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When connected, Jewish teens flourish

When connected, Jewish teens flourish

Posted on 14 June 2019 by admin

Photos: NTO BBYO
Yael Schuller, Ethan Freed, Sarah Liener and Ethan Fine prep for the Hawaiian-themed convention dance.

Study finds youth groups are critical

By Deborah Fineblum
(JNS) There was a time when “Don’t trust anyone over 30” was the mantra for the young. But if a new study of Jewish teens — the largest of its kind ever attempted — can be believed, the situation is much different today, news that will no doubt come as a huge relief to parents.
Eighteen-year-old Yael Berrol is intimately involved in Jewish life — be it in her Conservative synagogue in Oakland, California, where she teaches fifth-graders in the Hebrew school; during her 10 years at Camp Ramah in Ojai, California; in Israel, where she rode with an ambulance crew; or at events at her B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO) youth group.
“The best part of BBYO for me is the conventions, a real connection with Judaism and a weekend away with a bunch of Jews,” says Berrol, who’s one of a handful of Jewish students in her high school. “Being together is when I feel like my true self.”
More than 17,000 Jewish teens like Berrol participated in an online survey, developed by the Jewish Education Project and Rosov Consulting. Most of the names came off lists from 14 youth groups representing Jews of all backgrounds, including Bnei Akiva, National Council of Synagogue Youth (NCSY), Young Judaea, CTeen (Chabad-Lubavitch), United Synagogue Youth (USY) and the Union of Reform Judaism Youth (URJ/NFTY).
“We were basically interested in the lives of Jewish teens and understanding the impact of youth groups,” says Stacie Cherner, director of learning and evaluation at the Jim Joseph Foundation, which, with the Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah, and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, funded the study.
The funders were especially interested in teens’ social and emotional development, “how these programs impact them in these ways,” says Cherner. One happy surprise: how many teens actually took the time to complete the survey.
The almost 18,000 respondents came in part from the youth groups that contributed and from a link pushed out through social media. “And we were all impressed with the honest, thoughtful answers we got,” replies Cherner.
Among the findings:
• Jewish teens like their parents; they enjoy spending time with their family and often look to their parents for guidance and to demystify the world around them.
• For most teens surveyed, Jewish beliefs and practices are closely linked with their family relationships and loyalties.
• The respondents believe teens need help in coping with pressures like academic pressure, self-esteem issues and a fear of failure.
• Jewish teens see social media as a mixed blessing, saying it can both cause stress and help them deal with stress, as well as connect with friends and help change the world.
• Most of the teens (75 percent) identify as Jewish (and 16 percent claim to be culturally Jewish), but many of those who say they have “no religion” also hope to engage with Judaism at some point in the future.
• Many (45 percent) rank anti-Semitism as a problem for today’s teens, though few feel personally threatened.
• Most of the teens (71 percent) report either a strong or very strong connection to Israel, with the majority of those who have not yet traveled hoping to do so one day.
Most crucially, the study found that teens active in a Jewish youth group (regardless of denomination) tend to flourish socially, emotionally and spiritually as compared with those who are not. They also report feeling more connected to being Jewish, have higher self-esteem and better relationships with family, friends and other adults, and feel empowered to make positive change in their world.
“The parental issue was the big surprise,” says Rabbi Michael Shire, dean of the Graduate School of Education at Boston’s Hebrew College and a member of the study’s advisory board. And, he says, together with the results of a few other studies, it makes “a pretty good case for religious education and youth groups specifically. It seems that, along with a strong family and the belief in a higher power you’re connected to — this makes for someone who’s healthier in every way. It’s almost like these young people have a protective shell around them.”
Carl Shulman regularly sees these trends in action. “In our programming, we look at Jewish values, including how they were expressed in the civil-rights movement and other social-justice causes,” says Shulman, the youth engagement adviser at Temple Etz Chaim, a Reform congregation in Franklin, Massachusetts. “And we make sure it’s tied to Jewish tradition — something in the Torah or Talmud that speaks to them.”
Shulman says youth-group advisers play a unique role in a teen’s life. “We’re a cross between a teacher, a friend and a camp counselor,” he says. “So they feel they can be open about their thoughts and feelings and confide in us.”
One feature of the study, giving the participating youth movements feedback on how their teens stacked up in a variety of ways, provided much-appreciated input, says NCSY’s international director, Rabbi Micah Greenland.
“This is a terrific opportunity to learn about what our teens are gaining from involvement with us. It invites us to better understand and reflect on where we are relative to the field and where we have room to grow.”
Over at URJ, they’re also evaluating the results. “We knew it anecdotally,” says Miriam Chilton, URJ’s vice president for youth. “But now we have the data that demonstrates that participation in Jewish groups goes a long way toward achieving our goals of seeking meaning and seeing themselves as connected to both Jewish tradition and the world.”
Not surprisingly, adds Chilton, most NFTY/URJ teens ranked higher on social justice than on the ritualistic aspects of Judaism, she says. “It’s not good or bad, but it is reflective of Reform values.”
Another take-away for Chilton: Multiple points of contact result in maximum impact.
“Those involved in youth group, their temple, Israel and a Jewish camp, for instance, had the most positive impact,” she says. “And given the number of our families who have just one Jewish parent, whose connection may not be as strong, we can look to offer a wide variety of programming. It gives us a pretty compelling case for the best ways of working with the next generation.”
For David Bryfman, The Jewish Education Project’s incoming CEO, this study’s biggest gift is “giving organizers of Jewish youth organizations a good look at the outcomes they’re having in outreach today. Basically, the study shows the more kids doing Jewish activities the more engaged they are.”
The study was also designed to go well beyond the previous emphasis on youth groups as nurturers of Jewish continuity, he adds. “Here we’re looking at how their engagement makes them not just more Jewish but a better person, a better member of the community, more effective in the world and just more human. Some people might argue that this isn’t the traditional use of youth group, but if we don’t help them thrive, none of the rest of it really matters.
“Besides,” he add, “when you can get the Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and even the unaffiliated to sign onto the same study, you’re already doing something right.”
The No. 1 finding, he says, is “even though we knew that youth groups have huge impact on teens, right up there with day schools, Jewish summer camps and trips to Israel, this study actually shows the power of that involvement.”
Looking to the future
“We got confirmation that generally speaking, we’re doing a really good job in Israel engagement with our teens, with Jewish tradition, and how much Shabbat and the holidays matter to them, and even the extent to which they attribute these values to their NCSY involvement,” says NCSY’s Rabbi Greenland. “But we can also see that we are below average in the realm of taking responsibility for making a difference in the world at large. And, in addition to everything else we do, that’s something we’ve been talking about a lot since the results came out; it’s pushed us to look at ways to enhance that quality, too.”
“If we design programming that reflects the way young people see the world, we’ll be able to maximize personal development and Jewish identity and commitment,” says URJ’s Chilton. “This study also gives us a benchmark so if we adjust something now, we can look back in a few years and see how we’re doing.”
“The study sends a clear message that Jewish engagement doesn’t have to end at bar or bat mitzvah if you provide young people with programming they see as meaningful,” says Bryfman. “If the Jewish youth organizations can provide that, the teens will be there.”
It’s a message the funders are taking to heart.
“What we’ve learned from these teens is that they are very Jewishly identified, though their ways of expressing it may not be the same,” says Jim Joseph Foundation’s Stacie Cherner. “It’s confirming to us that we’re on the right path — that our investments are having a positive impact.”
As California teen Yael Berrol puts it: “We don’t have many Jews near us, but my parents have made it easy for me to connect. Our family friends are mostly Jewish, Camp Ramah is like my home, and my synagogue is where I go when I’m missing being with other Jews, when I need that grounding, in community and in my authentic self.”
To see the entire study, visit

