July 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Hatzalah Statewide Offers Support to Camps

Some of the most essential Jewish communal organizations don’t just solve the urgent problems that people face; they also anticipate new problems and quickly map out an effective game plan to address them. One example of this exemplary level of service is that of the Hatzalah Statewide, based in New Jersey, serving people in our region and sometimes well beyond it.

Hatzalah Statewide was established in 2015 and draws upon 275 members, all of whom are volunteers in local Hatzalah chapters in the region. Dr. Nathan Zemel, the organization’s founder, serves as CEO and medical director. Simcha Shain, an experienced Lakewood Hatzalah paramedic and flight paramedic, serves as the lead captain and statewide coordinator.

Hatzalah Statewide grew from the awareness that while select frum New Jersey communities with Hatzalah chapters benefit from their skilled first responders with deep knowledge of the concerns of observant Jews, there remained wide swaths of the state without coverage. Additionally, Jews traveling within or beyond the state could at times sorely need Hatzalah members’ skills, if only there were a way to summon Hatzalah members also traveling nearby.

With their network built up and field tested, Hatzalah Statewide was uniquely positioned to see a specific need of the COVID-19 era and to respond quickly.

As our region slowly recovers from the COVID-19 outbreaks and gradually reopens, it was announced on June 12 that New York State overnight camps, including the dozens that cater to frum families, would not be allowed to open this year. However, for the wellbeing of the campers and their families, the summer camps knew they could not skip this season.

Hatzalah Statewide recognized that the summer camps, which scrambled to relocate to suitable campgrounds in other states in the region, would not have the same familiarity with local support services that they would have in their usual settings. Hatzalah Statewide started looking into which of their members would be traveling to the states hosting displaced camps, so they can provide first response assistance if needed.

At press time, they had learned that Pennsylvania plans to host 20 relocated frum upstate New York camps. Over 40 Hatzalah Statewide members thus far have indicated that they will be in that state for at least part of the summer. Similar efforts are underway to serve camps relocating to Rhode Island and New Hampshire.

Hatzalah Statewide’s hotline, 201-613-1111, is available 24/7, 365 days a year. When contacted, their dispatch system sends out alerts to all active members via a WhatsApp group message, an ESchat app that provides two-way radio, text message and email. Hatzalah Statewide reminds people to always call 911 first, as a precaution, in case no Hatzalah Statewide members are close by.

Shain noted that their members do not provide transportation to local hospitals; what they do provide is experienced first-response care while the patient awaits transport (if necessary). They also provide expert knowledge on which area hospitals are best suited to treat specific types of injuries (such as burns, drowning, cardiac issues, stroke, snake bite etc.).

While the current lawsuit being heard in New York may make these preparations unnecessary, it in no way detracts from the significance of what Hatzalah Statewide is trying to accomplish.

It was reported on Tuesday, June 30, that a plaintiff group led by the Association of Jewish Camp Operators, AJCO, as well as parents of potential campers, had presented oral arguments in their case against New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo. Plaintiffs are requesting a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, allowing overnight camps in the state to open this summer. All parties were given until close of business on Wednesday, July 1, to submit additional legal briefs and a ruling is anticipated by week’s end.

Hatzalah Statewide is ready to serve, should the ruling go against the plaintiffs. Jewish community members are urged to share information of this new planned service with others, and to communicate with them about both confirmed camp locations and Hatzalah members’ intended presence in the camps or surrounding areas. To reach them about this initiative, please email [email protected].

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