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Goodbyes, News and Upcoming Events from the FJC

February 27, 2014

The staff’s last official day of employment at the Foundation for Jewish Culture is February 28, 2014. The Foundation’s Board of Trustees will continue to wind down operations through the end of this year and will place its programs with organizations that will assume responsibility for their continuity. The FJC’s current programs include: the L.A. Six Points Fellowship for Emerging Jewish Artists, the New Jewish Culture Network, Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships, the Kroll Fund for Jewish Documentary Film, and the American Academy in Jerusalem. Grants are no longer distributed through the FJC.  However, when the transfer of funds to new organizations is approved and finalized, grants will once again be available. Please check the Foundation’s website later this year for more information. More press about FJC’s closure in ejewish Philanthropy draws attention to the strengths and weaknesses of national organizations and asks what is going to fill the void. We thank you for your interest and support and encourage you to follow our grantees as they continue to enrich Jewish culture. In this final e-news, we would like to share their updates.

Still from Mr. Gaga, 2013 Kroll Film Fund Grantee
Lynn and Jules Kroll Fund for Jewish Documentary Film

Thanks to a pledge of $100,000 in direct grants from the Righteous Persons Foundation (RPF), The Foundation for Jewish Culture convened a panel in January 2014 and selected four projects to receive awards from the Lynn and Jules Kroll Fund for Jewish Documentary Film.  Each project will receive a $25,000 grant from RPF to support post-production. In this recent grant cycle, the Foundation received 90 completed applications from around the world. The 2013 Kroll Film Fund grantees include Bialik: King of the Jews by Yair Qedar, Mr. Gaga by Tomer Heymann, Soft Vengeance: Albie Sachs and the New South Africa by Abby Ginzberg, and The Zionist Idea by Joe Dorman and Oren Rudavsky. Click here for more information.

Congratulations to Edet Belzberg whose film Watchers of the Sky (2011 Kroll Film Fund) received both the U. S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Use of Animation and the U.S. Documentary Editing Award at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Variety describes it as “an impressive and artful cinematic thesis of palpable substance.”

In March, Dancing in Jaffa (2012 Kroll Film Fund) and Sukkah City (2012 Kroll Film Fund) screen at Washington Jewish Film Festival. The Festival is also co-presenting related screenings of Dancing in Jaffa and Sukkah City at the Library of Congress. Also next month, Seattle Jewish Film Festival presents Sukkah City, Joe Papp in Five Acts (2000 Kroll Film Fund) , and Brave Miss World (2012 Kroll Film Fund).

Photo: Harry Bromley-Davenport; Art: Bart Woodstrup; The Sarajevo Haggadah: Published for Levenger Press by The Overlook Press, 2008Photo: Harry Bromley-Davenport; Art: Bart Woodstrup; The Sarajevo Haggadah: Published for Levenger Press by The Overlook Press, 2008

New Jewish Culture Network

The New Jewish Culture Network’s 2013-2014 music commission The Sarajevo Haggadah: Music of the Book by Merima Ključo, will have its world premiere at Yellow Barn in Putney, VT on March 20 and 22. Tour dates thereafter include stops in Dallas, Boston, San Francisco, DC, Toronto, Austin, and other cities. Click here for more information. and here for the trailer.

NJCN’s 2012-2013 commission The Yellow Ticket by Alicia Svigals continues to tour to notable venues such as the National Gallery of Art on March 2 in conjunction with the Washington Jewish Film Festival. Galeet Dardashti, a visiting scholar at New York University’s Taub Center for Israel Studies, continues to perform Monajat (NJCN 2010-2011), most recently last fall at Tulane University and Baruch College.

NJCN’s 2012-2013 commission The Yellow Ticket by Alicia Svigals continues to tour to notable venues such as the National Gallery of Art on March 2 in conjunction with the Washington Jewish Film Festival. Galeet Dardashti, a visiting scholar at New York University’s Taub Center for Israel Studies, continues to perform Monajat (NJCN 2010-2011), most recently last fall at Tulane University and Baruch College.

