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October 20, 2016 / 18 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘LIFE’

Life Chronicles

Sunday, October 9th, 2016

Dear Mrs. Bluth,

This is a horrible and frightening time of year for me, one which I dread thinking about all year long. I can’t think of how it could get any worse, judging by last year’s fiasco, but if it does, my family, as we once knew it, will be torn apart beyond repair.

We are six sisters and three brothers, all married to date, with thirty-two children between us. Baruch Hashem, our childhood home was very large: ten bedrooms, six bathrooms and ample space for all of us. When were growing up, we were the envy of all our friends.

The reason for the size of our house related to a neighbor of ours, a Holocaust survivor for whom my mother would shop and cook. My mother always said she was cooking for an army anyway, adding food for one more was not a big deal. Well, one snowy day in December, our neighbor, Mrs. Goldstein, passed away.

As we were the closest thing she had to family, my father, who was already saying kaddish for one of his brothers, agreed to say kaddish for her as well. A few weeks after the levaya, my parents received a letter from her attorney informing them that she left all her worldly possessions, including an amazing amount of money and her house, to our family.

As her house was directly next to ours, the first thing my parents did was combine the two houses into one. The second thing they did was tell us that in order for us to each have our own room, we had to promise that we would come home for one Yom Tov every year, no matter who we married, where we lived or how many children we had. We discussed it and decided on Sukkos. We laughed at the prospect of always being stuck together, at least for eight days, once a year.  My parents had us sign a paper agreeing to this, and it was never spoken of again.

Years passed, we all grew up and married and before each chuppah, along with a pair of pearl earrings for her daughters and cufflinks for her sons, my mother gave us a copy of the signed agreement we had made so very long ago.

My parents various machatanim never minded as the couples could be with them on any other Yom Tov, and it became tradition. Each Sukkos we all came home with our families – and looked forward to doing so.

Children started arriving and the huge house began to fill up and get crowded, not to mention the noise level, but still, even with the minor arguments that sprang up between the young cousins, and even some of the adults, it was still manageable. The basement was converted into more bedrooms, as was the double garage, and dormers were added.

But as the family grew, so did the arguments and the fighting.  Biting words, hurtful comments, angry come-backs and sadly, even some physical pay-back, became more and more the norm. My mother’s heart broke, I know, as she witnessed the situation getting worse each year, at seeing us become divided and cruel to one another, not speaking, taking sides and even influencing our children to avoid contact with certain cousins. But she always reminded us that we had made a pact and promised to keep the family together for at least eight days, even if the rest of the year we had no contact.

Our father passed away six years ago and our mother died last year. This year, we will gather in an empty cavern of a house that holds a multitude of memories for all of us, but some of us will be hostile, divided and prepared for war.  This year, there will be no one to rein us in, to remind us that we are one family and the purpose for why we are together. I dread the thought of what will happen when arguments break out and there is no mother there to smooth things over.

But all of us will come. We gave our word.

The question is will we survive it? Can we survive it?

Can you help us?



Dear Friend,

So much beauty and sadness in one letter! How amazing that your parents could have had the foresight to ensure that their family would stay together. How selfless and giving they were, so much so that Hakadosh Boruch Hu enabled them to sustain that beautiful dream of achdus amongst their children and grandchildren for so many years, as a result of their chesed to another person.

There is so much you and your siblings can emulate here in your reactions to each other. Your parents exemplified the middos of achdus, v’ahavta le’rayacha, and ahavas Yisroel. If only all of you could learn from them.

Your parents, may their neshamos have an aliyah, foresaw could happen to their children because it is the story of Klal Yisroel. Just as our Heavenly Father made provisions for His children throughout out our existence, so did your parents, by ensuring that you and your children would always come together, love each other and be one cohesive family. “Hinay ma’tov u’ma’naaim, sheves achim gam yachad,” was their hope and dream and how much pain they must be experiencing at the lack of cohesiveness they see.

Since you were the one to reach out, my thought is that you should become the designated peace maker. Yes, it will be an arduous and frightening undertaking, but to honor the memory of your blessed parents, you need to try. You have nothing to lose and, with Hashem’s help, much to gain.  You stand to bring your fractured family together in the home where peace and love once permeated.

