BROOKLYN, N.Y. - The debate is whether or not an all female group of Jewish paramedics should be allowed to operate an ambulance. But at a State Emergency Medical Services Council public hearing conducted by teleconference Wednesday, a larger issue was highlighted - the power struggle within the Hasidic Orthodox Borough Park community.
"We are a group of women trained as EMTs fit and competent, ready willing and able to serve, continue being denied our constitutional right to serve our fellow women," said EMT Leah Levine with Ezras Nashim. “This bullying of women is uncharacteristic of the majority of observant Jewish men. This behavior is an aberration.”
The women formed Ezras Nashim eight years ago when the longstanding male volunteer ambulance group Hatzolah didn't allow them to join. Ezras Nashim is a Hebrew term which means "assisting women" and this group says that's their main mission to help provide medical services for Orthodox women who don't feel comfortable being treated, for religious reasons, by male EMTs. That notion was challenged by some at the hearing.
One participant said, “I'd like to address Ezras Nashim's claim that for modesty reasons we need an all female ambulance service. This claim is completely false.”
"I do not believe they speak for the women of Borough Park and Hatzolah does not believe they speak for the women of Borough Park," said another.
Ezras Nashim, which has been responding to emergencies including Covid cases and driving their own cars, applied for an ambulance license with the state last summer but were denied. The council said the group failed to prove there was a public need for a new ambulance service. But Ezras Nashim blames Hatzolah for blocking their effort and filed an appeal. Now Administrative Law Judge Tina Champion submitted a recommendation saying the group's application should be granted. And they further made their case with a petition and providing testimonials at the appeal hearing.
"In the year 2020 I don't believe that any organization should have the power to say when and where women can become something," said EMT Jessica Goldsmith with Ezras Nashim.
The council has yet to make a decision on the appeal saying they will review the public testimony and take up the issue at a future meeting.