Grant Work | Visual Story Editing | Project Management: Ezras Nashim - Helping Women
I researched, drafted and won a National Geographic Society grant-winning proposal to document the first ever all-female EMT corps in the United States, Ezras Nashim, which I produced via documentary photography, video and reported text, and in 2021 published in The New York Times. This is a 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.
- 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 the majority of the United States' 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 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 female EMTs.
Ezras Nashim succeeded in forming despite virulent opposition from their competitor all-male EMTs and the interconnected network of EMT industry decision-makers and conservative community members — thus changing the idea of women’s role in personal and professional spheres of the Orthodox community, and enabling religiously modest women to receive crucial medical care from other women.
This 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 — women not being taken as seriously as their male colleagues — can meet avenues of hope and progress. Within it, I intersect the themes of community, challenge, resilience, healthcare, and women’s rights at a time when pandemic realities make us refocus on the imperative aspects of equality and the survivability of human existence.
The ideal audience for this project is comprised of its two extremes: people who do not know much about the Orthodox Jewish community, and the people who do. It will be important for the unfamiliar to see it for the obvious reasons — to learn more about a community that has not had much exposure via traditional media outlets — and for those familiar with or from the community itself, to see representation of women fighting for equality, the comfort of fellow women, and the preservation of community culture, all within one organization. This is consequential to show, as Jewish Orthodox women are usually not represented in any imagery in traditional Orthodox media — meaning that even advertisements specifically targeted toward women and articles about women, do not contain portraits or imagery of women. This project therefore begins to fill the empty spaces young and adult women in the community encounter when they seek recognition, whether on paper or in the world beyond.