I suggest that you arrange a meeting with those of your family who live near you and conference-call the ones who don’t. Make sure their spouses are part of this meeting. Begin the conversation by reminding everyone of the time your parents made the original suggestion of you each having your own room and the conditions upon which it hinged.

I think this loving memory will serve as an ice-breaker and hopefully, as you continue talking, you can clear the air and reach amicable resolutions to the issues diving you. This will, hopefully, ensure a beautiful Yom Tov spent together.

In case you all don’t know this, those contracts you signed those many years ago as little kids, are really not legally binding. However, it is an emotionally-binding document that should serve as a reminder that walls and doors, miles and distance, years and life, should not impede on the connection and love that unites a family. Your parents wanted you all to remember that life is short, family is everything and love and respect for one another is what Hashem wants from His children.

I want to wish you hatzlocha in this endeavor and to thank you for sharing the situation with us. Please let us know how it works out.

To one and all, a Shanah Tovah U’mesuka, one that is filled with brocha, good health and simcha!

Rachel Bluth

Ordered Back To Life

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

Forty minutes is usually the longest time that the Hatzalah medics work on trying to revive someone who has collapsed. If they haven’t succeeded in that time the chances are very slim of ever reviving a patient. But taking it in turns they refused to give up and continued to work on Rav Katz, a young rosh yeshiva who had suddenly collapsed in his home. They continued for a further forty minutes until a weak but identifiable pulse returned.

Meanwhile Rav Katz’s family, including his son who was due to get married in under a month, were davening with all their heart, begging the Almighty to spare their father, as were the bachurim for whom he was not just a rosh yeshiva but a father as well. Many of them were estranged from their own families and Rav Katz provided not just their spiritual support but also the emotional and physical support they all needed

Rav Katz’s wife had already contacted a close friend of her husband, Rav Schwartz, a well-known rav in the United States to tell him of the grave situation and he had immediately gone to the grave of the Ribnitzer Rebbe to ask him to intercede and beg Hashem to save his friend. The Ribnitzer Rebbe, Harav Chaim Zanvil Abramowitz, zt”l, was known in his lifetime as a ba’al mofes and a poel yeshuos – a miracle worker. He died oIsru Chag Simchas Torah 5756/1995 and is buried in the Vizhnitzer cemetery in Monsey.

On his return home Rav Schwartz called Rebbetzin Katz and told her not to worry. B’ezras Hashem, everything would be all right and her husband would yet dance at his son’s chasunah.

Most of the Rav Katz’s ribs had been broken during the desperate attempts to bring him back to life and he was kept under sedation for several days by the doctors in the hospital because of the extreme pain he would have experienced had he been awake. Tests were carried out but no cause had been found for his sudden collapse.
Heart failure was the only inconclusive answer. But what condition he would be in physically and mentally when he was brought out of sedation after being without any sign of life for so long was not clear. His family was warned that even though he was, baruch Hashem, alive, he would probably have suffered brain damage.

When Rav Katz regained consciousness he showed no sign of having suffered any brain damage. He immediately asked to speak to the young avreich who managed the day-to-day running of his yeshiva. He quietly asked him to find a photograph of the Ribnitzer rebbe. The young avreich looked in some sefarim and brought those with photos to his rav. “Yes it was him,” Rav Katz murmured.

He quietly related to the avreich how during the time he was without pulse or heartbeat he had ascended to the Heavens and was met by his deceased relatives. He saw many past gedolei Yisrael who welcomed him to the world of Emes. Eventually he was brought before a rav whom he didn’t recognise.

“What are you doing here?” he asked Rav Katz. “Your time has not yet come. You cannot stay here. You must return; you still have work to do.”

Rav Katz argued that he wanted to stay; it was so beautiful in this world of Emes. But the rav, who identified himself as the Ribnitzer Rav, was not to be swayed. Rav Katz had to return and the next thing he remembered he was waking in a hospital bed.

The rav had no idea at this stage of the behind-the-scenes tefillos that had been offered at the kever of the revered Ribnitzer rebbe but he declared that without a doubt the photos he was shown were definitely of the rav who sent him back down to this world – and to dance, albeit gently, at his son’s chasunah.

