A Note to post-Feminists who just don’t seem to get it

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I just read a comment to an article about guys learning to make challah on the Forward’s sisterhood blog. Somehow I felt the young author missed the point of what happened oh so long ago, when women finally took to the streets and said, “Enough! We are not chattel or pieces of meat. Get over it!” Feminism has become a dirty word. When we fought for it, it meant getting lives instead of being forced to stay in the kitchen with our heads in the oven.

As an old hag who marched in the women’s lib parade 40 years ago, it seems to be that today’s youngsters just don’t get what our bitter battle for basic human rights was like. We had bosses putting their hands up our skirts with impunity (and that did happen to Ruth Bader Ginsburg when she first got married and worked in a social security office in St. Louis, as well as to me and thousands of others.) Equal work was not equal pay and is not to this day.

Men are still in charge because some young women think that feminism means you can sell yourself like a sex object and that women’s manners are disgusting, so men don’t take most of us seriously. And the serious ones they dismiss with sexual comments like “she needs a little” or “she must swing the other way.” etc. When I see it around my community, I want to pull my hair (whatever is left of it) out of my head.

Face it. With a few exceptions, MEN HATE STRONG WOMEN, and thanks to the post feminists who never understood what we were fighting for, they are busily, legislatively and religiously, taking away our rights.

There are those of us who helped our families live better lives by contributing our incomes, sometimes more than one income, to the rest of the family and we did it while putting up with constant abusive or insulting behavior from men….and the author seemed to denigrate those kinds of women. Just the other day, my mother said to me, “You always wanted to be a man.” which is what the author seems to say about old time feminists like me.

No. I do not want to be a man. I grew up with a twin brother in a haredi household. I wanted to be treated with the same respect and humanity and equality in learning and observance as he. And I soon discovered that the reason men are the way they are is because their mothers and fathers and teachers never bothered to tell them that women are valuable and have rights.

Mom is cooking, doing the dishes, the laundry, and running the house, including getting someone to mow the lawn, etc., while also holding down one or two jobs or even running a small business, while dad sits and complains that she’s not good enough, the kids are too noisy, helping them with homework is not his job and he’s too tired to do the dishes or take out the garbage, ’cause he had a hard day at work. Compared to running a household, let me tell you that work in an office or retail store is easy. Been there done that with millions of other women. But there are Jewish women trapped in even worse situations.

Some female members of my family are not permitted to attend school where secular subjects and English go beyond 9th grade. College has been verboten. Women are not permitted to drive or go to an event on their own, birth control is forbidden. So are computers and smartphones.

The sex stories are outrageous. There are a goodly number of concubines and there are also child molesters who got away with it for decades–stuff swept under the rug which is now exploding. Four guys just were let off the hook for trafficking a young Hasidic girl with emotional issues, and possibly more than that… Right now I am dealing with a woman in Brooklyn whose son is one of those molested kids who became a druggie. Her husband is abusive, and she is struggling to get out. She needs money to support her kids, and because she has no education, she has to go out and literally beg. How can I help her? Where are her sisters? They rejected her because she is no longer Orthodox. She has become an atheist. Where can I find the money for her? Answer: I can’t, certainly not by myself.

That’s the part the feminists forget about. And it’s not just the silence on the molestations. The turnout on behalf of women who are agunot is pitiful. Women are more than half the population. Where are the pro-active Feminists? Are they afraid of losing their jobs if they speak up? Are they too busy arguing feminist philosophy while the house burns down?

Yes, strong women scare most men. When we call for Halakhic reform they call us nuts, crazy, dismiss us like flies on a horse. And then they lie about the rules. Like the agunah situation, which can, indeed be fixed, since halakha, according to the Talmud, is supposed to be adjusted to meet community needs. Then there’s the bit forbidding women to wear talit and tefillin. Not true. It’s a chumrah created by chauvinists which has ZERO to do with halakha, and is based on the fact that the Remah and Rabbi Meir of Rothenberg thought women were arrogant.

Where are our Devorahs? Why are women buying into the misogyny? The Haggadah states: “AT psach lo”–The feminine You–“You teach them.” It’s a woman’s job to teach her children to respect women and allow them to explore their full potential for the benefit of their own lives. Take from texts that which uplifts women and forget the Aishes Chayil stereotype.

