The Jewish Mayor Didn’t Have a Jewish Base
Ed Koch was the 105th Mayor of New York City, serving 3 terms, from 1978 to 1989. During his time as Mayor, Koch oversaw the city’s resurgence from a severe recession, helped to develop low-income housing, and created legislation that prohibited discrimination by the government based on sexual orientation in the areas of employment, housing and education, among many other achievements. The author of 8 books, including “Citizen Koch” and “My Fight Against Anti-Semitism,” he hosts a show on Bloomberg Radio, was recently a judge for “The People’s Court,“ and writes columns for a variety of publications. Born in the Bronx, Koch achieved the rank of Sergeant while fighting in World War II, before completing his law degree at NYU. He lives in Manhattan.
Greenwich Village in the 1960s
Ed Koch: Well, the famous restaurant which regrettably closed early on, a friend moved in with, Louie's in Sheraton Square, where for $1.75 you could have the best veal parmesan ever made in this country, and for a dime, a glass of beer. The Limelight was another restaurant that had a prefixed menu, $1.75, three courses.
I entered the Village about the time that the Village Voice became the leading non-regular newspaper in the country; I don't know how they referred to it. Dan Wolfe, the editor, and Ed Finch, the publisher, were friends of mine and I'm very proud of the fact that they endorsed me for every position I ran for when I ran for Assembly, Congress, District Leader, Mayor, City Council. I was their candidate and I never, ever stopped thanking them.
Question: Coming from the Village, were you ever thought too liberal to represent all of New York?
Ed Koch: Well, yes, undoubtedly there were some who said that. What was interesting was that, my greatest strength was not with the Jews because they didn't think I was liberal enough. You know, everybody – if you’re Italian, your base is Italian, if you're Jewish, your base is Jewish, if you're black, your base is black, and then you build on that base for getting others. But, my base was never Jewish. My base was Italian and Irish.
It was so peculiar. The Jews, when they took polls, 73% of them were for me. This would be for Mayor. Eighty-one percent of the Catholic Italian and Irish were for me because I have always perceived myself as a liberal with sanity. I've never been crazy, and in fact, many liberals would say, "You're not liberal enough." I'd say, "Listen, I believe that what I am for makes common sense and often what you're for does not. You can call it liberal enough, or not liberal enough. I know what it is that I want to see this country be, and apparently a majority of the people who vote think of it the same way as I do. So, I ain't changing."
Amid Greenwich Village’s days of Bohemianism, dime beers and a radical Village Voice, Ed Koch was "a liberal with sanity."
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