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15.08.2018

Hasidic, female EMTs are battling misogyny in NYC.

“This is not a test! This is not a test!” came the clear, steady female voice on a summer night in 2014.
Time: 07:41     Date: 22.07.2018
Metro News: Hasidic, female EMTs are battling misogyny in NYC. NY Post 24 - US News

Then the dispatcher revealed the emergency: A pregnant woman in Borough Park was about to give birth, and she urgently needed help.

It was the maiden call for the women of Ezras Nashim, America’s first all-female EMT service. The organization’s director, Rachel “Ruchie” Freier, 53, recalls how “surreal” it was to see the flashing yellow light on the dashboard of her Honda Odyssey, as she raced to the scene: “I felt like I was dreaming.”

Indeed, it was a dream come true for the lawyer-turned-emergency medical technician. She had fought local biases to help create an emergency health-care corps designed for Hasidic Jewish women by Hasidic Jewish women — going up against men who believed that females could not handle the rigors of such work. Now, a new documentary, “93Queen,” (titled for the radio code given to the group by the FDNY), puts a spotlight on that battle.

Over the course of decades, female Hasidim in Brooklyn had one option in medical emergencies: the volunteer emergency medical service Hatzolah, which does not allow women to join its ranks. But given the sect’s modesty — Hasidic women do not so much as bare a leg in view of men who are not their spouses — being treated by men during intimate moments of need was hugely difficult.

“The concept of modesty is a primary aspect of our life,” Freier, who grew up in Borough Park, told The Post. “We take pride in [it], from how we cover our hair to how we interact with men. Women were put into situations where they had to expose their bodies to men who weren’t their husbands.”

The idea for Ezras Nashim was conceived in 2011 when five Hasidic women — all Brooklyn EMTs — began talking about launching their own volunteer emergency service. They phoned several attorneys, looking for pro-bono advice.

“I am the only one who agreed to do it,” said Freier, who practices real estate law and, as a civil court judge, is the first Hasidic woman to hold public office in the United States.

She was so inspired that she wound up immersing herself in the group while maintaining her law practice and raising six children. Almost immediately, the women faced conflict, when an influential rabbi refused to endorse their undertaking.

While it was hardly surprising that men expressed doubts about an all-female EMT crew — “In Judaism, a woman’s place is in the home,” an anonymous Hatzolah volunteer remarks in “93Queen” — some women in the community were also against them.

“A woman [asked] if I could drive as fast as a man,” said Freier. “I had to laugh.”

The women of Ezras Nashim.Annie Wermiel

On the Yeshiva World News Web site, one detractor commented, “God have mercy if you call and then wait for them to get their makeup and get the right dress on.” Another posted a pink walkie-talkie adorned with dolls’ heads.

The negative attention was tricky for Freier’s husband David, a real estate agent. In the movie, he frets: “The ladies’ ambulance thing makes me nervous, especially when I hear men banging down about how it is not going to work . . . A lot of men told me they would not be able to survive [their wife being an EMT].”

But Freier and her crew remained undaunted and earned their certifications — learning how to give injections, deliver babies, administer CPR and more. (They are not allowed to perform any type of surgery, or initiate intravenous drugs.)

The team, now some 50 members strong, has handled lots of maternity emergencies, as well as car accidents and heart attacks. (While they have treated men, it’s rare.)

Awareness of Ezras Nashim is spread via word of mouth, and through flyers handed out in Borough Park. EMTs with automobiles use their own; those without cars drive a Chevrolet hatchback that belongs to the organization.

As many as four women are on call at a time. They call regular ambulances when patients must be transported to the hospital, then stay with the patient as needed.

The group is working toward a license to operate its own ambulance and planning to expand into more neighborhoods.

“The younger [Hasidic] generation has a different view of women; little boys know that we can do [emergency] work,” said Freier. “More and more people give us the thumbs-up when we drive by.”

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