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Shapiro brings her legacy to The Legacy June 19

Shapiro brings her legacy to The Legacy June 19

Posted on 14 June 2019 by admin

Photo: Submitted by Florence Shapiro
Florence Shapiro will speak at at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 19, at The Legacy. Here she’s pictured with the family she and husband Howard have built: front row, from left, Zachary Shapiro, Natalie Rubin, Eli Rubin, Ari Strauss, Olivia Shapiro, Sophie Rubin, Sam Rubin, Harper Shapiro, Ella Shapiro and Brody Rubin; back row, Todd and Jori Shapiro, Paul and Staci Rubin, Howard and Florence Shapiro and Lisa, Noa and Rabbi Brian Strauss (not pictured: Joshua Strauss).

By Deb Silverthorn
Florence Shapiro has been an advocate and educator, the mayor of Plano, a Texas state senator, and a leader of many organizations in the DFW area. Acclaimed for much, yet it’s as the daughter of Ann Donald, a resident at The Legacy Willow Bend since its opening, that she will sit as guest interviewee at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 19, in the Chapel at The Legacy.
“Many residents watched Florence grow up. While we’re proud and appreciative of her success, she’s Ann’s daughter and that’s a blessing right there,” said Bob Weinfeld, who has hosted more than 100 “Getting to Know Your Neighbors and Your Staff and Your Relatives of Residents” interviews.
The hourlong program, open to the community, has introduced residents, staffers and community members to business leaders, museum curators, chefs, journalists, sports executives, clergy and more.
“I look forward to the interview, and the buzz is building,” said Weinfeld, The Legacy’s own “mayor,” on interviewing Plano’s former mayor and the question-and-answer period to follow.
Interviewed on topics local and global, for the former Zesmer BBG member and Hillcrest High School and University of Texas graduate, sitting on Weinfeld’s dais — no doubt with her mother watching from the front row — is exciting.
“My community devotion comes from Mother, the ultimate volunteer, and my business sense from my father,” said Shapiro. Her mother is a former president of the Friends of Golden Acres Dallas Home for Jewish Aged, and resident at The Legacy since its 2008 opening.
“The Legacy is filled with people I’ve known my whole life, and it’s an honor to be interviewed by Bob,” said Shapiro. “He is the ‘connector,’ and I’m always engaged by whatever he does. Bob is a very special part of this wonderful community within our community, and to know him is to love him. Besides, who could ever tell Bob ‘no’?”
Shapiro was born shortly after her parents, Martin of blessed memory and Ann, arrived in the U.S. Her mother was pregnant with her while aboard the ship that brought them from England. The two survivors of the Holocaust immigrated first to New York, then to Dallas when Shapiro was 10.
A lifetime later, Shapiro is immediate past chair of the Dallas Holocaust Museum Center for Education and Tolerance, gratified and excited for the September opening of the new home of the museum her father helped found.
“The Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum will be a showplace that no one could have dreamed of,” she said. “Started in the basement of the JCC, now the world sees us, learns from us and is affected by us. I’m sure my father and all who started it are very proud.”
Shapiro and her husband Howard, whom she met at UT and married 50 years ago, are the parents of Staci (Dr. Paul) Rubin, Todd (Jori) Shapiro and Lisa (Rabbi Brian) Strauss. They are grandparents of 12: Brody, Eli, Natalie, Sam and Sophie Rubin, Ella, Harper, Olivia and Zach Shapiro, and Ari, Joshua and Noa Strauss.
Serving on the Plano City Council, then as the city’s mayor, Shapiro was president of the Texas Municipal League before her 19-year career as Texas State Senator — first elected against a 13-year incumbent.
“When running for office you think you know it all. Then you go to Austin, the session begins, and it’s like trying to take a sip of water out of a fire hydrant. I was constantly learning, but it was the most amazing process,” said Shapiro. “The value, then and now, of the enormity of my responsibilities, lay on my shoulders, so I’ve always done my homework and really and truly enjoyed it.”
Among the results of her service Shapiro feels most proud of are the series of bills known as Ashley’s Laws, which protect against, adjudicate, and punish sex offenders whose victims are children. “Out of a tragic and terribly sad event came the absolute saving of many lives,” she said.
Shapiro started out as a high school teacher at Richardson High School, and education has never left her heart. As a member of the Advisory Council on Education Reform Initiatives at the George W. Bush Institute, and partner and public policy consultant with Shapiro Linn Strategic Consulting, children’s futures remains her priority.
“Texas is a great state and it needs a great education system,” she said this winter, working in Austin with the “best legislature in 25 years” to bring billions of dollars to public education, and she’s positive about the future. “We’ll always need new and innovative ways to teach. It must be a value and be valued.”
Shapiro is former president and founder of the Collin County Junior League and the Collin County Information & Referral Center, and has served on many boards including: AT&T Performing Arts Center, Collin County Business Alliance, COMMIT! Dallas, Communities Foundation of Texas, Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, Educate Texas, Southwestern Medical Foundation, TexProtects: The Texas Association for the Protection of Children, Texans for Education Reform and the University of Texas at Austin Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life.
Raised at Congregation Shearith Israel, Shapiro and her family are founding supporters of Chabad of Plano/Collin County, now also longtime members of Congregation Anshai Torah. Last year, the Shapiros, who have both traveled on Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas missions to Israel, were invited to the dedication of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem.
“There’s so much we know, and so much to learn about Florence, and we’re honored for her visit,” said Weinfeld, who is soon to turn 93, and will interview Frisco RoughRiders President and General Manager Andy Milovich (June 26), Dallas Morning News journalist Michael Granberry (July 3), journalist and author Nancy Churnin (July 10) and Bruce Eisen, whose career experience includes CPA, Collin College professor and Jewish community professional (July 17).
“Florence is a great daughter, mother, grandmother, wife. She’s a great everything and a wonderful person,” said her proud mother Ann. “She’s everything a person could want.”
Expect a kvell factor of 110 percent to fill The Legacy, a parent/teacher conference like no other.

