This week in Jewish history | Teddy Kollek passes away at 95 - World Jewish Congress

This week in Jewish history | Teddy Kollek passes away at 95

This week in Jewish history | Teddy Kollek passes away at 95

On 2 January 2007, former mayor of Jerusalem Theodor "Teddy" Kollek passed away at the age of 95.  

Kollek, who grew up in Vienna, moved to Palestine at the age of 23. Soon after, he helped found Kibbutz Ein Gev and became increasingly involved in the Betar Zionist Youth Movement. Kollek worked in the political department of the Jewish Agency, where he was placed in charge of contacting European Jewish underground movements during the Holocaust. Kollek also assisted in organizing the clandestine immigration of Jews to Palestine and rescue operations of young people from Germany and German-occupied countries. 

After the Holocaust, Kollek traveled to the United States to solicit essential ammunition for the future Jewish state. After the creation of the State of Israel, Kollek served as a minister in the Israeli Embassy and was the director general of the office of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion from 1952 to 1964.  

In 1965, Kollek was elected mayor of West Jerusalem, a position he held for almost three decades. Following the Six-Day War in June 1967, Kollek became mayor of a united Jerusalem and introduced reforms and improvements in the eastern portion of the city. Under Kollek’s leadership, new neighborhoods, parks, community centers, and educational and religious establishments within the city were built. He also oversaw the rebuilding of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and the restoration of many historical landmarks. Kollek also established the Jerusalem Foundation, which strives to further the cultural development of the city. 

Kollek founded several significant Israeli institutions, most notably the Israel Museum, the Jerusalem Theater, the Cinemathèque, and the Kahn Theater. 

In 1988, Kollek was awarded the Israel Prize for his special contribution to the State of Israel. Reelected as mayor five times, in 1993 he lost the mayoral race to Ehud Olmert, who would go on to become prime minister.  

Kollek was known for his desire for unity between Arab and Israeli communities within Jerusalem and his efforts to bridge the gaps between the two populations. He recognized the Arab sector's needs within the Jewish capital and simultaneously respected the religious values of the ultra-Orthodox community.  

Upon his passing, The New York Times praised Kollek as someone who “did more to build and develop the city as Israel’s capital than any other figure while promoting coexistence with a sometimes-hostile Arab population.” 

In 2016, the World Jewish Congress established the Teddy Kollek Award for the Advancement of Jewish Culture. The Kollek Award honors exceptional individuals whose lifetime achievements have embraced and perpetuated Jewish roots, values, and heritage; instilled a sense of pride and identity in the next generations of Jews; and exhibited a deep and abiding connection to the state of Israel.

Past recipients of the Teddy Kollek award include Itzhak Perlman, Zubin Mehta, Joel Grey, Robert Kraft, George Stevens, and Kirk Douglas. 

Kollek was survived by his wife Tamar; their two children, Amos and Osnat; and five grandchildren.