The Legendary Hatzalah Volunteers of Crown Heights
You see them every day of the week – including Shabbos and Yom Tov, and at all times of the day and night; dashing out of their homes, shops and shuls in order to perform acts of chesed (good deeds). They interrupt participation in joyous family simchas (celebrations) and even when davening (praying) to Hashem (G-d) during the most serious days of the Jewish calendar (Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur), in order to try and save the life of another human being. In many cases, they do not even know who that person is.
They are the selfless volunteer members of the Hatzalah of Crown Heights, who for the past thirty have responded immediately during the coldest days of the winter or the hottest days of the summer, to desperate calls for help to dozens of various types of medical emergencies. Every year, the ‘chevra’ (members) of Hatzalah of Crown Heights respond to more than 10,000 pleas for help that run the gamut of painful but non-life threatening injuries to terrifying heart attacks and strokes, in which a quick response time can mean the difference between a chance at continued life or a devastating tragedy for family members.
The individuals who join Hatzalah are screened to make sure that they are responsible members of the community. After being chosen, they are put through a thorough training program that includes dozens of hours of classes and self-study of medical first aid texts. Members must undergo special New York State certified exams and only those who pass with high marks are allowed to join Hatzalah. They make a commitment to devote dozens, if not hundreds of hours over the course of a year to respond to anxious calls for help. And they do so for free, without any thought of payment.
Although, the organization was established by members of the Crown Heights Jewish community, the volunteer members respond to medical emergencies to any member of the neighborhood, without regard to race, religion or ethnic background of the individual in need. Many non-Jews have come to respect the professional skills of Hatzalah volunteers and are quick to call the group when a medical emergency occurs. Hatzalah unlike the city 911 emergency medical technical teams, does not charge for its services. That is perhaps one reason why many people who lack adequate health insurance or have limited budgets, prefer to call Hatzalah first.
Today, there are hundreds, if not thousands of people who are walking on the streets of Brooklyn and elsewhere only because of the timely response that they received from volunteers of Hatzalah to life-threatening medical emergencies that they suffered while in Crown Heights. One of the reasons the group is able to respond to emergencies so quickly is the fact that they live and work in the community. This enables the dedicated members of Hatzalah to reach any point in the community within moments of the call for help being sent out over special radios by the group dispatcher.
Indeed for the dozens of Crown Heights Hatzalah volunteers, their commitment to serve is almost a religious mission. In Judaism, there is a strong emphasis of Tikun Haolam – repairing the world. What better way than to help save a human life. Indeed, the Mishna declares, “One who saves a single life, it is as if he had saved an entire universe.” These words truly characterize the attitudes of Hatzalah members who take pride also in fulfilling the Torah dictum of “Veahavta lireacha kimocha/love your fellow man like yourself.” Unlike many moral ethicalists who merely mouth pious statements, the volunteers of Hatzalah make a living demonstration of their service to both G-d and fellow man, often at the expense of precious time with their spouses and children.
That these dozens of selfless community members devote countless hours throughout the years to assisting and saving the lives of others is one of the greatest mitzvahs that we are privileged to see. But, this incredible miracle cannot exist without the financial support of the people in the community who have an appreciation for the great chesed service that Hatzalah volunteers perform on a routine basis. The cost of maintaining and insuring the ambulances and other life-saving medical equipment routinely utilized over the course of a year by Hatzalah members runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Unlike the official 911 E.M.S. crews and service that benefit from both city and state funding, the Crown Heights Division of Hatzalah is totally dependent on caring people like you to make generous tax-deductible donations. For your convenience, such contributions can also be made on all major credit cards, thereby allowing you to gain the advantage of also earning bonus points and frequent flyer miles.
Why should you make a donation? Because, not only is it a major mitzvah in the Torah and the decent thing to do (proving your love for your fellow man who was made in the image of G-d), but also it is something that the Lubavitcher Rebbe strongly supported.
Unlike the Hatzalah organizations of other prominent Jewish communities in the Metropolitan New York area, Crown Heights is a smaller community that does not have the services of full-time professional fundraisers. Therefore, your help is so very desperately needed. Remember, what goes around, comes around, and with your much needed help, Hatzalah of Crown Heights will still be able to be around to respond to the thousands of frantic pleas for help that may come in this coming year.
Please take the time to carefully reflect upon this great mitzvah and then kindly send a generous tax-deductible donation that will bring you benefits not only in this world, but also in Olam Haba (the World to Come).
For donations, please click here.
