I think we have to have a conversation about parenting. Not in general – I think most parents are doing a fantastic job – but rather in a specific way and in a matter that has been of the utmost urgency for years now, yet has been completely unaddressed.
Last week, a beloved member of the Jackson community, R’ Shloimy Cohen z”l, suffered a massive heart attack and tragically passed away. Within minutes of his petirah, dozens of statuses were announcing it to the world. But there was a huge problem: R’ Shloimy’s own family didn’t know yet. They were in Israel and Switzerland and had not been contacted yet by the chevra kadisha. Yet the entire Lakewood, Jackson, and Toms River communities knew every detail before the body was even out of the house.
How did this happen? Because, at any given moment – including right now as you’re reading this – there are dozens of unauthorized people listening in to Hatzolah’s communications. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of scanners tapping into Hatzolah’s channels, websites where people can listen in to transmissions, and even a phone number that people can call and listen to past Hatzolah communications – you know, just in case you missed something “exciting.”
Every time there’s an accident or serious medical emergency, there are hordes of kids and teens rushing along with Hatzolah members to see the situation – and snap pictures and videos of it. When someone tragically passes away or is transported to a hospital in critical condition, it isn’t the family and loved ones of the individual who know about it first; the people who know first are a bunch of kids with scanners.
I once happened to be at the helicopter landing zone on Prospect Street in Lakewood when an urgent medical transport occurred. I watched (from a distance) as Hatzolah handed over the patient – a young child – to RWJ paramedics for the flight to a hospital. The flight medics wheeled the child to the helicopter, and the clearly frantic mother followed them. Just a few feet away, there were at least 15 kids and teens snapping pictures all the while. Just a few feet from a mother and child in terrible distress were people violating their privacy and heartlessly taking pictures and videos of their personal calamity. I felt sick.
Why is this considered normal, acceptable behavior? It’s sociopathic – feelingless with zero empathy for the person or people who are in distress, and a stunningly brazen breach of privacy.
This isn’t Hatzolah’s fault. This isn’t their responsibility and they protect patients’ privacy as best they can. But we as a kehilla have to do something about it. We urgently need this behavior to come to a screeching halt.
Parents have to be the ones stopping this sick behavior. If your kid has a scanner, take it away. If your kid thinks chasing ambulances is “cool,” sit them down and teach them about the crushing harm they’re doing to people. There cannot be any tolerance, in any family, of children owning or even listening to a scanner that picks up emergency communications.
If you have trouble with this concept, think about this: if it were you or a family member experiencing a medical emergency, would you want random people snapping pictures? Would you want ambulance chasers knowing before your loved ones that a medical crisis is underway? Of course not. And yet this happens every day.
To the parents who allow this behavior to continue, it’s time to step up. Your cavalier attitude to this behavior is disgusting and you be ashamed of yourself for failing yourself, your children, and your entire community so miserably.
A Lakewood Resident Who Doesn’t Own a Scanner