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Hundreds Outraged After FDNY Disciplined ‘Birthday Rabbi’

A rabbi and EMS chaplain who routinely phoned medics to wish them happy birthday was disciplined by the FDNY for accessing unauthorized personnel data.

Rabbi Mayer Birnhack, aka the “birthday rabbi,” was suspended without pay for 15 days after ignoring orders from brass to stop looking at confidential employee files.

“Nice guy, good intentions . . . but I’m a little uncomfortable with how much personal info he has access to . . . always seems to know more about where your career is in EMS than some of your supervisors,” one EMT wrote on an online forum.

But hundreds of others were outraged to learn the FDNY had muzzled the mensch. A Facebook page created last week in his defense got more than 700 members in a matter of days.

“I recall the rabbi calling,” one FDNY medic posted. “I thought it was an accident because I am Catholic. He introduced himself and went on to wish me a happy birthday . . . I asked a co-worker about him and everyone proceeded to say that Rabbi Birnhack was one of the few people on the job who actually cared.”

Another EMT wrote: “My birthday is in a few weeks. I eagerly anticipate his annual call and kind voice. I know he has my number.”

A phone-call campaign to FDNY headquarters and an online petition were also launched.

Birnhack refused to comment when reached at his Gravesend, Brooklyn, home.

The 45-year-old Orthodox rabbi has worked for EMS since 1988, when the Health and Hospitals Corp. ran the city’s medical service.

Shortly after EMS merged with the FDNY in 1996, the EMT-trained rabbi was assigned to the counseling unit. He makes $50,433 annually as an EMS chaplain.


9 Responses

  1. Seriously, this only shows a lack of cooperation. He is there to counsel the employees and he has no information on them? He calls them to wish them a Happy Birthday and there is a problem with him making a human connection with them? There own supervisors should have done that.

  2. Personal information is just that, Personal. If he was warned, and still did it, he deserves the suspension

  3. First, I too get birthday and anniversary greetings from him and I appreciate it.

    Second, he doesnt live in Gravesend, unless Gravesend moved.

    Third, he needs a raise, NOW!!

  4. Rabbi Birnhack happens to be one of the nicest people I know and he calls me also EVERY year on my birthday to give me good wishes, its one of the nice things he does. I’m happy to have him as a cousin!!!! Rabbi I wish you all the best and lots of chizuk.

  5. Seems that the NYFD doesn’t have a 5th shulchan orech. Rabbi Birnhack stands ready to help any human anytime. Not only so-called “heimishe” yiden, but as we saw, Catholics or whoever. I know Rabbi Birnhack since he was a baby. The man has a golden heart. The brass should definitely re0instate him. And give the poor guy a raise.

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