominational cemetery run by the Episcopal Diocese that claims to be the only burial ground on the densely populated island still accepting new reservations for long-term stays.
But just because Koch is opting to be buried on church-run property doesn’t mean he’s checking his Jewish identity at the cemetery gates. Far from it, The New York Times reports:
Mr. Koch chose a plot on what he described as a “small mountain” overlooking Amsterdam Avenue, and he researched the propriety of being buried in a non-Jewish cemetery. “I called a number of rabbis to see if this was doable,” he said. “I was going to do it anyway, but it would be nice if it were doable traditionally.” He said he had been advised to request that the gate nearest his plot be inscribed as “the gate for the Jews,” and the cemetery agreed.
And what will Koch’s tombstone say? The Times has that part of the story, too:
Carved on the tombstone is the most important prayer in Judaism, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One,” in English, Hebrew and a transliteration, and the last words of the journalist Daniel Pearl before he was murdered by Islamic terrorists: “My father is Jewish; my mother is Jewish; I am Jewish.”
Hat tip: Gothamist.
Read my recent interview with Koch — in which he talked about his life — here.