Efforts to Have Women Join Female Hatzolah Called “Ezras Noshim”


hatzolah1The following report appears in Crain’s New York business. It should be noted that Matzav.com’s stance on this issue is that, at this time, the gedolim have been clear on their feelings regarding women joiningHatzolah. Until the gedolim issue a statement permitting such action, it should be viewed as a breach in tznius standards. We present this article to inform the public regarding the efforts of some to institute this break in modesty. That some frum politicians have expressed their support for this initiative without receiving rabbinic backing is deeply troubling. – Matzav.com

Crain’s New York business reports:

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.

Mr. Hikind 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.”

{Crains NY/Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. why is it not more of atnius problem when a man may find a patient in an untznius compromising situation or prhaps may have to deliver a baby as my son zg”z did anumber of times again

  2. Wait, so a 16 year old male volunteer is delivering a woman’s baby that’s ok, but if the 16 year old’s mother delivers that baby, this is a breach in tznius?

  3. I think the gedolim were only against women joining hatzalah helping men and running around like all the men, with radios and sirens. for that , i agree its not the place of a woman.

    but if its limited to delivering babies or for other cases when a women is requested, why is that a lack of tznius, i think on the contrary its more appropriate that a man.

    Matzav, please clarify your information, before making your own analogies to what the gedolim have said when discussing it in a general sense.

  4. Ms.Freier .Ezras Nashim is NOT a Yiddish but a Hebrew/lashan kodesh.As to modesty ,in my mind it would be more modest for women to take care women issues.

  5. Why would it be a breach of Tznius for an all-female EMT or paramedic team to attend a woman in an obstetric or gynecological emergency?

    The female EMT’s or paramedics would have to know beforehand that if they’re on call for an emergency, especially at night, they won’t have time for “fancy grooming” before they leave the house.

    A female EMT would need to put on plain clothes and can’t stop to put on make-up, and a married female EMT would have to quickly put on a snood, Teichel, or Sheitel that doesn’t need grooming.

  6. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Hatzalah is working perfectly fine without women. There is no shortage of Hatzalah personnel.

    And it should be noted, that 911 / EMS does NOT accept requests to send a woman EMT for female emergencies or birth. It is not needed by 911 and it is not needed by Hatzalah.

  7. And before anyone mentions that once in the past women were temporarily allowed to serve in Washington Heights (a situation that B”H has since been stopped since it is no longer necessary) by Rav Schwab, Rav Schwab specifically stated it is a temporary measure ONLY allowed temporarily until there are enough men to respond, and that it should not be precedent setting. Once that situation was remedied, that temporary situation was stopped as Rav Schwab insisted.

  8. Furthermore, Mrs. Freier is a know feminist who in the past too has attempted to undermine Rabbonim and Gedolim shlit”a with her subtle attacks on them.

  9. In New Square the ONLY time a woman can come along on the Hatzalah call is in the very RARE call where a woman is imminently giving birth.

  10. I don’t know the psak on this and I don’t have any opinion as far as what the gedolim say on this . But it actually sounds like a great idea. And I’m sure many husbands will actually be delighted that there wife is for instance having their baby delivered through a woman instead of a man. And of course most women will feel delighted that there’s now women out there capable of doing this in place of the men. And in most situations for that matter, this will be a great service. And as far as the claim that women dont drive as fast, and need grooming prior to their exercise. Well this is utter noonesense because I’ve seen plenty of women drive faster then men. And handle the same exercises as men, and plenty of women are simply not into grooming. And will do it only when absolutely necessary. Now Obviously a majority of women can’t handle heavy exercises, but those women simply wont qualify for the job whilst the minority of women capable of doing it will. There are women out there capable of heavy exercises and the general claim about women being unable is simply hatred. Again a Ruv coming with das torah will carry his weight on this. But the claims of women being unable is simple hatred.

  11. I don’t know about today, but when I was studying in Breuer’s over 20 years ago, if a woman went into labour, Mrs. Monoker from KAJ went with the ambulance to possibly deliver the baby.

