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6 Shvat 5777 - February 2, 2017 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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An "Ashkenazi"-Yemenite Returns to his Family — See Halachic Remarks on DNA Testing at End

By Elchonon Hammer

"A cycle has been completed," said Yehuda Kantor, 66, in an interview with Yated Ne'eman.

For many years, Yehuda Kantor knew that he was adopted and he suspected that he was one of the kidnapped Yemenite children. He revealed the story of his life and the beginning of his journey to uncover the truth in a media interview over twenty years ago in his attempt to find his biological family through all ways and means. In an interview to "Ha'aretz" reporter Yigal Mashiach in 1996, he told that in his class, in the elementary school of Afula, he was the only dark-skinned student but he does not remember that it was an issue. Nonetheless, his entire childhood was shrouded with a feeling of being alien because of it, being so markedly different from everyone in his Ashkenazi neighborhood of Mapainik proletarian residents of the 1950s.

"You've got to have lived there, within the neighborhood intimacy of Afula of those years in order to understand the strangeness of a dark-skinned child being part of the family of an elderly Ashkenazi childless couple."

Yehuda Kantor today

When he was 24 he finally realized what everyone else apparently had known all along. His parents admitted to him that he was adopted. They said that he had come from a children's home, and that they had been told that his mother did not want him. He tried to get hold of his adoption file, but was unsuccessful. They did tell him that his adoption was perfectly legal. He was told the name of his real mother, a Yemenite name.

Kantor and his parents were happy with the outcome, but there remained concerns. "The happiness of one family should not come on the basis of a crime to another family," he told the reporter.

"Two months ago the American company My Heritage contacted me with an offer to find my family using the most advanced genetic technology in the world," Kantor told Yated Ne'eman. The process was aided by MK Nurit Korn (Likud) who has taken the lead in the issue of the disappearance of the Yemenite babies in the early 50's after the mass Yemenite aliya to Israel called Magic Carpet.

With a database of all the grave stones in Israel, the company easily found a grave in Rosh Ha'ayin (a city with a large Yemenite community) whose information matched the details he had been given about his real mother.

At first the two daughters refused to cooperate. They said that they knew nothing about any brother of theirs and did not believe that they had a brother. After some persuasion, they agreed to give samples of their DNA. Their samples were sent to two different laboratories, and both indicated virtual certainty that they were siblings of Yehuda Kantor.

"Three days ago I met my sisters. I finally know who my real mother and my real family was. On the adoption form that I was allowed to see it said that my mother gave me up of her own free will, however with all the testimony about the casual approach there was in those days to documentation and the attitude that the authorities had to the Yemenites, I can never be sure of the truth. It could definitely have been a case where I was just taken away and my mother was told that I died, or something like that."


HaRav Yitzchok Zilberstein speaks to Yated Ne'eman:

"A Beis Din must draw the Halachic conclusions regarding a DNA test in conjunction with other proofs."

HaRav Zilberstein

The tremendous development of DNA testing which had such a strong impact on the above interview and on family dynamics calls for a broad halachic relation regarding far reaching implications. Most important are marriage bonds etc. In a special interview with Yated Ne'eman following the gripping story of Yehuda Kantor, HaRav Yitzchok Zilberstein, Rav of Ramat Elchonon and member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, discusses the reliability of laboratory test findings vis-a-vis the above story.

"I heard an explicit statement of HaRav Yosef Shalom Eliashiv zt"l that one cannot rely or accept the findings of DNA tests as halachically decisive because these tests are not 100% reliable but only reasonably certain. Ultimately verifying a true family relationship acceptable by Halacha requires the decision of a beis din. According to a decision which I personally heard from the mouth of HaRav Eliashiv, if there is additional proof/s, only a beis din can arrive at a such decision, since the test itself is not 100% conclusive."


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