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New York - An All-female Orthodox Ambulance Corps Gets A Film Of Their Own

Published on: July 10, 2018 09:30 PM
By: JTA
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Rachel Freier, center, is the protagonist of Rachel Freier, center, is the protagonist of

New York - Like many heavily Orthodox sections of Brooklyn, Borough Park has been served for decades by an all-male volunteer ambulance corps called Hatzalah.

The corps caters to a religious Jewish community with particular needs and customs—including one custom that can increase the tension for patients in already stressful emergency situations.

The strict boundaries between men and women are familiar to anyone who has attended an Orthodox synagogue or has read the stories of airplane flights being delayed  because haredi Orthodox men refuse to sit next to women.

In the event of a medical emergency, the male Hatzalah volunteers may touch women—if, for example, a woman needs to be moved to a stretcher or requires assistance while giving birth. But while Jewish law has its exemptions, women concerned about the rules of modesty have plenty of reasons to prefer treatment by a female EMT.

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“93Queen,” Orthodox filmmaker Paula Eiselt’s big-screen debut, documents one woman’s attempt to create an all-female version of Hatzalah with only strictly observant Orthodox members. In a statement, Eiselt explains that over four years of filming, she essentially operates as a one-woman crew.

The film opens July 25 in theaters in New York City and Los Angeles, with a wider release to follow.

The woman behind the female corps is Rachel “Ruchie” Freier, a lawyer and Borough Park native. She assembles a group of volunteers who are tentative at the start. And, not surprisingly, her plan sets up a clash with the establishment Hatzalah and its supporters. Opponents threaten to boycott the hospital that is training the women and the companies that sell them medical supplies. They also post nasty comments on Twitter, such as “God have mercy if you wait for them to get their make-up and the right dress on.”

But Freier’s leadership and inner strength help the members of what they call Ezras Nashim (“helping women”) persevere.

“The worst thing you can tell me is that I can’t do something because I‘m a woman, a religious woman,” she says.

Part of Freier’s fortitude manifests itself in a my-way-or-the-highway manner. When she insists that only married women can join the team, some members object—including an experienced EMT who recently became religious—and others resign.

“There’s a whole host of issues that come up in a marriage that will give you that level of maturity,” she says.

Though the film is gripping, the viewer is never entirely sure how it all works. The women on call respond from wherever they are to the scene of the emergency. However, it does not appear that Ezras Nashim owns its own ambulance. It contracts with a private company to provide patient transport. Who staffs that ambulance? Men? Do the women EMTs accompany patients in the ambulance?

There are other questions. At one point Freier says she refuses to let the project fail because that might blemish her image and hurt her plans to run for a judgeship. Was the ambulance fight just a way to build a political base, to get her name out there? Does it matter?

In the end, Freier must be doing something right: Last year, Ezras Nashim won the New York Basic Life Support Agency of the Year award, a high honor. And in 2016 Freier was elected as a judge in New York City’s 5th Civil Court District , becoming what is believed to be the first Hasidic women elected to public office in the United States.

Eiselt calls her film a story of “proud Hasidic women challenging the status quo of their own community and refusing to take no for an answer from the all-powerful patriarchy.” Regardless of your background — religious or atheist, feminist or nonpolitical — “93Queen” is a film that will get your juices boiling.



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Read Comments (20)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Jul 10, 2018 at 09:40 PM dave Says:

chillil hashem!

2

 Jul 10, 2018 at 10:04 PM Educated Archy Says:

Reply to #1  
dave Says:

chillil hashem!

What's the chilul ? I think it's a kiddish hashem ? Many females are uncomfy with men touching them . It's a beautiful thing
Stop criticizing Jews trying to help one another

3

 Jul 10, 2018 at 10:20 PM FBF37 Says:

Dave, You are an absolute moron!!

4

 Jul 10, 2018 at 10:57 PM Funnybone Says:

I just don’t get it. They need a film? PR? Why? kol kevuda bas melech penima. I’m not getting involved in the politics if there should be Ezras nashim, but why a film?

5

 Jul 10, 2018 at 11:11 PM stamnamefortrump Says:

Chasidim shoteh allows a woman to drown so not to touch her. We are taking strictness in the wrong area too far! Unless this is about driving around and being partners with male/female this is nuts!

6

 Jul 10, 2018 at 11:34 PM lazy-boy Says:

I taught my kids that when you need medical treatment, you seek the best and not look at the 'religiousness' of the medical practitioner.

Too many people put religiousness ahead of proper and best treatment.

7

 Jul 11, 2018 at 01:10 AM Bshtei_Einayim Says:

Seems like pretty unorthodox feminist ideology to me. Hatzalah has always done a magnificent job. Does not seem like the agenda here is tznius at all.

8

 Jul 11, 2018 at 08:07 AM Educated Archy Says:

Reply to #4  
Funnybone Says:

I just don’t get it. They need a film? PR? Why? kol kevuda bas melech penima. I’m not getting involved in the politics if there should be Ezras nashim, but why a film?