  12. “the gedolim have been clear on their feelings regarding women joiningHatzolah.”
    which gadol are you reffering to? i never heard any gadol express his feelings on this issue?

  13. I agree that if the Gedolim have maintained their position on women in Haztzalah then women should not be part of Hatzalah but to say ridiculous things like “women crew members would need extra time to attend to their grooming before they left the house” on the way to an emergency is absurd and ridiculous.
    If I would have the choice between a women or male Hatzalah member to deliver my baby- you can bet I would choose the woman. Eventhough I have no issue with a male OBGYN

  14. My daughter had two emergency home deliveries. In one case, in the middle of the night, it took Hatzoloh over 5 minutes to get to her house, because there are many Hatzoloh members’ wives who will not allow their husbands to attend a delivery. My daughter essentially delivered her own baby, who was not breathing, and fortunately she was prepared with a sterilized nasal aspirator, and for 5 long minutes she was aspirating her newborn baby until Hatzoloh finally arrived. Without her preparedness and knowledge of what to do in such an emergency, (which most women lack) the baby could chas v’sholom have died. I think that women Hatzoloh members for baby deliveries is a wonderful, life-saving idea.

  15. Here is an article on the issue.


    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.

  16. Reality is that women can deliver babies well in a proper setting such as an hospital etc. But if they aren’t used to responding in a second, running out of the house/grocery store/wedding hall etc, while carring heavy bags of equipment, the quick and carful driving, etc etc etc, they’d lose their proper presence of mind. Then think about the dispatchers. What an headache it would be.

    # 4-5,

    if your story is true (which is suspect), a woman would have taken much longer to arrive. remember, it is G-d who gives a child life. Trying to “give life” in a way that contradicts G-ds Will is not what will save lives

  17. Makes a lot of sense to me. Women for women emergences. Especially because this involves primarily Jewish people and, of course, women will feel much more comfortable and could be even relaxing and soothing mentally and emotionally for a frum woman. Even though we are living in a politically correct era where feminism (another political cookooism) has reared its ugly head; these types of feminist innovations are a definite positive!

  18. Thank you Matzav for being the only one to expose this for what it is.

    This is being done without any support from rabbonim. None at all! Not yeshivish, not chassidish, not modern. No one.

    Matzav, don’t let this one get away. Keep it going and keep fighting for what is right like you have done for others.

  19. That just didnt make sense that ur daughter gave birth 5 min before hatzaloh came “bec their wives wont let thatm take such calls”?! Do u know this for a fact that the 5 min it took to get to ur daughters house bec a hatzolah members wife didnt let him go? Maybe it was bec her addresss wasnt displayed properly or maybe it was in middle of the night which usually takes a little longer to wake up and then respond and that time would be even longer for a women who would first need to get dressed…,

  20. How many times r we actually talking about that the baby is delivered out of the hospital its not really necesarry to make a whole group of women get involved for the 20 times a year… It costs alot they each need a radio full set of equiptment… And its only being used once a yr by each volunteer. And it definetly will take longer for a female bec there are much more men so there is allways going to be a man nearby but not neceseraly will there be a woman!

  21. to #26:
    Bottom line, it is much more appropriate and tzniusdik for a female to respond to a call for an imminent birth than a man.

  22. Seriously, they have women delivering babies for hatzolah in New Square, but it is not tznius enough for Brooklyn?
    Perhaps some of the people behind this push are not lshaim shmayim, but that doesn’t mean it is not a good idea. I live in Lakewood and I remember hearing a conversation among typical yeshivish women about how they would love to be able to call a woman for help in this area. And their husbands would feel better too.
    Many of the comments here make me cringe as they are so disrespectful of women and their abilities, and are simply unfair stereotypes. Not every woman is an airheaded JAP.
    I never knew Shifra and Puah were feminists and out to get gedolei yisroel. We seem to have lost our common sense.

  23. The argument that women would lose their head and take longer has been disproven by the track record of women in all kinds of emergency management positions.
    You want to argue halacha or tznius, we can talk. But using these outdated stereotypes is just silly. Jewish women have done this through the ages.

