A gloomy forecast could not damper the excitement on Monday, September 5 at Congregation B’nai Shalom in West Orange. After a year of service in the community, Hatzalah of West Orange and Livingston held a family fun day. The idea, said Shael Sokolowski, a founding member of the EMT squad, was “to give back to the community that has given so much to us, by expressing our hakarat hatov on the occasion of our one-year anniversary.”
Today, the Essex County squad has 32 volunteer EMTs and 25 dispatchers. Hatzalah is the largest nonprofit emergency medical services agency in the United States and is staffed entirely by volunteers. Hatzalah has strategically positioned its ambulances at AABJ&D in West Orange and The Synagogue of the Suburban Torah Center in Livingston. Hatzalah serves anyone who contacts them in West Orange, Livingston and neighboring towns, and does not bill for its services.
By offering a free-admission family day event, they were able to provide a day for the community that focused on fun and medical care. The event featured three concurrent stations, each staffed by one of the organization’s EMTs who assessed blood pressure, heart rate and quality, lung sounds, body temperature and oxygen saturation. Their goal, they said, was to provide each “patient” with a snapshot of their vital signs as of that moment in time and to shine a light on any areas of potential concern. Hatzalah also partnered with Gift of Life (https://www.giftoflife.org/) whose members were on-site to swab those interested in joining their life-saving registry.
“I’ve been a member of Hatzalah for most of my adult life, and I see the impact we make on the lives of our patients and their families on a daily basis,” Ilan Rosenrauch previously told The Jewish Link. “It’s an impact which goes beyond the immediate call for help. Every patient and family member is treated with care and sensitivity. We are their advocates in and out of the hospital. For our volunteers, this is not a hobby; it’s a true calling. The commitment to leave their families, their shuls, their offices on a moment’s notice to help someone in need is pure chesed.” Rosenrauch also serves as the current president at Congregation AABJ&D in West Orange.
Four emergency vehicles were on display for those in attendance—especially the little kids—to enjoy a photo shoot. At the fire truck, a member of the West Orange Fire Department assisted as the kids lined up to try their hand at the fire hose. At one of the Hatzalah ambulances, a volunteer EMT demonstrated for the kids what it would be like to be on the gurney—showing them using a large teddy bear.
“My experience has taught me that nothing in life is guaranteed,” said event sponsor Yossi Maymon of West Orange, owner of Easy Renovations, LLC (https://www.facebook.com/easyrenovationnj). “So having more options is a great position when your back is to the wall. I see Hatzalah as another option, and they’ve proven themselves to be a good one.”
Inside was bustling, where there were three inflatables including a bounce house, slide and obstacle course; a dunk tank; six face painters; a temporary tattoo station; a coloring station; and yoga for kids. Live music with DJ Shlomo Golombeck ensured there wasn’t a kid in sight not having a blast.
Food, too, was aplenty. Soft pretzels and a popcorn machine kept the kids well-fed; the line for free ice cream from Guerriero Gelato of Caldwell (https://www.guerrierogelato.com/) (also owner of Mark and Julie’s Homemade Ice Cream in West Orange) was the longest line in sight; and a barbecue dinner catered by Premier Caterers, B’nai Shalom’s in-house caterer, was available for purchase.
“My favorite part was going in the ambulance!” said Yoella Ivker, age 9. “I liked the yoga!” added Aaron Caplan, age 3.
Hatzalah of West Orange and Livingston can be reached at their emergency number, 973-604-4000, and they have 24/7/365 coverage, including on Shabbat and all chagim.
By Talia Liben Yarmush