Ruchie (Rachel)  Freier Esq.
  • Ezras Nashim

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Gals want to join Orthodox EMT crews


Last Updated: 6:46 AM, September 26, 2011

New York Post, Posted: 3:04 AM, September 26, 2011

A group of women in Brooklyn is trying to break through a decades-old barrier bv joining an all-male volunteer ambulance corps run by Orthodox Jews.

Lawyer Ruchie Freier told The Post she’s speaking for dozens of Orthodox female medical technicians who say it’s their dream to work for Hatzalah.

Freier said, “Hatzalah is doing a fantastic job, but times have changed. We have female EMTs who have the same training as men. In emergency situations, a woman would be much more comfortable if she was being treated by another woman.”

GO, GIRL: Ruchie Freier says women should be allowed on Orthodox Hatzalah ambulances to help with emergencies such as childbirth.

Ben Parker
GO, GIRL: Ruchie Freier says women should be allowed on Orthodox Hatzalah ambulances to help with emergencies such as childbirth.

Freier says she’s won the endorsement of several prominent rabbis in Brooklyn and in the upstate Hasidic town of New Square, which implemented a similar program a few years ago.

Under the plan, female medics would not be first responders — and would be brought in only when a patient is about to give birth or needs treatment for a gynecological problem.

Hatzalah is a nonprofit, financed by donations. No women or non-Jewish man has ever applied, the source said.

Freier is supported by state Assemblyman Dov Hikind, an influential politician who represents Borough Park.

“It’s an idea that’s worth looking at,” he said.

“I think the leaders of the community who are involved with Hatzalah need to be involved, and that’s a process that can happen. I’m sure Hatzalah will listen and consider it.”

But Hatzalah CEO Rabbi David Cohen said it’s a non-issue.

“This was discussed years ago by the rabbinic board. They said not to do it, and that’s pretty much where we stand,” he said.

“It’s not on the agenda. There’s no reason to put it on the agenda.”

“I personally have seen the difference a woman makes when she is at the side of a woman giving birth,” a Hasidic female EMT who lives in Borough Park said.

New York – AP Report: NYC Jewish Women Want To Join All-male

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EMT Group

Published on: November 27, 2011 02:36 PM News Source: AP / VIN

In this Nov. 9, 2011 photo, Yochevev Lerner, right, demonstrates cardiopulmonary resuscitation technique to Hasidic attorney Rachel Freier during a women's-only CPR training session in the Borough Park section of New York.  Freier and Lerner are part of a group of ultra- Orthodox Jewish women who propose forming an all-female unit to join the all-male Hatzolah Volunteer Ambulance Corps to assist women in childbirth or who suffer gynecological emergencies.   Freier said the proposal stems from a need for the emergency services to adhere to the Orthodox Jewish community’s modesty customs that call for the sexes to avoid physical contact unless they are related. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

New York – Most Orthodox Jewish women avoid touching men except direct relatives. They don’t sit next to men on buses or even at weddings. They have separate swimming hours at indoor pools. But for an emergency birth, Orthodox Jewish women will usually turn to the all-male volunteer ambulance corps known as Hatzolah.

Now a group of women in one of the country’s largest Orthodox Jewish communities is proposing to join up with Hatzolah as emergency medical technicians to respond in cases of labor or gynecological emergencies.

Rachel Freier, a Hasidic attorney who is representing the women in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, said there is a need for emergency services that adhere to the community’s customs of modesty, calling for the sexes to avoid physical contact unless they are related.

“It has nothing to do with feminism,” Freier said. “It has to do with the dignity of women and their modesty.”

She is careful to avoid framing the proposal as a critique of Hatzolah, whose work she says they respect. Instead, she says it is a matter of reclaiming a “job that has been the role of women for thousands of years” — that of midwife. “We are so proud of Hatzolah,” she said. But, she added, “they can’t understand what a woman feels like when she is in labor.”

