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October 1, 2014 / 7 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Meah Shearim’

Raising More Tolerant Children

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

All responsible leaders in our community have roundly condemned the recent violence in Beit Shemesh and Meah Shearim. Even the Eida HaCharedis, which is the umbrella group of the anti-Zionist Yerushalmi kehilla, criticized the actions of the “Sirikim” (zealots) who are generating much of the mayhem, stating that they are a radical fringe group of several dozen radical families.

What is becoming increasingly apparent from reviewing posts on Jewish blogs and the hundreds of e-mails I’ve received over the past few days is that there is a huge divide between those who decry the violence in unequivocal terms and those who offer mitigating circumstances to fully or partially explain the poor behavior.

Since I began writing columns for The Jewish Press promoting tolerance and decrying violence of any kind, many people have told me, “You are American; you just don’t understand what battles haredi Israelis face with the secular Jews.”

Well, it is my tefillah that we never come to think that violence under any circumstance is acceptable. We can neither condone it nor justify it – in the same way we would never excuse murder or child abuse. Violence hurts the victims, but far worse, it corrupts the souls of the perpetrators.

Thirty years of dealing with teens at risk and families in crisis gives one a pretty good feel for which families will emerge whole from the challenges that compelled them to seek help. One of the greatest predictors of success is the attitude of family members. In the initial meeting, those who say things like “We all made mistakes and we are committed to working things out,” almost always get through their crisis. But folks who fail to look inward and say things like “We raised three perfect children and the fourth one is ruining our lives,” will rarely see improvement until their attitude changes.

We are doing ourselves and our children a terrible disservice – and will be sowing the bitter seeds of future episodes like the ones that have been making headlines in Israel – if we avoid the grueling introspection and cheshbon hanefesh that a crisis of this magnitude requires, and instead blame all the mayhem on the secular press and the ongoing struggle between the secular and haredi communities.

In a magazine interview a while back, Rabbi Shmuel Papenheim, a former spokesperson for the Eidah, lamented that the elders of his kehilla have no control over the Sirikim.

What was most striking, however, was the feeling one got from reading the article that in his view the evolution of the Sirikim into such a destructive force was a natural disaster like an earthquake rather than an inevitable outgrowth of tolerating violence under certain circumstances.

The Sifri (Midrashic commentary) in Devarim (343) notes that when Hashem revealed Himself to give the Torah, He first went to the children of Eisav and asked them if they would accept it. They replied that they could not do so because the Torah says, “You shall not murder,” and Eisav’s father Yitzchak gave him the blessing of “Al charbicha tichyeh,” by your sword shall you live (Bereishis 27:40).

Our great rebbi, Rav Avrohom Pam, zt”l, who lived every moment of his life pursuing peace and harmony, asked, “How can we possibly think Yitzchak blessed his son Eisav that he be successful in killing people?”

Rebbi explained that Yitzchak’s blessing was for Eisav to “live by the sword” by effectively hunting and by defending himself when attacked in battle. However, since his daily bread came through bloodshed, he and his children became desensitized to killing to the point where it would be inconceivable for them to accept a Torah that forbid the taking of human life.

If the “blessed” actions of Eisav had such a corrosive effect on him and his family members, how much more so is the moral compass of children shredded by listening to adults speak about others in hateful terms, or even worse watching them engaging in violence for “good” causes.

Truth be told, we all need to improve how we get along with those who come from different backgrounds. Upon the advice of a reader, I opened a thread on our website (www.kosherjewishparenting.com; see “Increasing K’vod Shamayim”) inviting people to make suggestions on what we can do to help mitigate the terrible chillul Hashem and to help raise more tolerant and respectful children. We invite you to join the dialogue and hope it will continue to help us all raise more tolerant children steeped in genuine ahavas Yisrael.

Earlier this week I shared a beautiful insight from Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetsky, zt”l, with my talmidim in Yeshiva Darchei Noam that might be appropriate for us to use as a springboard for discussion with our children and grandchildren this Shabbos.

The final charge of Yaakov Avinu to his gathered sons, as recorded in this week’s parshah, is referred to as the Birchos (blessings of) Yaakov – even though many of them seem to be describing attributes of his children rather than blessings. Reb Yaakov suggests that the greatest blessing and gift a parent can give his or her children is to explain to them their unique strengths and weaknesses – treating them as individuals and celebrating their diversity.