Penina Pinchasi

Life Chronicles

Friday, September 30th, 2016

Dear Mrs. Bluth,

Two years ago, after six years of dating countless losers and societal misfits, I thought I’d finally found the man I had been looking for.  I was by no stretch of the imagination a career dater with a long list of specifications that had to be met in order for me to consider going out on a second date; quite the opposite, in fact.  I looked for character, personality, stability and a good sense of humor in the man I hoped to marry.  As the years went by without much success, my parents and friends gave up hope that I would ever find the man of my dreams – and so did I. So, when I met “Jake,” I couldn’t believe my good fortune.  He was exactly the kind of person I had been looking and waiting for.

Because I had been turned off by dating at that point, I decided not to bother with make up or getting dressed up for the evening, thinking it would end in the usual disappointment. I came home from work and changed into a denim shirt, comfortable skirt and flats, just wanting this obligatory evening to be over.  Even though Jake sounded nice on the phone and succeeded in making me laugh, I had no hope that anything would come of it and mentally wrote him off.

Jake turned out to be six feet two, and looked like he came off the pages of a fashion magazine.  He came to pick me up in a Lexus and wearing expensive clothes; he took one look at me and burst out laughing. I had to laugh as well at the contrast we made and instead of going back into the city for dinner and theater, we ended up going for pizza and a ride through Central Park, so that I wouldn’t feel out of place.  I was impressed with his consideration, and that he was not put off by my appearance, and he had me laughing almost all evening with his wry wit and fire-cracker humor.  I couldn’t believe I had stumbled upon this man of my dreams just when I was ready to give up hope of ever finding him.

We went out quite a number of times and spoke on the phone two and three times a day, and I knew he would propose. I met his parents and siblings and was shocked to see how different they were from Jake. They were not particularly warm and friendly people and it felt more like a job interview than meeting future in-laws for the first time.  That impression never had a reason to change.  His father is a pessimist who finds fault with almost everything and his mother is a “glass half-empty” kind of person as well.

It seemed that Jake had decided to be the opposite of his parents. My parents loved him almost immediately, and my extended family and friends were beguiled with him as well.  So, when he finally did propose, everyone was in awe of my good fortune.  Jake’s biting humor and penchant for poking fun at everyone and everything kept us all in stitches, right up to the wedding day.

On our wedding day there was a sudden deluge of rain and the downpour ruined our hope for the garden ceremony we had so carefully planned.  We had to have an impromptu chuppah set up indoors instead of the beautiful, ornate and flower bedecked one that was completely ruined.  My soon-to-be-in laws didn’t stop harping about what a bad omen this was and how wet everything had gotten.  I was completely unnerved by the time we walked down the isle and couldn’t wait for Jake to help me get past all the morbidity. That never happened. Instead, Jake actually made light of the whole situation by making fun of me. The humor that I had found so endearing and appealing before, suddenly took a dark turn when I was the butt of his jokes.

Since that night, I have been the butt of many of his jokes. I no longer find his wit amusing; it usually is biting, sarcastic and hurtful, even when he says he’s “only joking.”  He pokes fun at me in front of our friends and, although everyone laughs, I can see the looks passed between them. No matter how many times I point this out to Jake, he fails to see how hurtful this has become and it becomes clearer to me that I made a really bad mistake in marrying him. I have also noticed that he uses jokes and humor like a tool meant to embarrass and inflict emotional pain under the guise of levity.

I have no one to confide in. My parents adore him, and many of our friends have chosen to avoid us so as not to become fodder for his jokes, which have become far more than intolerable.  Even I can’t stand to be around him anymore and find him annoying and repulsive!


 Dear Friend,

“When is a joke not a joke? When that joke is about you!” It’s amazing how humor sours when the joke’s on you and, sadly, it took you some time to see what was always there.  I believe, although, I can only go by your description of him, that Jake is a by-product of a somewhat dysfunctional home, where pessimism was a steady diet on which he fed.  One thought may be that in order for Jake to make friends and be “the light of the party” he adopted a sense of humor he was unfamiliar with and didn’t know how to use correctly.  Another observation may be a bit darker – that Jake enjoys making fun of others as some kind of punishment that he has control over, and that he takes a degree of pleasure in the power that comes with inflicting pain disguised as humor. It also takes the spotlight off his own insecurities.

That being said, none of this justifies his hurting others and it is certainly something that needs to be dealt with.

