FDNY’s Ner Tamid Society members celebrate Hanukkah and renew focus on fire safety

December 15 • 2023

This story is a part of an ongoing series titled, “12 Days of Giving,” where we will highlight just a few of the many IAFF members supporting their communities this holiday season. 

FDNY and the Ner Tamid Society’s Hanukkah event on Dec. 12.

The festive season is a time for generosity, and in this year’s Hanukkah celebration, members of the FDNY’s Ner Tamid Society, the Uniformed Fire Fighters Association (UFA) Local 94, and the Uniformed Fire Officers Association (UFOA) Local 854 are serving members inside the firehouse and remembering those lost.  

“For Hanukkah this year, we’re holding an event at FDNY headquarters,” said Deputy Chief Yonatan Klein. “We’ll have donuts, latkes, and a giant menorah honoring members who died at the World Trade Center – a great way to honor their memory.” 

The event took place on Dec. 12. Klein, president of the Ner Tamid Society, a fraternal organization with 200 active and retired members, says there is also an added urgency for fire prevention in the community this time of year. 

“There were two or three consecutive years with four or five fatalities in different Jewish families and some of us initiated it as a fire prevention message, which was paused due to COVID-19,” he said. “Back in 2015, I was at the fire where seven children were killed.” 

He says there’s now a renewed focus on solutions and community-based outreach. 

“Everything that we are experiencing with the electric vehicle lithium-ion battery fires, things that are prevalent in the community, that we know are hazards, don’t come to light until there’s tragedy,” said Klein. “Some items have a purpose and meaning, but they have to be used properly, not plugged into [defective or improperly used] surge protectors, and free of any flammable or combustible materials.” 

Retired fire fighter Barton Fendelman addressing the audience at a previous Hanukkah event.

“This stands as a remarkable illustration of how our members consistently contribute to our community,” said James Slevin, 1st District Vice President. “Dedication to educating the public on fire safety during the holiday season, despite their demanding schedules, exemplifies the greatness embodied by our members.” 

While safety remains paramount, the society hopes to serve as a safe space for the holiday, uniting Jewish fire fighters, and emergency medical personnel nationwide. “There’s so much hate, and it does bring us a lot closer to this Hanukkah because of everything that is going on,” said Jonathan Haber, a fire fighter and paramedic.   

“We are the only chapter we know of in the country, and we would love to help form other chapters,” said retired FDNY fire fighter and previous Ner Tamid Society president, Barton Fendelman. “Having the fraternal support of other Jewish members has been huge in so many aspects of the career.” 

To learn more about fire prevention tools, visit the IAFF’s Fire Prevention Week toolkit here. To find out more about Ner Tamid Society of the FDNY, visit their website here