Physicians, nurses, paramedics, firefighters and others who are willing to drop everything and fly to Israel in times of need now have a formal program through which to volunteer their services.
“We’re partnering with an Israeli organization, Emergency Volunteers Project, which is authorized by, and works with, the Israeli government to organize and certify American first-responders to serve in Israel in times of emergency,” said Ethan Behling, director of the Center for Israel Engagement at the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey.
A one-time full-day training session for interested volunteers, sponsored by JFNNJ and led by trainers from Israel, will take place on March 11. (See box for details.)
“We wanted to focus on an initiative to help the security of Israel, which is one of our goals,” Mr. Behling said.
Although JFNNJ’s Partnership2Gether program has sponsored exchange trips to Israel for North Jersey first responders, this is the first time it is participating in EVP, and it is the first EVP session for New Jersey residents.
Since its inception in 2009, EVP has trained and certified about 1,000 emergency volunteers and professional first responders in the United States and Israel, including many response teams in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, and Texas. The training also counts toward FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) certification.
In 2016, during a period when there were widespread forest fires in Israel, EVP deployed 39 American firefighters to the Jewish state to provide support and relief services.
The federation is aiming to recruit 20 medical personnel, 20 firefighters, and 20 general volunteers. “The more people we have certified to respond, the better,” Mr. Behling said.
Participating physicians of any specialty will receive a temporary license to practice in Israel; nurses and paramedics will be authorized to provide assistance at hospitals and bomb shelters; firefighters will work alongside Israeli counterparts responding to emergency calls; and general community volunteers will be trained to serve in emergency depots, deliver food and water to shelters, and provide support services.
In case of deployment, each volunteer would be paired with an Israeli counterpart. Therefore, knowledge of Hebrew is helpful but not required. EVP arranges all logistics, including flights and housing. EVP volunteers generally remain in Israel for a week to 10 days, depending on the situation.
“Whenever there’s a crisis anywhere in the world we all know Israel is the first country to have emergency personnel on the ground,” said Franci Steinberg, chair of JFNNJ’s Partnership2Gether Committee. “Our federation wants Israel to know that if they face threats or disasters at home, we will be there. We support Israel in times of need and in good times, and always want to keep the lines of communication open.”
The type of volunteers needed depends on the nature of the emergency, which can range from forest fires to wars. The federation would decide whom and how many to send from among the certified volunteers, who would join EVP volunteers from other communities.
Ms. Steinberg explained that when, for example, a military conflict arises, many Israeli medical professionals are called for reserve duty. “So it can happen that hospitals are short-staffed and our responders would fill those needs.”
She emphasized that “responding to crises in Israel is something the federation hopes we won’t have to do, but it’s extremely important that certified volunteers can have the ability to help in case of conflict, earthquake, or wildfire, and EVP also provides an opportunity for people to learn critical skills from experienced Israelis.”
What: Emergency Volunteers Project training and certification class
When: Sunday, March 11, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: Law and Public Safety Institute, 281Campgaw Road, Mahwah
How much: $60 (waived for firefighters)