Former Mayor Ed Koch is known for speaking his mind, not only as three-term leader of the New York City government (1978-1989) but – in the years preceding that – as a soldier in the U.S. Army, New York City councilman, and U.S. congressman.
Koch, who will be speaking at the Oct. 18 gala to benefit the Jewish Home Family, still has a good deal to say.
In a telephone conversation with The Jewish Standard, the former mayor said he will not only speak about and sign copies of his new book, “The Koch Papers – My Fight Against Anti-Semitism,” but will talk about issues of immediate concern to attendees, such as universal medical care and the situation in Afghanistan.
“I believe in universal medical care, but those who are satisfied with their current insurance policies should be protected as well,” said Koch. Regarding Afghanistan, he was equally direct: “We have to get out of Afghanistan and get out now.”
Koch – who underwent quadruple heart bypass surgery in June – said he will also speak about his recent hospitalization.
Koch said that out of the 16 books he has written, the new one “was the easiest to write because I didn’t have to write anything new.” Material included in the book – drawn from archives compiled over the past 40 years – were selected by Rafael Medoff, founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and an occasional contributor to the Standard.
The work includes many of Koch’s writings against anti-Semitism, whether letters to public officials and communal leaders who expressed or tolerated anti-Semitic statements or behavior, or other writings on the subject. Koch led the U.S. delegation to the 2004 Berlin Conference on Anti-Semitism. In 2005, he was appointed to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.
The former mayor said the most important lesson he hopes readers will learn from his book is “that you must stand up when anti-Semitism rears its head, even if you have to fight.”
He noted that while it’s rare to have to respond physically, during basic training for the army he “got into a fight with someone [making] anti-Semitic comments. He was much bigger and he beat me, but the fact that I stood up and fought him ensured that he never said another anti-Semitic thing to me.”
“You’ve got to speak out and denounce those who engage in anti-Semitism. Stand your ground,” he said.
Summing up his accomplishments, Koch who will be 85 in December, said, “I’ve had a wonderful life. I’m a proud Jew who’s never forgotten his traditions.”
This year’s Jewish Home gala, to be held at the Hilton Woodcliff Lake, will honor past gala chairs Angelica Berrie, Myrna Block, Eleanor Epstein, Judy Freilich, Gayle Gerstein, Lynne Klatskin, Dianne Nashel, JoAnn Hassan Perlman, Syril Rubin, Sylvia Shirvan, and Fran Ziegelheim.
Steven Morey Greenberg, president of the Jewish Home Foundation of North Jersey, Inc. and a vice president of the Jewish Home at Rockleigh, explained that the Jewish Home Foundation, among other things, raises money to support the Jewish Home at Rockleigh and the Jewish Home Assisted Living, as well as other projects of the Jewish Home Family’s constituent entities.
A board member of the Jewish Home Assisted Living and of the Jewish Home Family, Greenberg noted that his connection to the Jewish home “goes back 94 years to the first annual meeting in Jersey City, where my grandparents were among the original founders. Since that time, in every generation of my family, at least one of my relatives has been a volunteer for the Jewish Home.”
Greenberg called each of the 11 women being honored at the gala a “woman of valor. Their dedication and efforts embody the ‘tradition of caring’ that is at the heart of our mission. When added together, these women represent over 100 years of volunteer service to our residents.”
Noting the importance of volunteerism, Greenberg said, “It is through the efforts of these 11 women, and our many other volunteers, that we are able to continue to provide the quality of care and programs that our seniors deserve. It is our hope that in spotlighting these [women] we will not only publicly recognize their service but also encourage others to volunteer their time, expertise, and financial support.”
For further information about the Jewish Home Family gala, call (201) 750-4231.