Torah World Mourns Loss of Jerusalem Rosh Yeshiva Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

The streets of Meah Shearim, normally bustling with shoppers and yeshiva students walking to and from the iconic Mirrer Yeshiva, were filled with mourners on Tuesday as tens of thousands of people came to pay their respects to Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, zt”l, the Mirrer Yeshiva’s rosh yeshiva, who passed away Tuesday at the age of 68 from a sudden heart attack.

In the 21 years that Rabbi Finkel served at its helm, the Mirrer Yeshiva, in the Beis Yisroel neighborhood of Jerusalem, grew to be the largest yeshiva in Israel with an enrollment of 6,000 students. While Rabbi Finkel was confined to a wheelchair and suffered from Parkinson’s disease for many years, he continued to maintain a full schedule, and just hours before his death, Rabbi Finkel traveled to Bnei Brak to pay a shiva call to the family of Rabbi Yosef Aryeh Halpern. He then returned to the Mirrer where he delivered shiurim (classes) in both English and Yiddish.

Born in Chicago in 1943, Rabbi Finkel was named after his paternal great-grandfather, the Alter of Slobodka. Even as a child his prodigious intellect convinced many that he was destined for greatness. He married his second cousin, Rochel Leah Finkel, the daughter of Rav Binyamin Beinush Finkel and granddaughter of the last rosh yeshiva of the Mirrer Yeshiva in Poland, Rav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel.

Upon the death of his father-in-law in 1990, Rabbi Finkel succeeded him as the head of the Mirrer Yeshiva, and while the choice of a 48-year-old who already suffered from various ailments seemed questionable to some, Rabbi Finkel ultimately transformed the institution into the Torah empire it is today, with satellite branches in Beitar Ilit, the Brachfeld neighborhood of Modiin Ilit, and the Ramat Shlomo section of Jerusalem.

Despite his poor health, Rabbi Finkel, who enjoyed a reputation of being an inspiration to all who knew him, was known to travel abroad in order to personally raise much-needed funds for the yeshiva and its students. His daily schedule was filled with delivering shiurim, both in his home and at the yeshiva; counseling the many who came to seek his advice and blessings; and spending a sizable portion of his day immersed in his own personal Torah studies. Rabbi Finkel was vigilant to always daven in the yeshiva and gave a weekly shiur to thousands of students, in addition to giving frequent shiurim at the many satellite branches of the Mirrer. In his final monthly shiur given at the Brachfeld Mirrer two and a half weeks ago, he exhorted the students, “to learn and learn. It doesn’t matter if your learning is fast or slow, if it is in greater detail or lesser detail, the request that I am asking of you is to learn, not to dream.”

Stories about Rabbi Finkel have been filling the Internet, people’s homes, and the streets of Jewish communities around the world since his death. The following two illustrate his ability to find time in his busy schedule for his students:

A Mirrer student was going through a particularly rough stretch in his life, so his father called Rabbi Finkel asking him to speak to his son for a few minutes. Rabbi Finkel approached the student and asked him if he could personally learn with him every Shabbos in his house. They subsequently learned together every Shabbos for the next several months.

In another instance, Rabbi Finkel discovered that several American students in a Yiddish shiur could not follow the lesson. From then on, Rabbi Finkel, who spoke fluent English, would repeat every class in English for the American students.

As news of the unexpected passing of Rabbi Finkel spread, the entire city of Jerusalem was plunged into mourning with people crying in the streets, tearing their clothes as an expression of their grief, and trying to offer solace to one another. Prominent rabbis, including Rav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv and Rav Aryeh Leib Shteinman, ordered all haredi businesses closed and instructed kollel, yeshiva, and seminary students to take time off from their Torah studies to attend the funeral. Israeli news site B’chadrei Chareidim reported that two baby boys, one in Bayit Vegan and another in Bnei Brak, were named Nosson Tzvi Wednesday morning in honor of the rosh yeshiva.

