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Angeles rabbi whose 21-year-old son
happened to be in the same battalion.
"I remembered the last name of the
young man he'd mentioned, so I started
making phone calls," Astor said. "One
led to another and I found him —
Rabbi Mordecai Finley.
"I told the person who answered the
phone that our sons were being
deployed in a couple hours; I had a
feeling he'd be going to hug his son
goodbye, and I'd like him to hug mine
while he's there as well. It turned out
people aren't allowed to do that, but he
shared with me what I might want to
say in the last conversation I'd have
with my son before he left.
"We continued to talk via e-mail.
Rabbi Finley had been on a Tiger
cruise, that's where they allow a civilian
to meet in Hawaii and come on board
for the last week of a deployment. He
was able to describe what the vessel
was like, what would be going on dur-
ing the day between physical training
and work, what the officer's mess
looked like, the noise level and all of
that. As we e-mailed, I thought there
are all kinds of people like me who
don't have someone like Rabbi Finley."
So Deborah e-mailed Rabbi Jerome
Epstein, executive vice president at
United Synagogue of Conservative
Judaism, and suggested the organiza-
tion develop a support system on the
Web. Within four days, on Feb. 3,
TheBrave was born, a Web listsery
that's now circulating to more than
130 families, military chaplains and
Jewish members of the military, offer-
ing suggestions, support and some-
times just a shoulder to lean on when
it seems that no one else understands.
"When you're from an upper-middle
class traditional Jewish background,
this is the last thing most of us discuss,"
said Judy Ledger, an Atlanta mother
who regularly checks in with others on
TheBrave Web list. Ledger has a son,
24, a daughter, 21, and their respective
fiancees, all in the U.S. Army — three
already have been sent to Kuwait.
"Just the fact that you know there
are other Jewish families going through
this, you don't feel quite so alone,"
Ledger said. "When I told people my
kids went into the Army, they said
`Oh, the Israeli army?' Somehow that's
just more accepted because of the reli-
gious aspect. People don't know how to
react. We don't understand this in the
Jewish community, and I need the sup-
port of people in the same circumstances."
Before hearing about TheBrave,
Marlene Zeitlin had already reached
out to a secular group, Michigan
Military Moms, for support and infor-
mation. Many of the group's members
have been down this road before and
were able to answer some of her ques-
tions. They even sent Allen birthday
cards when he turned 21 in Qatar.
"They kept coming and coming
until finally he asked me if they had
some sort of quota to meet; there were
just so many of them," Zeitlin said.
TheBrave has offered the Zeitlins a
sense of community and a place to
turn for questions only a Jewish forum
"There was information there on
how to make sure our kids got seder
kits, and they mentioned rabbis who