Sisterhood Blog

Hatzalah Should Allow Female EMTs

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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“Modesty” is again holding back women in the Haredi community. Although I don’t agree with it, I can sort of understand how the prohibition against women sitting in the front of a bus, walking on a certain side of the street or talking on cell phones in public can relate to tsnius, or modesty, and guard against the mixing of the sexes. But now comes a case where I just cannot see the logic, no matter how hard I try.

The New York Post recently reported that dozens of Orthodox women trained as emergency medical technicians are asking to join Hatzalah, the all-Jewish, Brooklyn-based volunteer ambulance corps.

The women are being represented by lawyer and community activist Ruchie Freier, who says she has the endorsement of prominent rabbis in Brooklyn and New Square (where Orthodox women reportedly serve as EMTs). She also claims that Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who represents Boro Park, thinks that having women join Hatzalah is an idea worth considering.

Hatzalah CEO Rabbi David Cohen doesn’t think so. He says that Freier’s proposal is a nonstarter and that women have no place in his not-for-profit organization’s ambulances. He is not moved by Freier’s proposal to limit women EMTs to female patients only, and solely in the case of a woman giving birth or suffering from a gynecological problem.

Opponents of the women’s request to join Hatzalah accuse them of being immodest “radical feminists.”

I’d like to know what is so radical about women attending other women during childbirth, a practice that dates back centuries, if not millennia, in the Jewish community. I would also like to know what is so modest about a halachically observant man touching the private parts of a woman to whom he is not related, even if he is volunteering in a medical role.


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