Tag Archives: The Bronx

Jew of the Week: Ed Koch

The Man Who Made New York Great Again

Ed Koch

Edward Irving Koch (1924-2013) was born to poor Polish-Jewish immigrants in The Bronx. He was drafted to the US Army in 1943 and sent to Europe as an infantryman, earning three medals of distinction. Because he could speak German, he remained in Europe after the war to help dismantle the Nazi government. Returning to New York, Koch studied at City College, then got his law degree from NYU. He worked as a lawyer for the next two decades, and during that time became an influential member of the Democratic Party. In 1967 he was appointed to the New York City Council, and two years later was elected to the US House of Representatives. Though he was originally “just a plan liberal”, he soon became a “liberal with sanity” (in his own words), realizing that at times liberal ideology was illogical and harms the very people it aims to help. He was renowned for his human rights efforts, as well as for combating communism and dictatorships. This drew the ire of various foreign governments (including Uruguay and Chile, who unsuccessfully plotted to assassinate him). Koch served in Congress until 1977, resigning only to take the post of New York City’s mayor under a platform of restoring “law and order”. He fulfilled his campaign promises, among them hiring 3500 new police officers to make New York safer. He ended the riots, and saved New York from its deep economic crisis. Koch was a beloved mayor, easily winning re-election in 1981 with 75% of the vote, and again in 1985 with 78% of the vote. When Chabad wanted to put up a public menorah for Chanukah, he readily agreed, and made sure it would be “the world’s largest”. In fact, he paved the way for other cities to do the same. (Amazingly, a lighting ceremony in Manhattan one Friday afternoon went behind schedule, so Koch summoned a helicopter to transport the rabbi back home to Brooklyn in time for Shabbat!) Despite a stroke in 1987, Koch recovered and continued faithfully serving his city. A year later, he took a strong stand against Jesse Jackson’s run for president (citing Jackson’s anti-Semitic comments). This lost him the support of most black voters, and Koch narrowly missed re-election in 1989. He returned to practicing law, and also became a professor at NYU. He spent more time writing, publishing a children’s book and contributing to a number of newspapers. Back in 1984 he had already published a memoir, Mayor, which became a bestseller and was later turned into a hit Broadway musical. Koch was a big movie buff, and his film reviews became legendary. Koch himself appeared in over 60 films and TV shows. He continued lecturing and going on speaking tours, often in support of human rights, and always in support of Israel. New York’s Queensboro Bridge was renamed after him, and there is a street named after him in Tel-Aviv, too. Koch’s funeral was attended by thousands, with the NYPD doing a fly-over, and eulogies by Bill Clinton and Michael Bloomberg. He asked his tombstone to simply state the Shema, along with the final words of journalist Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped and brutally murdered by terrorists: “My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish.”

Where in the Torah is Chanukah?

Words of the Week

A small hole in the body is a big hole in the soul.
– Rabbi Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezeritch (1704-1772)

American-Israeli astronaut Jessica Meir tweets her Chanukah wishes from the International Space Station, with a photo of her Chanukah socks.

Jew of the Week: Gene Colan

The Man Behind Captain Marvel

Gene “the Dean” Colan

Eugene Jules Colan (1926-2011) was born in The Bronx to a Jewish family that had changed their last name from “Cohen”. He started drawing when he was just three years old, and spent most of his time afterwards either drawing or reading comics. At 18, he got his first summer job drawing comics. Colan enlisted in the US Army shortly after, and was posted to the Philippines. During his service there, he sent his artwork to the Manila Times, and won an award for it. In 1946, he returned to New York and showed a sample of his work to Timely Comics, later renamed Marvel Comics. Stan Lee hired him on the spot, giving him a job as a “staff penciler” for $60 a week. Colan’s first feature cover was an issue of Captain America. Unfortunately, the comics industry went downhill, and Colan was let go. He did freelance work wherever he could, including at DC Comics, but eventually left the industry. He worked a menial job as an educational illustrator, struggled financially, and went through a difficult divorce. Thankfully things turned around a couple of years later when his second wife inspired him to go back into comics. Colan returned to Marvel during its “Silver Age”, taking over the story line of Iron Man, and introducing his first superhero, Sub-Mariner. He then took on Captain America, Doctor Strange, and Daredevil. In 1967, he and Stan Lee created a popular new character, Captain Marvel, and two years later, they introduced Falcon, the first African-American comic book hero. That same year, Colan and Arnold Drake co-created Guardians of the Galaxy. Throughout the 70s, Colan worked on perhaps his greatest project, the hugely popular 70-issue The Tomb of Dracula. In this run, he created (together with Marv Wolfman) the vampire-slayer Blade. Blade went on to become the first successful Marvel character adapted to film with 1998’s Blade, starring Wesley Snipes. The movie is credited with launching the comic book film craze, leading directly to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, now the highest-grossing film franchise of all time. In 1981, Colan signed with DC and took on Batman, becoming his primary illustrator until 1986, and playing a key role in reviving DC Comics. He also worked on Wonder Woman, and designed her new logo. Colan returned to Marvel once more and worked on Black Panther, then Blade, and Daredevil, among others. By this point he was nearly blind, yet somehow, amazingly, still found ways to continue his artwork. His last comic was Captain America #601 in 2009 – done when he was 83 years old! It earned him a prestigious Eisner Award, the “Oscars of comics”. Colan was renowned for his absolutely unique style, once described as “painting with a pencil”. Along with many other awards, Colan was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame. The latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain Marvel, based on the original work of Colan (together with Roy Thomas), opens in theatres this Friday.

14 Facts About the Code of Jewish Law

Words of the Week

A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.
– Ayn Rand

The film that would lead to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Blade, and the latest film in the MCU, Captain Marvel, are based on characters co-created and first visualized by Gene Colan.

Gene Colan’s cover art for Captain America #136 (1971) and Daredevil #41 (1968). (Credit: TCJ.com)