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Griggs and Johnson share perspectives at JCRC forum

Griggs and Johnson share perspectives at JCRC forum

Posted on 31 May 2019 by admin

Photo: Submitted by JCRC
From left, Dallas City Council Candidate Scott Griggs, JCRC Chair Melanie Rubin, Event Chair Dawn Strauss, Event Chair Jim Tolbert and Dallas City Council Candidate Eric Johnson

Staff Report

Mayoral candidates Scott Griggs and Eric Johnson shared their views about Dallas’ future May 23 at the Aaron Family JCC in a community forum sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council. The program was moderated by KERA’s Sam Baker.
By virtue of a coin toss, Griggs, a current city councilman, gave his opening statement first. A father of three, Griggs makes his home in Oak Cliff. He outlined the issues of key import:
“Taking care of public safety, transportation, housing economic development. I’m looking forward to earning your support tonight and the conversation.”
Johnson, a father of two, has represented District 100 in the Texas House of Representatives since 2010.
In his opening statement he focused on improving education for children, saying he wanted children to have access to strong public schools and to “grow up in a city that supports them with strong recreation centers and strong public libraries.”
The first question of the evening focused on public safety.
“How will you address safety of all citizens both in places of worship and elsewhere?” Baker asked.
“Increasing the number of police officers,” said Griggs. “Public safety is my No. 1 priority.”
Griggs, who has been endorsed by the Dallas Police Association and firefighters, wants to get pay closer to $72,000 and improve benefits.
“We just aren’t paying our police officers enough,” he said.
He added that he would speak out against leaders who come to Dallas who have bad track records on human rights and other issues.
Earlier that week, Griggs spoke out against Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
“We should not welcome him to our city because of his track record in Brazil of not being friendly to minorities, not being friendly to the LBTQ communities.”
Johnson explained that paying police more and improving their morale is something that both candidates agree on and that virtually every candidate in the race has agreed on.
He turned his attention to being proactive.
“I’m from a community that has dealt with this issue of hate and discrimination for a long long time. And what I think is missing from this discussion sometimes is, the way you have to deal with hate is you have to be proactive about dealing with it.
“The police focus is great and important; that’s reactive. Police respond once something has happened. Once a synagogue has been desecrated and vandalized, once someone has been dragged through the street or beaten up. They respond to something that’s already gone wrong.
“Proactively we need a mayor who is going to stand up and talk about these issues and push forward initiatives that bring people together and bring back some of those conversations that we were having in the city about being a more united city….”
Bringing candidates together is one of the focuses of the JCRC.
As the public affairs and external relations division of the Jewish Federation, the JCRC is engaged in advocacy for Israel, legislative outreach and interfaith and interethnic relationship building, said Chair Melanie Rubin.
Event chairs for the evening were Dawn Strauss and Jim Tolbert. In addition to the JCRC, community partners for the event were: AJC Dallas; Congregation Anshai Torah; Congregation Beth Torah; Congregation Nishmat Am; Congregation Shearith Israel; Hadassah; The Jewish Latino Alliance; National Council of Jewish Women, Dallas; Southwest Jewish Congress; Temple Emanu-El; and Temple Shalom.

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Plano City Council candidate distances herself from Ilhan Omar

Plano City Council candidate distances herself from Ilhan Omar

Posted on 30 May 2019 by admin

Photo: Courtesy Ann Bacchus
Ann Bacchus, who is running for Plano City Council Place 7, has been accused of supporting Ilhan Omar after attending a fundraising event Nov. 2. “I am not aligned with Ilhan Omar in any form or in any way. I went to one event. There was a picture taken. I don’t appreciate that she’s put Islam under attack. We [Jews and Muslims] are both under attack.”

