Bridging the gap … ''We'll respond to anyone who calls us,'' says Rabbi Mendy Litzman at the wheel with Jeremy Nagel
WHEN a car ploughed through the front window of a shop on Bondi Road this week, the NSW Ambulance Service was there within minutes. But Hatzolah was there faster.
The network of Orthodox Jewish volunteers, which takes its name from the Hebrew word for ''to save'', has 16 people within the eastern suburbs trained and ready to respond at any time to a nearby medical emergency. In this instance - where no one was hurt - a volunteer came from the kosher shop next door.
We had three responders in Bondi, literally right there,'' said its president Rabbi Mendy Litzman, who was in Rose Bay when the alert came through. ''They were there within about two seconds.''
Hatzolah, established in the US during the 1960s to assist Williamsburg's Yiddish-speaking Hasidic population, has since spread to cities around the world. The former New Yorker, Rabbi Litzman, brought the service to Sydney's east in 2006, and it has responded to more than 2500 calls to its 24-hour number since.
It exists entirely on donations and seeks to aid the Jewish community by bridging the gap - in both cultural terms as well as time - until an ambulance arrives.
Holocaust survivors with anxieties about persecution from officials in uniforms are more likely to call Hatzolah than they would an ambulance, Rabbi Litzman said. All volunteers, armed with gear including defibrillators and two-way radios, have dispensation to break the Sabbath to respond to a local emergency.
We're actually a Jewish organisation, we advertise in the Jewish community, but we don't discriminate by gender, race or religion.
We'll respond to anyone who calls us,'' he said.
Rabbi Litzman said Hatzolah's rapid response focus complements rather than competes with the ambulance service, which trains its volunteers. Its dispatchers verify triple-0 has been called when heading to an emergency and hand over to them once they arrive.
Paramedics will sometimes call them to assist a family following an incident, he said.
As well as responding to medical [issues] we have to be rabbinical as well,'' he said, citing Jewish customs such as opening a window at a house after a death.
Jeremy Nagel, 26, an electrical engineer who has been a Hatzolah volunteer for almost two years, said he knows most of Bondi's paramedics by name.
But eastern Sydney's Jewish community also benefited from seeing a familiar face at the scene of an emergency, he said - which have included cardiac arrests, broken limbs or an instance where his nephew had trouble breathing.
"So I've seen first-hand all the good work that [Hatzolah] do and I thought that I needed to be a part of it," he said.