Women in Hatzalah? New Modesty Concerns Ignite Co-Ed Push

Craines NY Business

Concerned about the modesty of women in labor, a group of Orthodox Jewish women is pushing to join Hatzalah, a citywide volunteer ambulance service.

The women, who live in the heavily Orthodox Jewish community in the Borough Park and Williamsburg sections of Brooklyn, have hired a lawyer to represent them and make their case to local religious leaders. Their plan is to have female emergency medical technicians, and possibly paramedics as well, available to assist in cases where residents who call Hatzalah request a woman for an obstetric or gynecological emergency. They would not routinely respond to any other medical calls, and would not be dispatched by 911 operators—except possibly in major disasters. Hatzalah, established in the 1970s, is a volunteer ambulance service. Orthodox Jews often use the service instead of calling 911.

“The women think it’s a great idea; the men are shocked,” said their lawyer, Rachel Freier, a community resident and Orthodox Jewish mother of six who said she is sensitive to the group’s concerns. About 20 women have already signed up for an EMT training class in the community, anticipating they will soon be invited to join the ambulance service.

“This is a woman’s job. Historically, women have always delivered babies. In our community, women also have a very strong motivation to seek female doctors,” Ms. Freier said.

The women would be a division within Hatzalah and modeled after a similar organization already in place in New Square, N.Y., an upstate New York community with a large Orthodox Jewish population.

The Brooklyn group would be called Ezras Nashim, Yiddish for “women’s sanctuary,” Ms. Freier said.

No legal action is planned so far, but Ms. Freier is energetically making the group’s case, one she recently presented on a popular radio show broadcast hosted by Assemblyman Dov Hikind.

That radio show, and coverage of the issue in VosIzNeias.com, an Orthodox Jewish news website, triggered a heated online debate.

Mr. Hikind, quoted in Vas Iz Neias, expressed support for the idea, calling it “almost a no brainer.” But Heshy Jacobs, a member of Hatzalah’s executive board, was also quoted as being concerned that introducing women to the service could be “life-threatening.”

“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,” Mr. Jacobs told the news site.

That was all some of the site’s readers needed to hear.

One Web poster called the claim that men are superior Neanderthal.

“Oy. Most of you folks out there seem to have caveman ideas of men and women. Like the Flintstones. Women can’t drive fast? Women can’t get out of the house fast? Really? . . . Maybe your wife who can’t move without her hair and outfit just so isn’t a candidate for being a Hatzalah EMT,” but there are plenty of women who are up to the job, the writer said.

The other view was that inviting women to join Hatzalah would be a major headache.

“If medical assistance is needed on a rush, I bet you by the time the Ezras Nashim arrive, their assistance would no longer be needed,” another anonymous writer said, adding that the women crew members would need extra time to attend to their grooming before they left the house.

Ms. Freier called that attitude “silly,” and said the idea of protecting women’s modesty has deep roots in the Orthodox faith.

It is one thing to go to male obstetrician, who has had extensive training and sees women in labor daily. But volunteer EMTs pose a different problem, she said.

“Women who have had a baby delivered by Hatzalah are grateful to them, but they are also embarrassed and humiliated by the experience,” she said, adding that “If they [later] meet that EMT or Hatzalah member, they will likely cross the street to avoid him.”


  • 2. about time!!! wrote:

    such a brilliant idea…its about time something like this is up for discussion and hopefully will turn into action! we def need women on the hatzala vans!!

  • 3. Thinkster wrote:

    It’s actually a great idea. Have women only teams for certain specific obstetric issues. The problems potentially arise with mixed teams. And are the women really as available 24/7 like guys are? Those are the real issues – halachically, perfectly fine.

    Having said that, I believe the legal challenge will fail because regardless of the merits, there are serious logistical and practical concerns with a women-specific team.

