I opened up the local Jewish paper this week. and was surprised to see a huge two-page ad (which cost around $3,400, according to what is written here) put out by the local Hatzalah organization. Evidently, the organization is extremely unhappy by some words spoken by a local Rabbi in a shiur he gave to some members of his shul a few weeks ago. The relevant grafs from the ad (all grammatical errors and inconsistent italicizing are original):
While we are hurt and outraged at the accusations of a local Rabbi in our community, publicly accusing our members who are Yirah Shamayim and Moser Nefesh of Rachmana Litzlan being Mechallel Shabbos. We would have been silent, preferring not to dignify his venomous attacks against us, with a response.
...However, when he recently publicly Poskened that one should not call Hatzalah but rather look for a Doctor to determine if it is indeed a Sakanah, because Hatzalah members are not qualified to make that determination, we must cry out. We are frightened and concerned that delay in calling for emergency care will Rachmana Litzlan result in unecessary death.
The ad enumerates the various qualifications its members have in being capable of determining when a situation is truly life-threatening, and when it is required to break the laws of Shabbos. It also goes on to state that:
In the summer of 2000, the Hatzalah Bais Din Poskend "on the issue of whether or not a local Rav or even Vaad Horabbanim has a right to become involved in Halachic decisions regarding Hatzalah practices in their local neighborhood.Now, if this were to be the case, that a local Rabbi stood up and denigrated these dedicated members who give so much of themselves of acting in a way that is contrary to Halacha, then indeed that would be troubling. Of course, the ad is too vague to make any determinations about whether that happened, or what happened at all. So after Shabbos, I put in a call to a friend of ours who is usually in the know when it comes to neighborhood goings-on. According to him, the Rabbi of a local shul, who has reputedly garnered a bit of a reputation as being outspoken on some controversial issues in the past, (including, apparently, other issues that were relevant to Hatzalah), made some references in a weekly shiur that some feel denigrated Hatzalah members. However, the fellow I was speaking with seemed to feel that the whole statement by the Rabbi was blown out of proportion, and that much of this might be based in previous bad blood between the head honchos of the organization and this Rabbi. He said that he spoke to a friend who had actually been present during the lecture, and his friend did not feel that the Rabbi was denigrating Hatzalah members, or Paskening for Hatzalah members at all. He simply was advising his congregants that they should take care before calling Hatzalah for something minor (the example I was told he gave was a cut finger), and in the case of a situation that is certainly not life-threatening, people should contact a doctor first. Additionally, the person present at the Shiur said it was a tiny part, and he certainly did not walk away with the message that he should call a doctor instead of Hatzalah in the case of a true or even a possible medical emergency. I can't see that as being inappropriate, nor do I see how giving such advice is contrary to the reference in the ad to a Din Torah finding that there is one central Halachic authority for the organization. Anyone know any more about this, and care to add?
Another point is that I'd like to make is that I live nowhere near where this Rabbi gave the shiur. I would have never known a blessed thing about this little incident, and I strongly suspect neither would the vast majority of the 5 Towns, had this not been called to my attention in a ginormously massive ad in the local paper. So what was really the point here? Clearly it was not to protect the reputations of the local Hatzalah volunteers, as they were never seriously harmed by this, even if the organization maintains that the Rabbi said what they claim he did - which my source disputes.
Unless someone has some information that the Rabbi behaved in a manner that is contrary to the version I reported above, I can't possible see how Hatzalah can justify having spent $3,400 of their funds on this ad, whether it was based on a statement that is open to interpretation, or worse, just to settle a score.