Remembering Our Fallen

13 Jews Who Died Fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq

Fallen Comrades: Service members salute James Malachowski, who was killed March 20, 2011, by an improvised explosive device in Marjah, Afghanistan. He was 25.
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Fallen Comrades: Service members salute James Malachowski, who was killed March 20, 2011, by an improvised explosive device in Marjah, Afghanistan. He was 25.

By Maia Efrem, Blair Thornburgh, Andrea Palatnik and Seth Berkman

Published September 09, 2012, issue of September 14, 2012.
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AiRMAN 1st Class Matthew R. Seidler

A neighborhood in mourning

From the time he could run outside and play, Matthew Seidler displayed his imagination. As a child, he enjoyed dressing up in various uniforms, adorning himself with different sets of hats, belts and cowboy boots.

Later in life, Seidler fell in love with the arts, finding creative outlets in drawing, shooting and editing video and graphic design.

Seidler was never content with the status quo. In high school, when he became drawn to ultimate Frisbee and couldn’t find any local games to join, he started his own competitions, which attracted other classmates.

Seidler’s mother, Lauren Seidler, said that Matthew wasn’t raised in a strictly religious family but did attend Hebrew school and had a connection with other Jewish friends in the county. The Seidlers were one of the few Jewish families in Westminster, Md.

“Matt was not a judgmental person,” Lauren Seidler said. “He was very fair, very open-minded, very intelligent. He was very introspective.”

When it came to joining the Air Force, Lauren Seidler said her son didn’t have one particular reason for doing so. “He was looking for something that was challenging, and [for] direction. Maybe it fulfilled a number of needs for him and was the right thing to do,” his mother said.

In the military, Seidler, an Airman First Class, became an explosive ordnance disposal technician and immediately bonded with his colleagues. Seidler’s grandfather was a Navy pilot in World War II, and often showed his grandchildren photos and told them stories of his service.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Shapiro of Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah, who spoke at Seidler’s funeral, remembered their first meeting. “I was excited to meet someone about to go into the Air Force. He said: ‘I’m not a hero at all, I just want to serve my country, protect my family.’ He couldn’t accept the fact that I thought he was something special.”

Shapiro noted that Westminster is a small town, where everyone knows each other. When the neighborhood learned of Seidler’s death, the streets were lined with American flags.

“It was like a whole neighborhood was in mourning,” Shapiro said.

Matthew Seidler died in Afghanistan on January 5, 2012, when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device. He had turned 24 two days earlier.


PETTY OFFICER 2nd Class Michael J. Brodsky

‘A dedicated soul’

On September 11, 2001, when Michael Brodsky found out about the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, he and his younger brother, Corey Brodsky, went down to the recruitment office and enlisted in the Navy. The same day, the two brothers got matching tattoos of the Star of David with the Hebrew word for “brotherhood” in the middle.

Steven Brodsky remembers his son as a “goofball” who was always teasing his mother and younger brother. Growing up in Tamarac, Fla., Brodsky was a Cub Scout and later a Boy Scout; a dedicated and athletic student, he also wrestled in high school.

Brodksy came from a patriotic family and became a dog handler in the Navy. Planning to make a career out of the military, Brodsky repeatedly took tests for a promotion. On the day that he died, his father said, the promotion finally came through. Steven Brodsky, an ex-military man himself, proudly recounted his son’s 11 medals.

Michael Brodsky loved his 9-year-old daughter, Natalia, who had fought and beaten cancer when she was younger. “He talked to his mother every day on Skype, and he was my best friend. He was a good person,” Steven Brodsky said.

Brodsky carried an Israeli flag with him when he was deployed, his father told the Forward. “He was a dedicated soul; he loved what he did, and no one could have talked him out of it.”

Michael Brodsky died July 21, 2012 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, from injuries caused by an improvised explosive device. He was 33 years old.


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