Still from multimedia artist Jonas Becker’s The Pile, at Shulamit Gallery in Venice, CA. (Jonas N.T. Becker/Shulamit Gallery)

Six Points Fellowship

Zol Zayn // What If?, an exhibition of video installations by Jonas Becker, are on view at Shulamit Gallery in Los Angeles through March 4. The show was written up by the Los Angeles Times.

On March 27 Alicia Jo Rabins performs with Girls in Trouble at Berkeley’s Jewish Music Festival and presents her one-woman show, A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff.

The Ecstatic Music Festival, curated by Judd Greenstein, continues through March 29 at Merkin Concert Hall in New York.

Congratulations to Jeremiah Lockwood on The Sway Machinery’s newest release Monsters of the Ancient World.

New work by Netta Yerushalmy at 92Y’s Harkness Dance Festival from March 7-9 in New York.

Baryshnikov Arts Center presents the New York premiere of Princess Crocodile on April 10 &11 by LeeSaar The Company, co-directed by Saar Harari.

Uriel Acosta

Uriel Acosta: I Want that Man! Graphics by Another Limited Rebellion

American Academy in Jerusalem

In his second season devoted to Yiddish theater, David Herskovits (AAJ 2011) directs Uriel Acosta: Doubt is the Food of Faith at the Chocolate Factory in New York from March 14 to April 5. Check out the article in the March 2014 issue of American Theatre magazine.

Reggie Wilson (AAJ 2010) presents Moses(es) at Columbia College in Chicago April 3-5.

Congratulations to Lynne Avadenka (AAJ 2011) on her recent appointment as Creative Director of Signal-Return Press. Her work will be included in the exhibition An Evening of Art and Science at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit in May 2014.

Spectrum Dance Theater, led by Donald Byrd (AAJ 2011), will present Rambunctious: A Festival of American Composers and Dance and feature the work of Jewish Cultural Achievement Award winner John Zorn from May 16-18.

Congratulations to David Karnovsky (AAJ 2011), formerly general counsel to the New York City Department of City Planning, who beginning next month will bring his deep experience and expertise in land use and zoning to Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP.

Dean Moss (AAJ 2013) will present johnbrown in Brooklyn as part of the BRIClab residency on March 14.

This month Susan Korda (AAJ 2013) screened her new film Salomea’s Nose at Berlinale Talents, part of the Berlin International Film Festival.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, an exhibition featuring work by Diane Samuels (AAJ 2013) is on view at UMass Dartmouth University Art Gallery through March 13.

Kenneth Bonert (Photoillustration Tablet Magazine; photo Richard Dubois and map David Rumsey Map Collection)

Goldberg Prize for Debut Fiction

No round up of FJC grantees would be complete without exciting developments in the careers of our writer grantees.

The 2013 Goldberg Prize for Debut Fiction goes to The Lion Seeker by Kenneth Bonert, a powerful novel about a hard-driving mother who toughens her son up to fight his way out of poverty in South Africa.

New books by previous winners of , now awarded each March at the National Jewish Book Awards, have just been released or are in the pipeline. These include Gary Shteyngart’s hilarious memoir Little Failure and Lara Vapnyar’s critically-acclaimed novel The Scent of Pine, both published last month.

Additionally two other recipients will be publishing new books this spring: Joanna Rakoff’s debut memoir, My Salinger Year, about a job which entailed answering fan mail sent to the infamously reclusive author, set against the backdrop of 1990s New York; and Anya Ulinich’s graphic novel, Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel, a nod to both Malamud’s elegiac story and an affecting look at the highs and lows (mostly lows) of contemporary dating. Ulinich, a visual artist as well as prize-winning author, has posted a number of illustrations from the forthcoming book.

The Batsheva Dance Company Celebrates 50 Years of Creativity in Israel and Abroad

February 25, 2014


The Batsheva Dance Company was created in Tel Aviv by the Baroness Batsheva de Rothschild back in 1964 with the legendary American choreographer, Martha Graham as artistic advisor. When Israeli-born Ohad Naharin (2008 FJC Jewish Cultural Achievement Award) became artistic director in 1990, his innovative and distinctive choreographic voice propelled the company into a new era. This year, Batsheva is celebrating its 50th anniversary, with a variety of activities that will take place around the world, embracing the company’s past and future. Also of note is the forthcoming documentary Mr. Gaga which received a 2013 grant from FJC’s Lynn and Jules Kroll Fund for Jewish Documentary Film.

