Taking Action After Pittsburgh to Save Lives

by Steve Birnbaum and Jacqueline Feldman / November 14, 2018

In the aftermath of the tragedy at the Tree of Life synagogue, I’ve read many articles that offer ideas to help our communities cope with the tragedy in Pittsburgh.  Some ideas are spiritual, some offer actions. At the same time, I’ve heard personally from a number of congregations that have told me that their members are worried about attending shul or public events.

We must not let the actions of those who hate us and would seek to destroy us cause us to abandon who we are, nor our desire to join our fellow Jews to meet, and celebrate life’s events and holidays.  At the same time, many want to find something that they can do to help make a real difference in their congregations and in our community that can help improve our safety.


Why This Matters

In any violent attack, whether it be with firearms, knives, or explosives, the arrival of the medical response may be delayed.  During the attack on the Tree of Life synagogue, almost 40 minutes went by beforethe first casualties were evacuated by tactical medical teams.  That delay can be a lifetime for someone seriously injured and bleeding, anddeath can occur in less than 5 minutes. In the world of tactical medicine, we often use the term “preventable casualties” in reference to people who succumb to injuries that could have been survivable if medical care had been provided faster.  Until the arrival of those first heroic tactical medics in Pittsburgh, the members of the congregation were put in the position to be the immediate responders.

Taking Action

There is something that everyone can be a part of that can and will save lives.  There is something we can do to create “immediate responders” in our own synagogues and communities.  Regular people who have the tools and training to save the life of someone who is suffering from severe bleeding.  This can be from something as serious as (G-d forbid) a terrorist attack, or something as routine as kitchen mishaps, car accidents, and why not…even shark attacks.

Bleeding Control Kits

We want to put public access bleeding control kits into our synagogues and community centers.  These kits contain items that can be used to control severe bleeding, such as tourniquets and pressure bandages.  Think of these kits just like public access Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs), but for bleeding instead of heart problems.  Just like AEDs, they enable bystanders to intervene and save lives during the time it takes for EMS to arrive. Just as with an AED and CPR, bystander intervention with severe bleeding can literally mean the difference between life and death.


bleed control


Having these kits is not enough.  We need to get people trained, and the more the better.  The Stop the Bleed program is a nationwide initiative that raises awareness of severe bleeding injuries and encourages people to take action to protect themselves and their communities.

Like CPR training, Stop the Bleed training only requires a few hours of time to teach the skills needed to save a life.  Imagine the feeling of being able to use these skills to save someone at a car crash, at work, or at your synagogue!

What You Can Do

We’re trying to get these kits into DC-area synagogues, and to provide training to staff and members of the congregations.

First, you can become an advocate.  Talk to your synagogue and get them on board.  That’s easy…but hopefully you want to do more.  We’ve had interest from several synagogues, but we’ll help anyone we can.

Most importantly, please contribute towards this project.  Jackie Feldman has created a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to help make this happen.  These funds will support the purchase of kits and provision of training (I’ve already lined up several tactical medical colleagues willing to donate time) for synagogues that are interested.

If you want to do even more…participate!  If your synagogue is on board, get trained. If they’re not, go to one that is.  Maybe you’ll even decide to get your own kit to keep with you in the car just in case you come upon some kind of accident where you can now help.


About the Authors:

steveSteve Birnbaum is an independent consultant and expert on disaster and emergency response technology and innovation, with experiences responding to domestic and international disasters. He is a volunteer firefighter/EMT and USAR tech in Montgomery County, MD, and is trained as a tactical medic. Birnbaum serves on the various DHS and Department of State advisory bodies related to public safety and disaster response. He is a former wilderness SAR tech in Israel, and previously served in the Climbing, Rappelling, and Rescuing Section of the IDF Counter-Terror School.



Jackie FeldmanJacqueline Feldman is the founder of Sephardic Jews in DC, a group that hosts events for young professionals in DC in celebration of Sephardic culture, food, and religious traditions. She is the author of the food blog, Healthy Sephardic Cooking that features a healthier spin on many traditional Jewish and Sephardic recipes and teaches classes on Sephardic cuisine and cooking in DC. When she’s not busy cooking or hosting, she enjoys painting, yoga, watching Seinfeld, and anything to do with International Affairs.




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