By: Fern Sidman
Having established a righteous legacy of saving lives and assisting the communities that they serve since the 1960s, the Hatzolah Ambulance Service celebrated the grand opening of their new building in the Gravesend section of Brooklyn on Friday morning, June 4th.
Hatzolah is the largest volunteer Emergency Medical Services and ambulance provider in the United States, with numerous branches serving communities throughout the United States and across the globe
The state-of-the-art building is located on Avenue S and Lake Street and marks the fourth Hatzolah location in Brooklyn. Other locations include a three-floor building on Ocean Avenue and Avenue N in Midwood as well as an ambulance on Avenue M and Ocean Parkway and a facility with two ambulances on Coney Island Avenue and 18th Avenue that serves the Kensington section of Brooklyn.
Allen Esses, a Hatzolah coordinator, spoke with the Jewish Voice about the new building and the services that Hatzolah provides each and every day. “As a 24/7 private ambulance service, Hatzolah has over 270 member volunteers and we take approximately 16,000 calls a year which translates into 40-50 calls per day. As such, we desperately needed another building to serve the Gravesend community,“ he said.
“The truth is that this new building will dramatically improve response time for this area. I can tell you that when traffic is at its most congested, it can take about 15-20 minutes for an ambulance to arrive in Gravesend from our Midwood location. That is unacceptable when every second counts in saving lives. Now we can arrive in record time to our destination. This is why I have been spearheading this project for the last decade,“ Mr. Esses said.
Mr. Esses said that in addition to housing ambulances in the one floor building, it will also serve as a training center for its volunteers where continuing education classes will take place as well as free CPR classes for community members and any interested parties.
The building was dedicated in the names of Joe and Celia Esses, an uncle and aunt of Mr. Esses. “Eddie Esses, their son, dedicated the building in memory of his parents as they were integral members of the community who were deeply concerned with the welfare of each person and truly understood the paramount importance of saving lives,“ he added.
This year, Hatzolah held a concert during Lag B’Omer and raised sufficient funds for yearly expenditures. “Thanks to the generosity and constant support of the community, we are able to upgrade our EKG machines, which have not been upgraded in 25 years. Up-to-date equipment allows us to serve our community in a much more efficient and expeditious manner and for that and much, much more, we are profoundly grateful for every person who contributes to Hatzolah. We could not exist without this vital help, “ Mr. Esses added.
Others who have contributed to the new building on Avenue S are the Triangle Capital Group consisting of Victor Azrak, David Azar and Morris Doueck, as well as other individual donors as Rosette & Sion Setton, the Erani Family, Rachel and Jeff Sutton, Albert & Gladys Kassin, the Chehebar Family, Jack and Theda Cohen, and Harry & Alice Adjmi, among other notable members of the community.
At the Friday morning ribbon cutting ceremony that was attended by over 200 people, Mr. Esses said “none of this could have happened without the Divine help from Hashem who stood by Lenny Salama and I every step of the way” and expressed his gratitude to the tireless efforts and deep commitment to Hatzolah by community leader and devoted philanthropist, Harry Adjmi who “helped guide us throughout this monumental project.”
Mr. Esses added that working closely with the Hatzolah team on the building was interior designer and architect Abe Jerome as well as builder Moshe Nachum who “is the most humble person that I have ever met.” Mr. Nachum’s dedication to the mission of Hatzolah was evidenced in the fact that he performed his building work at cost and did not accept one cent in profit. Said one community member at the ribbon cutting gathering, “I can tell you that as one who knows Moshe Nachum very well, he is a true baal tzedaka, a man who gives generously to practically every charity in the community and is there for everyone in need.” Others also lauded the selfless dedication of Mr. Jerome who gave so incredibly generously of his time, energy and resources to ensure that this important project came to fruition.
Also addressing the assemblage at the grand opening ceremony was Harry Adjmi. He told those gathered that the acquisition of the new Hatzolah building was indeed a miracle from Hashem. “I was told on a Tuesday morning that a building in our own backyard was available. The owner wanted money on the table and we only had until Friday to get it. Our community and the Ashkenazic community came together and we were able to put together the amount that was needed by Friday. That in itself is a miracle. That does not happen. I really want to extend our profound gratitude to the Hatzolah of Flatbush chapter who provided us support in every way possible.”
He added that when approached for donations to the new building, “it took about only seconds for people in this community to offer their help. This was not one of those tough projects that we labored over. People understood the word Hatzolah to mean saving lives and they eagerly offered generous donations. They said: How can we help? What’s available? How can we get our names? What can we do? It was truly a magical moment.
Also addressing the gathering were beloved community rabbonim, Rabbi Eli Mansour, shlita, of the Ahavat V’Achva synagogue on Ocean Parkway and Rabbi Elya Brudny, shlita, of the Mirrer Yeshiva. Both offered inspiring words of chizuk as they praised those who devote their lives to saving the lives of others.
One of the mezuzot that was donated to the building came from yet another renowned philanthropist in the community and a close associate of Harry Adjmi. Richie Dweck, his wife Gloria, along with their children dedicated the mezuzah in the memory Bert and Shirley Dweck, a’h, the parents of Richie Dweck who were outstanding members of the community.
In addition to those donor names on the outside of the new building, one can find over 60 plaques on the inside of the building that recognize the generous donations of many other community members. Due to a press deadline, the Jewish Voice was unable to publish every name.
The genesis of Hatzolah began in Brooklyn, New York in the late 1960s to address a need in the Jewish community for an ambulance service that understood its cultural and religious needs and to improve EMS response time.
Hatzolah helps improve the response time throughout its coverage areas, and even outside of its areas, by adding more EMTs and ambulances to the system, thereby freeing up other ambulances to respond more quickly to other calls.
Hatzolah’s volunteers are certified EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) or physicians and have received top tier training and are given lifesaving equipment.
The secret to Hatzolah’s success is that Hatzolah’s volunteers work, daven, study, shop, sleep and go about their ordinary lives while being constantly on-call. They carry their emergency radios 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When a call goes out over the emergency radio, the closest volunteers immediately rush to the scene with the lifesaving equipment they keep in their cars, while other volunteers rush to bring an ambulance. Often, in severe medical emergencies the first few minutes are the most crucial. Since the volunteers are not tied to a garage or one location, there are almost always volunteers who happen to be within a few blocks of the call. By being near the call, Hatzolah’s volunteers have saved thousands of lives over the years.