New York – Plans for a women’s division of Hatzalah dedicated to assisting in emergency births have been scrapped as the women, after consulting with a respected Brooklyn rabbi, have instead decided to create their own independent volunteer service, titled Ezras Nashim, that will be staffed entirely by women.
Ezras Nashim spent more than half a year trying to join forces with Hatzalah, under the premise that many women who find themselves facing an emergency birth situation were uncomfortable with male emergency medical technicians, many of whom are community members and even neighbors.
VIN News has learned that, in a meeting that took place just prior to Chanukah, four women representing Ezras Nashim explained the need for women EMTs to be called in childbirth situations to noted Brooklyn Halachic authority Rabbi Yechezkel Roth, the Karlsburg Rov.
Several prominent rabbonim and numerous others were present at the meeting which took place at the Karlsburg Shul on 53rd Street in Borough Park.
“Rabbi Roth listened for at least an hour,” one person who asked to remain anonymous was present at the meeting told VIN News. “He explained that historically the ‘miyaldos’ (mid-wives) were women and we see in our community that in the Chevra Kadisha, we have men attending to men and women attending to women. Our shuls are separate, our weddings are separate and there is no reason for our emergency medical corps not to function in the same way, not only in childbirth but in other medical situations as well.
As for how to implement having women serve on Hatzalah, Rabbi Roth said that decision should be made by Hatzalah’s rabbinical advisors. Rabbi Roth concluded by telling the women that the miracle of Chanukah, among many others, happened through the hands of women, the geula will come through women and that Ezras Nashim, also being brought about by women, should be blessed with hatzlacha.”
Following Rabbi Roth’s advice, Ezras Nashim arranged a meeting with Hatzalah.
“Hatzalah’s board told us that their members did not want women joining Hatzalah and that any changes to Hatzalah could potentially cause delays in service, which was obviously something that nobody wanted,” attorney and community activist Ruchie Freier who represents Ezras Nashim told VIN News.
In a news report that appeared Tuesday in The Forward, Ezras Nashim EMT Yocheved-Lerner Miller explained that the women decided that it was preferable to start their own corps instead of continuing their efforts to join Hatzalah.
“Basically, we did the Hatzalah routine and it is going to get us nowhere,” said Mrs. Lerner-Miller. “They are adamant and the goal now is to get going. That is how we are going to do it. We are going to do our own thing.”
Hatzalah CEO David Cohen confirmed to VIN News, that he met with Ezras Nashim, but gave no further details, saying he wished Ezras Nashim well.
“We did our homework and we realized that if we aren’t providing medical transport, we don’t need to be a licensed ambulance corps,” said Mrs. Freier. “Once we discovered that we didn’t have to buy an ambulance but could just contract out with a licensed medical transport provider, it was clear that we could do this on our own and didn’t need to join forces with Hatzalah.”
Members of Ezras Nashim will be trained as both EMTs and doulas or midwives and while the volunteer corps is being founded to aid women in childbirth, their members will be trained to assist in other medical situations as well. The group expects to be classified as a tax exempt 501C3 charitable organization and will be relying on donations from the public. Volunteers with Ezras Nashim will have to spend over a thousand dollars each to cover the cost of training, insurance, a medical kit and a phone.
“Our goal is not to encourage home birth,” explained Mrs. Freier. “We will assess just like Hatzalah assesses and while we will have a full medical board of advisors on staff, as women who have had children, we have an extra sensitivity and awareness of the situation that men could never have. What I find amazing is that Ezras Nashim is uniting women from all walks of life who want to be involved. Women from Manhattan, women from New Square, irreligious women, Chasidic women, so many women who have never had the opportunity to use their medical skills in a volunteer fashion are coming forward and asking ‘How can I help?’”
According to Mrs. Freier Ezras Nashim will be in full operation within the next few months with an emergency Telephone number.
To find out more about Ezras Nashim or to make a donation contact Mrs. Freier at [email protected].