While Hatzalah is a widely respected and utilized gold standard of emergency medical care in New York, it has not been as broadly accessible in New Jersey. While many residents of the West Orange and Livingston Jewish communities may not yet be familiar with Hatzalah’s lifesaving work, they soon will be.
After receiving the strong support of local, county and state government officials, and an enthusiastic endorsement from the rabbis representing eight Orthodox shuls and the largest Orthodox school system in the area, Hatzalah of West Orange and Livingston formally launched on Friday September 3. Thanks to generous donations and support from the community, Hatzalah of West Orange and Livingston is launching with ample resources and equipment, including two fully stocked ambulances.
As community supporters note, Hatzalah is the largest nonprofit emergency medical services (EMS) agency in the United States. Staffed entirely by volunteers, it will serve anyone who contacts them in West Orange, Livingston and neighboring towns and does not bill for its services.
Hatzalah operates on a two-tier response model, sending trained responders to a call in their own vehicles while also dispatching an ambulance. Responders each carry a bag with an array of equipment such as trauma supplies, oxygen, emergency medications, an automated external defibrillator and more. Since responders are local community members, they often arrive quicker than a municipal ambulance squad and begin treating the patient while the Hatzalah ambulance is on its way.
Hatzalah volunteers are all members of local shuls and are completely familiar with communal needs such as Shabbat, chagim, tzniut and other matters. They provide support that goes beyond the immediate call for help; they don’t leave patients at a hospital until the care that’s needed is provided, and they follow up with patients in the days and weeks after the call, to assist their recovery.
Hatzalah also provides training in the community to empower lay people to respond effectively to emergency situations. They offer classes in CPR, first aid and stop-the-bleed, as well as health and wellness practices that can decrease the likelihood of medical problems.
Hatzalah of West Orange and Livingston worked over the past year with the New Jersey Office of Emergency Medical Services on their operating protocols and received state licensure. The squad has 20 members, all trained emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and the four coordinators—Ilan Rosenrauch, Shael Sokolowski, Matthew Lipman and Josh Commer—each draw on 15 years or more experience in EMS work.
“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,” said Rosenrauch. “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. This is the quality that we look forward to delivering here at home in West Orange and Livingston for many years to come.”
“Hatzalah is a unique organization that is powered to start treatment within minutes of the call for help,” said Commer. “Launching in our communities has been a dream of mine since I first moved to Livingston in 2016. I’m grateful for the support we’ve received to date and look forward to serving all who need us.”
Community leaders are similarly effusive about the prospects of Hatzalah of West Orange and Livingston.
“I want to thank all of the volunteers who have dedicated countless hours to become certified and serve the community through Hatzalah,” said Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler of Congregation AABJ&D in West Orange. “May Hashem bless them and their families with much success in this important endeavor.”
“One of the hallmarks of a well established Jewish community is the presence of Hatzalah,” said Rabbi Samuel Klibanoff of Congregation Etz Chaim in Livingston. “Knowing that we have our own dedicated, lifesaving volunteers and equipment will bring peace of mind to so many in our community. I imagine in a short time people will be wondering how we ever managed without Hatzalah.”
One community member with direct experience with Hatzalah explained its unique impact.
“Over the past few years, I’ve had to call Hatzalah on several occasions for sick family members,” said Esti Buskin of West Orange. “It’s hard to describe, but there is an overwhelming sense of relief when you see them come through the door. Hatzalah responded in minutes and I knew my loved ones were in good hands. Simply put, it’s just a level of care that you won’t find anywhere else. Before moving to West Orange, I always lived in communities that had Hatzalah. I’ve seen firsthand the impact they can have. I’m so appreciative of the hard work and dedication of the team that is bringing Hatzalah to West Orange and Livingston.”
Hatzalah has strategically positioned its ambulances at AABJ&D in West Orange and The Synagogue of the Suburban Torah Center in Livingston.
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. To learn more about Hatzalah of West Orange and Livingston, visit their website at www.hatzalahwol.org. Sponsorship opportunities are available at many financial levels and all contributions support their life-saving work.