Teach your children how to be. And don’t let them watch trash TV and think real life is like that. It’s only a weapon of mass distraction so that they don’t even think about what really matters–whether it’s making a relationship work, being a decent and moral person (you hardly see that on TV) or paying attention to politics. And paying attention to politics is vital.

Politics in this day and age is very, very personal, especially for women, as people, by the millions, are being kicked out of their homes in their old age, jobs disappear, wages keep falling, expenses keep going up. The Republicans make a concerted effort to stop any jobs bill and real help to homeowners, while cutting education to the bone, preventing women from getting equal pay for equal work, seek to control their uteri, and let insurance companies deny half the population proper medical care while hospitals are charging people $3,000 for a $300 test, or big pharma charges $1090 for 90 pills of Nexium, a heartburn pill. We dare not remain silent in the face of these issues, because they lower the quality of our lives and roll back everything we fought for so long ago.

Here’s a hard and fast rule about Judaism (and I guess real life), as per Herman Cohen, who got it from the prophets: “If it’s not just, ethical and reasonable, it’s not Judaism.” And from its inception, it is a religion with constantly evolving rules. That doesn’t mean we go backwards.

You want things to change? Start with your own children, and don’t make someone like me feel that the battle we fought and won so that you young women can do whatever you want…don’t, just don’t make me feel that it was a total and complete waste of our time.

Did Jewish Values Die with the Six Million?

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How can you be a Jewish state when you have no Jewish values? Do we need to quote Tanach and Talmud to remind ourselves of the Jewish values that have been ingrained on our souls since we were tykes? Don’t we do that every week in the synagogue? Is anyone listening? Isn’t Israel supposed to be, you should forgive the expression, the Mecca of Diaspora Jewry?

So why is it that fewer and fewer Jews care about Israel? Maybe it is because they don’t like what they see in a host of Israeli policies, from making nice with some of the vilest governments in the world to treating refugees from genocide like criminals. It is something that is hard to wrap your head around. As hard as trying to understand how rabbis in New York refuse to let victims of child abuse dial 911 without their permission.

Who are the people throwing rocks through black-owned shop windows in Tel Aviv and setting fire to Eritreans in Jerusalem? People who were educated in the Land of Yad Vashem? How many billions did we spend trying to teach people how to live together and prevent genocide? As Jews and as a Jewish community, we yell “hate crime” every time someone looks at us cross-eyed, denies the Holocaust, or paints a swastika on a wall, including at Yad Vashem in early June. In the meantime, we Jews treat each other, our children, and the strangers among us like we are less than worthless.

Did the Six Million die for nothing? They had faith in a free, democratic and ideal state of Israel that would be the salvation of the world. Ani Mamin they sang in the Ghettos and camps. Hatikvah was on their lips together with the Shma as they went to the gas. We sing those songs on Yom Hashoah along with the Partisaner Hymn and Kaddish.

Where is that land of Israel, the land of Jewish values and ideals? Today it’s a place where Israeli government officials tell the big lie about North Africans, and prevent their own people from protesting peacefully. Government officials said that these refugees from genocide are raping Israeli women, giving them AIDS, and are a cancer on Israeli society. And they are deporting them back to their countries of origin with ugly rhetoric and violence reminiscent of Kristallnacht.

The ideal Israel in our souls, the Israel of blue skirts and embroidered blouses, of campfires and idealism, only exists in our imaginations. As a student of history, not bubbeh mayses, the story of the birth of Israel, the story of how the Jewish community behaved before, during and after the war in Mandate Palestine, in Europe, in America, in community after community–except for a handful of people who put themselves on the line in the attempt to rescue Jews–is not a pretty story.

The fictional Ari Ben Canaans of Exodus and the Rabbi Michoel Wiessmandls were rare characters. The Israeli right wing murdered the man who saved my mother and thousands of others during the Holocaust. To this very day, the behavior of the established Jewish communities in the secular and denominational world is shameful–from the treatment of the North Africans, including Ethiopian Jewry and women in Israel and everywhere else where they are forced to sit in the back, not drive, not go to school, etc.(in the organizational Jewish world there is equal work, not equal pay and glass ceilings) to the decades of covering up child abuse and domestic violence everywhere. And if anyone tells you that women in Judaism are free, look them in the eye and say “Agunot.”

