Grant Work: Ezras Nashim - Helping Women
This local continuation of my project on the fascinating all-female societies across the world, done in Brooklyn, New York during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and 2021, is supported by a National Geographic Society 2020 grant and published by The New York Times in 2021
- Ezras Nashim: Helping Women
Although coronavirus death rates double for men, the majority of the pandemic's collateral damage befalls women. Women have been increasingly vulnerable in this catastrophe, as they comprise most of U.S.'s healthcare and minimum wage workers, its small businesses, and the pandemic's jobless. And this isn't all that ails our female population: violence against women is up across the world, and access to oft-shuttered reproductive services is down.
And so, helping women win equal access to basic human rights, like physical health, emotional comfort and one’s choice in vocation, is ever more crucial.
One organization that aims at all three is an all-female EMT volunteer corps based in Brooklyn — the first of its kind in the United States — of Jewish Orthodox women called Ezras Nashim, or “Helping Women” in Hebrew, which formed after its counterparts in the influential all-male Hatzolah EMT corps revolted against working alongside them. Despite this, they gathered to offer emergency care especially to observant women, who'd experienced trauma or avoided medical care without the option of choosing female EMTs. This iteration of my project aims to increase awareness of the often hard-to-access culture of the Orthodox Jewish community, and to remind that the age-old battle women face — not being taken as seriously as their male colleagues — can meet avenues of hope and progress.
Ezras Nashim succeeded in forming despite virulent opposition from powerful, competing all-male EMTs and the interconnected network of EMT industry decision-makers — thus changing the idea of women’s role in the personal and professional spheres of the Orthodox community, and enabling religiously modest women to receive crucial medical care from other women.
Ezras Nashim: Helping Women intersects the themes of community, challenge, resilience, healthcare, and women’s rights at a time when the transition from pandemic- to post-pandemic life makes us refocus on all of these imperative aspects of equality and the human existence.