New York, NY-   ZAKA Search and Rescue, an organization based in Israel that establishes, trains, and equips rescue units all around the world, has formed an advisory board in New York.

On February 12th, The Consul General of Israel in New York, Dani Dayan, hosted a reception to officially install the members of the ZAKA Board. The Consul General addressed the board on the history of ZAKA and their valuable contributions to Israeli society and gave an update on the state of affairs in Israel.  Later, Consul General Dayan invited the ZAKA board into his office where he showed them an Israeli Flag that was recovered from the ruins of the World Trade Center. It was a poignant reminder of the dangers that New Yorkers face every day, and of ZAKA’s mission: to train citizens to respond when the unimaginable happens. 

On hand for Monday’s ceremony were members of the ZAKA board including:

Brad Gerstman- Chairman of ZAKA advisory board- Lawyer/Lobbyist in New York and D.C

David Schwartz- a Lawyer/Lobbyist in New York and D.C.

Stuart Seldowitz-Former U.S. Diplomat to Israel;

Shai Franklin-Consultant/ Founder of International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians

Rich Seldes– Director of Orthopedics at Northwell Forest Hills- LIJ Hospital. 

Jeffrey Gurian- Stand-up Comedian and a Spiritual Healer

Stacie Handwerker– Attorney for Roth Law Firm in New York City;

Skye Ostreicher– NYC Publicist

Amy Friedman– NYC Claims Counsel, active in various philanthropic causes

The board members were joined by ZAKA International Director David Rose, and ZAKA U.S. Director of Development Menachem Bar-Shalom, who are spearheading efforts to establish ZAKA’s presence in the United States.

According to Gerstman, ZAKA is recruiting individuals with diverse skill sets and a comprehensive knowledge of Israel in order to raise awareness of, and expand on the organization’s fundraising in the United States.

Central to the board’s goals is the establishment of a ZAKA volunteer rescue unit. ZAKA would administer a five day basic training program that includes certification as emergency medical first responders; security preparedness and response; dealing with mass casualty incidents; honoring the dead; working with forensics and simulation emergency drills. Volunteers who complete this program would form New York’s first ZAKA volunteer rescue unit.

“It is important to note that, by establishing ZAKA rescue units, we are not trying to replace the existing first responders and existing disaster preparedness infrastructure in New York.” said ZAKA’s International Director David Rose who travelled from Israel last week to meet with prospective board members. “We supplement existing first responders by teaching volunteers how to react in the first minute of a disaster.  That could make the difference between life and death.”

ZAKA volunteers are trained to work within the emergency security protocols of the localities that they serve, to fill in the gap between the times of the disaster until professional teams arrive. 

ZAKA works to integrate their services with existing first responder organizations in the United States and other countries, by participating in Joint Venture Drills.