I would encourage both you and Jake to seek individual and couples counseling to see if your marriage can be helped.  Jake needs to understand the underlying causes that encourage him to be sarcastic and hurtful, and you have to learn how to live and deal with him while he’s undergoing his treatment – should you choose to save the marriage.  This, by no means, is a marriage that should be discarded without giving it a fair chance.  I feel that you must have seen something more in Jake than just his Lexus, fancy clothes and good looks or his humor that made you laugh when you were dating.  Try to tap into that and see if there is more substance to your relationship.

My feeling is that in this day of disposable marriages, starter homes and second spouses, there are unions that deserve a second chance.

Rachel Bluth

UPDATE: Serious Deterioration in Peres’ Condition, Brain Damage Irreversible

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

Former President Shimon Peres’ family members on Tuesday told reporters there has been a severe deterioration in his condition. They say the doctors have not been able to wake him up and he has been completely unresponsive. Tests he underwent earlier on Tuesday showed the damage to his brain is irreversible.

According to Peres’s personal physician and son-in-law Prof. Raphy Walden, Peres, 93, is “in very serious condition” and his medical team is afraid of an approaching collapse of his systems since there hasn’t been a significant improvement in his condition.

In recent days Peres has undergone a series of tests that showed his indicators are stable, but he continues to be in serious condition and the family at his bedside is not optimistic about his chances for recovery. Hospital sources have said that despite the fact that his condition has not worsened, “each passing day makes it more difficult to be optimistic.”

On Monday the hospital released a statement saying the former president’s condition remains stable and his indicators have not changed, as his medical team proceeds with applying conservative care in keeping with his neurological and general condition. Last weekend his breathing was reported to have improved a little. The medical team attempted to remove him gradually from the ventilator, and his anesthetic drugs have been reduced. The doctors even reported some attempts on the patient’s part to communicate and to follow instructions such as raising his hands. But on Tuesday his conditioned has worsened.

David Israel

The Golem Comes to Life in Berlin’s Jewish Museum [video]

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

A golem (Heb: Shapeless lump) is a creature formed out of a dust or mud that’s brought to life by ritual incantations and sequences of Hebrew letters on a scroll dumped into its mouth. In Jewish lore, after it has been brought to life by a human creator, the golem becomes a helper, a companion, or a rescuer of an imperiled Jewish community. In many golem stories, as in the later Frankenstein tales, the creature runs amok and becomes a threat to its creator.

The myth of artificial life – from homunculi and cyborgs to robots and androids – is the focus of an extensive thematic exhibition about the golem at the Jewish Museum Berlin. This most prominent of Jewish legendary figures has inspired generations of artists and writers to this day.

“Our exhibition presents the golem from a variety of perspectives, from its inception in a Jewish mystical ritual to its role as a subject of popular storytelling in film and its afterlife in artistic and digital realms,” says a museum press release. “The golem symbolizes each era’s dreaded dangers and hopes for redemption. The exhibition uses the golem figure to examine topics like creativity, creation, power, and redemption.”

The exhibition demonstrates the thematic richness of the material, as is apparent from medieval manuscripts, many-layered narratives, and works of art from the last two hundred years. Whether in painting, sculpture, object art, video, installation art, photography, or illustration, the golem is very much alive and, with it, the question of what it means to be human.

The exhibition is being held at the Jewish Museum Berlin’s Old Building, level 1, Lindenstraße 9-14, 10969 Berlin, September 23,  2016 to January 29, 2017.


Israeli Innovations That Could Save Your Life

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

While most people were soaking up the sun this summer (hopefully, with sunscreen), researchers in Israel were busy cracking the code of the human body. It’s not by chance that there are over 250 major R&D Centers in Israel owned by multinational companies, including Apple, General Electric, Johnson and Johnson, and Google. Known worldwide as the start-up nation for its technological innovations, Israel is also a leading country in medical innovation.

Helping people in wheelchairs stand with ReWalk, using breathing to detect life-threatening diseases with NaNose, screening for cervical cancer with smartphones from MobileODT, and even a special drinking cup that helps keep track of individual hydration needs called Pryme Vessyl, Israel is paving the innovation path with thousands of medical breakthroughs.

