Shoshana Weiner of Long Island, New York, has been a volunteer firefighter for 12 years. In addition to firefighting, Weiner’s day job includes working as a nurse practitioner at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, and as a paramedic instructor at St. John’s University in Queens.
Tazpit News Agency caught up (literally) with Weiner during her vacation in Israel, where she took the time to volunteer with the Petah Tikvah fire department, answering some brush fires and dealing with hazardous material.
“Volunteering as a firefighter in Israel is a little different from Long Island,” Weiner, 39, told Tazpit News Agency. The fire trucks and the equipment are different from what I am used to in Long Island, but that’s all part of the learning experience.”
Weiner was born and raised in New York, where very few Orthodox Jewish women volunteer as firefighters, she says. “I kind of fell into volunteer firefighting by accident,” Weiner explains. “I was looking to volunteer in emergency medical services (EMS) at a local fire station, but in order to get accepted, I also had to train as a firefighter.”
Shabbat evening dinners take on a different routine at Weiner’s home. “Multiple times, I’ve gotten calls right after my husband has said Kiddush, and I’d have to run out and respond to a fire or medical emergency.”
“The perks are probably the barbecues,” Weiner says with a smile. “At least for my husband.”
The difficult point in Weiner’s volunteer firefighting career was September 11. “That was probably the worst day in history for New York firefighters. I was lucky I didn’t go down to the Twin Towers with the firefighters the first night, when the casualties took place. I joined the second night as an EMS responder.”
In Israel, Weiner also had the chance to take part in the Emergency Volunteer Program (EVP), a non-profit international organization that trains volunteers from abroad to assist Israel as emergency first responders.
“It was great to meet other people across the US, from Washington State to Arkansas, who were training to help Israel in an emergency situation,” Weiner said. “Although we come from different states across America, and there are differences in the way things work in Israel, we all share the language of emergency response.”
Weiner explains that one fundamental difference is the manpower at hand. In “Israel, there are generally two firefighters who do everything during a call—including driving to the emergency and putting out the fire, etc. In New York at least, there are five to six people on every fire truck.”
Shoshana believes that the situation in Israel is volatile. “At some point, we all know that Israel will need our help and that’s why we are here training together– to assist in whatever situation that happens in the future.”