The typical American Jew looks on, aghast, as Israel self-immolates in front of Diaspora Jewry, and Diaspora Jewry faces its own house of horrors. So much for being a light unto the nations. So much for the lessons from the Holocaust. So much for Jewish values. How the hell did we become the monsters we teach our children not to be. How can we, just four generations after the Holocaust, remain silent in the face of our leaders’ moral bankruptcy? How can we tolerate it when a Jew calls another Jew a Nazi? How can we tolerate it when our own people behave the way they do?

Maybe Jewish values died with the Six Million. Maybe that’s when Jewish leadership died. Elie Wiesel once said, “Jeanette, don’t wait for leaders. Be your own leader.”

Listen to Wiesel. Speak truth to power. If you don’t like what you see in the Jewish community, don’t wait for someone to lead you. Pick up a phone, post something to facebook, make your voice heard. Protest and demand the end of hypocrisy. Be your own leader.

Memory, Liturgy and the Holocaust

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By Jeanette Friedman

Every now and again, the creation of a permanent Yom HaShoah liturgy becomes an issue some people think should be on the front burner. Some proponents of this universal service feel that is what the Holocaust Survivor Legacy must be and that everyone must have a set prayer program for Yom HaShoah. But that is not the legacy of survivors. The Legacy of the Holocaust Survivors was presented to the Jewish people in June 1981, in Jerusalem, at The Kotel, the Western Wall, in front of 15,000 people. You can read it at www.americangathering.com/legacy/

Nowhere does this legacy mention a Holocaust liturgy—and for good reason. The issue had been debated ad nauseam. The legacy mentions the importance of remembrance—and as the most studied and researched event on planet Earth, the Holocaust will certainly be remembered as a watershed event in history. Getting its lessons across is another story—though no one denies that one of those lessons is the need for tolerance, to see another person’s point of view.

The proponents of this liturgy, some of them secular, are unaware of the pitfalls and impossibilities surrounding their demands, and want to force a liturgy upon the whole of the ultra-Orthodox community in particular. Many feel the ultra-Orthodox do not remember the Holocaust. They are wrong. Most of the ultra-Orthodox in America and Israel happen to be Holocaust survivors and their descendants. I know. I began my life as such a person, in an ultra-Orthodox world. Now I am a post-denominational Jew. Some might call me secular or worse. Some might call me other things, but, in the core of my essence I am a Jew shaped by the Shoah—and Judaism.

I grew up in a Holocaust survivor community in Brooklyn, surrounded by memories of the Shoah in all its forms—from the silent ones, to those who never stopped talking, to those who abused their children, to those who overprotected them and spoiled their kids rotten. I went to Beis Yaakov in Crown Heights and Brownsville. Our teachers were survivors themselves. The Holocaust came up often, but obliquely. A play about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was our senior play in Esther Schoenfeld High School.

Growing up, the ultra-Orthodox people around me echoed the words of their rabbis, who were clueless when it came to coping with theology after the Holocaust. They claimed secular Jews and Reform Jews brought the Holocaust down on the Jews.

After all, how else do you accept a God who murders 1.5 million innocent children who did not sin? You create a punishing God, using Old Testament paternalism and imagery who gets even with the Reform Jews and Zionists. (The Minchas Elazar, Rabbi Chaim Elazar Spira, the Rov of Munkacs (a town now in Ukraine) blamed the Zionists for Hitler—instead of blaming the perpetrators for being people who were evil. The irony is that it was mostly Orthodox Jews who died in the camps. His descendants’ followers live in Borough Park. Those who survived still remember, and so do their children. When it comes to God, many suffer from cognitive dissonance. Better not to go near the subject.

As a descendant and close relative to many of the Hassidic rabbis in power today, I took every opportunity to discuss Holocaust remembrance and Holocaust liturgies with the crème de la crème of Jewish leadership in that world and the Agudah world more than 25 years ago—many of them are child survivors and survivors. And the answer was always the same: Halachically it could not be done. You cannot have a day of mourning in the month of Nissan.

