It is impossible to compile an absolutely accurate list of the Jewish service personnel who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Defense Department no longer keeps statistics on the religion of its personnel. Moreover, Jewish chaplains observe a policy of strict confidentiality regarding the faith of service personnel and will neither confirm nor deny whether a war casualty was Jewish.
However, through newspaper obituaries and similar sources, most of the Jewish service personnel who have been killed in combat can be identified. I used these sources when I first wrote on an article on Jewish service personnel killed in action in these conflicts back in 2004.
Around that time, the Website Jewsingreen.com was launched. The Webmaster is an active-duty American Jewish soldier. The site provides valuable information on how to help Jewish service personnel. The site has also maintained (on its home page) an ever-growing list of Jewish service personnel killed in action. Jewsingreen.com also is assisted by site visitors who inform it about the deaths of Jewish soldiers and those of mixed Jewish heritage.
The count is now 39 Jewish service personnel killed in action in current conflicts. This count includes an Australian Jew and a British Jew killed fighting in Afghanistan with their respective country’s armed forces. The rest are American, including two women. (One of the two women, Air Force Lt. Roslyn Schulte, was the first graduate of the Air Force Academy to die – last May, at 25 – in combat. She was the commander of cadets, a post of high honor, while at the Air Force Academy.)
Five of these Jewish service personnel are from New Jersey. Here are capsule biograhies:
Army Spc. MARC S. SEIDEN, 26, of Brigantine, died in Baghdad, Iraq, on Jan. 3, 2004, when his convoy was ambushed by the enemy, which used an improvised explosive device, small arms fire, and a rocket-propelled grenade. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne. His mother told the Fayetteville, N.C., Observer that Seiden was “a daredevil since childhood,” a fact that led him to join the Airborne. “I always had to have 25 eyes on him.”
Marc Seiden was a New York Mets fan and played soccer in high school. He joined the Army in April 2002 and was assigned to the 82nd in September of that year. His mother, Gail Seiden, said that Marc joined the Army in part because of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. She added, “He joined because he felt he had a duty. I didn’t understand it when he did it. I was angry at him because I knew what could possibly happen. But he felt like he could fight for his country and he wanted to.” Marc, his mother said, called his family twice on New Year’s eve and once on New Year’s day. His unit was scheduled to come back in February, and he was excited about coming home. His brother and sister-in-law, Gail Seiden explained, were expecting their first child. “Our first grandchild [was going] be born in two weeks, and [Marc] just could not wait. He was going to be the godfather.” Seiden was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star for valor.
Army Lt. SETH DVORIN, of East Brunswick, a member of the 10th Mountain Division, based at Fort Drum, N.Y., was killed Feb. 3, 2004, in Iraq. His sister, Rebekah, told the Associated Press that the Army informed her that “Seth’s unit had been ordered to clear the area of the homemade mines and bombs that have killed dozens of troops…. They were in a convoy and saw something in the road. My brother, the hero, told his driver to stop. That’s when the bomb detonated, when they were trying to dismantle it.”
His father, Richard Dvorin, an Air Force veteran and retired New Brunswick police officer, told the AP that his son was a loyal, responsible commander who sought to make life as easy as possible on the soldiers he oversaw. Offered two weeks’ leave in December, his father said, Seth refused to go because so many of his platoon members had not yet had the chance.
Richard Dvorin, with tears rolling down his face, told the AP, “He was a good human being.” Seth’s survivors include his father, his sister, and his wife – a college sweetheart he had married a week before he was deployed. Dvorin was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star for valor.
Marine Sgt. ALAN D. SHERMAN, a reservist serving with B Company of the 6th Engineer Support Battalion, based in Dover, Pa., was killed on June 29, 2004, along with two other soldiers, when a bomb exploded near the front of his convoy. This was his unit’s reported second tour of duty in Iraq. Sherman, an Ocean Township resident, was described at his funeral “as a Marine with a soft heart.” He was the father of two young sons.
Despite their divorce, he and his ex-wife remained on good terms and he frequently saw his sons, Joshua and Logan.
MICHAEL TARLAVSKY, 30, was killed Aug. 12, 2004, during a raid amid the fierce fighting in the Iraqi city of Najaf. He was an army captain with the 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group (Green Berets), based in Fort Campbell, Ky. He died in a hail of small-arms fire as he led Iraqi police trainees in a fight with insurgents who had blown up a school. This was Tarlavsky’s second tour of duty in Iraq; he had spent five months there in the beginning of 2003. He also fought in Afghanistan.
Tarlavsky was born in Latvia, in the former Soviet Union. His family first moved to Israel and then came to the United States when Michael was 5. They eventually made their home in Clifton. Michael Tarlavsky was an Eagle Scout and captain of the swim team at Clifton High School. He was an avid marathon runner in recent years.
Michael Tarlavsky always wanted to be a soldier, according to his sister, Elina. He attended Rutgers University on an ROTC scholarship and was later assigned to Korea’s DMZ, where among other duties he provided security for Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (“He bragged most about that [assignment],” his sister told the AP.) Tarlavsky married another army captain in 2002 and settled in Tennessee.
The Star-Ledger reported that Tarlavsky’s parents combined Russian and Jewish traditions as they mourned their son: they propped up on their coffee table a photograph of Michael in uniform; a yahrtzeit candle; and a shot glass filled to the rim with vodka. Michael’s father, Yury, a veteran of the Soviet merchant marine, explained that a shot of vodka is a Russian way of honoring soldiers who have been killed.
Yury Tarlavsky said of his son: “He did his job very good. I’m very proud of my boy for what he did for his country.” Michael Tarlavsky was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
JEREMY KANE, 23, was killed on Jan. 23, 2010, in Afghanistan. Kane, a Marine lance corporal, died when a suicide bomber attacked members of the Marines 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion in Helmand Province. Working as a scout, Kane was on patrol with his unit. Several other Marines were injured by the bomber.
Kane was conflicted about answering the call of his reserve unit to serve in Afghanistan. His father had just died of cancer and he was close to graduating from Rutgers-Camden with a degree in criminal justice and political science. He was a graduate of Cherry Hill East High School. However, he felt it was a commitment he had to honor. He had been very moved by the 9/11 attacks and enlisted in the Marine Reserve in 2006, on the fifth anniversary of the attack.
The Star-Ledger reported that “Kane was born on an Army base in Fort Polk in La., where his father was stationed at the time. Growing up, he was close to his father, who served as a physician with the military and was working as a pathologist at Cooper University Hospital in Camden before his death. Like his father, Kane was dedicated to physical fitness, his family said. He fenced in high school, spent hours in the gym, and would frequently load up a backpack with weights and go on long runs at night to build his endurance.”
His funeral was held at Cong. M’Kor Shalom in Camden and his family requested that contributions be made to the congregation’s Jeremy Kane Confirmation Class Israel Trip Fund.