  • 4. its somethink that will happen but not n wrote:

    my wife was not able to make it to the hospital on time. we then called Hatzlo the men wher great my wife had no problem in fact i dont see how woman would have been able to cary her down. she is not 150lbs any more

  • 5. I-d rather call 911 wrote:

    I would rather cough a baby out of my mouth, than let my neighbour’s husband deliver my baby! Just saying:)!

  • 6. Anonymous wrote:

    It is a wonderful idea to have women available to take care of women but for those who had men tend to them in the past they should not be embarrassed. The important thing is that the babies were delivered safely.

  • 7. another woman wrote:

    yes #1 and then she has to go do homework, or little Chaya needs a bath, or she can’t find a babysitter…then what? Does anyone here have MEN DOCTORS? HELLOOOOOOOOOOOOOO???

  • 8. Moshe Chaim wrote:

    There are problems.

    1. If women don’t join then people will complain about Tzniut issues some going so far as refusing treatment which could be dangerous. (Women PLEASE don’t refuse treatment!)

    2. How will women work alongside the men that are in Hatzalah?

    3. If a woman and man from the Hatzalah get in the same ambulance then how will that work?

    4. Will they need separate ambulances?

  • 9. DaasTorah wrote:

    It is a no brainer to allow women into Hatzalah. Who cares who is attending to you in a medical emergency as long as they do the very best job! If a woman can be a competent EMT or paramedic then let them. It’s insanity to deny women (and single frum people) positions in Hatzalah when pikuach nefesh is on the line.

    Women are doctors, surgeons, professors, etc etc. Is you need major surgery do you as only for a male, married doctor? Of course not! You ask for the most qualified person possible.

  • 10. COMPLETELY AGREE!! wrote:

    I would rather have a baby in my house than call a male hatzalah member try to help me out. Completely humiliating!! I fully support these women, GOOD LUCK!

  • 11. Dangerous! wrote:

    This is so wrong! what if a man calls that his wifes in labor, and its just a trick to get women to his house Chas Vesholom. Or if Goyim (who call hatzolah some times) call.

    It not Tzenios, and dangerous!

  • 12. To 1 wrote:

    You obviously dont know anything about the Halochos of Tzenius if you posted that comment. I’m sure Hatzolah spoke to Rabbonim before they started delivering babies.

    Why are you trying to start Machloikes on this topic?

  • 14. #1 im a Tznius advocate wrote:

    i love this idea!

    remeber the reason why i & many others ae advocating the importance of tznius is bec (according to our Rebbe) it saves lives LITERALLY

    it is very unusual for the Rebbe to pin-point a specific mitzvah as being the cause to an increase in TRAGEDIES

    the Rebbe cares for us & wants us to be safe against harm & tragedies

    so while i making women comfortable is great!!! i dont think it rises to the level of pikuach nefesh as does tznius-attire on the street (if you trust the rebbe’s advice on this topic)

  • 17. Nechamy wrote:

    I think they have a valid point. But do they only go to female OB GYN’s? BTW I think according to state law emergency workers have to wear pants, as skirts get in the way. Iif that is true will they oblige?
    The only real problem is physical contact as it is a very contacting job. I mean between female EMT and male Paramedic.

  • 18. great idea wrote:

    so woman will join, am sure there is no tznious issues with working togther. lets face it. the woman will need men back up and so will the men if a woman wants a woman to treet her. so LETS PARTY. am sure many more will want to join now lol

  • 19. agree! agree! agree! wrote:

    much much much prefer a woman if G-d forbid I needed Hatzalah for such a situation. Would be horrified and embaressed beyond if a man from the community showed up.
    This is not said without appreciating what the amazing Hatzolah volunteers do….

  • 20. RN wrote:

    What percent of nurses are female? Who does Heshy Jacobs think take over the care of Hatzolah patients when he delivers them to the emergency room? Mostly women!

  • 21. Rebecca wrote:

    What if the woman is pregnant and can’t help carry the patient down the stairs w/o harming herself?