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

According to Ann Bacchus, Plano City Council Place 7 candidate, she has nothing but admiration and support for the Jewish people and Israel, and the proof is her record of the last 20 years.
Bacchus spoke with the TJP by phone Sunday, May 26.
“If I’m elected, you will never find that I did anything or will do anything to hurt the Jewish community or the Muslim community or any community,” the candidate said.
Ann Bacchus, a native of British Guyana who has lived in Plano 20 years, will face opponent Lily Bao, a Chinese immigrant, in a runoff Saturday, June 8. Early voting is underway.
In the last several weeks, several members of the Jewish community have questioned Bacchus’ ideology after learning she attended a fundraiser Nov. 2 for then-candidate Ilhan Omar before the midterm election. The freshman Democrat won her House seat and represents Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District.
Since the election, Omar, more than once, has tweeted anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic tropes, which led to a U.S. House resolution March 7 condemning anti-Semitism and other forms of hate including Islamophobia.
Rumblings of Bacchus’ alleged anti-Semitism began to surface in the last few weeks.
“We first heard (from) a number of other people that she had participated in a fundraiser for Ilhan Omar,” said Eric Fine, who lives in Bacchus’ area of representation. “We wanted to make sure that it happened — that it was real and that it happened.”
Fine and others, set out to get clarification from Bacchus and her campaign.
They posted on Facebook, both Bacchus’ page and their own pages. They reached out to Bacchus’ campaign.
It seemed to them that Bacchus was ignoring their requests, and posts on her page asking for clarification were being deleted.
Their frustration and suspicion grew.
“I wrote to her on her Facebook page because I saw other people would write and she would ‘like’ it and respond to them. Then my posts ended up disappearing. Ann Bacchus responded and replied to every other question on her page, but deleted mine,” said Arona Ackermann.
She explained that she had no preconceived notions about Bacchus and started to do some research.
“I looked at every public offering I could find about who she is and what she stands for. I was heartened to see that she was interviewing adults and children alike, that she was getting her hands dirty. I saw she went to the Chabad of Plano Eva Schloss event. Then I put that together with this image that has gone around with her and Ilhan Omar at the same event.”
Bacchus explained her attendance at the event to the TJP.
“My reason for going to Ilhan Omar’s event was because she was a woman and a refugee… that resonated with me.”
Bacchus said that she doesn’t support Omar’s ideology.
“I am not aligned with Ilhan Omar in any form or in any way. I went to one event. There was a picture taken. I don’t appreciate that she’s put Islam under attack. We (Jews and Muslims) are both under attack.”
When asked if she supports BDS, Bacchus responded.
“You don’t separate Israel from the Jews. I would not support any boycott.”
Bacchus believes that her opponent Bao has used her attendance of the Nov. 2 to incite criticism against her.
“I think my opponent is using this, because there’s nothing else. I have more broad base than any other person.”
She explained that she believes the Bao camp has created collages of material that are being circulated about her that she has had nothing to do with.
When asked if she had anything to do with promoting Bacchus as anti-Semitic, Bao said, “No.”
Bao denied any involvement in producing or distributing anti-Bacchus literature.
“We run positive campaigns. I intend to represent all residents of the city when I get elected. I believe my love for Plano and Texas as well as my vision of ‘family, freedom and prosperity’ will be recognized and cheered as we work even harder to let the voters know who I am and what I will do for them,” Bao added via text.
Bacchus said that her history of involvement in Plano speaks for itself.
“I hope that people are able to look at the person themselves and see what they’ve done. There are many of us who go to an event especially if it’s for a woman. I went to the event because I was invited by another friend. People should look at me and see what I have done. You cannot come up with anything on me until you come up with the fact that I attended this one event.
“I think Lily and her supporters are trying to separate me from my Jewish supporters and the Jewish community, but what she doesn’t realize is that my support didn’t just happen because of an election. It’s happened because of years of making Plano better.”
Barry Hersh said, if true, he’s relieved to hear what some of Bacchus’ answers were. He was frustrated after his posts in relation to the Nov. 2 event on Bacchus’ Facebook page were taken down or called “fake news.”
“I wish I’d known that she was a supporter of Israel and the Jewish people,” he said. I probably would have campaigned for her.”

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American Jews send aid to more than 50 Israeli families who lost homes in Mevo Modi’im

American Jews send aid to more than 50 Israeli families who lost homes in Mevo Modi’im

Posted on 24 May 2019 by Sharon Wisch-Ray

Fire fighters extinguish the remains of a fire in in Mevo Modi’im, on May 24, 2019. Photo by Avi Dishi/Flash90

(JNS) As wildfires destroyed most of the 50 or so homes in the town of Mevo Modi’in in central Israel on Thursday, Israelis from all around the country and Jewish organizations have sent emergency assistance to the families affected as Shabbat approached. The moshav had a population of 246 in 2017.

Some 3,500 residents were evacuated from their homes in the extended area affected by the fires with only a few minutes warning, with more than 200 returning on Friday morning to find their homes severely damaged, and some even burnt to the ground. According to Magen David Adom spokesman Zaki Heller,  two-dozen people were hospitalized for smoke inhalation, including two in moderate condition.

Feigie Troupiansky, who grew up on the moshav, told JNS that the community has been relocated to a youth village as people from all over Israel drop off homemade cakes, clothing, shoes, packages, toiletries, baby carriages, bed and mattresses, suitcases, car seats and “anything else you can think of.”

While people are feeling “loss and shock,” Troupiansky noted, the amount of aid that is being brought is “beautiful.”

“It’s like a mall here, and people are treating us so well, as if you are at a hotel. If you sneeze, someone will immediately come running,” she said. “There is a couple on the moshav who is getting married in a week-and-a-half. Everything, including the wedding dress and suit, is gone. Dressmakers are sending pictures of dresses, offering to recreate the dress. Owners of wedding halls are telling them they can get married by them for free.”

Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, known as the hippie-Chassidic “singing rabbi,” founded the community of Mevo Modi’im in 1975. Many of its community members, followers of Carlebach, moved to the area from the United States. Today, the community is known for its eclectic mix of musicians, artists and farmers.

Authorities suggested that embers might have caused the fire, likely from the previous night’s Lag B’Omer bonfires that were not properly put out. According to Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, while there were several fires near the border with Gaza that were caused by Hamas’ arson balloons, there were no indications that arson caused the fire.

In fact, the fire likely spread as a result of the intense heat wave, with Friday temperatures reaching 100 degrees throughout Israel—in Tel Aviv, it hit 110 degrees, and reports measured a scorching 122 degrees in Beersheva and the Arava region.

Firefighters from Egypt, Italy, Greece, Croatia and Cyprus arrived Friday morning at the scene of the fires that ravaged throughout the evening. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly recognized Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi for sending two helicopters to Israel.

