Photo Credit: United Hatzalah
A United Hatzalah medical bag in shul (Illustration).

On Shabbat morning in the neighborhood of Neve Yaakov, north of Pisgat Ze’ev in eastern Jerusalem, a rabbi at one of the local shuls suffered a cardiac incident and collapsed on the floor. The incident took place just after the Torah reading had concluded. One of the congregants, Daniel Katzenstein, a former community rabbi and a volunteer EMT with United Hatzalah, was immediately called over to help.

Daniel threw off his tallis and rushed to the collapsed man. “I saw that the rabbi was still breathing and had a pulse,” he recalled. He grabbed his emergency communication device that he carries with him at all times, including Shabbat, and called United Hatzalah’s dispatch center to request additional volunteers, an ambulance, and an advanced life support (ALS) team.


Daniel asked a young man that knew the combination of the locker where they keep the emergency medical equipment in the shul to open it and bring him the medical kit. Another United Hatzalah volunteer EMT arrived and the pair of responders provided oxygen for the rabbi. Yoni Rosenfeld, a volunteer paramedic for United Hatzalah, arrived and joined in the treatment.

A few minutes later, a mobile intensive care ambulance arrived and the team transported the rabbi to the ambulance.

“Yoni correctly pointed out that while we could continue to treat the rabbi in the shul, it would be more appropriate for him and the congregants to continue the treatment in the ambulance,” Daniel said.

Once inside the ambulance, the rabbi’s pulse disappeared and the team switched to CPR. “I began performing chest compressions on my rabbi for two minutes before we thankfully brought it back,” Daniel said. “We managed to stabilize him, then intubated and sedated him.”

Once the shul rabbi was stable, the short-staffed ambulance team asked Daniel to stay on board during the transport to help continue treatment during the ride to the hospital.

Daniel chose to stay at the hospital to advocate for the rabbi and support the rabbi’s son who came along in the ambulance.

“They opened up the trauma room to make sure they were able to properly diagnose and treat him. Until now there still isn’t a clear-cut diagnosis as to what caused the rabbi to collapse. But being able to be there for him and help treat him not only gave me comfort in the knowledge that I was able to help bring his pulse back but also gave comfort and hope to the rest of the congregation knowing that I was there to help.”

As the day wore on, Daniel went to pray Mincha at the hospital shul and saw there another United Hatzalah volunteer who lives close by. The second volunteer invited Daniel to his house for a meal and much-needed rest. After Daniel recuperated from the traumatic morning, he went back to the hospital to check on the rabbi’s condition.

“There was no improvement and the rabbi was still in serious condition but stable,” Daniel recalled. “That’s pretty much how he stayed until the end of Shabbat when I headed home. He is stable, he has a good chance of survival, and I am thankful that I was there to help him.”


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