Dignitaries honor Koch at funeral ceremony

Former New York mayor remembered by Israeli ambassador as "most important, influential American Zionist of our time."

Koch funeral 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Koch funeral 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
NEW YORK – Fifth Avenue came to a standstill on Monday as nearly two-dozen American dignitaries, hundreds of uniformed city police and thousands of New Yorkers descended on Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan to honor the city’s former mayor, Ed Koch, who died last Friday. He was 88 years old.
His successors, mayors Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, mourned his passing, along with representatives Peter King and Charles Rangel, NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, Governor Andrew Cuomo and former president Bill Clinton.
“It’s a sad day, but he had a full life,” Giuliani told The Jerusalem Post. “Not too many people, if anyone, contributed more to New York City than Ed Koch. We should feel guilty feeling too sad. He wouldn’t want us to.”
Rangel, one of the oldest members currently serving in the US House of Representatives, joked that Koch probably would choose Jerusalem as a place to live as a close second to New York City, where he was mayor for three terms.
“He was the quintessential New Yorker,” Rangel told the Post.
But in Bloomberg’s eulogy, he recalled Koch saying the only place he’d ever live besides New York is in heaven, where the current mayor predicted he would be welcomed with an embrace solidified by his years of service to the city.
In New York’s darkest hour, Bloomberg said, Koch “restored the arc of our city’s history,” bringing it back from a state of despair and restoring the potential it had to become the international capital it has become today.
Bloomberg said he came to the service with the love and condolences of 8.4 million New Yorkers. Ido Aharoni, Israel’s consulgeneral in New York, said similarly that he came bearing the heavy hearts of all Israelis.
“Ed Koch was one of us,” Aharoni said. “We Israelis owe him a great deal of gratitude. With his unique combination of charm and chutzpah and deep conviction, he became a clarion voice for Israel and one of the most important and influential American Zionists of our time.”
As the traditional simple wooden coffin carrying Koch was brought into the foyer of the temple, past thousands of guests to the tune of “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra, NYPD pallbearers ritually unfolded the flag of the city of New York, draping it over the Star of David that adorned the clean casket.
But just before the doors opened to the formal salute, where half-a-dozen helicopters were to pass overhead on the edge of Central Park, Koch’s family had the officers remove the flag, citing religious reasons.
While Koch will not be buried at a Jewish cemetery – he will be laid to rest at Trinity Church, which is home to one of Manhattan’s oldest graveyards – he chose to inscribe the Shema prayer on his tombstone, as well as the final words of Daniel Pearl, who was killed in 2002 while in the captivity of Pakistani terrorists.
Bloomberg quoted Pearl’s final words – “My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish” – noting the emotions he felt when he learned that both men died on February 1.
“Ed Koch wanted us all to shape up,” Clinton eulogized. “We miss you so much because we all know we’re doing a lot better because you lived and served.”