History of Hatzalah of Crown Heights
The origins of Hatzalah of Crown Heights go back to a tragic Friday afternoon in 1976. A prominent member of the Jewish community – not yet 40 years of age, suffered a major heart attack in his home while preparing for Shabbos. A call was immediately made to the city emergency medical ambulance service. However, many precious minutes passed before an ambulance arrived at the home, and unfortunately, the victim had already passed away. Many of his friends and members of the community were convinced that if he would have been given medical attention earlier, his life could have been saved. A special call went out in the community and the result was the purchase of a new ambulance for dedicated exclusively to the members of the Crown Heights community. As the community has grown, Hatzalah now has three fully equipped ambulances and a group of over 30 dedicated volunteers.
Although, the organization was established by members of the Crown Heights Jewish community, the volunteer members promptly respond to medical emergencies to any member of the neighborhood, without regard to race, religion or ethnic background of the individual in need. Many non-Jews have come to respect the professional skills of Hatzalah volunteers and are quick to call the group when a medical emergency occurs. Hatzalah, unlike the city 911 emergency medical technical teams, does not charge for its services. That is perhaps one reason why many people who lack adequate health insurance or have limited budgets, prefer to call Hatzalah first.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe strongly supported the chesed activities of the Hatzalah volunteers. At a farbrengen (public gathering) the Rebbe spoke of the importance of maintaining a healthy body and stated that the Hatzalah ambulance be parked in front of his office and of the world headquarters of Lubavitch at 770 Eastern Parkway, as a reminder to all to take care of their health. The Rebbe also spoke out about the beauty of the Hatzalah concept of “Ve’havta Le’rayecha Komocha” assisting those in the community in their hour of greatest medical emergencies.
EMT Code of Ethics
As adopted by the National Association of EMTs
Professional status as an Emergency Medical Technician and Emergency Medical Technician-Paramedic is maintained and enriched by the willingness of the individual practitioner to accept and fulfill obligations to society, other medical professionals, and the profession of Emergency Medical Technician. As an Emergency Medical Technician-Paramedic, I solemnly pledge myself to the following code of professional ethics:
A fundamental responsibility of the Emergency Medical Technician is to conserve life, to alleviate suffering, to promote health, to do no harm, and to encourage the quality and equal availability of emergency medical care.
The Emergency Medical Technician provides services based on human need, with respect for human dignity, unrestricted by consideration of nationality, race creed, color, or status.
The Emergency Medical Technician does not use professional knowledge and skills in any enterprise detrimental to the public well being.
The Emergency Medical Technician respects and holds in confidence all information of a confidential nature obtained in the course of professional work unless required by law to divulge such information.
The Emergency Medical Technician, as a citizen, understands and upholds the law and performs the duties of citizenship; as a professional, the Emergency Medical Technician has the never-ending responsibility to work with concerned citizens and other health care professionals in promoting a high standard of emergency medical care to all people.
The Emergency Medical Technician shall maintain professional competence and demonstrate concern for the competence of other members of the Emergency Medical Services health care team.
An Emergency Medical Technician assumes responsibility in defining and upholding standards of professional practice and education.
The Emergency Medical Technician assumes responsibility for individual professional actions and judgment, both in dependent and independent emergency functions, and knows and upholds the laws which affect the practice of the Emergency Medical Technician.
An Emergency Medical Technician has the responsibility to be aware of and participate in matters of legislation affecting the Emergency Medical Service System.
The Emergency Medical Technician, or groups of Emergency Medical Technicians, who advertise professional service, do so in conformity with the dignity of the profession.
The Emergency Medical Technician has an obligation to protect the public by not delegating to a person less qualified, any service which requires the professional competence of an Emergency Medical Technician.
The Emergency Medical Technician will work harmoniously with and sustain confidence in Emergency Medical Technician associates, the nurses, the physicians, and other members of the Emergency Medical Services health care team.
The Emergency Medical Technician refuses to participate in unethical procedures, and assumes the responsibility to expose incompetence or unethical conduct of others to the appropriate authority in a proper and professional manner.
Written by: Charles Gillespie M.D.
Adopted by: The National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, 1978.
Be it pledged as an Emergency Medical Technician, I will honor the physical and judicial laws of God and man. I will follow that regimen which, according to my ability and judgement, I consider for the benefit of patients and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, nor shall I suggest any such counsel. Into whatever homes I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of only the sick and injured, never revealing what I see or hear in the lives of men unless required by law.
I shall also share my medical knowledge with those who may benefit from what I have learned. I will serve unselfishly and continuously in order to help make a better world for all mankind.
While I continue to keep this oath unviolated, may it be granted to me to enjoy life, and the practice of the art, respected by all men, in all times. Should I trespass or violate this oath, may the reverse be my lot.
So help me G-d.
Written by: Charles Gillespie M.D.
Adopted by: The National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, 1978.