Orthodox Jewish Women Volunteering in N.Y. Get Own Ambulance After Months-long Battle

Ezras Nashim's application for an ambulance license was blocked for months as the all-male Hatzolah, the main organization providing emergency services in Orthodox Jewish communities, opposed the move

Danielle Ziri
Danielle Ziri
New York
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A Hasidic woman walks through a Jewish Orthodox neighborhood in Brooklyn on April 24, 2017 in New York City.
A Hasidic woman walks through a Jewish Orthodox neighborhood in Brooklyn on April 24, 2017 in New York City.Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP
Danielle Ziri
Danielle Ziri
New York

NEW YORK — A women-only volunteer emergency medical team serving the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, will get its own ambulance after months of opposition from male volunteers.

Ezras Nashim, a growing group of some 30 Orthodox Jewish women, was founded in 2014 to provide a more comfortable environment for women needing emergency medical care.

The group’s application for an ambulance license had been blocked for months as the all-male Hatzolah, the main organization providing emergency services in Orthodox Jewish communities, continuously opposed the move. Ezras Nashim had already raised the necessary $125,000 to purchase the vehicle.

On Thursday, the license was finally approved by the New York State Emergency Medical Services Council with a vote of 23 to 2.

“We are so beyond excited,” Charna Goldsmith, one of the volunteers, told Haaretz. “It’s the most amazing feeling ever!”

Goldsmith said she had anxiously watched the live-streamed vote with a few of the other volunteers. “We were so nervous,” she said. “The hearing was a few hours covering different topics but the actual decision just needed to be read in five minutes.”

For Goldsmith, the decision is all the more significant in light of the coronavirus pandemic, which emphasizes the importance of having the proper emergency equipment.

“Our response time will be quicker and we can help more women,” she said.  “It’s surreal, like a dream come true.”

When speaking to Haaretz last November, Ezras Nashim’s outreach and development director Leah Levine said: “Although the men are doing an amazing job and everyone loves them, when it comes to women’s emergencies, when a lady is in emergency labor or she falls in the shower, she doesn’t need her next-door neighbor or the person in her grocery store or anybody to see her like that. It adds too much stress to the stress she’s already in,” she said.

The volunteer emergency medical technicians at Ezras Nashim have been responding to calls ranging from gynecological emergencies to body burns, and perform check-up visits for elderly women. When a call comes in, the women use their own cars, always loaded with medical equipment, to drive to the scene. If a patient needs hospital care, the group must call city emergency responders.

Since the Regional Council voted against granting Ezras Nashim the permit, the decision was transferred to the state’s emergency medical services council, which approved it. 

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