Don’t Ask for a Jewish Doctor

I had a very unfortunate experience at an emergency room that really makes me question how hospitals handle patients of different ethnicities and who speak different languages….in New York City, no less.

So, last week I was feeling extremely sick, and my doctor sent me to the emergency room.

I was worn out from not sleeping the last couple of nights, and when I tried to speak, I could only mumble.

I was in so much pain.

On the ambulance, my vision was a little blurry, but I was able to hear perfectly fine.

“Put your phone away when I’m talking to you,” a man who seemed to be a doctor came and told me.

“Oh,” I sat up.

“Are you my doctor?”

“Yes, I am,” he said, shoving his ID tag in my face.

I said, “Don’t worry, my phone is off,” and showed him.

“I’m simply holding it in case someone calls.”

He barked at me, “I’m not one of your co-workers. When I tell you to put your phone away, I mean, put it away.”

“Ok,” I relented, putting my phone away in my bag.

I told him, “I’m here because I’m having pain.”

But just as I wanted to continue, he interrupted me.

“Let me see your hands. I want to see that your phone is not in your hands.”

I started to see that this doctor just plain disliked me for one reason or another.

I showed him my hands, and for some reason he laughed at me.

“Maybe there is a different doctor who can see me?” I asked.

“No,” he said angrily, “I am the doctor that was assigned to you.”

“Really?” I said, “Maybe you have a doctor who speaks Hebrew?  Because I might express myself better in Hebrew since I’m in pain.  But, if you don’t have a Jewish doctor around, that’s fine.”

“No, we don’t have a Jewish doctor,” he said sarcastically, loud enough so everyone could hear.

“That’s called discrimination.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you,” I told him.

“I’m not racist or anything.  I’m just in a lot of pain right now, and I see that you’re very occupied with my phone and disciplining me, and not with treating me. If there is any other doctor, not necessarily a Jewish doctor, who could treat me, I would appreciate it. Maybe someone who speaks Hebrew would feel more comfortable with me.”

After a long back and forth, he finally agreed to treat me.

He kept pressing on my chest area, which was feeling very painful.

He would press a couple of times, even after I told him to stop and covered my chest with my hands.

All he did was pull my hands away and start pressing again.

After he repeatedly poked and hurt me, he finally just left.

But then, all he did was laugh and walk around the emergency room, telling everyone that I had wanted a Jewish doctor, telling the nurses, “She might want a Jewish nurse, don’t take care of her.”

They also came up to me and told me to change to the hospital gown, and if not, they threatened to call security to strip me.

I feel I was being punished for asking for a Jewish doctor.

I felt violated.

Am I not allowed to ask for a doctor who speaks Hebrew or a Jewish doctor in New York City?

Is this really considered racism?

Can’t someone from a Spanish-speaking country ask for a doctor who speaks Spanish?

I learned that the emergency room can be a vulnerable place for females.

I learned that we can be sexually harassed there.

But most of all, I learned that you’re not allowed to ask for a Jewish doctor in a Jewish hospital in New York City.

About the Author
Anat Ghelber was born in Israel and moved to Texas when she was 13. She experienced anti-Semitism in public schools there. She moved to New York City when she was 20, and is currently studying for a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work. She started submitting articles to the Jewish Voice two years ago. In her free time enjoys writing poems. She's also a certified Yoga teacher with 200 hours of training who teaches in a donation-based studio called Yoga to the People in New York City.
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