  24. Very well said. Thank you!

    Lets remember why Hatzalah was started. I mean, shouldn’t the “enlightened” “modernized” people who would like to promote the “ideals of the times” be satisfied with our host cultures medical response system (the FDNY)?

    The only reason Hatzalah was started, and continued, is because they save lives. The intention behind these women has nothing to do with saving lives. Its only about “equality”. If that’s the case – just go with the host cultures system, the FDNY. Good luck

  25. This is definately a most debatable, controversial topic. I have thought out the pros & cons of both sides, & wish to express my opinion on the matter.
    I feel that Hatzolah should continue functioning as is, without the asistance of women for gynecological emergencies.
    However, there should be a small amt of female volunteer midwives available in the event that a woman’s birth is truly imminent & the women specifically requests it.
    Obviously, the male EMT would attend first, & only call down a midwife if the above scenario arises, & if there’s the time to wait around…

  26. If their intent was modesty, as they claim, (or now adding to “save” babies lives) would they hire a feminist lawyer to advance their cause or speak to the rabbinical board of Hatzalah? The fact that they hired a feminist lawyer says it all……

  27. Don’t tell us “their feelings”, that’s not a psak. Is there has been a psak, tell us (with attribution). If not, don’t let every chaimyankel blow off steam.

  28. It is immaterial whether it is practical or not. The issue here is that this is old-fashioned Women’s Liber’s that are using the guise of frumkeit as their political ticket.

    In addition, Hatzolah does enough good for the community that deserve to be left alone. Let them keep their nonsense agendas to the Ezras Nashim!

  29. I don’t understand all this noise. How often does a woman go into labor and need emergency services? Of all the many women I know, with all the children they have delivered, only one delivered in her house.

    BTW, I once had a female teacher in High School who was an EMT and a Hatzalah member trainer!

  30. #38: just about every Hatzolah neighborhood has a few out of hospital births per year, sometimes before Hatzolah gets called, sometimes before they arrive, and sometimes with Hatzolah attending the birth.

    There are major logistical issues, and little utility to the idea. Problem #1 is that, through no fault of the dispatchers, about 40% of dispatch descriptions are not really accurate. So what happens when the female emt is dispatched, and it turns out to be a non-gyn call?

    Secondly, mosy ob/gyn calls have zero tnzius issues. It is either unfounded, or there’s plenty of time to get to the hospital, so no physical examination is really needed. The call is canceled, or the woman is transported fully clothed.

    Finally, and most importantly, remember that the number one priority is getting someone to the scene of the emergency in case chv”sh of complications. I can’t imagine we want to risk slowing response to work out this female emt response! But if she’s only a secondary dispatch, i.e., if when the first guy on scene determines that the female emt is needed and now we first try to get her there, chances are, if there’s a tznius issue, she will be too late to help.

    The New Square approach is actually quite simple. If the dispatcher thinks the situation warrants it, then in addition to normal response, a female volunteer is located and an extra male volunteer brings her to the emergency to avoid delaying the rest of the response. If it works out, great. If not, the men handle it as usual. And if the situation didn’t really warrant it, then she gets cancelled. But New Square is a little different. It is fairly small, with not a lot going on, and with a relatively high proportion of ob calls. In a busy neighnorhood, run by an even busier dispatch system, it may result in greater chaos. Her utility is greatly reduced by the larger geographic area, and tougher traffic/parking.

    I kniw that this is a definite problem, but the cure seems worse than the disease.

  31. The Gedolei HaPoskim of Hatzalah have spoken. The Gedolei HaPoskim of Hatzalah have issued a Psak Din that women may not serve in Hatzalah.

    Period. There is nothing more to talk about. No one — especially laymen, er women — has a right to dare question Hatzalah’s operations after Hatzalah’s poskim have decided the matter.


  32. For those of you who are quick to call this a feminist agenda, why is it that Ichud Hatzolah in Israel does have women EMT responding to calls? Are the ones in Skver who arranged this also “feminists”.