If you want to get the word out that you exist so you can help the people you have invested in , you need pr. It's that simple . Let's not judge other frum Jews during the 3 weeks or ever really

9

 Jul 11, 2018 at 09:26 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Educated Archy Says:

What's the chilul ? I think it's a kiddish hashem ? Many females are uncomfy with men touching them . It's a beautiful thing
Stop criticizing Jews trying to help one another

This is the first time I've agreed with Archy/ Even a broken clock is sometimes right.

10

 Jul 11, 2018 at 09:51 AM Anonymous Says:

Will Charedi men allow these female EMT's to touch them?

11

 Jul 11, 2018 at 09:53 AM dumpinouthouse Says:

Reply to #9  
Anonymous Says:

This is the first time I've agreed with Archy/ Even a broken clock is sometimes right.

Comparing Archy to a broken clock is not fair...to broken clocks!

12

 Jul 11, 2018 at 10:30 AM BrooklynJewBoy Says:

Its so intresting why a chasidish yingerman would even want to respond to a Female call.
It all boils down to politics / power / cherry lights / perverts / cordinator power / let me explain u how a H interview goes.They look at ur Beard / tzitzis and shul u daven at (like if u have all these things u automatically approved to look and touch women.
Listen Ruchi u Rock keep it up ..NO one can stop u ..Do whatever it takes. A film is a great start

13

 Jul 11, 2018 at 12:12 PM Educated Archy Says:

Reply to #10  
Anonymous Says:

Will Charedi men allow these female EMT's to touch them?

Its not for charedi men. Its for charedi women

14

 Jul 11, 2018 at 12:15 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #5  
stamnamefortrump Says:

Chasidim shoteh allows a woman to drown so not to touch her. We are taking strictness in the wrong area too far! Unless this is about driving around and being partners with male/female this is nuts!

Dont be stupid now! Were not talking about drowning women or falling women. Were talking other stuff where “in d alte heim” women were trained for it. If theyre trained adequately, who cares? Its only a huge plus. I still have the jitters when the men picked me up while I was having a miscarriage. I wldve defntly feel better to say the least with a competent woman.

15

 Jul 11, 2018 at 12:16 PM Educated Archy Says:

Reply to #12  
BrooklynJewBoy Says:

Its so intresting why a chasidish yingerman would even want to respond to a Female call.
It all boils down to politics / power / cherry lights / perverts / cordinator power / let me explain u how a H interview goes.They look at ur Beard / tzitzis and shul u daven at (like if u have all these things u automatically approved to look and touch women.
Listen Ruchi u Rock keep it up ..NO one can stop u ..Do whatever it takes. A film is a great start

"Its so intresting why a chasidish yingerman would even want to respond to a Female call. "

Huh are you crazy. Listen I am all for this new intiative. But don't you dear have the chutzpa to besmirch the men who are moser nefesh to save lives either.

Till now males responded because it was pikuch nefesh. They wanted to save lives. It was not some perverted garbage like you are thinking. And even after this initiative, many still need the expertise of a man who has done it for 30 years and/ or may be a medic as well.

Its about saving lives and stop knocking the most chashiva men out there.

16

 Jul 11, 2018 at 02:06 PM Anonymous Says:

To #13- Hey, Archy, you didn't understand my question; let us assume that there is an emergency (i.e. auto accident, heart attack, stroke, etc.), and the patient is a Chareidi male. Does anybody really believe in an emergency, if a female paramedic responded (assume that they were the closest ones, and the males at Hatzalah were delayed), does anybody really believe that the victim and/or his family would refuse the assistance of a female paramedic, who might save his life?

17

 Jul 11, 2018 at 03:04 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #10  
Anonymous Says:

Will Charedi men allow these female EMT's to touch them?

I think they only respond to calls for women patients. Many women feel more comfortable with a female EMT. If they are as well trained as Hatzalah guys, what's the problem?

18

 Jul 11, 2018 at 03:05 PM czyrankevic Says:

hey judge keep it up

19

 Aug 12, 2018 at 04:24 PM oyoyoy Says:

Hatzalah is a very noble enterprise and those who devote their time to it deserve the highest praise. But why, why would males who should not even be exposed to the snapshot of a fully covered female head want to risk the inevitable and potentially severe breaches of tzniyus in treating female emergencies, and not only in childbirth?

And might a woman not rightly prioritize her dignity and self respect before calling in a group of males from the community who have been taught to view her body as provocation to sin?

At the risk of her health?

Female health attendants have been around for millennia and I simply do not understand the reluctance to permit women to help women.

Kol HaKavod to Ruchie Freier and her EMTs, and to their supportive families.

20

 Oct 18, 2018 at 03:52 PM Sechel-Hayashar Says:

Sure. MITZVA GORERES MITZVA...
First we got the first chasidic female judge to a make a kiddush hashem...
Then we create a female EMT to guard our tznius...
Now we create a movie in Holywood, the most tznius'dig place on earth...
What's the next mitzva-kiddush hashem on your list???

21

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