People were dancing in the aisles on Sunday night at the YM-YWHA of Union County, having a light-hearted time in aid of a very serious cause. It was a fund-raiser for Hatzalah of Union County, the first-responder service run by Orthodox Jewish volunteers.
The event was organized by Mayer Fertig, Joshua Stroock, and Dov Brown, the founding coordinators of the three-year-old service, together with Pinchas Garber, who is also now a coordinator.
Working with their nine dispatchers, Hatzalah’s 17 responders — all certified emergency medical technicians — answer most calls for emergency medical assistance in its primary area, Elizabeth-Hillside, within two to three minutes. Hatzalah also serves the surrounding areas.
While local ambulance services, because of government regulations, have to go to the nearest hospital, Hatzalah — which receives no government funding — can take patients to whichever hospital is deemed best under the circumstances.
Stroock told NJ Jewish News, “People should never hesitate to call for help for fear of receiving a bill for hundreds of dollars.” Hatzalah provides its service at no charge whatsoever — which is what made an event like Sunday’s soiree so important. The group’s annual costs total around $80,000 — and that is if they don’t have an unexpected major expense, like having to replace an ambulance.
Though all are observant, the volunteers keep their beepers with them at all times, even at religious services. However, they observe halachic practice in their treatment of clients. Rabbi Yaakov Dombroff guides them and serves as the group’s liaison to the local Vaad HaRabonim, headed by Rabbi Elazar Teitz.
Dombroff himself has used Hatzalah’s services a number of times, and he shared some of those stories at the event. He has ventricular tachycardia, he explained, a medical condition where the heart can beat too fast to move blood around the body. Though kept under control by drugs, the condition can and does occur at random intervals. When the heartbeat is too fast, immediate medical intervention is required, with time in a hospital with staff trained to handle this condition.
As he explained, Hatzalah’s EMTs have responded to his calls, stabilized his condition, and then transported him to a hospital with an excellent cardiovascular department. As he said, “You really cannot know if you need emergency medical services” until you need them.
In an e-mail sent after the event, Stroock said the turnout was a little lighter than they might have wished, but “we were glad to have many of Hatzalah’s staunchest supporters as our guests.” He said he hoped that those unable to attend might still consider sending a donation.
To help cover its costs, he said, “Hatzalah depends on the communities it serves. It also depends on others, who appreciate the sense of security Hatzalah affords, and who use Newark-Liberty Airport and Elizabeth’s Jersey Gardens Mall or drive the highways and roads around Elizabeth-Hillside — places to which Hatzalah also rapidly responds.”
Stroock made a point of thanking musician Eitan Katz, whose band provided the entertainment; Larry Seidman, whose Platinum Caterers laid on the food; sommelier Jay Buchsbaum, marketing director for Herzog Wine Cellars, which sponsored the wines; and the volunteers who helped organize the event, including Lois Schlar, Aliza Sara Zidell, Michael Rubin, “and all of the wonderful people they drafted into Hatzalah’s service.”
To find out more about the organization, go to www.hatzalahofunioncounty.org. Donations can be made on-line or sent to 208 Shelley Ave., Elizabeth, NJ 07208.
Al Martin contributed to this article.