“We were also contacted by many others, including the Palestinian Authority and other elements,” said Netanyahu. “Four to six countries, including Russia, are ready to send practical assistance. They contacted us even before we contacted them. For several of these countries, this is very important. The international capability is important and is assisting the national capability.”

Netanyahu maintained that he is considering “expanding the firefighting squadron for both day and nighttime operations, and enacting other structural changes” for the future. “We will help return people to their homes and if need be, rebuild their homes.”

The Jewish Agency for Israel and the Jewish Federations of North America also announced on Friday immediate emergency assistance that is being sent to the 60 families in Mevo Modi’im and Kibbutz Harel whose homes were destroyed.

According to a joint press release, the support comes from special funds provided by the Jewish Federations of North America, with the aim of helping families cover immediate needs like clothes and personal belongings in the aftermath of losing their homes. The assistance provided by the Jewish Agency, in coordination with the local welfare authorities in each community, amounts to approximately $1,000 per family.

In an English video address on Friday, Jewish Agency chair Isaac Herzog said, “We especially feel the strength of Jewish solidarity at times like these, when dozens of Israeli families coping with the shock of losing their home and property receive an immediate embrace from their sisters and brothers across the ocean. … The Jewish Agency will be there to support these families in any way possible, together with our Jewish family in the Diaspora.”


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Kohn, Clark fine-tune kosher comfort food

Kohn, Clark fine-tune kosher comfort food

Posted on 23 May 2019 by admin

The Market, at 13534 Preston Road in North Dallas, is open 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; until 4 p.m. on Friday; and from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.



By Deb Silverthorn

Two parts heart and soul, and grand dollops of culinary expertise by Jordona Kohn and Stacey Clark, are the ingredients to Dallas’ newest kosher eatery, The Market, in North Dallas.

“At The Market we’re providing delicious food in a comfortable and family casual location. We couldn’t be more excited to share with our community,” Kohn said. She was grateful for the full house on the restaurant’s opening day — Mother’s Day — and all tables turning in the restaurant’s first week.

“Everything is good, and good for you, but we’re not afraid of butter,” Kohn added. Clark, meanwhile, calls the menu healthful, not health food, with dishes served as they were designed to be eaten.

The duo look forward to pop-up menus and hosting family and study groups, simchas and other social gatherings. The offerings are kosher, but both women note that, while they create and serve kosher food, what they have isn’t your typical kosher restaurant.

“There are wonderful kosher restaurants in the area,” Kohn said. “We’re happy to join the lineup with our own unique flavors and flair.”

The partners were introduced by Sharon Michaels, who knew both, and figured the team would be a sure thing.

“These two are great and we’re blessed to have them,” Michaels said. “It’s not just good kosher food, it’s great food. They have amazing skills and talent and couldn’t be kinder. I can’t wait for them to succeed, and they will!”

“I love feeding people in times of joy, the holidays and even in sadness. A good meal always comforts, and food heals (almost) anything,” Clark said. “Jordona and I are opposites in many ways but it’s why we’re a perfect match.”

Kohn, a Hollywood, Florida native raised in New York, is the daughter of a restaurateur, granddaughter of a kosher butcher, and great-granddaughter of a chicken farmer. “While most kids were outside, I was with Bubba Faye making soups and rugelach,” she said. She is married to Justin, and the couple are parents to Arianna Faye, Ezra and Gaby.

With a bachelor’s degree from Queens College, when the couple moved to Dallas, Kohn enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts. Despite not being able to taste the many nonkosher offerings, she graduated as class valedictorian.

Kohn worked at Baylor Hospital, climbing the ladder, but her kashrut devotion meant she couldn’t taste what she prepared. She then worked with the Dallas Kosher-supervised Simcha Kosher Catering’s food truck, as well as being executive chef with A Taste of the World. She also hosts kosher cooking demonstrations at Whole Foods Market.

Clark, born in New York and raised around the world, comes to the business with an accounting background, and always turned to the kitchen for respite. She is married to Henry; their family is complete with son Kevin and his wife Taylor and Clark’s two nieces, Eleah and Anna, raised as her own daughters.

Breakfast at The Market, served alongside fruit or hash browns, includes a pesto omelet, Morty’s Scramble — a nod to Clark’s father (lox, eggs and onions), a DIY omelet bar and a variety of home-boiled and baked bagels and other bread choices with a schmear. Already favorites are the avocado toast served with two eggs and a lime crème, the Market Gravlax Plate with in-house cured salmon and buttermilk pancakes with berry compote.

Alan Press, who ordered a DIY omelet with cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, peppers and mushrooms and then an avocado toast to go, said the presentation was incredible and everything was cooked “just beautifully.”

Breakfast is served all day and the lunch menu, debuting soon, will include soups, paninis and toasted sandwiches with mixed greens or house-fried chips and a variety of salads with homemade dressings.

“Lunch was amazing and the latte is delicious,” said Heather Behr, having lunch with friend Marni Rael, the two women swooning over an avocado toast and pesto omelet, finishing the meal with a shared chocolate bobka. “Literally every bite is excellent.”

For Rebecca Sklaver, lunching with Rivka and Stera Goldschmidt, it was baked salmon and Greek salad — to the other women’s tuna salad and gravlax plate — to which she gave praise. “The salmon is out of this world, really just baked to perfection.”

House-baked specialties include banana bread, challah (water and egg), pastries, brown-butter chocolate chip and other cookies, cakes, bobka and Bubba’s Rugelach from Kohn’s family recipe. The Challah Challah Club allows customers to register for challahs that will be ready for pickup at requested times each Friday. The challahs will be prepped and prepaid, allowing guests to make a quick stop for pickup. Bobkas and other items will also be available for pre-order.

Delectables for little ones are available, and allergy and special requests including gluten-free, egg-white and Cholov Yisroel options are available. The Market serves many locally-sourced and organic ingredients.

Drinks include Fort Worth-based 5AM DRIPs, lavender vanilla and goldenmilk (with turmeric) lattes, espressos, affogatos and staple favorites. Juices, milk, Stacey’s Iced Tea, housemade lemonade and sodas are available too.