    I find it strange that instead of discussing the topic some people just want to lash out at the person who suggested it and pretend to know with certainty what is motivating others. Are you sure you clearly know you own motivations?

    I did take the time to call Mrs. Freier and even spoke with some of the women EMTs. They are very ordinary women, a mixture of litvish, chassidish and misc. They shared anecdotals of women who were traumatized by the current system and that is their sole agenda, to provide a better alternative.

    As for this being in violation of any psak, in its pure form this service does not require any psak. For a woman to treat a woman no psak is needed it is when a male is offering the treatment that many halachic issues arise. The only psak would be required is if you tried to integrate a crew with women and men together and of course they are not interested in that at all. All they want is a separate women’s division.

    I think you are right though, Hatzolah may have enough on its plate and this group should be totally independent of Hatzolah.

  33. Furthermore, it is relatively very RARE to receive a call of an emergency birth situation. It happens very very infrequently. The tumult these reshoyim are making is over something that it extremely rare, and doesn’t involve more than a small handful of Hatzalah personnel per year. Even if theoretically they used women for this, they would need less than a handful of women for the entire Hatzalah operation.

  34. Makes no sense why anyone would be against this. For religious people, you would think that they would want this. Women for women.
    What’s the problem?

  35. To #36: Ruchie Freier is not a feminist at all! She is an ehrliche Bobover wife and mother, first and foremost. She went to law school over a period of 10 years, so that she could properly devote herself to her family, and finally graduated when her children were mostly grown. She only passed the bar three or four years ago. Ruchie cares passionately about klal Yisroel, and unlike many of us, she actually steps up to the plate to help the less fortunate in Klal Yisroel. She saw a need to reach out to frum kids at risk, worked for a while privately with some of them, and then single-handedly started the B’derech organization for kids-at-risk. When she sees there is a need she rushes in to fill it. This has nothing to do with feminism; this has to do with askonus for the klal. And unlike most lawyers, Ruchie does not get paid for all of the hours she devotes to the klal.

  36. To #26: The Hatzoloh volunteer who finally showed up after 5 minutes told my daughter and son-in-law that the reason it took so long to get to her is that the wives of many Hatzoloh volunteers don’t let their husbands attend a birth and the dispatcher had a hard time finding someone to go on that call. Also, not only is their house number clearly displayed, but my son-in-law stood anxiously at the open door to be able to usher the Hatzoloh volunteers in as quickly as possible, so you are wrong on both counts.

  37. Issey, gynecological emergencies and deliveries aren’t “women’s issues”? In nay case, it would obviously be a trememndous aveira to take the case to a secular court (hopefully “legal action” means a din Tora). It is also a tremendous aveira to publish lashon hara and hotza’at shem ra against the women involved.

  38. I’m unfamiliar about her “work for the klall”. If she has done things for the klall, she will surly be richly rewarded by Hashem. But that doesn’t whitewash any action she takes. What she has done here is absolutely wrong. Running to Dov Hikind radio shows is wrong. Trying to go against the Rabbonim of Hatzalah is wrong. Threatening to sue Hatzalah… no words can describe that

  39. You wrote “I did take the time to call Mrs. Freier and even spoke with some of the women EMTs. They are very ordinary women, a mixture of litvish, chassidish and misc.”

    Hmmmm. Ordinarry litvish and chassidish women defy, publically, their rabbonim and threaten to sue Hatzalah? Hmmm. (Oh yeh, what does misc. mean?)

    What a self-proclaimed mentch you must be

  40. #49: A woman would have taken even longer to come. Imagine they had to specially find a woman for the situation. It would increase response time.

  41. New Square is a pretty small area. So if you need a woman, she’s not too far away.

    Take Flatbush on the other hand, and you have a very large geographic area. When a call comes in, the closest people respond. You have men literally spending nights in their cars in order to avoid unnecessary delays. Do you now stage women all over as well? You wouldn’t want to delay care… If you have numerous male volunteers within a moment of the call, should you wait for a woman who is not nearly as close? Tznius issues aside, it’s just not practical!

