He thought his family was wiped out in the Holocaust. Then he discovered 75,000 distant relatives—including Bob Dylan and Bette Midler

Ralph Cilevitz, left, with Richard Cohen, a cousin from Pittsburgh. (Supplied photo)

When 500 members of the Kuklya family got together in England a few years ago for their first-ever reunion, the story got a lot of international attention. They were all descendants of the same man, Aba Kukla, who lived in a tiny village in Lithuania in the late 1700s. He had nine sons and a few daughters, and each went on to produce huge families of their own, creating a sprawling family tree that, only now, with the advent of DNA testing, can be fully grasped.

Despite hundreds of their relatives being wiped out in the Holocaust, the Kuklyas believe they are now part of the largest documented Ashkenazi family in the world, with 75,000 relatives and counting—including some pretty famous cousins, such as Barbara Streisand, Bob Dylan, Bette Midler and Billy Crystal.

There are also Kuklya cousins in Canada, including Ralph Cilevitz in Toronto. At a recent family gathering in New York City, he was the only Canadian present, but knew he couldn’t be the only Canadian relative. So he’s since made it his mission to track them down—and look for others even farther abroad.

What we talked about:


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