The volunteer ambulance corps was founded by Rabbi Herschel Weber in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in the 1960s in response to a perceived delay in responding to emergency calls made by Jewish communities. Today Hatzolah, a Hebrew word that translates as “rescue” or “relief,” has dozens of affiliates around the world, each of them operating independently and often in close coordination with the community they serve. Policies, such as whether women can volunteer, are usually set locally by each affiliate.

It is unclear how many Hatzolah affiliates allow women to volunteer. But in Israel, for instance, United Hatzalah, which responds to more than 112,500 calls per year, has volunteers who are both male and female, as well as secular and Jewish, according to its website.

And the new division being proposed in Brooklyn by the women Freier represents — it would be known as the Ezras Nashim, Hebrew for “women’s section” — would be modeled after a program created more than a year ago in New Square, N.Y., a small, insular Orthodox Jewish community in New York City’s northern suburbs.

But a program for women, with women volunteers, in Borough Park would be far more ambitious in scope and size. Besides being one of the biggest Orthodox Jewish communities in the country, if not the world, the neighborhood had the city’s highest birth rate in 2009 with 26.7 per 1,000 people, according to the Department of Health. That is a lot of babies that need to be delivered.

In this Nov. 9, 2011 photo, Yocheved Lerner demonstrates cardiopulmonary resuscitation technique during a women's-only CPR training session in the Borough Park section of New York.  Lerner is part of a group of Orthodox Jewish women proposing that an all-female unit  join the all-male Hatzolah Volunteer Ambulance Corps to assist women in childbirth or suffering gynecological emergencies.  The proposal stems from a need for emergency services to adhere to the Orthodox Jewish community’s modesty customs that call for the sexes to avoid physical contact unless they are related. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens) In this Nov. 9, 2011 photo, Yocheved Lerner demonstrates cardiopulmonary resuscitation technique during a women’s-only CPR training session in the Borough Park section of New York. Lerner is part of a group of Orthodox Jewish women proposing that an all-female unit join the all-male Hatzolah Volunteer Ambulance Corps to assist women in childbirth or suffering gynecological emergencies. The proposal stems from a need for emergency services to adhere to the Orthodox Jewish community’s modesty customs that call for the sexes to avoid physical contact unless they are related. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Yocheved Lerner, 49, is one of the women who would like to work as a volunteer for a newly formed all-women Hatzolah division in Brooklyn.

A state-certified emergency medical technician and mother herself, she said her group has a list of about 200 trained Orthodox Jewish women who could respond to medical calls in the neighborhood.

“There are strict rules between men and women, except in the case of Hatzolah,” she said. “The problem is that any number of men might respond to a call on Hatzolah.” That has been

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a source of “tremendous embarrassment” for some women, she said.

She said a core group of about five women had spearheaded the proposal and that it is drawing wider support. She emphasized that in no way did they want to or expect to work alongside the men of Hatzolah, suggesting they could have their own ambulances available to them.

Chevra Hatzalah, a registered nonprofit, serves much of metropolitan New York City, including Borough Park. They dispatch about 50,000 calls a year and have 1,200 volunteers, said its CEO, Rabbi David Cohen.

Interviewed recently about the women’s proposal, Cohen said he had not heard from the group of women directly but had read about their proposal.

Nevertheless, he declined to answer specific questions about it.

“I really haven’t talked to the people. I don’t know what they want exactly,” he said, adding that Hatzolah’s four-member rabbinical board released an internal memo saying that they should not engage in discussions on the matter.


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said a similar proposal had been rejected about 25 years ago — and that nothing had changed since then. “We have an internal statement basically saying we are continuing our policy,” he said.

Heshy Jacobs, a member of Chevra Hatzalah’s executive board, told the popular Orthodox Jewish blog Vos Iz Neias that adding women could affect response time.

