|The MDA ambulance was bought through Bergen County donations.|
As rockets rained down on Israel during this summer’s conflict with Hamas, Israel’s emergency medical services were working overtime to help the almost 900 Israelis wounded during the fighting.
MDA has approximately 1,200 ambulances in service, running 24/7, according to American Friends of Magen David Adom. The typical lifespan of an MDA ambulance is seven to 10 years, according to Gary Perl, northeast regional director for American Friends of Magen David Adom. The ambulances have been overextended during the recent conflict and many will not last nearly that long.
Since early July, MDA has received donations of more than 30 ambulances from across the United States, Mr. Perl said, noting “there has been overwhelming support of our emergency needs.” Teaneck Councilman Elie Katz, who has volunteered with the township’s ambulance corps since he was a teenager and with MDA during his post-high school year in Israel, knows the importance of emergency services. In honor of his father-in-law Rabbi Joseph Feinstein’s 25th yartzeit, Mr. Katz and his wife, Esther, have launched a campaign throughout September to raise $100,000 to purchase a new ambulance for MDA.
“I’m intimately impressed by how much support they’ve been giving to the frontlines and now is the time when they need to replenish their resources,” Mr. Katz said. EMTs have “blinders on,” providing help to anyone who needs it, no matter their race, religion, or political views, he continued. “Magen David Adom supports and responds to everybody. Specifically now, it’s important we support them and make sure they’re strong to help our troops and Israeli civilians.”
The drive will begin on Saturday night with a lecture by Rabbi Steven Weil of Teaneck, senior managing director of the Orthodox Union, at Teaneck’s Young Israel synagogue. Rabbi Weil will speak about the concept of teshuva, or repentance, ahead of Rosh HaShanah. Mr. Katz plans to hold other educational events throughout the rest of the month as well. In addition to his own fundraising efforts, Mr. Katz hopes that local shuls and Jewish schools will take on additional fundraising commitments of their own for MDA during September.
“I wanted to make this a month where, as a community, we could band together and help with additional resources to Israel,” he said. “I’d like for Bergen County to come out very strong for Magen David Adom.”
Rabbi Weil’s talk is part of Young Israel’s scholar-in-residence program, but after the Katzes approached the shul about the fundraising drive, the synagogue was happy to help support MDA, according to Young Israel’s president, Michael Wimpfheimer. “This is an event that will be beneficial to our members and the greater Teaneck community and certainly appropriate given the time of year,” Mr. Wimpfheimer said. “We’re very appreciative to the Katz family for spearheading this effort and look forward to greeting many from the greater Teaneck and Bergen County communities.”
Although Rabbi Weil had scheduled his talk before it was linked with the MDA campaign, he is intimately familiar with the need for the organization’s work. Last week he returned from his second OU emergency mission to Israel during the recent conflict, and the OU has raised half a million dollars across the country for therapy services for traumatized Israeli children and their parents.
More than 13,000 volunteers, including about 600 from America, serve in MDA in Israel, from paramedics to emergency medical services. Of the overseas volunteers, the majority are from the New York metropolitan area, Mr. Perl said, noting that New Jersey sends MDA the biggest number of volunteers each year. In the past decade, MDA has received more ambulances and bloodmobiles from North Jersey than from any other region in the country, he said.
New Jerseyans can be proud of their communal accomplishments, but, as Ms. Katz points out, many people wonder how they can have a specific impact.
“Everybody feels now we’re so far away, what can we do to help?” she said. “What better way to donate than to give an ambulance? We don’t know where this ambulance is going, but we know it’s going to help people.”
To donate to the MDA campaign, go to www.Bergendonate.com or send a check made out to American Friends of Magen David Adom to:
172 W. Englewood Ave.
Teaneck, N.J. 07666