Champagne class of 2013 Jewish matriculants
SA Jewish day schools have become a shining light on the matric firmament, with a 100% pass rate now accepted as a given. This is the result of back-breaking hard work put in by learners over 12 years; excellent dedication & pride of a well-qualified teaching staff & parents who passionately believe in knowledge & without whose support the children could not excel to this degree.
JEWISH REPORT TEAM
The crop of 2013 Jewish matriculants did it again! Every year when one thinks: The next class will never be able to equal these results, they do so – or even improve on them.
Wits Vice-Chancellor Professor Adam Habib awarded R50,000 a year bursaries to ten pupils whom he said had all shown exceptional academic ability. “These learners are the crème de la crème of the matric class of 2014, and we will be proudly welcoming them to the university and encouraging their academic progress over the next few years.”
Two of the ten came from King David, Shannon Rabinowitz and Ricky Smith (pictured above), will both study for a Bachelor of Science degree.
South African Jewish day schools have become a shining light on the matric firmament, with a 100 per cent pass rate now (unfortunately) accepted as a given. To a degree that tends to take away from the back-breaking hard work put in by the learners over 12 years; the excellent dedication and pride of a well-qualified teaching staff; and parents who passionately believe in knowledge and without whose support the children would not have been able to excel to this degree.
Jews truly remain the “people of the book”. We salute this unbeatable tripartite who again made our community proud.
At the same time we salute those hard workers – maybe not multiple distinction material – who through perseverance and support can look back, knowing they have done a good job to the best of their ability.
Exclusively focusing on the top achievers alas paints a somewhat one-dimensional picture.
King David Linksfield in 2013 again had an exceptional year – in terms of the matric results, maybe the most successful ever.
Once again the school achieved a 100 per cent pass rate and every one of the 127 candidates who wrote qualified with a university exemption – the first year that this has happened.
The school achieved an impressive total of 380 distinctions and for the seventh consecutive year the aggregate improved, including the achievements of the significant number of pupils on the Education Support programme.
Also showing a distinct improvement on previous years is the 44 per cent of candidates who achieved at least three distinctions and the 72 per cent who achieved at least one distinction.
Shannon Rabinowitz’s 10 distinctions is an extraordinary triumph and Yakira Amoils, Zack Nudelman, Ricky Smith and Sinead Urisohn, each with nine, is almost as remarkable. Then there are the host of learners who achieved, eight, seven, six distinctions…
Academic matric achievements are, however, not an end in themselves, headmaster Marc Falconer stressed, but indicate the determination and drive of pupils, the expertise and dedication of an experienced and committed staff and the support and encouragement of involved and caring parents and the smooth and professional examination IEB.
King David Victory Park’s 99 matriculants achieved 272 distinctions in the IEB examinations. This means that over 30 per cent of the group achieved five or more As. All KDVP matriculants improved the marks they achieved in their preliminary examinations, headmaster Gavin Budd pointed out.
“Our students have certainly done their school and families proud. In fact, 2013’s grade12 group typifies what we at KDVP aspire to produce: well-rounded menschen who have discovered and actualised their individual talents and passions and achieved excellence and success.
“My thanks to the academic staff for their excellent preparation of our students and for creating a caring and stimulating learning environment in which each student felt nurtured as an individual and inspired to achieve their best. A final thank you to our parents for their unwavering support for their children.”
Herzlia High School in Cape Town again lived up to its enviable reputation as a school of excellence. Marianne Marks, principal of Herzlia, writes that they are “basking in the glory of another year of outstanding matric results”, with another 100 per cent pass rate.
“For an academically inclusive school this is an amazing achievement of which we are justifiably proud and which is the result of pupils and teachers working very hard together, as a team.
“In addition we can also boast 112 pupils out of 115 with a ‘Pass Bachelors’ (97,4 per cent of the year group); 340 subject distinctions; 80 per cent of pupils achieving one or more distinctions; and two pupils, Hannah Delit and Kezia Varkel, achieving an amazing 100 per cent for economics!”
Saul Bloch scored an unbelievable 10 out of 10; Tamsin Kantor and Joshua Stein got nine out of nine; eight out of eight was achieved by Cleo Candy and Jamie Froman; seven out of eight for Gary Finkelstein, Tao Klitzner and Kezia Varkel; and Richard Harrisberg and Georgia Saacks obtained an excellent seven out of seven.
Crawford College’s matric class of 2013 did it again! The 641 matriculants did the school proud.
Once again, Crawford College Sandton was awarded the accolade of the Top Independent School in the NSC by the Gauteng Department of Education. Crawford College Lonehill was placed second and Crawford College Pretoria third.