“There are many things at which women are superior, but when it comes to speed and physical strength, which are both of the essence in a medical emergency, it is a proven fact that men have an advantage,” Jacobs told VIN News in September. “Additionally we already have systems in place to get our responders in place as quickly as possible. …By introducing women into the scenario, you are adding another layer to the process and you are talking about a situation where a delay of seconds can literally cost lives.”

Freier said in an email that she had attempted to reach Hatzolah’s CEO and set up a meeting for July or August. “The initial plan was for me to meet with Hatzolah and explain the need for women to join,” she said. However, I was told that the policy of women not joining Hatzolah was set years ago.”

Undeterred, she said she is discussing the matter with rabbinical leaders in the community.

“We’re just trying to make a great organization even better,” she said. “We’re not filing a complaint. We’re coming with a suggestion.”

Orthodox Women Form Volunteer Service

New Path: Fed up with Hatzalah’s refusal to admit them, female paramedics are setting up their own network of volunteers to serve Jewish women.

claudio papapietro

By Naomi Zeveloff

Published by The Jewish Daily Forward, February 14, 2012, issue of February 24, 2012.

A group of women who have been seeking to join Brooklyn’s all-male Orthodox ambulance corps has now dropped its campaign, opting instead to establish a separate women’s service to tend to emergency births.

“We are not looking to create litigation or controversy, we are just looking to find a way to serve other women,” said Rachel Freier, the group’s spokeswoman.

Calling themselves Ezras Nashim, a Hebrew phrase for the women’s section of the synagogue, the group had petitioned for over a year to join the volunteer Hatzalah ambulance corps, a venerated Orthodox institution in Brooklyn and beyond. Hatzalah has balked at accepting them.

Now, Ezras Nashim will start its own corps with the goal of serving Orthodox women.

Ezras Nashim originally sought to join Hatzalah to assist in emergency births, saying that many Orthodox women feel uncomfortable being handled by men in such private moments. Freier said she met in December,with Hatzalah CEO David Cohen, who suggested she should first speak with the community’s rabbis to see if they would be willing to take it up with Hatzalah’s rabbinic board.

According to Freier, respected rabbis they consulted in Brooklyn were sympathetic to Ezras Nashim’s cause but were reluctant to push Hatzalah to change its policies, given its standing in the community. Cohen did not return an email and a phone call seeking comment.

Freier declined to disclose the names of the rabbis she said had supported her group’s request. But she was adamant that Ezras Nashim would not have made a move without first having received their approval.

“It was very, very important point to go to the rabbis,” said Freier. Referring to the importance of halachic, or rabbinic legal rulings, she explained, “The rabbis are the ones you go to for the halachic decisions.” Given the rabbis’ refusal to actively pressure Hatzalah, she said, “We decided the more appropriate route is to do it on our own.”

Rather than become a standing ambulance corps, Ezras Nashim plans to operate as a network of volunteers without a central office or vehicle. The women will be trained as both EMTs and doulas, or birthing coaches. They plan to contract with a private ambulance service that can provide hospital transport if the need arises. While the women will focus on emergency births, they say that they will be prepared to help Orthodox women with other medical needs as well.

Unlike Hatzalah, which receives public grants from the state of New York, Ezras Nashim will depend solely on donations. Women who want to volunteer will have to front almost $1,500 for an EMT class, a medical kit, insurance, and a cell phone. Freier said that she hopes that Ezras Nashim will be up and running as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) charity by next fall, and plans to raise $50,000 in donations to launch the organization.

“We are a group of women and we are here to help in areas that many women don’t want men in, which is labor and delivery,” said Lerner-Miller. “Not only are we EMTs, we are compassionate women who are doula-trained. I think our name will spread far and wide.”

New York – VIN Exclusive: Prominent Brooklyn Rabbi Endorses Women’s Volunteer Medical Corps

FILE Photo illustration

Published on: February 15, 2012 11:29 AM

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.

Hatzalah CEO David Cohen confirmed

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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