“We met at the Dallas Farmer’s Market and we’re now pretty much family,” said Ashley Davis, co-owner of 5AM DRIP. “Jordona and Stacey follow our business ideas and our dream, and the look and feel of The Market is something we’re thrilled to be a part of.”

The owners credit designer Ariella Mizell Bush and J.M. Construction for the restaurant’s unique décor. Bush transformed the space, a former jewelry store, into their eatery vision with a community table at its center, bar stools and tables for two and more.

The partners are proud.

“We’re in the right place,” Kohn said, “and this is the right time.”

The Market is at 13534 Preston Road in North Dallas. For more information, visit, call 469-677-5424 or follow on Facebook and Instagram @themarkettx.

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Fire sweeps through Simcha Kosher Catering

Fire sweeps through Simcha Kosher Catering

Posted on 23 May 2019 by admin

Photos: Courtesy Simcha Kosher Catering


By Sharon Wisch-Ray

Lowell Michelson is often the guy people turn to in their time of need. On Tuesday, May 14, the owner of Simcha Kosher Catering became the recipient of an outpouring of support when a seven-alarm fire swept through his Farmers Branch headquarters starting about 7:45 p.m.

“Obviously, I’m in shell shock,” Michelson told the TJP Tuesday. “All I could think about was the service to the community that I owe. I had jobs to go out starting Wednesday morning.”

Michelson’s lifelong friend, Harry Schick, came to the scene as the fire burned and asked, “What can I do?”

“Will you please call Shaare Tefilla — Jacques Ohayon is the volunteer who oversees the kitchen and the rabbi — to see if we can use their facilities?” Michelson responded.

Shortly after, Michelson got a call from his fellow kosher caterer and longtime friend, Chaim Goldfeder, owner of the Kosher Palate and Texas Kosher BBQ.

“He felt terrible, and said ‘What can I do?’”

Goldfeder loaned Michelson equipment and a van.

In addition to dealing with the trauma of watching his business burn down, Michelson had to stay focused on his obligations for the week — a full complement of catering jobs, The Star on Wednesday, the Federation Pacesetter lunch on Thursday, a bris on Friday morning, Shabbat dinner on Friday night, a Kiddush lunch on Saturday and another bris on Sunday. He also had his regular hotel and hospital clients for which he provides Dallas Kosher-certified meals.

“We’ve made it, we are fully functioning and full speed ahead,” he said.

Michelson said he couldn’t have done it without the “amazing” Dallas Jewish community.

In particular, he is grateful to Shaare Tefilla’s Rabbi Ariel Rackovsky; its executive director, Robyn Mirsky; and its lay leadership.

“I’m usually the one helping. It’s not easy for me to ask for help,” Michelson explained.

He added that his staff has been there every step of the way. “They’ve all jumped in.”

The fire starts

The fire began about 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, May 14. A three-person team representing Beth Torah’s Kosher BBQ competition was inside the premises waiting for Michelson to arrive when they smelled smoke. Michelson was en route to the meeting from a 250-person event for HaYovel Israel at Glenn Beck’s Irving studio, when Brian Rubinstein phoned him to say, ‘Your building is on fire.’” The trio had already called 911.

At first, Michelson wasn’t too concerned. He thought it was probably in the kitchen and knew that they had the latest in fire suppressant technology to deal with commercial kitchen grease fires.

As he approached the area, he could see black smoke billowing. When he arrived, he was surprised to learn that the fire had started in the warehouse.

“It was a perfect storm,” he said.

Michelson explained it officially hasn’t been determined how cotton rags, towels and aprons accidentally caught fire. Next to the textiles was a wooden shelf, which was adjacent to many cardboard boxes and wicker baskets. The fire caught and spread quickly through the 12,000-square-foot building.

It took three ladder trucks — seven in all — and close to four hours for firefighters from Farmers Branch, Carrollton and Addison to extinguish the flames.

The building has been deemed a total loss and structurally unsound.

Michelson said he is grateful to be properly insured and his agent, Barney Schwartz, has been helping him to navigate what comes next.

“We’ve already purchased a lot of new equipment and plates,” Michelson said.

Because the event Simcha was catering Tuesday night was so large, they were able to salvage a lot of their dishes, serving pieces and utensils and on-site catering equipment.

Business as usual

A week after the fire, Michelson says he’s providing his customers with the service they deserve and trusted him with.

“We’ve made it,” he said, though he’s not sure what will come next.

“The best analogy I can use is that this is like a baseball game. It’s only the first inning, and I’m not sure how this game is going to turn out. Today I’m in the second inning.”

One thing he is certain of is that he won’t be letting his clients down.

“I have a wedding this weekend for 350 people and they are going to have everything they need. Everything that’s promised.”

Michelson reiterated that he wouldn’t be in this position without the community’s support.

“We’re business as usual,” he said. “And we owe it to an amazing community and staff.”


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Herman Wouk, legendary author who brought Judaism into the mainstream, dies at 103

Herman Wouk, legendary author who brought Judaism into the mainstream, dies at 103

Posted on 17 May 2019 by Sharon Wisch-Ray

Herman Wouk in 1975 (Alex Gotfryd/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

