Hakham Yehonatan Elazar-DeMota is a PhD Candidate at the T.M.C. Asser Instituut. He was born in Miami, Florida, and comes from a Caribbean-Sepharadi family, via the Dominican Republic, Curação, Holland, and Iberia. He received his rabbinic and hazzanuth training initially under Hakham Yosef Benarroch (of blessed memory). Moreover, he is a certified shohet and mohel. He received rabbinic ordination from Hakham Mordekhay Levi de Lopes in 2008. In 2009, he moved to the Dominican Republic and established the Sepharadi Beth Midrash in Santo Domingo, also serving as the shohet of the community. In August 2014, he moved back to Miami to pursue graduate course work in religious studies at Florida International University. While there, he was part of Theta Alpha Kappa (honor's society for religious studies). He has spoken at numerous conferences around the world, including topics in population genetics, Jewish feminism, and Caribbean Sepharadi history. He has a Master Degree in Latin American and Sepharadi studies (2016). He was awarded departmental distinction for his thesis defense and grade point average. Apart from academia and rabbinics, he is an international jazz musician.
Yehonatan’s project is entitled ‘Ets Haim and the early modern Amsterdam debate on trade and war with the non-European world’. He is researching the activities of the Amsterdam's seventeenth-century Portuguese Jewish community and their involvement in the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. As the "other within," the Nação contributed to the development of the legal conceptions in regards to jus naturae et gentium. As conversos in the Iberian context, they were educated in theology and jurisprudence in the school of Salamanca, Coimbra, and Évora. Thereafter, in the Dutch context, many of them reverted to the open practice of the Jewish tradition, and studied at the Talmud Torah of Ets Haim in Amsterdam. The synthesis of Jewish jurisprudence and legal ideas of the Salamanca School was forged in Amsterdam. This research entails a deep analysis of Jewish legal texts, notarial archives, in search for descriptive-evaluative language, where Rabbis and merchants reveal their legal-moral-theological justifications for slave trading. This research is interdisciplinary in that it combines international law, Jewish studies, history, and anthropology.