Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch died Friday at 88, choosing to leave on his gravestone a testament to his Judaism and his admiration of Daniel Pearl, the murdered reporter who inspired Koch's reconnection with his own faith.
Koch's headstone, already at the non-denominational Trinity Church cemetery, will read:
Edward I. Koch Mayor of the City of New York 1978-1989 "My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish." (Daniel Pearl, 2002, just before he was beheaded by a Muslim terrorist.) Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.
Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter, was kidnapped in Pakistan on January 23, 2002, while investigating the links between the "shoe bomber" Richard Reid and Al-Qaeda. His captors, calling themselves the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty, claimed Pearl was a spy and made a series of demands to the U.S. government.
On February 1, after affirming his Jewish identity--in the quote that is now etched into the former mayor's headstone--he was beheaded, on camera, and his head held up for the audience to see.
Koch's death, Friday, fell on the 11th anniversary of Pearl's death.
In 2011, nearing the ninth anniversary of the murder, Koch explained why the the quote--and Pearl--were so meaningful to him.
The United States, France and Israel ought to form a special unit devoted to running each of these terrorist murders down and target them for execution. The Israeli Mossad did exactly that with the Munich murderers of the Israeli Olympic team killed in Munich in 1972.
On my tombstone, which awaits me at the Trinity Church nondenominational cemetery at 155th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, I had inscribed the last words of Daniel Pearl -- uttered at his publicly viewed murder -- which were, "My father is Jewish. My mother is Jewish. I am Jewish." I believe those words should be part of the annual services on the Jewish High Holiday of Yom Kippur, and should be repeated by the congregants.
And in 2012, Koch told the Journal that Pearl's decision to state his faith with his final words had moved him because, "well, that's me, too."
“I think that statement is as important as the most holy of all statements in Jewish ritual,” Koch said. “I think that every Saturday, we ought to say, ‘My father’s a Jew, my mother was a Jew, and I’m a Jew,’ with great pride.”
“There’s so many people who are anti-Semitic today,” he said. “There are Jews who are uncomfortable announcing that they are Jew… I’m proud of the word ‘Jew.’ And that I am a Jew. And that’s why think we should say it every Saturday.”