They contend—and they are not wrong according to their tradition—that the liturgy of Tisha B’Av contains what needs to be said, and they give divrei Torah to that effect when reading The Book of Lamentations. Rabbi Halberstam, the old Bobover Rebbe in Brooklyn, was a survivor from Poland/Hungary who wrote a special lamentation and added it to the Book of Lamentations for his congregation. His followers remember, since his descendants have carried on the tradition. Halacha allows additions, not deletions, in liturgy. And in the machzorim and siddurim, it has taken centuries for certain poems commemorating massacres to be included in the “set tradition.”

Other Hassidic and Hareidi groups have their own way of remembering. In order to understand the diversity of Judaism, think of a circle, with a different kind of Jew standing at every nth degree. There are as many Judaisms as there are Jews. Every community creates groups that reflect the values they want to incorporate into their lives. Every siddur is different, every nussach is different. Munkacs is different than Bobov, Satmar is different from Ger, Lubavitch is different from Hareidim, and every yeshiva does its own thing—about every aspect of Jewish life, including the liturgy and remembering the Holocaust.

Depending on who you are, how you were raised, your choices range from the most contemporary and evolving segments of Judaism to the traditional denominations—up to and including Ultra-Orthodoxy in all its forms. Every Jewish denomination and groups within those denominations have points of view about who we are. From the contemporary aspects of Jewish Renewal, Reconstructionism and Reform Judaism to the Conservative movement and Modern Orthodoxy to the ultra-Orthodox, who themselves have groups with very differing points of view.

For those less traditional than the ultra-Orthodox to attempt to force a set liturgy on a set date unto any community and then to say, “This is the legacy of the survivors,” is arrogant and shows a lack of understanding of how the Jewish community operates. Each community does its own thing. In New York City, even ultra-Orthodox Jews have been to Temple Emanuel on Fifth Avenue to attend WAGRO commemorations. One such woman, wearing a sheitel, escaped that ghetto and had a Hasidic brother who died in the uprising. As she sat in a synagogue that looks like a Christian cathedral, she reminded herself that the Torah Scrolls in the Holy Ark were exactly like the Torah Scrolls in the shteibel where she davened every Shabbos.

In Teaneck, NJ, on Yom Hashoah, there is a community ceremony in the high school auditorium. It nominally follows what has become a set liturgy of its own. It’s usually a 90-minute ceremony. Many of the synagogues and schools hold their own ceremonies as well. These generally include a procession, a candle-lighting ceremony, a key note address by a scholar or survivor, the chanting of El Molei Rachamim, the Holocaust Kaddish and the singing of The Partisaner Hymn. Other groups add a reading of specific Psalms or poetry written by someone in the community. These ceremonies take place in every state capitol and in the Rotunda on Capitol Hill. They vary, but one thing is clear. When you look at who attends these events on Yom HaShoah, you will find Jews in black frock coats and Jews in black hats, Jews in black velvet yarmulkes, Jews in kippot srugot, women in sheitels and women in snoods, as well as people who wear no head covering at all. In Israel, when the sirens go off on Yom HaShoah, everyone stops. Everyone.

That is, after all, the point. The enemies of the Jews did not care about a Jew’s denomination, and when it comes to remembering the Holocaust, it is each to his or her own.

Never Again, Jews Only?

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This quote came from a blogger in Israel who is popular with the right-wing. Sometimes we agree, especially on issues of domestic violence, sometime we don’t. When she added this quote to her criticism of a friend who is founding a Jewish/Chrisitian political party, she got me going.