  • 23. Great Idea!! wrote:

    This is a great idea. If a call comes in because someone is in labor, it would be best if Hatzala men show up in ADDITION to the women team. The men can be of help if someone needs to be carried etc., and if a woman is actually in labor and giving birth, then it would be the women team that would be there to deliver.

  • 25. r u kidding wrote:

    this is an incredibly dumb argument. everything is so segmented that even proper segregation is improper!!

  • 26. to #16 wrote:

    very simple, either they will call a different dispatcher or send a male, but at least they’ll have some women available for the special requests!
    (and maybe she shouldn’t bichlal be on call when she has no one to spare her)

  • 27. Wfe wrote:

    Everyone knows that many people take advantage of Hatzolah and frequently call for non emergency care. I can just see the
    number of “homebirths” increasing because women are available
    for emergency deliveries. As a wife of a hatzolah volunteer
    I would really be upset if my husband goes on calls with women.
    If these women want to be aavailable for emergency deliveries
    then I think they should be on their own and not have anything
    to do with Hatzolah.

  • 28. to #19 wrote:

    to number 19:

    Actually my ob/gyn (man) who works at university told me just this week that now most of the ob/gyn interns today are women. Many times its an all women team in surgery etc

  • 29. Logically Speaking wrote:

    To all those people saying that an OB-GYN is male. When the Hatzolah EMT’s have gone through 4 years of medical school and then another 4 years of specialized training. THEN they have a valid argument about delivering a frum woman’s baby! We have been raised to be tznius, so it is only natural that we would want a woman EMT to deliver us. I don’t understand why it is even a discussion to allow woman on Hatzolah! (Unless of course it is an issue of TZNIUS!!!!, and then that just clarifies my point!!)

  • 30. Anon wrote:

    Ladies, you should not be embarrassed by a man from the community seeing you in labor. Why? Because it’s not sexy or appealing.

    Get over yourselves.

  • 31. Anon wrote:

    This is backwards.

    1. Medical positions should NOT be a gender/modesty issue.
    2. It SHOULD be based on qualifications.

    Just because you’re a female and uncomfortable with your body’s natural processes doesn’t mean a woman will know more or treat you better than a male doctor. You have to look at someone’s education and skills, not gender.

    To think that somehow having opposite genders working together is dangerous is mixed up. People work together every day and do you know what happens? Nothing. Why? Because people aren’t animals.

    #27 get a clue! If your husband was up to no good, he’d find a way. If you’re so insecure, then maybe it’s time for some self-reflection and improving the communication in your relationship.

    The bigger of a taboo you make something, the more exciting of a temptation it becomes.

  • 33. Hatzola wanna be wrote:

    For those that want to call 911 go ahead, they will take you to the nearest hospital that is listed in the 911 system as an L&D center. That is Kings County or Downstate, (if you live in Crown Heights) you might get lucky and get taken Methodist, they will not take you to Manhattan, or Staten Island. Odds are you are going to have male EMTs and Medics, try calling 911 and asking for a female crew.

    Remember you have 9 months to prepare for this event you don’t have to wait until the last second to get to your hospital. Very very few people have labor that is so short that they can’t make it to the hospital, most people that call for an ambulance either stayed at home too long or are too cheap to spend money on a taxi.

    Bottom Line. Don’t want Male Hatzola EMT’s or Paramedics delivering your baby, Go to the Hospital when contractions start.

  • 34. Go for it wrote:

    Sounds like it should have come up long ago, but better late than never. If there is an issue of assistance for lifting or safety, that is what a communication device is for, if those are concerns.
    The ones against it may be afraid of taking away the exclusiveness from them…

  • 35. Anonymous wrote:

    To Hatzola wannabe-what makes you so sure that a woman who is about to have a baby at home just waited too long? There is such thing as “precipitous labor”,or labor pains that are so different from a previous labor that a woman might not realize it is labor until it is too late. Or sometimes women get sent home from the hospital because it is “too early” and then they can’t make it back. There are all kinds of circumstances. Don’t be so quick to judge something you probably never experienced.