  42. This is one of the greatest ideas for religious emergency volunteers groups to have women volunteers when women have emergencies, especially birth. Hard to even imagine anyone with a thinking mind being against such a great idea and it should definitely be implemented. This has nothing to do with typical feminist ideas or movements. Tbis is plain ordinary common sense.

  43. Having delivered out of hospital, a few points…
    1. Without going into detail, most Hatzalah deliveries need not be particularly “untzniusdik”. Suffice it to say that these are the babies that deliver themselves, often before Hatzalah even gets there.

    2. I was escorted by a (male) EMT who was off to the side, and two (female) trainees who did the routine questioning and the easy stuff like holding on so you don’t go flying as the ambulance speeds around curves.

    Whatever the Rabbanim pasken, it should be happy and healthy. Where there’s a will there’s a way and either situation (per psak) can be made to work in a generally modest and effective manner. Simchas!

  44. Is the Hatzalah publicly funded, that one can sue them to force them to hire a female? Are we going to have quota’s now? Are we going to enforce affirmative action?

  45. Personally we once chose to use a female ob for this reason thankfully I am alive to regret it.
    Let those who are most capable do the job, the gender should not be an issue. It is unlikely these women will be able to perform sporadicly on par with those constantly in the field.

  46. As Comment #43 from “Ben Torah” points out, as Bnei Torah Rabbonim have stated a P’sak Halacha about the issue, then obviously that is what has to be done. Now, it would be extremely helpful for the situation if the exact language of the P’sak — with English translation — could be printed here. In that way, everyone could clearly see EXACTLY what type of plan is Assur – prohibited, and what type of plan may actually be a good idea.

    As Comment #4 from “not sure” implies, even before we would be told any P’sak, on our own, we should be able to realize that, for example, to, Chas V’Shalom, have a set-up where men EMT’s work together with women EMT’s, would be outright extremely wrong. However, what about the following plan: The Hatzaloh organization should remain completely like it has been until now, an exclusively men operated set-up. What could be done though, is that a group of appropriate woman, should form a TOTALLY SEPARATE organization OF MID-WIVES whose ONLY job is to assist women in giving birth. Again, THEIR ONLY JOB is to help women give birth — nothing else whatsoever!

    Again, detailed clarification is needed.

  47. I really do not get this whole debate:

    1) Yes men and women are not physically equal. I am not saying that there are not some women who are as strong as some men, but in general men are physically stronger and faster. If they were equal there would be no Olympics, etc… It is a pretty much accepted fact. For some reason people are equating speed with driving. That is not how I understand it, it is talking about outside of driving, and driving part is an equalizer for just that portion of the call. What if the person all of sudden has to be carried down 3 flights of steps and rushed to the hospital? Again not neccesarily will happen but it is a variable to look at.

    But that is not my main point.

    2) How many calls do you really think happen where you have to deliver a baby right then and there. Normally you know when you have to deliver, go in to labor, and have plenty of time to get to the hospital, or wherever
    your choice to deliver is.

    3) And the main point the thing that should end all of the discussion is DAAS TORAH. She was offered and declined to go to Bes Din. If Daas Torah and the Gedolim who work on the policy for Hatzalah now will allow it, sign me up for a class. But they do not approve it. This goes back to Reb Moshe, and the Gedolim of previous generation.

    Since the main concern we as Yiddin right before Rosh Hoshanna should be concerned with is following Daas Torah and not thinking we know better then the Gedolim of this generation and last. Now as other recommend if you do not feel comfortable with a man delivering your child, then make sure you can get to the hospital. We are talking about not Tznius with Hatzolah it is about life and death, and these are the questions and concerns we turn to our Rabbanim and must rely on them to expound on the Torah. We may question to understand what they say, but we cannot question them in a manner that shows we do not accept their Psak.

    Again she has been offered to go to Bes Din. She has declined instead talks of civil court. Reason to me is obvious she knows Daas Torah does not agree with her.

    If she feels she is right and women need this, she can go and open her own organization called Ezras Noshim.