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 four fully equipped ambulances,a dedicated SUV for overnight shifts and a group of over 60 dedicated volunteers, which includes 4 licensed Physicians and 12 Paramedics.

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.