Chevra Hutzala, a New York-based Jewish ambulance service, is trying to sniff out a similar group in Florida—as they employ female EMTs, the founders of the Sunshine State-based volunteer program Claims.
When 30-year-old Isaac Hersh started Hatzala of Palm Beach and Hatzalah in South Florida last year — modeled from the Big Apple’s Chevra Hatzalah EMS Corp — he was proud to give back to his Orthodox Jewish community.
But now Harsh says he is drowning in legal fees after Shevra Hatzala filed a lawsuit in November for using part of his name. He alleged that the lawsuit was actually a ploy by the Big Apple service to maintain market control and punish women for hiring.
“Allowing women EMTs is a highly controversial move in the eyes of Shevra Hatzala, who has a strict policy of conservative men being the sole applicants,” Hersh said in a statement to the Post.
Still, “our initial reaction was shock,” he said of the lawsuit, “that it’s impossible to think that one lifesaving nonprofit would treat another.”
In its 12-page complaint, Chevra Hatzala, legally named Hatzoloh Incorporated, claimed that Hersh infringed upon and counterfeited its registered service marks.
There is no mention of female EMTs in the suit. But Harsh says he believes the motivation for the complaint was the fact that he employs both men and women.
Prior to founding the group, which she named JVAC (Jewish Volunteer Ambulance Corp), Hersh said she consulted with prominent Boca Raton Rabbinic leaders and encouraged women to take on any and all roles in their volunteer ambulance service. Received written approval to grant permission.
Meanwhile, Chevra Hatzalah operates as a men-only organization with no pun intended. The Post reported in 2019 that the group was doing its best to block New York-based Jewish EMS service, Ezras Nasheem, claiming that it would be immoral for women to have EMTs.
Chevra Hatzala claims in her lawsuit that Hersh’s Florida EMS Corp. will intentionally “create confusion in the market.” It cited a South Florida Sun-Sentinel article in which Hersh said that his organization “has been serving Jewish communities around the world since the 1960s.”
But the Boca Raton dad pushed back Chevra Hatzala’s claims.
“The word ‘Hatzla’ literally translates to ‘rescue’ in Hebrew and is used nationally and internationally with similar volunteer EMS organizations that are independent of New York’s Chevra Hutzla,” he said.
Even within the New York area, there are Jewish EMS groups not affiliated with Shevra Hatzala that use “Hatzala” in their names, The Post has found.
Hersh believes that Chevra Hatzala’s campaign for a total market monopoly is another reason behind the lawsuit.
Six months after filing the lawsuit, the registered nonprofit has spent more than $150,000 fighting Hersh, two sources with direct knowledge of the group’s inner workings told The Post.
One source said he believes the number could be closer to $250,000.
“This is money they have received from donors to help sick people,” said a second source, adding that patient care should be their priority. “Donors don’t care about their trademark or any such nonsense.
The source added, “His interest lies in controlling everything that he feels is related to him even from far away from his organization.
Chewra Hatzala declined to comment. In an April 1 court filing, he requested Harsh to be “under house arrest by US marshals” for not fully complying with the preliminary injunction.
Harsh said he and his legal team have taken extensive steps to ensure that the JVAC – which is already operational and has the support of the local community – is in full compliance with the court’s orders.
Others familiar with Chewra Hatzala said the group is notoriously aggressive.
One of its divisions, Queens Hatzolah, is currently being accused of intimidating and blackmailing locals in Kew Garden Hills as they oppose an ambulance depot they want to build on a bucolic block.
About the trial against Harsh, another source said, “It is a textbook based on everything that we have seen and heard from him.” “It’s been the organization’s MO for decades.”