>>>There were a handful of us, students in Great Neck North, who went to the Free Soviet Jewry demonstrations of SSSJ, rather than demonstrating for “negro” civil rights, the Biaferans or against the Vietnam War. The war that ignited us was the Six Days War and the liberation of our Jewish Historical Lands.<<< These are not mutually exclusive protests, and I took part in SSSJ AND protesting the Vietnam War AND supporting the Biafrans AND being a Zionist--and other causes, too. Including civil rights and Women's Liberation. Was my husband--a son of Holocaust Survivors and a draftee in Vietnam--not worth a protest to save his life and the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans who were there to fight a war that was created to prop up the dollar against the pound sterling? Are Biafrans less than human? And were the "Negroes" supposed to remain slaves forever without civil rights? What are the lessons we pull out of what the Nazis and their collaborators did to the Jews? That only Jews count? Did you know that a huge number of those that survived the Holocaust survived because a non-Jew, somewhere along the line, helped them, even if infinitesmally? Where did you learn that only Jews matter and that human decency doesn't go beyond the Jews? At least you admit publicly that you have no moral compass. So let me bring this to a different level. How many Holocaust survivors did YOU allow your government to murder this week with their neglect? Did you know the Israeli government, from 1948 on, stole the victims' money and land? Did you know the majority of Israelis have a culture that denigrates Holocaust survivors and sees them as a black mark on Jewish history? Did you know the consensus is that they need to die as quickly as possible and not be a drain on the Israeli economy? Did you know that your compatriots still call the survivors Sabon and Sabonit (cakes of soap)? That the surviving orphans were slaves in the Kibbutzim and cannon fodder as soon as they got off the boats that brought them to the Holy Land? That many girls were raped, that many orphans were robbed and killed? Thanks to the new disclosures, and the current government's behavior (too little too late) and the apathy of the Israelis for the people who are responsible for creating a State of Israel in the first place, I find it hard to be a Zionist, but not a Jew. Without Holocaust money, Israel would still be nothing but a pile of sand and swamps. But then, aren't solopsistic Israelis following in the footsteps of history? Isn't patently clear to those who choose not to twist the words in the Torah. ...where mothers kill sons and husbands, husbands kill mothers and sons and daughters, there's child sacrifice and incest, murder for sex, we have it all--that our ancestors set a bad example? But they also knew repentance. We Jews do good things too, but why don't other people matter? What happens to the "little people?" There is only lip service for Akiva's dictum: Love your neighbor for s/he is like you. Are we all children of Adam and Eve? Do we share the same DNA or not? Why do many Israelis silently agree to the killing of a few survivors each week? Why is the government permitted to withold their meds, starve them and let them boil or freeze? Why does the Israeli government keep what they stole from the survivors' parents? Then, if Holocaust survivors count for nothing in Israel, what happens to innocent Palestinians who are caught in the middle of a war they really didn't want? Why does the Israeli government cater to extremists? The moderate innocent and the Arab Christians are now caught between Hamas, Fatah, Israel, Sunnis, Shiites, extremists of all sorts. They are treated like the garbage of the universe. Are they by your lights, as expendable as the Holocaust survivors? Less? More? How much can each group be exploited? Why stop the exploitation of those who are politically expendable? If you think black people are expendable, that Asians in dire straits are expendable, that the boys who died in Vietnam were expendable, and that everyone who is dying in Mess-o-Potamia (Iraq) is expendable, and that Holocaust survivors are a drain on the Israeli economy, why shouldn't your friend hook up with folks who think Jews are expendable? What makes you think Jews are the only people who need to survive? Thanks to comments like yours, we Jews are especially expendable.

My 40th anniversary written on Xmas Day 2006

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Today is the 40th anniversary of the day that I learned that when a woman steps under the chuppah, she takes her life and the lives of her children in her hands, and does so without informed consent or any form of real protection.
Today is the 40th anniversary of the day my life changed dramatically.
Today is the 40th anniversary of the day I married a man who beat me up and turned me into an agunah.

So today, indulge me, and read on.

> However, as the building companies started selling apts. to other groups, they have
> been trying to FORCE (emphasis mine, jf) the buses to be segretated.

Allow me to use some exegetical thinking here. It may be a stretch but – he says Charedim are FORCING the issues, some of them with the use of violence against women in public, so let’s talk a little bit about the use of force to create change–war is supposed to create peace–isn’t it?

Anyway, let’s give this a shot.

THE USE OF FORCE. let’s see what the Torah and Talmud say about using force.I can give you chapter and verse on this beginning with Devorim 20, Sotah 8, Sotah 42, etc.Rambam, hilchos melachim, peace above all. PEACE.

Last I heard, whether it’s real war, when you are dealing with your enemies first you must try to make peace, then you must exempt anyone who ever committed an aveyrah from going to war (r’ jose). Then when you lay a siege, you leave one side of the city open, and you aren’t allowed to chop down trees, rape or pillage, loot or anything else.