Impressions Of Meah Shearim

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

Eric Lubiynov


Through March 13


The Chassidic Art Institute


375 Kingston Avenue, Brooklyn


(718) 774-9149


 


 


         “Back in Russia most of my works were dark and grey, reflecting the mood of those days and the way they taught us to paint,” says artist Eric Lubiynov. “Only when I came to Israel my vision changed and I started to paint bright.”

 

         Born in Kalinin in 1966, Lubiynov grew up drawing with crayons like many children, but unlike his peers, he never seemed to outgrow his passion for color. His works are perhaps best viewed as “Spiritual Impressionism.”

 

         The so-called Impressionist paintings of the late 19th century accessed a different, and perhaps deeper, reality than did previous naturalistic works. However well Rembrandt’s brush captured every blade of grass and every hair in a noble Dutchman’s moustache (and surely even Rembrandt “cheated” with his technique and ignored some hairs) he was only documenting the object or figure within the frame of a fraction of second.

 

 The next instant, as the candlelight flickered or the sun’s rays shifted positions, the entire vision would have changed dramatically and become an entirely different world.

 

         Essentially, then, the art that most people consider “realistic” discloses maximum information (every hair) in about next to nothing (a fragment of a second). In his serial paintings, Claude Monet captured a wider range of reality, by tracking his visions of haystacks and water lilies as they unfolded over time in different lights.

 

 



Image 1. – Eric Lubiynov. Oil on canvas. 18 x 24


 


        


         Viewed in a variety of works from different seasons, moods and times of day, the lilies and haystacks take on a new identity that is no longer skin deep. By peeling away the external forms, Monet showed that the haystacks and lilies maintained their identities even as external stimuli (like light) changed.

 

Monet would not have referred to the souls of his haystacks and lilies, but his work did seek the immutable and essential through studying the changing and superficial.

 

         In his work at the Chassidic Art Institute (CHAI) Lubiynov portrays Meah Shearim in a manner reminiscent of Monet’s Impressionism. Surely, Lubiynov is no Monet. After all, Monet is canonized for defining Impressionism in a wizardly fashion, anticipating modern developments way ahead of his times.

 

         Impressionism is “old hat” in today’s art museums, galleries and schools, where Monet impersonators and followers are a dime a dozen. Yet, Lubiynov’s works on Meah Shearim represent a certain relevant and natural marriage of the Israeli cityscape and Impressionist palette.

 

 


Image 2. – Eric Lubiynov. Oil on canvas. 18 x 24

 

 

People who have visited or lived in Meah Shearim (literally “100 Gates,” although perhaps a misreading of Genesis 26:12) know that it is no “Safed.” Where Safed is a town literally painted blue, whose streets are full of colors from pedestrians’ dress to artisan shops, Meah Shearim appears monochromatic – at first. Yet, Lubiynov manages to discern every color of the spectrum in the streets and buildings.
 

          “The colors in the paintings are very close to the actual street scenes,” Lubiynov says. “I like to paint when it’s sunny and bright, which reflects the mood of Jerusalem.”

 

         Lubiynov also notes that his work reflects “the ordinary daily life” of Meah Shearim, which he calls “the heart of the Jewish, religious people.” He has visited Jerusalem many times since he moved to Israel from Russia in 1996 and considers it his favorite city.

 

         Image 1” (all of the CHAIworks are untitled, but I have numbered them for convenience’s sake) shows theKotelthat could easily be a collage of several different artists. In the space above the Wall, Lubiynov has rendered the foliage and sky in a pastel-colored palette, with soft, gently blended colors, with billowing yellow, purple and green clouds.

 

        



Image 3. – Eric Lubiynov. Oil on canvas. 18 x 24


 


  


         But the paint on the Wall is boldly caked upon the canvas, applied heavily with a palette knife rather than a brush. The artist has gone back into those strokes and violently scratched out the silhouettes of the individual bricks.

 

         But between the soft, cloudy paint strokes and the violent bold ones, the other forms that emerge in the Jews that gather beside the Wall to pray, and in the purple structure and brown hill that flank the Wall on either side, Lubiynov adopts a more abstract touch – not quite attacking the canvas in a manner that obliterates naturalistic form, but also not depicting objects in a strictly literal manner.

 

         Lubiynov’s people don’t quite look like human representation so much as blob-like, amorphous and anonymous, which lends the otherwise peaceful, sunny scene a somewhat more dangerous atmosphere.

