It is not often that the YWN Editorial Board opines on communal concerns, and it is only following deep contemplation and discussions with the relevant stakeholders that we weigh in on the following matter – and only due to the jarring fact that it is a literal life-and-death issue.
As most are already well aware, a group of individuals are launching a new frum EMS squad they have named the Jackson Jewish Volunteer Ambulance Service (JJVAS), after being legally denied the ability to hijack the name “Hatzolah.” Contrary to its altruistic-sounding name, the terrible facts are that the kehilla it ostensibly serves will pay for it in yiddishe blood.
To begin with, the JJVAS is one that was arguably formed out of spite rather than goodwill. Its founder, Yitzchok Birnhack, was rejected from the legitimate Hatzolah branches in Boro Park and Flatbush, and he subsequently laid the plans to open his own emergency service, in what appears to be a swipe at the decades-long establishment that has heroically saved tens of thousands of lives for nearly half a century.
Furthermore, Birnhack’s organization is unfettered from rabbinical oversight, despite its insistence otherwise. When the rabbanim of Jackson, NJ, gathered in June of 2022 to discuss whether a new Hatzolah-esque organization should be opened to service the burgeoning kehillos that call Jackson home, the result was unequivocal opposition to the launch of a new emergency service.
The JJVAS paid no heed to the call of the rabbanim of Jackson, instead relying on the approbations of unnamed and unknown “rabbanim” whose identities are still a mystery to those who could one day unwittingly rely on them.
Moreover, the JJVAS is already notorious for its lackadaisical approach to vetting prospective members. The only qualification that appears to be a requirement is EMT certification – integrity, maturity, professionalism and experience isn’t on its radar. This will result in prohibitively young and immature “hockers” responding to deadly serious and intensely personal calls for emergency assistance.
Most importantly, and as briefly noted above, the JJVAS poses a very real threat to the lives of frum Jackson residents. Firstly, the JJVAS does not have a Paramedic program, nor is it able to have medics in the state of New Jersey, as it has no affiliation with a medic service. When the JJVAS is confronted with a scenario that immediately requires medics, they will have to await backup from Hatzolah of Central Jersey or EMS, and countless patients will inevitably die.
Additionally, Hatzolah of Central Jersey already services the entirety of Jackson. It currently has 30 members – including medics – and 4 ambulances stationed in Jackson alone, not to mention some 200 additional EMTs, paramedics and doctors nearby, and new prospective Jackson members are being constantly vetted.
Opening a second emergency service will do nothing but complicate response times, sow chaos in emergency situations that require order and a chain of command, and as a result, will literally cost someone their life.
Also necessary to take into account is the years of groundwork by Central Jersey Hatzolah to become recognized and understood by non-Jewish emergency agencies in Jackson, including the police and fire departments. Having rogue volunteer ambulance service members insert themselves into emergency situations has the potential to undo and destroy the tremendous working relationship Hatzolah of Central Jersey has formed, enabling them – and only them – to be given priority access to patients in need.
The Jackson Jewish Volunteer Ambulance Service is an illustration of individuals placing their egos over others’ lives, and for the sake of our brethren, it must be swiftly relegated to history’s dustbin.
The YWN Editorial Board
(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)