In Israel:

• Groundbreaking ceremony of Batsheva’s future home at the old central bus station in Tel Aviv. April. 2014, TBA.
Batsheva Dance Company and Magasin 3 Museum from Stockholm are collaborating to create an arts campus at the old Central Bus Station of Tel Aviv. The campus will be a new center for the art of performance and the visual arts, embracing the widest diversity of artistic expression – a new world-class, multi-disciplinary cultural landmark in Tel Aviv. Architect: David Adjaye, Adjaye Associates, London.

• Launching Batsheva’s Archive, June 2014
On August 2012, and with the vision of the Company’s 50th anniversary in 2014, Batsheva announced the establishment of its Archive, with a mission to amass all possible materials from the Company’s 50 years of activity into a digitally accessible collection that will be available to the public at large and to the academic world. Government funding has been awarded the archive project, with the understanding that the materials are part of Israel’s national heritage. The two-year endeavor will be “open” to the public with a launching at the Dance Library of Israel on June 20th, 2014.

• “Batsheva Dance Company: Body, Dance, Culture”, June 18 – 19, 2014
An International Academic Conference, at the Faculty of the Arts, Tel Aviv University.
Citing a quote of the late Israeli dance critic, Giora Manor, that the Batsheva Dance Company is “the flagship of modern dance in Israel” Dr. Liora Malka Yellin of Tel Aviv University’s Multidisciplinary Program in the Arts is rallying dance scholars from around the world to the first academic conference dedicated to the study of Batsheva. Its main aim is to promote the study of the Company, its history, repertoire, and international influence over the past 50 years. Two leading dance scholars have been invited as keynote speakers at the conference: Professor Mark Franko from the USA and Professor Gabriele Brandstetter from Germany.

• Batsheva’s Jubilee Celebration, June 21, 2014 at The Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center. On that evening, generations of Batsheva dancers, friends and government dignitaries will gather at the beautiful Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center for a historic performance and gala.

Trip to Israel:

• BATSHEVA JUBILEE CELEBRATION IN ISRAEL, June 15 – 22nd, 2014. Come to Israel! Celebrate with friends! Batsheva is inviting Israeli culture lovers to visit Israel for a week-long immersion in the vibrant cultural life of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv that will take place from June 15 – 22nd, 2014. The tour will culminate in a week-end of celebrations honoring the fantastic lineage of dance makers who have made Batsheva one of the most beloved dance companies in the world. The program is tailor-made and offers a wonderful blend of travel and cultured adventure and fun. Participants will discover the arts as well as the special experience each city has to offer, through private guided tours, culinary exploration and stimulating conversations with Batsheva’s artistic director, Ohad Naharin, our Board members and fellow travelers.

For information and the itinerary, follow this link:

In the USA:

• USA Jubilee Tour, October 22 – November 22, 2014. Batsheva will return to the USA for a major tour of leading performing arts centers which have presented the company’s work for over a decade. The Company will hold a New York gala and other events in the major cities as part of the company’s desire to increase awareness and raise birthday gifts that will help insure the stability of the next 50 years. Tour dates will be announced by each venue in the May, 2014. The venues include: Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center, Los Angeles’ Royce Hall and UCLA, San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Dance Center, New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) and The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

In Europe:

• European Jubilee Celebration, Théâtre National de Chaillot, Paris, December 15 – 26, 2014. The prestigious Théâtre National de Chaillot will host the company for a celebratory residence, with two different programs over a two-week run. This will be an opportunity for the European arts community to celebrate Batsheva’s 50th anniversary.

Sholem Aleichem in Russia and Ukraine: A Message from Kroll Film Fund Grantee, Joseph Dorman

October 23, 2013

The film’s poster in Lviv, Ukraine

Dear Everyone,

As the key supporters of Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness, the people who made the film possible – I wanted to let you all know about a State Department sponsored trip with the film to Kyiv, Lviv and Moscow from which I just returned.  Former US Ambassador to Ukraine, John Tefft had seen and liked the film and in

vited me to be part of their ongoing program in public diplomacy and cultural exchange.

