Orthodox women’s EMT group meets resistance within community

Five years ago, the country’s first all-female EMT service hit the streets of Brooklyn.

Ezras Nashim launched in Borough Park to serve Orthodox Jewish women who, because of modesty concerns, feel uncomfortable with men treating them.

The group has seen their membership steadily rise, along with their profile after being featured in a documentary that aired on PBS last year, “93 Queen."

But their plans to serve even more women with an ambulance permit are now at risk of being thwarted by members of their own community.

“We would be able to get to the calls faster if we had an ambulance,” said longtime Ezras Nashim EMT Sarah Weisshaus, who explained the ambulance certification would also allow the women to put sirens and lights on their own cars, which they currently use to respond to calls.

The group raised the money for the ambulance and applied to the City’s Regional Emergency Medical Service Council for approval, only to be met with outcry from another EMT group: the men-only Hatzolah.

“It’s been sort of devastating to see what’s come out of this."

— Ezras Nashim member Charna Goldsmith.

A hearing over the group’s ambulance permit in late October became contentious after supporters of Hatzolah spoke out against the women’s corps. And nearly 50 rabbis in the Borough Park area signed a letter opposing Ezras Nashim’s ambulance permit.

Despite that, the women say they aren’t against Hatzolah, and are not trying to compete with them. They just want to offer women in their community and alternative.

“As men they don’t understand the needs we have,” said Ezras Nashim member Sarah Flohr.

Fox 5 contacted both Hatzolah of Borough Park and an attorney representing them but did not hear back.

Rabbi Yechiel Kaufman told the New York Post the risks of another ambulance service would outweigh the benefits, saying: “Having multiple EMS services in the same community will [cause] confusion as to who should treat the emergency, causing delay and potential catastrophe.”

The women don’t buy that explanation.

“I don’t think it’s confusing,” said Goldsmith.

“I think it, if anything, is beneficial to everyone in the community.”

The City’s Regional EMS Council will hold a vote on Ezras Nashim’s ambulance application on Tuesday November 19.

The women are asking for supporters to call the Council on their behalf before then.

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