(April 8, 2018 / Embassy of Israel in Washington, D.C.) The Jewish people had no better friend than Mayor of New York Fiorello La Guardia. The “little flower,” as La Guardia was called, spoke Yiddish and was a progressive champion of the rights of Jews, particularly the immigrant garment workers on the Lower East Side. But his finest hour would come in the early 1930s, when Hitler was rising to power. At a time when so many others were silent, La Guardia raised his powerful voice against the evils of Nazi Germany.
While La Guardia died before the establishment of the State of Israel, his brand of fearless leadership and support of the Jewish people continued under two of his successors, Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani.
Mayor of New York from 1977 until 1989, Koch was a proud Jew and lifelong lover and supporter of Israel. Known for his gregarious personality that endeared him to New Yorkers of all stripes, he was always especially proud to count many Israelis, such as longtime Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek, as dear friends.
During his tenure as mayor, Koch made clear that New York City stood behind Israel in its efforts against incitement and violence, and for a lasting peace. As a loyal Democrat, he led efforts to bolster the long tradition of pro-Israel support within the Democratic Party and never put loyalty to party above speaking the truth.
In fact, out of his staunch support of Israel, Koch crossed party lines in 1993 to support a fellow Israel-defender, Republican candidate for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
One month after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, a wealthy Middle Eastern businessman offered a $10 million check to the city of New York. Along with it, the businessman leveled absurd accusations against both Israel and America. When he learned of the comments, Mayor Giuliani told the businessman that he could take his business elsewhere.
This is just one anecdote that speaks to the former mayor’s moral clarity and courage. Throughout his career, Giuliani, 73, has been a strong, consistent and courageous advocate for Israel. In the 1990s and 2000s, he consistently called on Palestinians to end violence and return to negotiations. In more recent years, he has been one of the most articulate voices warning of the dangers of a nuclear Iran to America, Israel and the entire world. Whatever the audience, whatever the popularity of the position, Giuliani has defended Israel as an American ally, and a beacon of freedom and innovation.
From La Guardia to Koch to Giuliani, mayors of New York have built a remarkable legacy of support for the Jewish people and the Jewish state.