While I was excited to return with the film to Ukraine, where of course Sholem Aleichem lived, and to visit Russia, which, even during darkest Soviet times, continued to teach Sholem Aleichem in public school, I was unprepared for just how moving the trip would be. The depth of response from the Jewish and even non-Jewish communities in these three cities was somewhat overwhelming.   I know most of you have travelled there and met with members of the Jewish community so you’ll know to what I am referring.

I showed the film to film school and creative writing students in Kyiv and Moscow, to a Jewish congregation in Kyiv and in open screenings in all three cities. Afterward, in each location, I was besieged by young people, sometimes a half or a quarter Jewish with tales of lost Jewish roots in their families, of targeted murders and hidden Jewish identities, all of whom were now desperate to learn about and reclaim their Jewish identity and past and felt spurred on to do so even more so after seeing the film.

The yearning and interest was so palpable it has convinced me that I need to return to the Former Soviet Union again, both to read Sholem Aleichem stories with young and old alike, to take the film to other cities there, and to initiate the early stages of a new documentary film project focusing on the lost and recovered identities of these young people, a natural follow up of sorts to the Sholem Aleichem film.

Joseph Dorman presents his film, Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Dark in Moscow.

Joseph Dorman presents his film, Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Dark in Moscow.

So thanks again to you all for helping me to make the film possible. Meanwhile, we’re in the midst of completing a series of lesson plans around the film to get it to high school students across the country. It already has had a strong university-based distribution which continues to grow. While our strong success in theaters (and soon to be streaming on Netflix!) is gratifying, I want you all to know that I’m working to give the film a lasting legacy, made possible by your generosity.


Joe Dorman

Comments from Tom Freudenheim

September 18, 2013

The Foundation has done extraordinary things, but a reality check is in order to understand that organizations which can’t be funded may have to face that fact.  Under Elise Bernhardt’s direction we got out of our deficit situation, yet even with the enthusiastic support of the artistic community we never were able to sustain and really fund an organization – as distinct from programs, which are (and may well remain) fundable.  Remember that the Federations used to pick up the lion’s share of the bill, and that’s simply no longer the case.

But let’s not wring our hands.  Jewish culture lives!  That’s not in question.  It’s kind of sad that Jewish culture has to live in spite of, rather than because of, the support of the organized Jewish community.  Nevertheless, reality checks are important.

I do, in fact, still believe that, given our amazing track record, we should declare victory and call it a day.  Spending more money to manage cultural activities than can be spent supporting creative people is unconscionable.  And in my opinion it’s very much to the credit of Elise and the FJC board that they have come to that conclusion as well.

Launching the 2013-14 Commission and Tour of The Sarajevo Haggadah

August 19, 2013
Accordionist Merima Ključo, composer of the 2013-14 NJCN commission and tour, The Sarajevo Haggadah (Credit: Ziyah Gafić)

Accordionist Merima Ključo, composer of the 2013-14 NJCN commission and tour, The Sarajevo Haggadah (Credit: Ziyah Gafić)

The FJC is proud to announce that its 2013-2014 New Jewish Culture Network music commission is The Sarajevo Haggadah: Music of the Book.  Composed by Bosnian-born, Los Angeles-based accordionist Merima Ključo, The Sarajevo Haggadah: Music of the Book traces the incredible journey of one of Jewish culture’s most treasured manuscripts.

Artist Ruah Edelstein’s video animation and shadow projections enhance The Sarajevo Haggadah’s story.

Artist Ruah Edelstein’s video animation and shadow projections enhance The Sarajevo Haggadah’s story.

Ključo is collaborating with animator and visual artist Ruah Edelstein to create a multimedia project exploring the Sarajevo Haggadah as a symbol of diaspora and displacement.

The book was smuggled from Spain during the Inquisition, hidden from Nazis during WWII by a Muslim librarian, saved from the ravages of the 1992 Bosnian War, before eventually being restored to the National Museum in Sarajevo. Ključo’s commission uses the Sephardic traditions of Spain, Italy, Austria, and Bosnia-Herzegovina and also draws inspiration from Geraldine Brooks’s historical novel, The People of the Book.

