In 1961, triplet brothers Robert Shafran, Eddy Gallan and David Kellman were separated at birth and adopted by three different families for a controversial experiment — and now they’re seeking compensation and an apology from the organization they claim conducted it.
Each of the three brothers was monitored for a legal study spearheaded by Dr. Peter Neubauer, a psychoanalyst with the Manhattan Child Development Center — what is today The Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, The Independent reported.
The study sought to answer the “nature or nurture” question and determine if the triplets ultimately became who they now are because of the environment in which they grew up.
The brothers were reunited by a chance encounter in 1980 when Shafran enrolled in Upstate New York’s Sullivan County Community College. He was met with an overwhelmingly warm reception by people who were friends with — and who mistook him for — his brother, Gallan.
Gallan’s friend Michael Domnitz recalled in this year’s Sundance Film Festival-award winning documentary on the brothers, “Three Identical Strangers,” the moment he knew the man on campus wasn’t Gallan.
“As soon as this guy turned around, I was actually shaking,” Domnitz said in the film. “The color from my face dropped because I knew it was his (Gallan’s) double.”
Domnitz then asked Shafran if he was adopted and if he shared the same birthday as his friend. Sharfran confirmed he did, affirming Domnitz’s suspicions, which lead to a 19-year-long overdue reunion.
When Shafran and Gallan’s meeting garnered a lot of local news coverage and after their picture appeared in a newspaper, Kellman contacted his siblings to inform them they were, in fact, triplets.
After the three were reunited, they discovered why they were separated at birth and learned they were placed in homes of varying economic levels and were periodically evaluated by the Development Center’s research team over the course of their upbringings.
Sadly, Gallan took his own life in 1994 but Shafran and Kellman are currently seeking an apology and legal compensation from The Jewish Board. They also want the documents from the study to be released, according to The Independent.
“The Jewish Board does not endorse the study undertaken by Dr. Peter Neubauer, and is appreciative that the film has created an opportunity for a public discourse about it,” a spokeswoman from the Board told The Washington Post. “We hope that the film encourages others to come forward and request access to their records.”