Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch died Friday of congestive heart failure at 88.
Koch, born in 1924 to Jewish Polish immigrants, told the Associated Press in 2008 that he was so moved by some of slain journalist Daniel Pearl’s last words, spoken on a hostage video, that he chose to have them engraved on his tombstone.
“My father is Jewish. My mother is Jewish. I am Jewish.”
Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter, was kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan in 2002 while reporting on Islamic movements in the country. In a brochure on their Web site, The Daniel Pearl Foundation says of his last words:
“[Pearl’s] executioners welcomed these words as a confession but Jews all over the world were united in horror over the terrorist’s actions and inspired by Daniel’s strength. To Daniel Pearl, ‘I am Jewish’ was more than just an afﬁrmation of a simple fact. To Daniel Pearl, ‘I am Jewish’ meant, ‘My life has meaning, and nothing you do will strip that away from me. Even if my life ends now, I have served a purpose.’”
“Daniel Pearl did not hide from who he was. In this most dire of circumstances, he embraced it.”
“Pearl’s only crime was being a Jewish American — something Daniel Pearl would never deny,” President George W. Bush said at an event honoring him in 2007. Read Bush’s moving tribute to Pearl here.
According to Post reporting, Koch’s tombstone “also includes a Jewish prayer — the AP says it’s “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One” — and the epitaph [Koch] wrote after his stroke”:
“He was fiercely proud of his Jewish faith. He fiercely defended the City of New York, and he fiercely loved its people. Above all, he loved his country, the United States of America, in whose armed forces he served in World War II.”
Koch will be buried at the nondenominational Trinity Church Cemetery. In the 2008 AP report, “Koch said he was thrilled to learn from a former aide now working for Trinity that the church permits Jews to be buried there and still had space.”