Pianist Seth Knopp, founding member of the Naumburg Award-winning Peabody Trio.

Pianist Seth Knopp, founding member of the Naumburg Award-winning Peabody Trio.

The Sarajevo Haggadah: Music of the Book performance was commissioned by the Foundation for Jewish Culture’s New Jewish Culture Network, a league of North American performing arts presenters committed to the creation and touring of innovative projects, and developed in residence at The Yellow Barn. The Yellow Barn will host a work-in-progress presentation at Sandglass Theater in Putney, VT on October 24 and 26, 2013.

Alongside Ključo and Ruah Edelstein, The Sarajevo Haggadah: Music of the Book’s artistic team includes pianist Seth Knopp, founding member of the Naumburg Award-winning Peabody Trio, and dramaturg Derek Goldman, an award-winning stage director, playwright, and scholar.

* * *

The 2014 tour will include the following stops, along with artist-in-residency workshops, talks, panel discussions, and other public programs to be announced:

The New Jewish Culture Network is the Foundation for Jewish Culture’s pipeline for contemporary performing arts that explore the Jewish experience. NJCN is a collaborative commissioning and touring program represented by a select league of performing arts presenters, both Jewish and general. Music composition is a priority for the first several commissions. Past commissions recipients include Alicia Svigals for The Yellow Ticket (2012) and Galeet Dardasthi for Monajat (2011). The 2013-14 commission and tour has received major support from the Howard and Geraldine Polinger Family Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Anne Abramson Foundation and other donors.

Summer Roundup: FJC Grantees on the Go

July 24, 2013
Mierle Laderman Ukeles shakes hands with workers of the New York City Department of Sanitation. (Courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York)

Mierle Laderman Ukeles with workers of the New York City Department of Sanitation. (Courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York)

This summer brings news about several FJC grantees we wanted to share:

Artist and former JCAA recipient Mierle Laderman Ukeles, who has been the the artist-in-residence at the New York Department of Sanitation since 1977 (and the only artist to hold that position), makes art about process, tedium, and survival. Ukeles, whose work is the subject of three shows this summer, is the subject of a fascinating profile over at Tablet Magazine. It notes that while her large-scale performance and installation projects – which can take five to 10 years of planning – sometimes cause her to fall out of the public eye, “her performances from the late seventies that explore the exploitation of sanitation workers have struck a chord with younger curators interested, perhaps, in the parallels between the 1970s economy and today’s.”


Jason Hutt's new documentary, Sukkah City, covers the 2010 architectural competition in NYC's Union Square.

Jason Hutt’s new documentary, Sukkah City, covers the 2010 architectural competition in NYC’s Union Square.

Sukkah City, the documentary film that follows a groundbreaking 2010 sukkah design competition in New York City, sold out its world premiere at the Jerusalem International Film Festival  on July 9 and 10. The film was a winner of a Lynn and Jules Kroll Film Fund grant. Filmmaker Jason Hutt, who also directed the FJC-supported documentary Orthodox Stance, documented the 2010 competition from its inception through its selection process.

The film’s Jerusalem premiere garnered glowing coverage in The Times of Israel, Ha’aretz (subscription required), as well as the Atlantic Monthly online, which quoted director Jason Hutt, who said he went into the film understanding this was a unique moment for his city: “I’d guess that Sukkah City was probably the largest non-Orthodox, non-Israel centered public expression of Jewish life in the history of New York.”



Corrie Siegel's "L.A. #25" Siegel will be one of four artists featured in the "Borderlands" exhibit opening in LA next month.

Corrie Siegel’s “L.A. #25″ Siegel will be one of four artists featured in the “Borderlands” exhibit opening in LA next month.

Corrie Siegel, an artist, curator and educator, and also one of the L.A. Six Points Fellowship grant recipients,  will be part of a new exhibition called Borderlands, running from August 17 through September 20, 2013 at the Actual Size gallery in Los Angeles.