By Rachel Gordon

BOSTON (JTA) — Herman Wouk, the bestselling Orthodox Jewish author whose literary career spanned nearly seven decades and who helped usher Judaism into the American mainstream, died Friday at the age of 103.
His agent confirmed the news to The Associated Press.
Wouk was the author of two dozen novels and works of nonfiction, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Caine Mutiny” from 1951, which was a fixture on best-seller lists for two years, and the best-selling “Marjorie Morningstar” from 1955. Both books were later adapted for the screen.
His novels “The Winds of War” and “War and Remembrance” both became successful television miniseries. By the mid-1950s, Wouk’s popular and financial success as an American Jewish novelist was unmatched.
Even more unusual for a writer of Wouk’s celebrity was his Orthodox observance and treatment of Jewish religious practice in his writing. Wouk embodied the new postwar possibilities for American Jews and his writing was both cause and effect of the normalization of Judaism within the larger American Judeo-Christian tradition.
When he appeared on the cover of Time in 1955, the magazine described Wouk’s blend of worldly success and Jewish religious observance as paradoxical.
“He is a devout Orthodox Jew who had achieved worldly success in worldly-wise Manhattan while adhering to dietary prohibitions and traditional rituals which many of his fellow Jews find embarrassing,” the article said.
At the time, Wouk’s fame seemed like an incredible feat for an Orthodox Jew. Unlike other Jewish novelists, who had focused on Jewish immigrant culture and tended to portray religious Judaism as foreign and exotic, Wouk made Jewish religious observance appear mainstream in his books. Scenes of a Passover seder and a bar mitzvah service became scenes of middle-class American life in “Marjorie Morningstar.”
None of this escaped criticism. With the exception of “The Caine Mutiny,” reviews of Wouk’s works were typically mixed. Both Jewish and mainstream reviewers expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of his writing, his conservative outlook on politics and sex, and his treatment of Judaism. Some rabbis even criticized Wouk for mocking Jewish observance — though in the coming decade, Philip Roth’s fiction would radically change their perspective on what counted as literary denigration of Judaism.
Meanwhile, fellow Jewish novelists like Roth, Saul Bellow and Norman Mailer viewed Wouk as conforming to middle-class American values that prioritized marriage, family, religion and service to country. Not only did he stay married to the same woman for more than six decades, but Wouk expressed pride in his military service, for which he received a U.S. Navy Lone Sailor Award. Wouk in turn saw the others as bowing to fashionable literary trends of rebellion and shocking readers.
From his debut novel, “Aurora Dawn,” in 1947, to his last book, “Sailor and Fiddler: Reflections of a 100-Year-Old Author” — published in 2015 when he had reached a century — Wouk wove themes central to the American Jewish experience throughout his work. Even “The Caine Mutiny,” a less Jewish novel than later works, included Lt. Barney Greenwald, who gives a moving speech in defense of a lieutenant who helped keep Greenwald’s Jewish mother from being “melted down into a bar of soap” by the Nazis.
Set in the 1930s and ’40s, Wouk’s fourth book, “Marjorie Morningstar,” heralded a new era for American Jews. The novel followed the journey of a New York Jewish protagonist no different from any other bright and beautiful young woman of the era, an image further cemented by Natalie Wood’s portrayal of Marjorie in the 1958 film version.
Not since the 1927 film “The Jazz Singer,” starring Al Jolson, had a movie shown Jewish religious scenes. But unlike “The Jazz Singer,” Marjorie and her religion were not exoticized — Jewishness was portrayed as middle class and American. With Marjorie, Wouk had succeeded in making a story about Jews into an American story.
Marjorie also marked a turning point in his writing career. With confidence that he had readers who would follow him to less popular subjects, Wouk’s fourth book, his first work of nonfiction, took on the subject of Orthodox Judaism. Published in 1959, “This Is My God” was a primer about the Jewish religion intended for both Jewish and non-Jewish readers.
As other American celebrities would do, Wouk used his fame to draw attention to his little-understood religion. Serialized in the Los Angeles Times, “This Is My God” introduced readers to such Jewish particulars as the laws of kashrut and family purity and the holidays of Sukkot and Shavuot. The book showed, through anecdotes from Wouk’s glamorous Manhattan life, that it was possible to be both a modern American and Orthodox.
At a time when Jews still encountered quotas at universities and discrimination in hiring and housing, Wouk’s example provided inspiration. “This Is My God” became a popular bar mitzvah and confirmation gift for young Jews of all movements.
Born in the Bronx borough of New York City on May 27, 1915, Wouk was the second of three children of Esther and Abraham Wouk, both immigrants from Belarus. Abraham Wouk began work as a laundry laborer and found financial success in the laundry business. Herman spent his early years in the Bronx receiving basic Hebrew training from his grandfather. His childhood included the teasing and bullying that was common for bookish boys in rough neighborhoods.
From an early age, Wouk found a haven in reading, family and Judaism. After graduating from the public Townsend Harris High School, Wouk entered Columbia University, where he served as editor of its humor magazine. He also took courses at Yeshiva University.
Upon graduating, Wouk briefly abandoned his religious lifestyle when he became a radio dramatist, writing for the comedian Fred Allen. Although the work was lucrative, Wouk felt a void in a life without Jewish learning and religion, and he eventually returned to his previous level of observance.
In the coming years he would reside in the Virgin Islands, New York’s Fire Island, Washington, D.C., Manhattan and Palm Springs, California — and in all those locales he was involved in setting up Jewish study and prayer groups.
Following Pearl Harbor, Wouk joined the Navy and served in the Pacific, where he was an officer aboard two destroyers, participated in eight invasions and won several battle stars. Wouk also started to write “Aurora Dawn” while aboard ship. After Wouk sent part of a draft to one of his former Columbia professors, the professor connected Wouk with an editor, and a contract followed.
While his ship was being repaired in California, Wouk met Betty Sarah Brown, a graduate of the University of Southern California and a civilian Navy employee. After her conversion to Judaism, the couple married in 1945 and had three sons. Betty, who died in 2011, would eventually become her husband’s literary agent.
Wouk is survived by two sons, Nathaniel and Joseph, and three grandchildren. His oldest son, Abraham, died in a 1951 swimming pool accident.
(Rachel Gordan is an assistant professor of religion and Jewish Studies at the University of Florida, where she is the Shorstein fellow in American Jewish culture.)

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DJCF to hold scholarship reception May 22

DJCF to hold scholarship reception May 22

Posted on 16 May 2019 by Sharon Wisch-Ray

Photo: Courtesy Dallas Jewish Community Foundation
Benjamin Galichia (left), recipient of the Gerardo and Helga Weinstein scholarship of the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation, and scholarship donor Helga Weinstein meet one another at the 2018 Dallas Jewish Community Foundation scholarship reception. Guest Margarita Solis, center, looks on.

