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:
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.
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.”