To bring this short series of posts to an end regarding my experiences with the Gateshead Hatzola, I thought I would share an email that I received from Jacob, a registered Paramedic in the States somewhere. He gave me permission to reproduce his email here, but asked that I not divulge his exact whereabouts, which I will of course honour.
Jacob is also an orthodox Jew but rather that being part of a voluntary emergency services group such as a Hatzola, he decided to go the whole journey and become a paramedic. He still has to conform with certain aspects of his religious beliefs whilst at work, and he gives us all a fascinating insight into his working and religious life:
So can it be done? Can you be an Orthodox Jew and a Paramedic?
Sure, it’s easy to do in Israel, where you are a part of the normal scenery and population, but what about outside of Israel? Mark’s mentioned in his post about Hatzola (Hebrew for “Rescue”), the service provided by Jewish people for the Jewish community. I’ll admit that I don’t know a huge amount about them, and they do give me strange looks when they see me working for a “normal” ambulance service. However, I’d like to give you a different insight.
You see, I’m a paramedic with a large, recognised ambulance service, and an Orthodox Jew. Skullcap and everything, even at work. I stick out like a sore thumb. It certainly means I get some weird looks if I attend a Jewish patient. I’m a very rare commodity in a sea of the multi-ethnic world. The traditional callings for Good Jewish Boys are the old jokes of “My son the doctor”, or “My son the lawyer”. Strangely, “My son the paramedic” never seems to have made it in the commonly spoken Judeo-English language. Having said that, I’m extremely proud of who I am, both personally and professionally.
My colleagues know by now that even when I do work on Saturdays, or really anytime from sunset on Friday until nightfall on Saturday, IE the Jewish Sabbath, there are certain things I can’t and won’t do. On the rare occasion that I’m actually at the station, I won’t turn on the TV. I won’t use the computer. I won’t carry anything outside that is not immediately necessary for my job or my patient. I won’t go and get a cup of coffee in the hospital, as it means pressing an electronic keypad. Sounds crazy, I know, but I’ve lived with it all my life. I know that if I’m at work my day of rest is not really restful, but I’ll do what I can. And in all honesty, when I am at work, I miss my day of rest, the one real family day.
However, along with all the can’ts and won’ts, there’s a long list of can, will, and even must dos.
In Judaism, the preservation of life is paramount. The laws regarding it overrule almost everything else. If there’s a life to be saved, save it. Use whatever you need to, do whatever you have to. When I’m at work, my patient takes priority. That doesn’t mean I forget who I am, and what that means. It doesn’t mean that I treat any members of other religions with anything less than my full respect. You’d think that by being Jewish, I’d have a certain amount of animosity when entering, for example, a Muslim house or Mosque. In fact, I find that in the vast majority of cases, the exact opposite is true. It means that although different, I have an understanding of more than just their medical concerns. It’s a little like being able to converse in another language, with all its slang and nuances.
I’m an Orthodox Jew, and a Paramedic. But for me it’s more than that, I’m a Jewish Paramedic. I won’t force my religion on anyone. I won’t preach to anyone. But I’ll teach anyone who wants to learn. I know I have some customs and rituals that seem strange, so I’ll answer any questions you may have to the best of my ability. At the same time, I’ll treat you to the best of my ability. Whoever you are, and whatever you believe in. It’s what I do. Not despite my religion, not instead of my religion, but because of it. Everyone has a set of morals and ethics. Everyone has their method of behaviour. These are dictated by family, friends, society in general, and in my case, my religion too. I hope it makes me a good person, and by extension also a good paramedic.
I hope you can accept me for who I am, and judge me on my merits as a human being (as well as a paramedic). I promise to return the favour.
Well, I dont know about the rest of you, but I think I would love to have Jacob as a partner at work with an outlook like that!!
I am still finding all of this stuff absolutely fascinating.
Like Jacob says, in this new world where everything has to be multicultural and ethinically diverse and equal, there are times when the good intentions of indivduals and organisations can get lost in the need to show how their equality and diversity policies work and tick all the boxes. At times you can see some staff being actively targeted for high profile positions and ‘campaigns’. This doesnt make the service equal though. What does, is an organisation that embraces people like Jacob, who obviously have so much to offer and give, as an equal employee. Not special because of their colour, race, sexuality or religion, but because of how they act and go about their job with pride and dedication. I hope Jacob is truly seen as one of the team at work, I really do.