Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"Yeshiva World " OP-ED Admonishes Dov Hikend on Women Joining Hatzalah!

Dov Hikend
Read the op-ed:
For years I have supported Dov Hikind. When others criticized, I defended him. What do I like most about Dov? His passion.

Unfortunately, in light of recent events I can no longer defend Dov much less support him. Let me explain. Dov Hikind has a weekly radio show. He usually tackles interesting issues like politics, kids at risk and controversial issues too. This past motzei shabbos Dov spent most of his show seemingly promoting a new radical feminist agenda: forcing women into Hatzolah.
As a long-time fan of Dov but even a longer Hatzolah member, I was sick to my stomach. Dov brought on several women who claim that tznius mandates that Hatzolah have women available for certain calls like a women giving birth. Dov proclaimed that this was a “no brainer.”
First, let’s be clear. Hatzolah is one of the oldest and most respected organizations in our community because everything that Hatzolah does is L’Shaim Shmayim. The reason Hatzolah was created was to ensure that even our injured community members would be treated with respect and al pi halacha. In fact, not only does Central Hatzolah ask shayhlas of the unquestioned gedolei hador, every local Hatzolah has their poskim as well.
Every single shayla from Hilchos Pikuach Nefes, to Hilchos Shabbos is dealt with at the highest level. The shayla of women joining Hatzolah was taken up by years ago by the likes of the Debertziner Rov ZATZAL, Rav Moshe Feinstein ZATZAL, and other major Poskim. Das Torah on this issue is unequivocal: for reasons of tznius women may not join Hatzolah. Think about it, co-mingling, yichud, taharas hamishpacha – the list goes on and on. The idea that Dov Hikind can question the psak of our gedolei hador is shocking to me.
Hatzolah has been around for decades, and responds to tens of thousands of calls each year. With all due respect to his track record, Dov Hikind is a NYS Assemblyman. Perhaps he forgot that. He is not a member of Hatzolah and surely not one of Hatzolah’s senior Poskim.
So Dov I ask of you, please publicly disavow your remarks or at least tell us who your Das Torah is that has authorized you to take on our Gedolei Hador. Unless you do that immediately, I am sorry to say you have lost a fan forever.

Now read some selected responses:
Spira says:
Baruch Hashem I merited being a co-founded of Washington Heights Hatzolah back in the 1970s, together with Rabbi Yehoshua Kaganoff. I was also the first NYC-EMS certified paramedic in the organization to the best of my knowledge, as well as the first frum paramedic in the NYC-EMS. I was working for the now-defunct NYC-EMS, which has since become FDNY-EMS.
Shortly after its inception, due to difficulties in providing daytime coverage, Rabbi Shimon Schwab ZT”L gave haskoma to permit married women to respond, under very well-defined conditions, during the daytime, as well for OB/GYN calls. The Rov took a considerable amount of heat, including from Hatzolah general, with leaders of the organization scoffing the Gadol HaDor for his decision.
I recall meeting with R’ Herschel Weber in Williamsburg in 1976 or 1977 seeking his assistance in launching our chapter and with the push from Rabbi Kaganoff and the brochos and support of Rav Schwab ZT”L, it became reality!
Therefore, there is a precedent and from a Gadol, and there was no compromise of tznius and the care for women was extraordinary, with the additional sensitivity and understanding that a male EMT or paramedic simply cannot give. To say otherwise would be not reflect reality in my opinion.
Rabbi Kaganoff at the time also published a kuntras on pertinent halachos which was also scoffed, and only years later did Hatzolah general catch on and do the same.
In short, the “Yekkes” were leaders in many ways and they did and perhaps continue to take heat and were the target of scoffing, but it was ignored in short. Jokes aside, Washington Heights Hatzolah is extremely modest and in my time, we were not in the social loop of the remaining chapters around NYC but we were doing what we signed up to do, I dare say without fanfare.
In short, whatever the case may be today, one cannot say this is “unprecedented” for that is simply not factual. The rabbonim today will have to decide but I hope someone looks at Washington Heights for an example, and possibly even contacts Rabbi Kaganoff for the Halachic background. The women were a major asset and anyone who argues simply is basing their comments on hearsay rather than factual data accumulated over many many years. The fact that Central Hatzalah decided to keep the female responders a secret for so long is another matter for another article perhaps.
After years working as an EMT and paramedic in NYC, NJ, EMS and Hatzalah, I can only speak for myself but I witnessed the difference of having a frum woman on the scene, which I have found contributes significantly to the refuah.
Perhaps [my opinion again], we are too quick to jump to conclusions and maybe we can accept that “new” or “different” is not always “wrong” or “bad”
At least record permit history to be presented as it occurred and not attempt to re-write it.
As for the skeptics, it is great and LONG overdue in citywide Hatzolah. Washington Heights proved this decades ago.
Yechiel Spira
EMT/P (retired)
Formally Y-15

Health says:
I’m an outsider, not a member, so let me put out the view of the people whom are for this intiative. (Even though I might not personally agree with it.) They definitely have valid points. The Shaila that was brought forth years ago was about women in general joining Hatzolah. This was negated. The idea now is simply to have women respond in childbirth situations. As far as who his Rabbonim are, they are the Rabbonim of New Square. Right now New Square has a program where they allow women to take care of the childbirth patients. The woman is in the back and the man drives. I’m don’t know if they are called in emergent situations. I also don’t know the logistics and if it is feasable to implement all the time in the greater NYC area. But definitely it should be brought up to the Rabbonim who are right now in charge of Hatzolah in NYC!

Torahumada says:
Dear Op-Ed writer: I am not from NYC nor a member of Hatzalah. Nor did I hear what Hikind had to say. But why is it so bad to revisit the issue of women working in Hatzalah. 35 years ago when Hatzalah was forming, they asked shailos and got answers. Why is it that we are to assume that nothing has changed since that time?
Maybe allowing women would be beneficial. I am certain that there are situations where women would prefer if a woman was handling her medical care.
Dov Hikind is a politician, his job is to start discussions that lead to results. That is exactly what he has done. Started a discussion. Now it is up to Hatzalah to come up with an answer.
Also, not everything is done because of tzinius or a halachic reasoning. I know that some hatzolas when they are starting will only select certain types of people because they wish to ensure that they money they invest is not wasted.

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