A Review of 93Queen
A documentary by Paula Eiselt chronicling the creation of the first all-female Hasidic EMT corps.
That’s just one of many powerful comments by Rachel Freier, known as “Ruchie”. A wife, mother of six, a lawyer, and the first Hasidic woman to be elected to the court as a civil court judge, she became the spokesperson as a lawyer to lend credibility to the Ezras Nashim organization.
The story revolves around the fight to establish as an alternative, a Jewish women’s volunteer EMT ambulance in Borough Park, the largest Ultra Orthodox Hasidic neighborhood in the country, to counter the Hatzola EMT ambulance, volunteered by Hasidic men only.
As Hadassah Ellis, an EMS recruit in the documentary “93Queen,” puts it: These women have never held hands with anybody who are not their husbands – “and then suddenly there’s 10 men in her room while she’s exposed from the waist down?” (Ben Kenigsberg)
Ruchie begins to reach out to the women in the neighborhood, through fliers and meetings to discuss the possibility of their own ambulance, to serve Hasidic women, providing modesty particularly childbirth.
Thus began the divide between genders. The men felt it was a woman’s duty to stay home, to have and raise the children. The women began to gain strength in numbers and interest in serving their own. Comments of “defying the rabbis” and “a woman’s place is the home”, combined with insults, intimidation and prank calls rained down as the women pursued their dream. Throughout all of her endeavors to become someone- legal assistant, college and a law degree at age 40, a person who yearns for more than being someone’s appendage, Ruchie had her husband’s support and her children’s support.
The women’s ambulance group, Ezras Nashim-“Women for Women”, searched for a rabbinic endorsement, a “G-d’s endorsement”, for their EMT ambulance to much avail. They went on the radio to promote their quest as they grouped together to raise money for supplies, reaching out to the community for support by holding local meetings. The NY Post reported multiple stories about the fight for the women to create their own EMT service.
Paula Eiselt, Director of 93 Queen, stated “As an Orthodox Jewish woman myself, I immediately understood that the formation of Ezras Nashim would be a significant disruption to cultural norms in the gender-segregated Hasidic community,”
A decision not to having single women on the EMT force caused one woman who had been an EMT prior to her conversion to Orthodoxy and Hasidism, to remove herself , her talents and her quest to be part of such an important role that the women’s EMT service would provide the women in the area. It was felt that single women might not have the mental strength to do the job nor should they be exposed to health concerns they themselves might not encounter, such as childbirth.
The group was eventually recognized by the New York City Fire Department, which assigned it the code 93Q – “93Queen.” The female EMT corp overcame many obstacles to become successful in their dream of being there for all women, and men as well.
In 2016 Rachel Freier became the first Hasidic women in America to be elected to the court – civil court judge. She won the vote 3 to 1 against Avigbor who was put into the race for judge by a group of Hasidic men, who felt women belong in the kitchen, not in public view.
This documentary seemed as much a story about the creation of Ezras Nashim as it was about Ruchie and her dream of becoming something more than a housewife and mother, a legal assistant, a lawyer- her dream one day to be a judge.
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