  • 36. Sounds good. wrote:


    Sounds like a good idea. I think though that the women on call should be women who are single, engaged, newly married or women who won’t have a problem dealing with their children when there is a call.

    Good luck!

  • 37. confused wrote:

    how many of u ladies in ch williamsburg and bp have the dori klinger group as obs? last i checked when they delivered me they are male. all 3 of them. so why are you all of the sudden worried about a hatzolah member helping you when as soon as you get to the hospital they are men delivering you. pretty sure theyve seen all ur parts over the last 9 months. now u start to get uncomfortable with a man helping you to the hospital and poss. delivering you?

  • 38. Anonymous wrote:

    To # 37- I think the problem is that the women might see these men on a social basis, in a supermarket,etc. Of course one can see their doctors anywhere in public also but it’s not “the same.”

  • 39. Orthodox Pundit wrote:

    An article on the topic

    Sheer Chutzpah: Challenging Hatzalah in the press and indicating litigation
    And WHO is fighting for Tznius
    Brooklyn – When Ruchy Freier went public with her call to add women to Hatzalah, it seemed that she took it on as a part of her community activities, as founder of B’Derech. Turns out she’s doing it under her capacity as a lawyer. Crain’s reported on Friday that she was hired by Borough Park and Williamsburg woman. “No, legal action is planned so far,” the paper tells us.
    So far?
    Is it possible that in the future they will take legal action? What a Chutzpah, to challenge the Hatzalah on the public arena, and signaling back handedly the possibility of legal action against this venerable and live-saving organization.
    From when I heard this issue, I was amazed that of all Frum women, only a lawyer is interested in a so-called Tznius issue. Rather, it fitted in to her organization’s activities to bring enjoyment to Jewish lives – something that we all lack, according to her. Now she says that she’s a hired gun, which I strongly doubt. Notwithstanding if she’s representing someone or it’s her own issue, taking her case to the wider media has no excuse.
    Doesn’t the Hatzalah have enough on their plate?
    Do they need the headache to have to set up a legal defense fund?
    Doesn’t such a case open up a can of worms, with the possibility that every turned back perspective volunteer will hire a lawyer? (I’m not elaborating on this one, not to further drilling that can of worms. I went into more details in an email to Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who is on record supporting the idea. I will be happy to share his response, if any).
    Don’t the Hatzalah leaders have enough a track record to deserve our trust to manage their own affairs?
    That’s besides the fact that having women only for one type of emergency, will mean they are un-alert and are inexperienced responders when these calls are coming. But all arguments aside, even if they are not right, you can’t attack them and black mail them through the general press.
    We should all stand up for Hatzalah and against its detractors.

  • 40. Anonymous wrote:

    If this “system” is in use in New Square-has it been studied? How does it work? Is the community satisfied with it? The fact that 20 women have signed up for EMT classes speaks volumes.

  • 41. fg wrote:

    i dont know i mean i woldent mind if a man did it i mean as long as the baby is helthy i dont see the prob.

  • 42. it-s not all about tznius wrote:

    #1, the Rebbe said to use the BEST doctor who is a friend (rofeh yedid) you can find. He never said women need a female doctor.
    #2, you can request from the dispatcher NOT to send you your next door neighbor.
    #3, I don’t see women blushing when Dr Rosen or fDr. Feldman walk past them on Kingston. They have seen everything, but somehow we can even say good shabbos as they walk past us!
    #4, If I need hatzalla because my baby CV’S won’t wait for the taxi to take me to the hospital, that means it’s an emergency, and I would want the best paramedic, with the most experience, who can get to me the fastest, and not have to wait for a specific female EMT-P.
    #5, What is chas v’shalom the mother develops other serious life threathening issues, or the baby isn’t breathing r”l? I would want the most competant person to treat me or my baby, and I don’t care if it is a man, woman or even a goy!