Recipients, donors
make meaningful

By Deb Silverthorn

Some students will get an early start to their 2019-2020 school year, beginning Wednesday, May 22. On that day, more than $130,000 of higher-education scholarships will be awarded to eligible students in Collin, Dallas and Denton counties by the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation. The awards will be announced, for the first time, at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

“We take great pride in the administration of this unique program and its anonymous applications that ensure fair evaluation,” said DJCF Director of Philanthropic Advancement Mona Allen. “The scholarships were created by fundholders who care deeply about education, and we take seriously our charge to find the best candidates — those who will someday shape our community.”

The DJCF program, along with the Southwest Community Foundation, has grown to more than 37 funds. To determine their eligibility, students file a general application, which is then put into a pool for whichever scholarship(s) they are eligible to receive. In addition to general need, there are special scholarships available to students studying in Israel, at Southern Methodist University, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, and for those from Texas towns with two or fewer congregations.

“The reception is a wonderful coming together to share the importance of higher education,” Allen said. “After navigating the selection process over the past months, the wait is finally over.”

The impact of the scholarships on recipients goes far beyond the provision of tuition and supplies. It has, in many ways, returned several recipients as supporters.

“I feel fortunate to have been on both sides of the process,” said Seth Kaufman, a Richardson High School alumnus and former DJCF scholar. Kaufman earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees at the University of Texas, then a law degree from SMU.

“I had the honor to meet and grow to respect my benefactor Martin Samuelsohn,” said Kaufman, who is assistant vice president, senior legal counsel and the lead attorney for corporate social responsibility at AT&T, as well as a DJCF committee member for 10 years. “Serving on the committee, and reviewing the amazing students now coming through, I’m grateful to return and give back to the program with my time.”

Being nice to everyone because you never know whom you’ll sit next to at some time and place in the future is a sound practice. Lauren Leahy, for one, made a good impression in 2002, as a recipient of a $20,000 Toyota Community Scholars award, bestowed by Karen Polan, who, at the time oversaw Toyota’s scholarship program.

Leahy received one of the 100 scholarships out of 10,000 applicants, and attended SMU, going on to receive her Harvard Law School degree. She’s now the chief legal officer and general manager of Express Business, at Pizza Hut, LLC.

Polan, who last year retired from Toyota after 25 years, and who was one of the company’s early Plano pioneers when it moved to North Texas, worked in human resources and staff development, customer and community relations and strategic planning.

“Good ‘carma’ delivers good karma, we said, and part of my job was to deliver that karma in the form of scholarships,” Polan said. “We delivered needed resources, knowledge and funds in the form of scholarships, but rarely heard the rest of the story, how students progressed.”

Flash forward almost 20 years, and Polan and Leahy, strangers at a committee meeting of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education & Tolerance, on whose board they both sit, exchanged pleasantries. Polan mentioned her history with Toyota, and Leahy was amazed.

“Through the years I’ve shared my story with individuals I’ve met from Toyota and here was someone who really touched my future,” said Leahy, who, long connected to human rights support, finds the Museum’s work touching her core. “I’m now proud to be on the corporate side of giving. Pizza Hut hosts a number of its own scholarship and educational opportunities.”

“We could only hope the grants were well spent and that awardees found a future and success,” Polan added. “It took nearly two decades for me to have something come full circle but it has, and what a special relationship it has become.”

Polan, a North Texas transplant of just nearly four years, is in awe of the overall generosity of Dallas’ Jewish community and the general community. As a member of the DJCF Scholarship Committee, she read and scored more than 100 applications.

“You never know how far your gift will go or how full your heart can be of joy. The generosity and the collaboration between corporations and individual donors here makes me very proud to call this home,” she said. “My passion has always been about education, and after some connections, I was invited to serve at the Museum. It’s my goal to help expand its mission to advance human rights to combat prejudice, hatred and indifference.

“How incredible — through this service — to reconnect with Lauren, someone so appreciative and who made the most of the scholarship,” she continued. “Now, not only an incredible professional, but one who has chosen to give back, and that’s what it’s all about.”

The 2019-2020 College Scholarship Reception will begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 22, at the Aaron Family JCC, 7900 Northaven Road in Dallas. The event is free but an RSVP is requested by visiting or by calling 214-615-9351. For additional information, visit

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Anti-Zionist imam delivers opening prayers in the US House of Representatives

Anti-Zionist imam delivers opening prayers in the US House of Representatives

Posted on 10 May 2019 by Sharon Wisch-Ray

Omar Suleiman giving an opening prayer for a session of the House of Representatives, May 9.(Screenshot from YouTube)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — An imam who has wished for the end of Zionism, called for a third Intifada and likened Israel to Nazi-era Germany delivered the opening prayer for a session of the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday.
Omar Suleiman, the founder and president of the Dallas-based Yaqeen Institute, an organization that describes itself as a resource about Islam, referred to recent attacks on houses of worship — which has included synagogues in the United States — in his opening remarks.
“Let us not be deterred by the hatred that has claimed the lives of innocent worshippers across the world, but emboldened by the love that gathered them together to remember you and gathered us together to remember them,” Suleiman said in a short prayer after being introduced by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Suleiman has a long record of incendiary social media statements about Israel, as compiled two years ago by Petra Marquardt-Bigman, a researcher, and posted on the Algeimeiner Jewish news site. He has on multiple occasions wished for a third Palestinian Intifada, or violent uprising, likened Israeli troops to Nazis, and has wished for the end of Zionism, calling Zionists “the enemies of God.” He is a backer of the boycott Israel movement.
Suleiman’s congresswoman, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, invited him to deliver the prayer through a standard form on the webpage of the Office of the Chaplain of the House, according to a congressional official.
Pelosi’s office is looking into how and why Johnson invited Suleiman, an official told The Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., who is Jewish, said in a statement that inviting Suleiman to deliver the opening prayer was a “terribly bad call.”
Suleiman in 2016 was at the scene of an anti-police shooting, in which five policemen were slain. He delivered a prayer at a memorial service a week later appearing on a stage with Texas’ two Republican senators, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, then-President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush.
Tennessee judge posts links on Facebook saying Jews should ‘get the f*** over the Holocaust’
Farrakhan speaks of ‘satanic Jews’ in talk at Catholic church
Dutch soccer fans beat Jew and sing song praising Nazis

-Ron Kampeas

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