NaNose and ReWalk were invented by professors and alumni of Technion Institute of Technology, one of the leading Israeli hubs developing technology and medical innovations. With Technion’s American Medical Program, that provides students from abroad the opportunity to learn in a cutting-edge environment, and the opening of Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute (TCII) in New York, Israeli innovations will make an even bigger impact around the world.

2016 Technion American Medical Program graduate, Allen Pimienta, from Toronto, matched at Mayo Clinic in Family Medicine. While studying at Technion, Pimienta published papers in four different journals and is the first author on two. “I can’t get this research opportunity anywhere else,” Pimienta said. “Not only do renowned researchers teach our classes, but they also give us their cell phone information and say, ‘Please contact us with any questions.’ ”

Another Israeli-American partnership that has already seen promising results is a recent study conducted by Technion and Harvard University. Through a time-lapse video, they have captured the study that illustrates bacteria mutating to overcome drugs meant to stop and destroy them. This is the first time antibiotic resistance has been documented in such a clear way and will have enormous ramifications on understanding antibiotics and bacteria.

Another Technion alumni, Dr Amit Goffer, invented ReWalk, the ‘bionic’ suit, which relies on motion sensors to help paralysis victims to stand upright and even walk again. Just less than two weeks ago, 36 year-old Claire Lomas used a ReWalk suit to walk the Great Northern Run; the largest half-marathon in the world. In 2007 Clair Lomas was paralyzed from the chest down in a riding accident. Although it took her 5 days to complete the run, she never expected to walk again. “It felt surreal,” Lomas described. “When I was walking the last bit it was really hard not to start crying.”

Goffer was inspired to invent ReWalk, after an accident in 1997 left him in a wheelchair. However, due to limited function in his arms, he was unable to utilize his own technology, so he invented a new product; UPnRIDE Robotics. UPnRIDE is an innovative, upright, self-stabilizing chair that goes from sitting to standing with the push of a button and can handle rough terrains and inclines. “I was able to stand with my colleagues and drink coffee,” Goffer said. “Being able to stand was an experience out of this world, the psychological effect is dramatic.”

Other Israeli innovations that are having an enormous impact are NaNose and Mobile ODT’s device to screen for cervical cancer. Early detection is the key to saving lives when it comes to the big C word and these technologies are doing the job.

NaNose was created when Technion professor, Professor Hossam Haick set out to non-invasively discover traces of cancer in the human body. When there is a cancerous growth in the body, it releases distinctive volatile organic compound (VOC). Upon release they travel in the bloodstream and when these molecules reach the lungs they are emitted to the breath. The number of molecules is extremely small and detecting them is like trying to find the one 5 petal tulip in a massive field of 6 petal tulips.

When they leave the mouth with the exhaled breath is when NaNose can identify the molecules and detect the cancer. In four out of five cases, the device differentiated between benign and malignant lung lesions and even different cancer subtypes. It is currently being customized to detect other diseases, to ensure early detection and help save lives.

Unlike other types of cancer, cervical cancer is relatively easy to identify and treat, but is responsible for the deaths of more than 270,000 women annually, and is a leading cause of death in developing nations. Thanks to routine Pap smear screening, cervical cancer rates in the U.S. have been drastically reduced, but this kind of medical infrastructure is hard to come by in developing countries, especially in rural areas.

Ariel Beery, CEO and co-founder of Tel Aviv-based startup MobileODT wanted to increase life expectancy in developing countries. “There’s no reason a woman should die of cervical cancer just because she’s not screened on time,” said Beery, “so we make sure that women get screened on time.”

MobileODT develops and sells relatively small and cheap colposcopes, designed for developing countries without a strong healthcare infrastructure. Their secret weapon? They integrated the colposcopes with smartphones, which are readily available everywhere in the world and have built-in imaging technology. Co-founder David Levitz helped design the mobile colposcope. “With a smartphone, you’re getting a much better camera with much better specifications than you are on this expensive medical device,” said Levitz. “It seems counterintuitive, but there’s just so much more innovation happening on the phone side that the phone cameras are just better, and going to get much better.”

New Israeli innovations continue to emerge daily and R&D centers, Technion’s American Medical Program and many other institutions are helping bring the life-changing technology to the rest of the world.

If you aren’t paying attention yet, keep an eye on the Middle East for the next innovation that will change your life and may even save it.

