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Hasidic Women’s Ambulance Corp. Gets Strong Pushback from Male Hatzalah Members

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Hatzalah ambulance - Photo Credit: Wikipedia

By: Sarah Poppenhaus

Female Hasidim who work at EMTs are asking New York City for an ambulance license, which of course generates protests.

An all-male ambulance crew – also Hasidic – has a problem with the request.

The women wish to operate their ambulance through an area of the deeply religious Brooklyn neighborhood of Borough Park that measures all of two-square miles. Their mission is to tend to religious women who feel uncomfortable being serviced by men due to the inherent lack of modesty.

Jim Deering, the group’s lawyer, noted during a recent public hearing at Methodist Hospital that it is “the cultural norm of women in the Brooklyn Hasidic community to lead their lives in modesty.” He added, “It is that cultural modesty and the trauma that can result from it not being honored that forms the need for Ezras Nashim’s ambulance application.”

“The men have continued to oppose the crew, arguing that it’s immodest for the women to take up EMS roles and that their services are redundant since a group of rabbis said it was OK for Hatzaloh to treat ladies,” the New York Post has reported.

Indeed, as local Rabbi Yechiel Kaufman testified publicly, “We have considered the modesty issue many times over the years … [and] have concluded that the associated risks of having two emergency services so disparate … far outweigh the benefits to the community.”

Over the last fifty years, volunteer-based Emergency Medical Services (EMS) groups have grown to become renowned international organizations servicing Jewish communities world-wide; the care they provide is invaluable and unparalleled,” notes Ezras Nashim on its web site. “We are deeply grateful to the men who volunteer their time and rely on their services for ourselves, family and friends. However, there is a significant void in first response medical services in the observant Jewish Community that we are prepared to fill: Dignified emergency care for women, provided by women.”

The group continues, explaining that “As observant Jewish women, Tznius, or modesty, is way of life. It dictates the way we dress, speak and act on a daily basis. Our personal identity and the defining characteristic we bring forth to nations of the world is our dedication to Tznius. According to Jewish law, the preservation of human life trumps almost anything, even Tzinus.”

For more than five decades, the group adds, Jewish women have been given “only two sub-par options in emergency care: be treated by men in their immediate community, resulting in a very uncomfortable situation that threatens their Tznius or turn outside the community for assistance. Inspired by our ancestral midwives, Shifrah and Pooah, it is time for Bnos Yisroel to reclaim our role as healers and midwives for our mothers, daughters, sisters and fellow woman. B’Zchus Nashim Tzidkaniyos, we invite you to become our partners.”

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