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What Does It Take To Be A Hero?

4By Mordechai Kastelbaum

It happens so often that we almost don’t notice it. We’re in shul, at the supermarket, playing with our kids in the park, or just taking a stroll.

Then we hear the familiar siren.

Our neighborhood Hatzalah volunteer speeds away to respond to an emergency.

Yes, it is a scene that we experience so often that we often forget what is actually taking place. It seems so natural to see a team of frum people helping a fellow Jew in need that it’s difficult to imagine a time when someone would dial 911 in an emergency.

Let’s take look behind the scenes to see what takes place during a “Hatzalah call.”

At Hatzalah’s command center, a group of dispatchers is on call 24/7 to field a vast array of calls for help. It takes about 15 seconds to assess the situation and put out a call for assistance.

These dispatchers volunteer to work in shifts at all hours of the day and night. They have families, they have jobs, they have responsibilities . . . but they also have Hatzalah. When the community needs their help, they step up to the plate to help.

Within about 60 seconds, a volunteer will answer and quickly make his way to the scene of the emergency. This process happens at lightning speed, with an average response time of just a few minutes.

Oh, what it takes to be a Haztalah volunteer. Sometimes it seems almost glamorous to bystanders, yet few really appreciate the dedication that it entails.

It means a commitment to respond—at a moment’s notice—to an emergency at any time, 24/7/365. Literally, 24/7/365. It means dropping everything in middle of a workday, sometimes to return after an hour or more, after transporting the patient to the hospital.

It means being in a constant state of alert, in case a call comes out in the neighborhood.

It means running out in middle of dinnertime or on Shabbos afternoon. Or even in middle of Kol Nidrei or the Pesach Seder. That’s real commitment!

At the scene of the emergency, a pair of members immediately begins to stabilize the patient. These crucial moments require a strong background in medical training, know-how, and plain common sense. All the while, they must take the whole situation into account, calming frightened parents or family members and relaying important information to the command center.

It starts with an initial period of training and orientation, followed by ongoing education in the latest techniques which take place every few months. And of course, there are tests and regular reviews to ensure that every member is performing satisfactorily.

It takes a lot to become a Hatzalah member and takes even more to maintain that membership. It’s a whole career of its own. If only people knew!

What is most remarkable is that every Hatzalah member is a volunteer. They don’t get paid for their time and heroic efforts and many times, they don’t even get a thank-you. They work under some of the most intense conditions, both physically and emotionally, yet they are always level-headed and calm in these harrowing circumstances.

It is no surprise that Hatzalah has dedicated the annual Dinner/BBQ in honor of its 125 members. Nor is it an overstatement to proclaim them to be our community heroes. After all, do you know of any other group of people who are so wholly devoted to their neighborhood, and indeed, to Klal Yisroel?

Yet, according to insiders, from the 10,000+ local Jewish residents that benefit from Hatzalah’s constant guard, only about 10% participate in the annual dinner, their most important fundraiser of the year. It costs more than $1,000,000 annually for Hatzalah to operate, but the cost is utterly insignificant when compared to the enormous impact that the organization has.

Just talk any person whose life has been saved by Hatzalah. Or speak to their father or mother, husband or wife. Ask them what Hatzalah is truly worth to the community. It is simply invaluable.

Aside from providing the crucial funds that enable Hatzalah to function on a daily basis, the dinner also gives us, the lucky beneficiaries of Hatzalah’s work, the opportunity to give chizuk and much due credit to the valiant volunteers. It sends a strong, united message that we notice, we care, and we truly appreciate their devotion.

And, just as importantly, it encourages their families—both their wives and their children—who also sacrifice so much to enable Hatzalah to continue and thrive.

Whether we have personally called Hatzalah or not, we all owe a great debt of gratitude, both to the organization and to its amazing volunteers that keep our community safe.

The Annual Dinner/BBQ will take place on May 4 at the Sands and the suggested annual contribution is $250. It is a small donation that goes a long way in protecting our families, our neighbors and the entire community.

On May 4, take a moment from your schedule to show your support for our Heroes.

They deserve it!

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Posted by on April 11, 2014. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.