Prominent Community Leader Rabbi Yoel Friedman Donates A New Ambulance to Catskills Hatzolah, in Memory of his Legendary Father, Reb Mordechai, Longtime Askan and Hatzolah Member
Catskills Hatzolah headquarters in South Fallsburg was the site of a heartwarming event this week, as Rabbi Yoel Friedman, a prominent community leader in the Tri-State Area, and the chaplain of Orange Regional Medical Center—used by thousands of families vacationing as well as year-round— dedicated an ambulance of his beloved father, Rabbi Mordechai Friedman, z”l.
In attendance were an array of representatives from Hatzolah in nearly every community in New York—Central Hatzolah, Boro Park, Williamsburg, Catskills, Kiryas Yoel, and Monsey—as well as numerous community leaders and askonim.
Like his unforgettable father who was never satisfied with the chessed he had already accomplished, Rabbi Yoel would add two major pieces of equipment to this ambulance, which will greatly enhance Hatzolah’s care for decades to come.
Rabbi Mordechai Friedman, z”l, was born in Williamsburg to Holocaust survivors, and represented the first generation who rebuilt from the Churban with love for their fellow Yid. He learned the art of chessed by his great Rebbe, the Satmar Rav, who shaped generations with the true meaning of chessed. He was sadly niftar one decade ago.
Catskills Hatzolah coordinators—who are overjoyed with these generous donations toward their lifesaving efforts—remember Reb Mordechai Friedman, a pillar of Hatzolah, and a man whose entire essence was chessed.
“We used to call him ‘Hatzolah’s international ambassador,” recalls Bernie Gips, a decades-long Hatzolah coordinator. “He was one of the first members of Kiryas Yoel Hatzolah, and he used to commute to work in Boro Park and elsewhere in the city. His business phone became Hatzolah’s Boro Park phone number in those days of Boro Park
Hatzolah’s infancy. So, in addition to taking calls in Monroe, he became B318,” recalls Mr. Gips.
Reb Yidel Feig, a longtime Catskills Hatzolah coordinator, relates: “an average day would have Reb Mordechai take calls in Monroe in the morning, during the day in Boro Park, and almost always in Washington Heights and Williamsburg on the way to and from work...this was every day.”
He also pioneered Bikur Cholim rooms at upstate hospitals at a time when these were not common, and hospital officials did not appreciate the need for them. To this day, the Bikur Cholim room in Orange Regional exist in his zechus. Perhaps his crowning achievement was the institution of the world-famous “Mincha Area” in Sloatsburg which has enabled tens of thousands of people to daven mincha-ma’ariv b’tzbibur on the way to the Catskills throughout the summer.
These noble endeavors have seamlessly been continued by his beloved son, Rabbi Yoel Friedman, who has inherited his ahavas chessed, a burning love for helping his fellow Yid.
He grew up observing his father in action, and absorbing his spirit. “His ability to connect with people—whether the officials at hospitals, or authorities at a variety of organizations and government agencies —was softness and middos tovos. That always won them over.”
Having personally followed in the footsteps of his father, serving as a longtime Hatzolah member, Rabbi Yoel is keenly aware of the needs of the members—tools that will improve the lives of the patients, as well as the dedicated Hatolzah members.
“The White Lake ambulance covers a large area, a number of them remote down the 17B, a major artery—such as Kauneonga Lake, Glen Spey, and even Narrowsburg, where there are camps. It requires an ambulance that is reliable, and in optimal running condition,” he explains.
In a burst of additional inspiration, Reb Yoel added two costly pieces of equipment to this ambulance. “As someone who goes on calls, I can tell you that even in Brooklyn, having members do CPR compressions in transit is exhausting, and can often be dangerous. The “thumper” enables the members to sit safely seatbelted, caring for the patient, while the “thumper” does the exhaustive compressions.”
And then there is the electric stretcher—also in the tens of thousands of dollars. “Aside from being far safer for the patient, this modern innovation eliminates back pain that our members often experience as a result of lifting patients. This is true even in the city, but when it comes to bungalow colonies, where the ambulance often has no access, and the patient is wheeled over uneven fields, this innovation is a game changer… It is an absolute marvel,” explains Reb Yoel.
In addition, the ambulance is dedicated in the memory or Mrs. Rivka Richter, wife of, Ybl’”ch, longtime Catskills Hatzolah coordinator R’ Yitzchok Richter.
Hatzolah’s coordinators, who have spent decades involved with this holy mossad, and who have worked side by side with the father, cannot help but be overcome with how his love for chessed has so tangibly been inherited by the son.
“These incredible contributions will save many lives,” they say.