Raizel Druxman

Life Chronicles

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

Dear Mrs. Bluth,

I am not sure this belongs in your column; however, with its “Life Chronicles” heading I am assuming my problem will not be out of place and, perhaps, you may be the one to help me.

Four and a half years ago we adopted a child born of an Israeli Jewish mother and an Ethiopian father (Jewish by conversion) who died in a tragic car crash in Israel.  The adoption process was lengthy, as we needed to ascertain her mother’s Judaism. By the time our daughter came to us she was nine months old. She was sickly and malnourished, but we loved her from the second we laid our eyes on her and devoted our every moment to helping her become whole, healthy and happy.  We named her Ayelet (which means morning star) as she brightened our lives and, Baruch Hashem, under our care she flourished.  After sixteen years of childlessness, she brought joy and life into our empty home and transformed it from a tomb of silence into a bubbling stream of noise and laughter.  Our whole family accepted her into their midst and all our lives became enriched by her presence.

This year, Ayelet began first grade and based on her reception in kindergarten, I was afraid she would encounter social obstacles because of both her skin color and her history.  Although most of the children in her kindergarten didn’t make any issue, I saw the look on one of her teacher’s faces and this only repeated itself on the faces of parents who dropped off their children.  After much explanation, proof of birth and adoption and many lengthy phone conversations with other parents who excluded Ayelet from after school play-dates with their children, much of the prejudice was dealt with and Ayelet had a few children she could play with on Shabbos and after school.

When I went to register her in Bais Yaakov, I knew immediately, that there would be huge obstacles. We met with both Hebrew and English principals, going through the dance of proving of her Jewishness, and convincing them that she would integrate well with the help and cooperation of her teachers and the administration.

After much pleading and begging, and with the intervention of our shul’s rav, she was finally accepted just as the school term began.  I brought her in for orientation and experienced the same incredulous stares from her teachers and classmates.  Sadly, none of the little girls spoke to her that day and when school began, not one of them asked her to join them at recess or spoke to her at lunch.  I called her teachers and explained that she was miserable and lonely and asked if there was some way in which they could help her find others in her class who would strike up a friendship.  One of the teachers very bluntly told me it would probably take some time before the other girls adjusted to her dark skin and physical differences; it’s not something that should be forced or provoked.

I was somewhat shocked at her flippant acceptance of the situation and her reluctance to undertake any initiative to try to find a solution to resolve this situation. Ayelet is such a sweet and loving little girl and her heart hurts each day she has to go to school and learn that because she is different from the other girls, she is not worthy of kindness and friendship.



Dear Friend,

I feel your pain and frustration!  How sad that such a little one needs to learn the harsh truths about the ugliness of prejudice – that acceptance is dependant upon fitting into that rigid, identical mold we set forth. It is exactly this ideology that Hashem abhors!  Where is ahavas Yisroel and ve’ahavta lerayacha kamocha?  I must say I am deeply disappointed in the response you received from the teacher. She missed a marvelous opportunity to create an environment of cohesiveness and friendship amongst her young students.

Having been a teacher in my early years after graduating, I was faced with similar challenges when students didn’t interact well with one another.  With older kids, this is a bit harder, but with the little ones just starting out and relying on adult tutelage and guidance, with the right instruction, beautiful things can happen.  All that is required is a teacher who loves her job, cares deeply for what her little charges, and uses her imagination and innovation to make things great.

Please call this teacher again and ask her to institute a “Special Friends Day,” wherein she pairs two or three students to play and communicate with each other, rotating these groups every day so that all the children have a chance to get to know and be with each other on a more intimate and intense level.  No one needs to wait to be asked to play, no one is left sitting alone during recess and no one will hurt because she is different.  If the teacher displays no prejudice, the children will do the same and everyone will be accepted and equal.

I would also like to tell you how much I admire you for giving this child a loving, supportive and caring family. There are many different ways a woman can have a child, biological birth is only one of them. Being a “true mother” comes with the love, devotion and selflessness she provides for her child.  You, dear friend, are a true mother in every sense of the word.  May Hashem reward you a thousandfold for your compassion and may Ayelet bring you and your husband much joy and Yiddish nachas.

Rachel Bluth

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/life-chronicles/life-chronicles-87/2016/09/23/

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