Ezras Nashim, an all-female volunteer ambulance service for New York’s Orthodox community, says it seeks to safeguard the modesty of women in labor from what was formerly a field dominated by men.
Ezras Nashim, a women-only crew of Orthodox emergency medical technicians, has received New York State approval to begin work as an emergency medical service. They will be going head-to-head against Hatzalah, a long-established and highly regarded volunteer ambulance company working primarily in communities with large Orthodox populations. Hatzalah has only male volunteers and refused a request by Ezras Nashim’s founders to start a division of female volunteers able to respond to calls when a woman is in labor.
The state health department licensed Ezras Nashim, whose name means “Women’s Help,” on February 15.
When they were rejected by Hatzalah in 2011, “I said we weren’t going to litigate, weren’t going to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. That was never an option. I said we would have to find a way to make it happen and at the same time give women a voice, give women an option,” said Rachel Freier, an attorney and Ezras Nashim’s founder.
“The state approval is big. We had to prove to the state that we’re capable of doing this and that there’s a need for it. Now we have to step up our training and fundraise to buy medical equipment,” said Freier. Two hospitals have agreed to provide advanced training in neo-natal and general emergency care to Ezras Nashim EMTs, she said.
Forty women signed up to volunteer have already trained as EMTs, another dozen currently are taking the EMT course and a few other women will serve as dispatchers, said Freier, who has six children and lives in Borough Park. She took the EMT course with her mother, and qualified last June. She claims that modesty, not a feminist desire for equality, motivated her to start Ezras Nashim.
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