(JTA) — After years of fighting to operate their own ambulance, a medical group that caters to Orthodox women in Brooklyn now has the right to do so.
New York State’s Regional Emergency Medical Services Council granted an ambulance permit Thursday to Ezras Nashim. The organization’s name literally means “women’s aid” but it’s also the term for the section in Orthodox synagogues that is reserved for women.
“I can’t believe it. At the end of such a long journey and struggle, I really believe that it’s a miracle. I’m so grateful,” said Leah Levine, Ezras Nashim’s director of outreach and development, told The New York Post.
“Now it’s a new world. Now that we have the license, we can use lights and sirens on our own vehicles, so our response time will shoot up. And now we can transport our own patients. So it’s just amazing.”
Ezras Nashim, which was founded in 2014 by Orthodox women in Brooklyn, is a counterpart to Hatzolah, a better known emergency services organization that was founded decades ago and is staffed largely by men.
Hatzolah leaders opposed the women’s group’s efforts, saying that it’s immodest for the women to serve as EMTs.
Among the newer group’s founders is Judge Ruchie Freier, the first Orthodox Hasidic woman to hold elected office in America. She is also the mother of Freier Levine.
The idea behind the all-female service was that it would better serve religious women, who might not wish to be treated by male staff for modesty reason. Its staff of about 40 volunteers has already been operating in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Borough Park and Flatbush, but the lack of an ambulance license limited Ezras Nashim’s operations.