This group exhibition will feature works by Siegel, as well as artists Rona Yefman, Daniel Kiczales, and Tanja Schlander. Using Israel as a focus, the works will explore the complex interaction between multiculturalism, nationality and politics as well as how they affect the individual. The goal of this exhibition is to expose Los Angeles to a talented group of international artists and create a nuanced space for dialogue about the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict.

The E-News will feature an in-depth profile of Corrie Siegel and a further look at the LA Six Points Fellowship program next month.

FJC Docs Heat Up Summer Film Festivals – and Capitol Hill!

July 10, 2013
Brave Miss World was featured at Washington DC's prestigious AFI Docs festival last month.

Brave Miss World was featured at Washington DC’s prestigious AFI Docs festival last month.

In 1998, when she was eighteen, Israeli model Linor Abargil was raped at knifepoint. Just two months later she entered and won the Miss World competition. If this combination sounds improbable, then you only need to meet Abargil.

A decade after her ordeal she decided to journey around the world speaking to other victims of rape and sexual abuse, including celebrities like Fran Drescher and Joan Collins. It’s this five year journey that’s the subject of Brave Miss World, winner of the foundation’s 2012 Kroll Film Fund grant.

Brave Miss World follows in the tradition of award-winning, Foundation-supported documentaries that tackle urgent social issues. Moreover, as with several award-winning FJC documentaries – Crime After Crime and Budrus, for example – the team behind this film has become deeply involved with its subject’s cause. In this case, it’s Abargil’s fight to raise consciousness about violence against women.

“What was so compelling about Linor was her determination to keep speaking out and fighting for justice on behalf of other women no matter how hard it was on her,” the film’s director and producer Cecilia Peck (daughter of Gregory Peck) recently told The Daily Beast.

In June, that fight went to Washington, D.C., where Linor Abargil was invited to meet with Lynn Rosenthal, the White House Adviser on Violence Against Women. Both Abargil and Peck were on hand for a screening of Brave Miss World at the prestigious the American Film Institute’s AFI Docs festival. The film was also screened on Capitol Hill thanks to the efforts of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren.

Building on a decade-long mission to speak out against rape and overly-lenient sentencing laws, Abargil hopes to use the film as part of an educational screening series about rape prevention on college campuses.

Linor Abargil, the subject of Brave Miss World.

Linor Abargil, the subject of Brave Miss World.

Furthermore, Brave Miss World isn’t the only Foundation film which tackles the thorny subject of violence against women. Released in 2011 to wide acclaim, Crime after Crime tells the dramatic story of the legal battle to free Debbie Peagler, an incarcerated survivor of domestic violence. Peagler was wrongly convicted of the murder of her abusive boyfriend, and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

The team behind that film is conducting a nationwide social impact campaign (Free from Abuse) to allow victims of domestic violence charged with fighting back against their persecutors to present evidence of abuse in court and  reveal the true nature of the circumstances surrounding the charges against them. Meanwhile, the film’s protagonist Joshua Safran, an attorney who has worked pro bono on Peagler’s case, will be publishing a memoir this September about the unconventional upbringing that helped him on the road to social justice.

 *          *          *

Audiences on both coasts will have a chance to see some of our most acclaimed documentaries at film festivals this summer!

Four documentaries supported by the Foundation’s Kroll Film Fun will be featured at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival later this month and into early August.

Brave Miss World will show on July 31 and August 4. Dancing in Jaffa, a look at ballroom dancing classes with both Israeli and Palestinian children, will show on July 26, and August 2, 6 and 10. Joe Papp in Five Acts is a loving look at the man behind New York’s illustrious Public Theater. It runs July 27, August 3 and 7. Finally, Sukkah City, which features some of the most imaginative designs from a 2010 sukkah-building competition in New York, will be showing July 30, August 4 and 5.

Meanwhile, the documentary Numbered, a look at the relationship between Holocaust survivors and their camp tattoos, will be shown at the Hamptons Synagogue in Westhampton, NY, at their Jewish Film Festival, on Tuesday, July 16. (The movie was prominently featured on the homepage of the New York Times last year). And Inventing Our Life, focusing on the century-long history of the kibbutz movement in Israel, will be featured on Monday, August 26.


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