 

         If “Image 1” exhibits some abstract components, “Image 2” is altogether abstract. A street scene where the viewer looks out from under an overhanging roof (perhaps through a window), the painting’s surface is thickly covered with yellows, pinks, purples, greens, blues, peaches and golds.  If Jerusalem is the “City of Gold” in Jewish songs and folklore, it is the “City of Gold and Every Other Color of the Rainbow” of Lubiynov’s palette.

 

 


Image 4. – Eric Lubiynov. Oil on canvas. 18 x 24

 

 

         Indeed, the traffic jam of colors in “Image 2″ is so dizzying and overpowering, that viewers can easily miss the black figures walking down the street, all but engulfed by the street shadows.

 

         Image 3” also hides the figures in deep black shadows. In the shadows, the otherwise cheerful yellow, blue and pink forms look more sinister and threatening. Meah Shearim, in Lubiynov’s paintings, becomes a place like Monet’s haystacks and lilies. Although cities have little inherent character – they are simply made of mundane, dead materials -their atmosphere changes with the marks people make upon them and with the changing light. The same street in Meah Shearim looks inviting and beautiful in some visions, and forbidding in others.

 

         In a fourth image, Lubiynov paints Jerusalem in earth tones of red and brown, which simultaneously evoke fire and blood, both of which plagued the Old City far too often in Jewish history.

 

         In the press material, CHAI director, Zev Markowitz, writes: “Lubiynov has the ability to see beyond the ordinary at what is timeless when gazing at a simple motif from everyday life. At the exhibit in our gallery we display oil paintings, which reflect Jewish life in Israel. These paintings are lyrical; the color is modest and in no way detracts from the main characteristic of his work.”

 

         Markowitz is quite right to call attention to Lubiynov’s colors, but they are anything but modest.

 

         Menachem Wecker is a painter, writer and editor based in Washington, D.C. He welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com. His painting, “The Windows of Heaven” will be on exhibit at the JCC of Greater Baltimore as part of an exhibit opening March 25.

A First In Israel: A Major Movie That Is Not Shown On Shabbat

Wednesday, October 6th, 2004

TEL AVIV – In what is considered a breakthrough in Israel’s film industry, director Gidi Dar has managed to create a major motion picture depicting the haredi lifestyle in the Meah Shearim district of Jerusalem. 

 

It is the first film made in Israel with the stipulation that it not be shown on Shabbat – a severe constraint because the most important time of the week for showing films with respect to their economic potential is Saturday.


Dar says this is a “real historical precedent.” No one, he says, has ever been allowed to make a film – or even tried to – about the ultra-Orthodox that is at all sympathetic to their lifestyle. To ensure their cooperation, Dar promised to adhere to certain religious principles – including the ban on Shabbat viewing.

 

“Ushpizin” (“guests” in Aramaic) tells the story of a newly religious ultra-Orthodox couple (played by real-life religious actor Shuli Rand, who co-wrote the script, and his wife, Michal Batsheva Rand) who are visited by two figures from the husband’s criminal past during the Succot holiday.


When the film was first screened a month ago at the Jerusalem Cinemateque, the auditorium looked more like a synagogue in Mea Shearim than a theater in the midst of a secular film festival.


Star Shuli Rand, 42, was born in Bnei Brak to national religious parents. He studied in national religious schools until he was 18 and then entered the army.


After his army service he abandoned religion, enrolled in drama school and became one of the major actors in Israel. He would perform at Israel’s national theatre Habima and in Tel Aviv’s municipal theatre Kamari. He was awarded the “Actor of the Year” prize many times both in cinema and live plays.


Ten years ago he and his wife decided to return to their roots and became baalei teshuva and are now associated with the Braslever chasidim.


When asked what made him become religious again, he says “G-d had mercy on me.” The couple has six children and reside in the Beis Yisrael neighborhood of Jerusalem adjacent to Meah Shearim.


In a short interview with The Jewish Press, Rand said, “I think this can be considered a breakthrough in the Israeli movie industry. It is the first time that a film shows you what goes on in the haredi world on the inside and not from the outside.


