May 10, 2011
The low-budget rescue team
Are the volunteers of Hatzolah a model for emergency rescue teams as community services shrink?
(Page 4 - Previous Page)
“Whoever saves a life, it is as if he saved an entire world.”
Hatzolah supporters often invoke this talmudic saying, and their appreciation for metaphysical math, which equates one life with the world, helps explain why none of the Hatzolah responders I spoke with even brought up the possibility of the group’s impacting the city’s budget.
Ask Hatzolah responders why they dedicate their time and energy to the group, why many of them carry automated external defibrillators — which can restart a person’s heart — in the trunks of their cars, why they’ll get up in the middle of the night or from a Shabbat dinner table to answer a call, and they’ll tell you that it comes from a sincere desire to help, to potentially save a life.
Although many of the responders said that dropping everything to respond is the hardest part of being in Hatzolah, at the end of my day with Fleischman, he told me that if he could, he would train to be a paramedic. “If I felt time would allow, I would go to the next level,” Fleischman said.
And Stark said he is proud to be able to respond to all people in a state of emergency — even those who don’t really know what Hatzolah is, or who don’t see much of a difference between the volunteers and other responders.
“Most people see the uniform, and there’s a sigh of relief,” Stark said. “ ‘Oh, they’re here,’ people say. We get to be the ‘they.’”