SO unless it’s self defense, forget it. No violence is allowed to force your enemies to do what you want.

Now then, based on how you are supposed to treat your ENEMIES with respect and practically pacifism, explain how you can force a woman, a fellow Jew, who is minding her own business in a public environment to go to the back of the bus or you will beat her and you will spit in her face

Why is it a woman’s obligation to be a trained warrior to face these people? Why does she have to go thru the basic training of a soldier in a conventional war to deal with people who don’t want to look at her or have her sit on a public bus? Chihal, why does Shoni Thon get advice to buy a can of mace, instead of decent Jewish men and Jewish society and the Jewish community dealing with the violent, coercive behavior that amounts to a state of war against women? (Chihal says until that happens she needs to protect herself NOW–ok)

Where is the exegesis on that? Where is the halacha? Other than Russell Hendel, who tries valiantly, where are you all to stop this violence halachically and force people to pay the price via derech eretz? This behavior is criminal behavior by anyone’s standards. (OTOH, Russell’s post on the halachic penalty of kicking/grabbing is enlightening indeed. So considering the situation on the bus, killing her on the spot for kicking would have been ok?)

The day the Kolko story broke I spoke to a Charedi friend from Brooklyn who said to me, “I warned my boys never to go near him 30 years ago.” Everybody knows–and nobody knows. No one does anything, and then Matisyahu Solomon, at the Agudah Convention, in the name of Halacha, blames the bloggers, and essentially says sweep it under the rug for the sake of the respect of the rabbanim.

If the rabbanim want respect, let them earn it. Starting with R’ Eliashiv, who canceled the agunah conference, does not speak out against the violence against women and children, sexually or otherwise. Not one word. Ever. Reb David Feinstein doesn’t speak about Shalom Bayis from the pulpit. Why not? His father was a pioneer in these issues and sent me to civil court to get my get. His father made the Silver Get Law. What gives here? The get ultimately cost almost half a mil. Where normal people come from that’s the crime of extortion. Criminal behavior.

Why is this criminal and not civil? If a woman is pious and takes Judaism seriously, her life is ruined if she can never remarry. She IS chained to a dead future. Because of the “separation” of church and state in a state where she DOES have the right to a divorce, a right guaranteed to every human being on the planet, even in the UN charter, she does not have that right. If her husband says, “I can get married again, you never will unless you give me what I want,” that’s extortion. “Give me what I want or you will suffer.” That’s criminal behavior.

So again, all of these things, the beating of the woman on the bus or Blimi Zitrenbaum in Monsey and any other child or woman, Kolko’s behavior, what the NK did, and the threats against Shani Thon, are CRIMES. CRIMES that in any other society, except some Islamic ones, would be punished in courts of law where people would pay fines, go to jail or suffer some consequence, not the least of which is a public shaming. At least that way everyone knows that these people committed evil against innocent people and shun them. In the real world, if you do the Crime you do the Time (not always, but at least THEY try. WE don’t even bother!)

The silence from R’ Eliashiv and others, and only prove my points. Frank Silberman’s post is a clear indication of why we are in the state we are in. His attitude perfectly reflects why it is that no gives a hoot or a holler about the status of women. This can be summed up this way: “I don’t read it, I don’t see it, I don’t know it, I don’t want to know it, therefore the problem doesn’t exist and I don’t have anything to do with it–even if it does exist–so leave me alone.”

A careful reading of Eeyov (Job) makes it very, very clear that if we are good people who understand what our place is in the world, then we must work to make society and humanity better than it is. This is our obligation to and understanding of Hashem. This is burdensome and can cause suffering among the righteous, but it brings us closer to Hashem, unlike the friends and the evil ones, who may be rewarded in this life with sleekness and easy words that fall from their lips as if they mean something. But empty words are just that empty and don’t bring us closer to Hashem.

We all have to face the fact that if we aren’t working toward stopping this–and it is 30% across the board, in all societies and in all religions, and you can go online and gets the stats all over the place–we aren’t really acting the way any Jew of any denomination is required to act, ethically and halachically, since what is involved here is clearly pikuach nefesh–literally and figuratively.

And everyone knows the halacha on that.

So why is it not being applied?

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