“I wanted to tell the world about my world and what I feel as a person who returned to my roots and became religious. Parts of the movie are things that happened with me personally.”


Since according to Jewish law a woman cannot be alone with a man other than her husband, nor can a man touch any woman other than his wife, Rand’s wife had to play his screen wife.
Gidi Dar, the director of the film, has received numerous Israeli and international prizes for a series of films and TV shows he directed. He told The Jewish Press that the response and reviews by non-religious journalists were all positive and favorable. Both religious and non-religious Israelis who have so far seen the film are overwhelmed and say they were extremely moved by it, he says.


Dar, by his own admission, is a thoroughly modern, liberal and secular Israeli. “For someone who is not religious like me, this film was definitely a challenge. But one of the reasons behind this film is to relieve the tension and schism that exists between the religious and non-religious groups in Israel. The hate that exists today between these two groups borders on anti-Semitism. Neither one wants to look or care for the other,” he told The Jewish Press.


“One of the things this movie does is to take the secular Israeli for an hour and a half walk to show him what transpires in the religious world, allowing him to discover that these people whom he considers “strange object” are as human as himself.”


Both Dar and Rand say the film could never have been possible if not for Rabbi Shalom Arush, Rand’s rabbi.


“He is a very brave man,” says Dar, who stuck his neck out to secure filming. Arush had given his blessing for the film to be made in Jerusalem’s haredi neighborhoods, and encouraged many locals to act in it.


“He was aware of the fact that the biggest problem that faces Israeli society today is the alienation within it. He was convinced that I was speaking the truth, that I intend to respect his world and to depict it with love. Now the film is out, he could be in big trouble, but I hope not,” Dar said.


Dar and Rand met about 10 years ago, when the director was looking for an actor for his short film “The Poet,” which began as his final project for his studies in the film department at Beit Zvi; his friend Eitan Bloom suggested that he meet with Rand.


“The moment I went into his apartment and met him, I knew that he would act in the film,” says Dar. Rand also acted in “Eddie King,” Dar’s first full-length film, which made its debut in 1992 and won the Bronze Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival.


Rand’s process of becoming religiously observant was gradual, says Dar, and they naturally drifted apart. “I nearly gave up on him as an actor,” he said, but in the end, he didn’t.

 
He relates that Rand once asked him why they couldn’t do something together again. That question gave birth to “Ushpizin,” Dar’s second full-length feature film, in Hebrew with English subtitles.


Michal Batsheva Rand, who is not an actress, evinces considerable comic ability in the film.
“She is a strong and courageous woman,” relates Dar, “who, like her husband, was involved the whole time in writing the screenplay and in shaping the character she plays.


“It’s all a matter of trust and faith because she has strong faith in herself and strong faith in God. The moment she had faith in me and had faith in the film, she became completely free and did her work devotedly and faithfully. And this is no simple matter for someone who is the mother of six small children.”


Dar says that one of the things that characterize ultra-Orthodox society is that everyone in it believes in God.


“You know that this is the case, yet it still manages to surprise you when you come from a secular society in which everyone is in a kind of constant search for something in which to believe.


“The need for faith among the ultra-Orthodox is terribly deep, terribly extreme, and it derives entirely from choice. My hope is that watching the film will arouse among the viewers the question of what they believe in. The cooperation I was granted by the ultra-Orthodox society stemmed from the fact that they formed the impression that I really intended what I said.


“We are living today in a reality of extremes, in which you are either one of us or you are not, in which if you hold a certain political opinion, you don’t even try to understand or to identify with an opposing opinion, and to my mind this is very dangerous.


“I think secular society’s fear of ultra-Orthodox society stems from the sense that it holds a certain truth and that if we let go for only a moment of our defense, we will fall into it. In “Ushpizin” I wanted to enable viewers to give up those defenses and at the same time to remain in the place from which they are able to look at this world from a certain distance, to understand it and even to love it.”

The Paintings Of Brocha Teichman

Saturday, July 26th, 2003

Brocha Teichman - The Art Studio of the Five Towns:

Proprietors; Zelda
Weiss and Brocha Teichman.

48 Frost Lane, Lawrence, New York;

516 374 1904.

