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EDITIONS
 Sunday, 19 January, 2003, 00:20 GMT
Jewish health service offers local care
Jews in London
Hatzola offers care to Jews in London

Hatzola is the Hebrew word for rescue - and the name of a medical service serving a UK Orthodox community.

It was started in north London in 1979 after two members of the community died while waiting for NHS ambulances to arrive after having heart attacks.

Founder Eli Kernkraut had seen a Hatzola service in New York, where his parents lived, and decided to start one in north London.

The NHS couldn't possible get there as quickly as we would

The service, run by volunteers, now offers a 24-hour, seven day a week service to the Orthodox Jewish community living in Stamford Hill and Golders Green.

It offers care to thousands of people, dealing with anything from childbirth to psychiatric illness.

Another Hatzola operates in north Manchester.

Mr Kernkraut told BBC News Online Hatzola works closely with NHS services, but can be there much more quickly if someone needs help.

"They couldn't possible get there as quickly as we would."

"If someone has had a heart attack, they would call us on our dedicated emergency line.

"We would then respond with one of our volunteers out in the field."

Advice for NHS

All volunteers are trained in basic first aid, and carry equipment including oxygen supplies and defibrillators.

Several GPs, predominantly from the Jewish community, are also available to Hatzola.

Mr Kernkraut, who runs the service from his home with his wife Ester, added: "In Stamford Hill, we rely entirely on the London Ambulance Service and the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service, but in Golders Green we do have our own ambulance."

Hatzola also works with local NHS services to help them care for Orthodox Jewish patients.

We have our own team that goes in to wash the patient

"If anyone needed to know who a specialist for a particular disease is, they would come to me.

"I would then recommend who the right person is for their problem.

"I also work with the local hospitals, the Homerton and the Royal London.

"I talk to the medical team and the nursing team to tell them about the needs of our community and tell them what we do differently.

'Life or death'

"For example, we have our own diet, and we are not allowed to do certain things on a Saturday, the Jewish holiday, such as switching on a light.

"Life is based on segregation. Men and women don't mix with each other."

Orthodox Jews also have particular requirements after death.

Mr Kernkraut said: "We have our own team that goes in to wash the patient.

"And we try, in all cases, to make the funeral as soon as possible."

This means finding a registrar to register the death so a funeral can take place, something Mr Kernkraut once had to do on Christmas Day.

But he said life or death situations over-rode religious commands.

"We're not supposed to pick up the telephone on a Saturday, but because we take emergency calls, we operate seven days a week."


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09 Aug 02 | England
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