This year’s Queens Hatzolah Premier Men’s Event promised to be its biggest fundraiser yet, with a new venue, world renowned talent, and generous food servings. The recently opened TWA Hotel includes the original terminal, the hotel building behind it, and a restored Lockheed Constellation “Connie” plane transformed into a bar. Within the terminal are mannequins and antique cars from 1962, accompanied by Frank Sinatra songs of that period. “I flew TWA when I was in business. It was my primary airline,” said Shiu Reichmann, the Hatzolah coordinator who emceed the event. “We stood in front of the display board and watched for the flight numbers and cities. You had to be on time.”
Participants of the event entered through the landmark lobby and through the restored passageway, with its curved walls and red carpet, descending to the ballroom that was built recently in the same modernist style as the TWA terminal. That’s where the Freilach Band played to generous servings of meat dishes and wine. There were many of the Hatzolah volunteers, community leaders, and supporters who offered examples of its lifesaving work.
“Six years ago, I was alone in my shul’s office and was beginning to feel nauseous. Had I fainted there, no one would know,” said George Srolovits. “I memorized the Hatzolah number and I repeated the address as I was fainting. They came within three or four minutes.”
On the way to the hospital, Srolovits overheard that he was in MCA (a medical cardiac arrest). It was a Monday, and he was back home on Thursday. “I felt like I was in a movie.”
Seeking to expedite treatment and reduce the likelihood of death, Queens Hatzolah is on a campaign to train and equip its volunteers with AEDs (defibrillators), which can send an electric shock to someone in cardiac arrest, jumpstarting the heart. “It is a game changer. We hope to train all 165 of our volunteers to use an AED,” said Reichmann. Each AED costs $2,500 to purchase, with the immediate goal of purchasing 50 devices. The importance of this device has been recognized by the city, which requires it for government offices, recreation centers, swimming pools, and sports leagues.
Reichmann has been active with Queens Hatzolah for 37 years, nearly as long as the organization has been operating. “I’m the Queens coordinator. It is an honor to work with amazing people. I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I’ve been in the ambulance vertically and horizontally,” referring to his being a rescuer and a patient.
The hospital that often receives Hatzolah ambulances is NewYork-Presbyterian Queens, formerly known as Booth Memorial Hospital. It is a top sponsor of the event, along with Long Island Jewish Forest Hills hospital. Credit for sponsoring the venue largely goes to the nonprofit Lev Echad foundation, with Cross River Bank sponsoring the entertainers.
Rabbi Yossi Mendelson, rav of Congregation Machane Chodosh in Forest Hills, was a Hatzolah volunteer in the past and now serves as chaplain at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens. “Our relationship with Hatzolah is important. It has a human touch and a Yiddishe ta’am. It has top-notch equipment and commitment towards excellence in the field.”
Assemblyman David Weprin also spoke of the organization’s role in treating him, some of his family members, and constituents in emergencies. “We’ve all benefited from Hatzolah. I’ve obtained $125,000 in capital money for Hatzolah so it can do its work.”
Rabbi Binyomin Kessler, Menahel of Yeshiva Ketana of Queens and a Hatzolah coordinator, noted that after a patient is brought to a hospital, a volunteer’s work is not done. “The stretcher is cleaned, gas is pumped to the vehicle, and there could be another call. You don’t know when these people come back home. That’s the dedication of a Hatzolah member.”
The entertainment featured Shlomi Elishaev as the opening act. He is the son of Bukharian community philanthropist Simcha Elishaev, whose projects include the Bukharian Jewish Community Center, the mikvah at Beth Gavriel, and Chazaq, among other things. His commanding voice was matched by the $5,000 donation that he provided to Queens Hatzolah with his brother David, continuing his family’s philanthropy and activism. Elishaev was followed by Avraham Fried, a superstar among Orthodox Jewish singers, with nearly 40 years of recording albums.
He emerged from the crowd with camera flashes following him to the stage. Between songs, he took out cash and put in into a pushka, reminding everyone that after the architecture, food, and music of the Premier Men’s Event, the lasting impact is financial, enabling Queens Hatzolah to do its work with the best equipment that saves lives.
By Sergey Kadinsky