    When a life is in danger, you demand the best. The women – many are newly frum, educated in the secular ideaology tht women only count if they can do the same as men – will never have as much experience as the men who will respond to all kinds of emergencies, such as resusitating infants. Please do not jeapordise our lives, on the pretext that it’s all about TZNIUS when it’s really about women lib!.

  • 43. Orthodox Pundit wrote:

    The NY Post had today an article on this topic. It had indicationd that it is the beggining of Post investigations into Hatzalah. I hope I’m wrong.

    Here is another analysis I wrote on the topic
    Attack on Hatzalah Starts; And Hikind is Still On Board
    Lawyer Ruchie Freier continues her attack on Hatzalah in today’s NY Post story, “Jewish ‘siren’ ladies.” What’s even more frightening: the can of worms that I cautioned against opening is already ajar.
    The Post reports:
    “Hatzalah is a nonprofit, financed by donations. No women or non-Jewish man has ever applied, the source said.”
    That source, obviously replied to three questions that the reporter was drilling for: Is the Hatzalah discriminating based on: religion; Gender? And does it receive government funding, which would make this even worse?
    The first question is exactly what I had in mind when I blogged yesterday:
    “Doesn’t such a case open up a can of worms, with the possibility that every turned back perspective volunteer will hire a lawyer? (I’m not elaborating on this one, not to further drilling that can of worms. I went into more details in an email to Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who is on record supporting the idea. I will be happy to share his response, if any).”
    Unfortunately, the worms started to creep out already, and my non-disclosure will not stop it. So let me share parts of my email to Assemblyman Hikind, with his spokeswoman copied on it. (Please pardon my typos)
    “I’m the author of the new http://orthodoxpundit.blogs… I came across the Crain’s article posted below in the subject of ladies in Hatzalah. I know you spoke out in support. I’m just wondering how far your support goes…”
    “Aren’t you concerned that taking the issue to the press can bring non-Jews to ask why Hatzalah doesn’t take them as volunteers and why it doesn’t assist their community.
    “Shomrim is lately under attack after positive press. Shouldn’t be more careful from negative press against such a crucial and life-saving org.”
    These very same points were used by the NY Post in an orchestrated attack against the Shomrim less than two months ago, when the spotlight turned on them when the organized the massive search for Leiby Kletzky A”h. The heading for one very critical article says: Orthodox cops: Separate and unequal; New York City should stop funding separate, private police forces for Jews.
    Shouldn’t we expect from our elected officials to have the foresight to prevent the very same attacks against Hatzalah?
    And even if he missed it, I warned him very clearly. Still, he continued to cooperate with Freier – even after I pointed out to him that she seemed to signal possible legislation down the road against Hatzalah – as the Post reports:
    “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.”
    If the attack intensifies, Go-d forbid, it will be courtesy to our own Assemblyman, who was careless and ignored the warning.

  • 44. #42 SPOT ON! wrote:

    couldn’t have said it better!

    to all the tznius advocates i say:
    “being dead is bad for tznius”
    to all the feminists i say:
    “being dead is bad for women”

    so priority #1 is don’t be dead!! be gender blind & seek the best available doctor. most competent & most experienced, (& fastest to arrive to emergency)

  • 45. PBQS ESU Medic wrote:

    Hatzoloh EMS & women? good combo. A lot of the EMT’s & Paramedics here are female. Health comes natural to a woman. & In fact i have NEVER seen any other ambulance company (paid or volunteer) that doesn’t have any women. Hatzoloh is the only one & its about time they change. I hope all the best comes out of it. I’m going with the women’s side. LET THEM IN!

    (At least give them a trial run!!!)

  • 46. Hatzalah in a different city wrote:

    Why don’t the “Ezras Nashim” start their own group with their own number and with their own ambulances, with their own fundraisers and if it is something that is a BIG problem then they will get support in a flash. Why don’t we use the good American concept of Capitalism to determine the need. Why force your way into an organization that does not want you.


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