The PBS series revealed several family secrets about both men, whose DNA tests showed they both had over 97% Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry and are actually distant cousins, a fact made all the more serendipitous for the fact that David famously parodied Sanders on “Saturday Night Live” during the 2016 Presidential election.
According to David, co-creator of “Seinfeld” and the creator-star of “Curb Your Enthusiasm, his mother had revealed very little about her family. David even said that he did not know his mother was older than his father until after she had died. “It’s always puzzled me, how little I knew,” David said.
Series host Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and his researchers were able to determine that David’s mother’s family came from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, with his grandparents having been born in the city of Tarnopol, Poland. In addition to information about David’s grandparents, Gates and his team also uncovered that David’s mother was also born in Poland and that her birth name was Regina, while David had always known her as Rose. “I cannot believe I didn’t know her real name,” he said. “It’s so typical of my mother to withhold something like that.”
David was also very surprised to learn that, on his father’s side, he had relatives who lived in Alabama in the mid-1800s who owned slaves and fought in the Civil War.
Meanwhile, Sanders also learned that his family had its roots in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, specifically a region known as Galicia. Following World War I, Sanders’ relatives became part of what is now Poland. Sanders’ father, Elias, came to the U.S. in the 1920s with barely any money. Most of his father’s relatives remained in Europe, where they were killed at the hands of the Nazis during World War II. Sanders’ uncle was put to death for refusing to hand over a group of Jewish resistors living in one of the ghettos.
“I’m proud of his courage in willingly going to his own death in order to protect innocent people,” Sanders said. “So I’m very proud that I have a family member who showed that type of courage and decency.”