Ezras Nashim is an all women’s volunteer corps
created to assist women in emergency childbirth situations

Ruchie working on her computer in her office  Recruitment meeting for Ezras Nashim

Ruchie Freier
is a practicing Chassidic attorney.
She is also the wife of a devout Chasidic Talmudic scholar
as well as a mother & grandmother.

KW:   What has been your most difficult challenge as a Kosher woman?

Chasidic women are viewed as submissive or dictated by masculine fiat. While we respect our tradition & primary role as wives, mothers & caretakers, we are also educated, balanced, content & often professional. We are not degraded, yet we prefer to sit among women on public transportation. 

During the formative years of the Hatzolah, the largest ambulance service in New York, its original founders trained women to serve women, primarily in cases of emergency childbirth. Women had complained that having the local Hatzolah men respond when they are in labor was awkward since they may see those same men in their synagogue & in the grocery store.  Borough Park & Flatbush have the city’s highest concentrations of babies, predominantly born to Jewish women, according to the latest U.S. Census statistics.

By 1981 approximately 300 women were trained EMTs,75 were from Kiryas Joel & more than 200 from Brooklyn. Shortly after the women began serving, zealous cries came from Williamsburg, accusing the women volunteers of violating tznius standards. So Hatzolah leaders dropped the women from its organization, then leaving them with 1,300 men.

Fast forward to 2011 when these women asked me to advocate on their behalf, to be permitted to serve for emergency childbirth, pursuant to Halachic authority. I felt if New Square Hatzolah in New York state and & United Hatzalah of Israel both allow women to serve, there must be a way to do so in other religious communities. 

KW:  How have you overcome this challenge?

I held the first recruitment drive for Ezras Nashim, Hebrew for “assisting women.” in my dining room. I  signed up 50 members from across Brooklyn.

I felt I needed to become an EMT in order to understand the challenges we were facing.  So both my mother & I took the EMT course.

I met with the leaders of Hatzolah several times trying to convince them that the Ezras Nashim should join together with them but they were adamantly opposed to the concept, So I started talking to prominent Rabbis & Jewish politicians with clout in Brooklyn.  

Soon after receiving approval from Rabbi Yechezkel Roth & New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a representative of North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset reached out to me.  Then a hospital chaplain contacted me & arranged a meeting with the obstetrics department. They asked how they could help us in our mission & I told them that training is our greatest need. It took some time for everything to go through the necessary channels but the approval came through.

To further augment their EMT training, Ezras Nashim volunteers trained in the labor & delivery rooms at North Shore observing senior staff members performing both natural & caesarian deliveries so that they could be better prepared to cope with  all types of emergency situations.

Ezras Nashim has received tremendous support from many people in the tri-state area especially since prominent Rabbis were quietly backing this initiative.
16 months after that first meeting in my home, the Regional Emergency Medical Services Council of New York City had approved Ezras Nashim.  A month later,
the New York State Department of Health also gave its approval to Ezras Nashim. 

To date, 40 women have completed their training as EMTs and others will complete the 180 hour course soon.  Ezras Nashim will start providing service soon. It will have its own hotline and dispatcher. Medical transports will be done by a private company with the fire department serving as backup.  The EMT’s will rotate on call 24/7 & will be meta at the patient’s home by the transport service.  Every EMT will carry an oxygen tank, epi-pen & an automated defribilator in her vehicle.  Women who don’t drive will be partnered with other women that do.

Ruchie Frier with professionals   Ruchie & her mother complelting their training as EMTs

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