 

When Brocha Teichman was a young girl growing up, she always drew pictures. Once, she did a drawing of a kiddush cup set in her kitchen. She accidentally left it out on the kitchen table and her father, a rebbe in the Breuers community, saw the drawing and praised it. Years after he passed away, she fondly remembers the incident, and comments that her mother, to this day, encourages her professionally, as an artist.

Unfortunately, many times in the tradition-bound Orthodox community, creativity in the visual arts is frowned upon by some, based on the mistaken notion that all images are simply forbidden or that making art is not a serious pastime for the Torah community. What Brocha experienced as a child was a generosity of spirit and sensitivity to her talents by her parents. Such love and understanding can give birth to enormous creativity in the secure environment of a frum family. And that can make all the difference in the world.

Brocha Teichman has, for the last 10 years, painted the places and objects that give her joy. Her scenes from Eretz Yisrael, still lifes and portraits, are infused with Jewish sensibility that makes each one an expression of personal belief. The formal artistic training she received at the Art Students League in New York has shaped a realist’s sensibility to the daily images of an observant family life. In a rather literal way, her paintings are a direct reflection of her Yiddishkeit.

Israeli Still Life (2000) brings a classical perspective to a set of highly symbolic objects. The earthenware jug looks as if it was just unearthed from an excavation of an ancient Jewish settlement. The little looped handles are the exact kind I found with an archeologist friend in the fields of upper Galilee, while the crack along the neck seems a direct symptom of years of burial. This little icon of history is surrounded by two deep red pomegranates, echoing the hopes of a plentiful year, as associated with Rosh Hashanah. The simple painting is worthy of the French 18th century still-life master, Chardin, in that it displays a classic, triangular composition that expresses stability and reserve. It is a perfect New Year’s greeting from Israel.

Purim in Meah Shearim (2000) brings us into the heart of Jerusalem, while defining a quintessential aspect of Purim, the costumed abandon of children. A Hasid in his Yom Tov finery is seen walking away from us, surrounded in space by three sets of gaily-costumed children. Even though Teichman’s figurative paintings are all done using photographs, her manipulation of multiple images and compositional creativity belie a painter’s eye. Figures recede from the picture plane as others simultaneously advance towards us. This creates a visual tension that breaks into the fixity of the one point perspective that would normally dominate this image. Moreover, the fact that the two children in the foreground are about to turn back into the pictorial space begins a narrative that leads us into the mitzva of delivering shalach manos. In this concise little painting, the holiday is, at first, described and then pictorially narrated.

There is perhaps no genre that interests me less than Rebbe portraits. These generally murky images of venerated sages from retouched photographs or badly reproduced prints are unfortunately interchangeable caricatures of some of our greatest leaders. Teichman’s portrait of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein is a notable exception. Her clear and forceful delineation of the planes of his face in combination with the strong compositional triad based on his shoulders and crowned by his Old World rabbinic cap express the strength of his Torah personality. Beyond her masterly handling of paint, the crisp light in the painting gives it a power and integrity that reflects the very lucidity of Reb Moshe’s vision.

Brocha Teichman’s vision of Jewish art is seen in yet another expression in the field of art education. She has recently opened, with partner Zelda Weiss, The Art Studio of the Five Towns. It is located in Lawrence and offers classes for children and adults, with a special emphasis on teens. The classes in acrylic painting, drawing, watercolor and oil painting are held in the newly created studio space and are attracting a growing following of aspiring artists.
Both Weiss, who owns and operates Zelda’s Art World in Brooklyn and Teichman, are experienced teachers who offer a solid foundation in academic techniques necessary to create realistic images. They also have an opportunity to offer their students another kind of essential foundation. The Jewish values and sensibility that Teichman has been able to express, must be nurtured by an ongoing appreciation of Jewish art.

Just as the skills of drawing and painting are gleaned from the masters of Western painting, so too the sensibility and subjects of Jewish art need to be learned from the 2,000 years of visual expression of the Jewish people. To infuse fine art training with the values of Jewish art would make The Art Studio of the Five Towns a truly unique institution. I hope they seize this opportunity.


Richard McBee is a painter of Torah subject matter and writer on Jewish Art. Please feel free to email him with comments at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/the-paintings-of-brocha-teichman/2003/07/26/

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