Visual Project Management | Grant Work: 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 in the initial pandemic years of 2020 and 2021, and published in The New York Times at its completion. This is a local continuation of my larger project (done in Brooklyn, NY) on the fascinating all-female societies across the world, its global start sponsored by Leica Camera North America and Getty Images.
- Ezras Nashim: Helping Women
Although for men, coronavirus deaths started at double the rates to women, the majority of the pandemic's collateral damage now befalls women. Women have become 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, New York—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 thus far experienced trauma or avoided medical care without the option of female EMTs.
Indeed Ezras Nashim succeeded in forming in spite of virulent opposition from their all-male competitor EMTs, interconnected 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 force us refocus on the imperative aspects of equality and the survivability of human existence.
The ideal audience for this project is made of two opposites: people who do not know much about the Orthodox Jewish community, and the people who do. It would be important to the unfamiliarized viewer to learn more about a community that has not seen 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 showcase, as Jewish Orthodox women are usually not represented in any imagery within ultra-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.