Efforts to create a new medical rescue organization under Orthodox auspices appear to have been derailed — by the opposition of the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of Bergen County.
On Monday, the RCBC issued a letter opposing efforts by the new Hatzalah of Bergen County to create an ambulance service that would compete with the existing Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corp and similar services in neighboring towns.
On Tuesday, the Hatzalah of Bergen County’s site on Facebook no longer was public. The organization’s website, which had been registered in February, now redirects to the original Hatzalah organization, headquartered in Brooklyn. (The word hatzalah means rescue. Orthodox ambulance organizations outside of New York, including in Lakewood and Elizabeth, are allowed to use the name but are independent.)
“As of right now Hatzalah of Bergen County has strictly been offering free CPR classes to the community and we do stand by our mission to help educate the community regarding first aid at a free or affordable cost,” Gadi Wolicki, secretary of Hatzalah of Bergen County, wrote in an email to the Jewish Standard on Tuesday. “We are unsure of any plans to expand the services of Hatzalah of Bergen County beyond what has been described above.”
Until now, however, Hatzalah had been working to create a local ambulance corps.
According to a version of Hatzalah Bergen County’s website Google recorded and archived on June 29, the organization was “dedicated to bettering the greater Bergen County community by providing Emergency Medical Services, and expert medical care in a quick and efficient matter at no cost to our patients themselves.”
Earlier this year, Hatzalah met with the RCBC to make its case for the need for a new ambulance corps. The rabbis then invited the Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corps to present its position.
This conversation led to the recent Shabbat in support of the volunteer ambulance corps held in Orthodox synagogues in Teaneck and Bergenfield two weeks ago.
The Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corps registered its first observant volunteer more than 40 years ago. Now, “The Jewish community is involved beyond their percentage in the community,” according to the organization’s president, Rabbi Daniel Senter. Rabbi Senter, who works for the Kof-K kosher supervision service, has been a volunteer with the Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corps for more than a decade.
He said that he and Rabbi Larry Rothwachs of Congregation Beth Aaron met with two of the Hatzalah supporters a couple weeks ago. The Hatzalah supporters had requested the meeting.
“We explained why we are opposed to the establishment of a second ambulance corps,” Rabbi Senter said. “We do not believe there is any need for it.”
The letter from the Rabbinical Council of Bergen County said that the proposed Hatzalah service “would create potentially damaging competition in the all-important arena of life-saving services.”
The letter further warned that “this effort would undermine the wonderful sense of civic involvement fostered through the participation of the Jewish community in the existing Volunteer Ambulance Corps.”
It continued: “Sincere efforts, through a series of meetings, to incorporate aspects of the newly suggested Hatzalah project into our current successful model have, unfortunately, proven unsuccessful.”
Therefore, the letter continued, the 22 Orthodox rabbis who signed “cannot support this new Hatzalah effort.” Instead, they repeated their support for the existing volunteer ambulance services.