Hatzolah of Queens and Great Neck hosted a special event for its dedicated members on Thursday evening, April 20, ahead of the vital Hatzalah-Thon fundraiser. The fourth of its kind since its inception during the pandemic, the crowdfunding campaign has proven to be a momentous way to support our local volunteer heroes who respond to our communities’ medical emergencies.

The Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills simchah hall filled with a steady stream of Hatzolah volunteers who give of their time at a moment’s notice to aid those suffering a health complication. Roughly 150 members joined the festive program. Nosson Reichmann emceed the event and thanked his fellow members for orchestrating the evening and fundraising details. “Falling around Lag BaOmer, this campaign has taken on a symbol of unity within the organization and the broader community as a resource and by creating a sense of achdus to build upon.”

“Hatzalah-Thon happened successfully because its time has come because of the response that Hatzalah had during the Covid-19 pandemic,” remarked Rabbi Yehiel Kalish, CEO of Chevra Hatzalah of New York. The esteemed Far Rockaway resident explained that the goal of the drive is to raise money for the pivotal work of the organization. The first year included an elaborate concert that helped bring a bit of joy during the pandemic, while the second year fell on the night following the Meron tragedy, leading to a decision with daas Torah to focus on accruing the necessary monies. This same notion followed for the third and current fundraiser. Rabbi Kalish excitedly proclaimed, “We are here in Queens because this is the home of what is going to be the most beautiful Hatzolah garage in the City of New York.”

Our local Hatzolah chapter was not always as fluid financially as it is today. There was a time not long ago when the organization struggled immensely, running in the red for extended periods. “Ninety to ninety-nine percent of the money raised will go directly into patient care. That is an amazing statistic,” explained Rabbi Kalish, who pointed out how this campaign differentiates itself from almost any other charity collection effort. Hatzalah-Thon is widely based on the efforts of the members themselves, who reach out to those in their midst to accrue small donations which collectively amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars. At the time of this writing, the Queens and Great Neck division amassed $342,257 from 1,362 donors, well on its way to their $500,000 goal. Collectively, the 54 chapters reached over 28,400 individual donors and are over $6,800,000 towards the $18 million projected finish.

For most of his life - over 40 years to be exact - Mr. Shiu Reichmann has served Queens as a devoted Hatzolah member. “You are an amazing group of people who are always there to do a mitzvah or a chesed,” Reichmann stated to the members on behalf of his fellow coordinators. The veteran volunteer noted the incredible unity amongst the members, who jump in a second’s notice to help one another with mundane matters, and expressed how that achdus is what will ultimately breed the success of the campaign. Reichmann, who is celebrating the birth of a great-grandson, also noted how a granddaughter over Pesach asked her mother if Zaidy would leave Shabbos and Yom Tov seudos to take calls. His daughter responded that sometimes her father would leave multiple times during a meal to respond to calls at a time when there were far fewer active members, and she along with her mother entertained the guests while her father helped community members in need. Reichmann told the members that one day they too will be in his shoes, attending the celebrations of grandchildren, and they will “forever be a Hatzolah member with the mitzvos and chasadim that you have done. Do not think for a moment that this does not affect your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.”

By Shabsie Saphirstein