All the candidates from Crawford College La Lucia and Crawford College Sandton achieved 100 per cent Bachelors Degree passes.
“Special mention must be made of Stephen Slabbert from Crawford College Pretoria who achieved 11 distinctions (the most in the group this year). Six Crawford matriculants got 10 distinctions.
Yeshiva College again lived up to its motto as “distinctions from a school of distinctions” with a 100 per cent pass rate, with an average of three distinctions per learner.
The four top matriculants at Yeshiva College were: Gila Glazerson, Yaffa Abadi, Kayla Rabson and Yonatan Kohaly. In addition, many of the matric learners achieved distinctions in their “Torah” subjects.
“The hard work of our teachers and pupils are reflected in not only this year’s results, but in the consistent achievements of Yeshiva over time. In the last three years Yeshiva College has enjoyed a 100 per cent pass rate, over 88 per cent university passes, and eight- distinction achievers in every year.
“Together with Torah subjects, these learners often achieve 12 distinctions each – a full house indeed,” says headmaster Denese Bloch.
Torah Academy Boys’ and Girls’ High Schools also excelled. Dean of Torah Academy, Rabbi Dovid Hazdan, stated: “Torah Academy is once again delighted at our exceptional results. We congratulate our matrics on their achievements and for realising their individual potential. We are proud of the multiple achievements as we are of each and every student for meeting the challenge of matric with confidence and strength.
“We are grateful to our exceptional educators who worked tirelessly to make each individual student shine and thank our principals Rebecca Sarchi and Rabbi Motti Hadar for their leadership, commitment and passion.”
“We are particularly proud of the results in view of Torah Academy’s vision of a bigger picture of success. The preparation for matric is a particular ingredient in a broader pursuit of excellence in education.
The learners have, simultaneously with their academic subjects, been afforded in-depth studies in Talmud, Chumash, Jewish law and philosophy.
“This wholesome achievement will always be a springboard to growth and success in life.”
Torah Academy Boys’ High saw Menachem Rose, son of Rabbi Aharon and Mashi Rose, notch up second place in Gauteng in the independent schools’ NSC exams. He received eight distinctions.
The school maintained its unbroken record of a 100 per cent pass rate, which prompted Rebecca Sarchi, principal of TA Girls’ High School, to remark that the school was “ecstatic”, but added that she believed the results were part of a bigger picture as the learners had accomplished “so much more”.
Hirsch Lyons Boys and Girls High Schools may be smaller in numbers, but this did not detract from the school’s excellent results.
“Our 12 matric students achieved 43 distinctions and 23 B symbols in the IEB matric examinations,” said principal, Rabbi Steven Krawitz. Two of the learners achieved seven distinctions each, and three six distinctions each.
As in previous years, all the learners obtained university exemption.
Teen vaccinate, or not teen vaccinate? Not a question, say doctors
As the news broke that South Africa would allow children aged 12 and up to get vaccinated with a first Pfizer shot, some parents were thrilled but others expressed fear, uncertainty, even anger.
“As the daughter of a polio survivor and the mother of an asthmatic child, I feel strongly that we need to get vaccinated, not just for ourselves, but for others,” says Vanessa Levenstein, a copywriter at Fine Music Radio in Cape Town. “My son, Sammy, is 14 and my daughter, Safra, is 17, and this past Shabbat, we all said how grateful we were that the vaccine was now available to them. I feel we are privileged to have it.”
Her husband, Jonathan Musikanth, an attorney, agrees. “We look forward to giving our children some sort of normality again,” he says. Levenstein adds, “We’re living in a society with huge social inequalities: someone living in a crowded Manenberg flat cannot self-isolate if they get infected. The only way to stop the spread is through the vaccine roll-out. ‘If I’m not for myself, who will be for me? And being only for myself, what am I?’ The words of Hillel still ring true.’”
The SA Jewish Report asked parents on Facebook what they thought, and a mother responded, “The judgement and anger towards people who don’t want to be vaccinated is extreme and frightening.” For this reason, she asked to be quoted anonymously.
“My children are healthy and have been exposed to COVID-19 and didn’t have any symptoms,” she said. “I don’t feel that I need to vaccinate them against something that I feel isn’t dangerous to them. They didn’t have any symptoms, so I don’t feel I need to protect them from dying. The fact is that nobody in the world knows the long-term effects of this vaccine. I’m not willing to risk it.
“It’s all well and good saying we should do it for herd immunity, but I won’t allow my children to get vaccinated to protect others when they don’t need the protection themselves,” she said. “Also, I don’t feel that 12 year olds are old enough to make a decision about this. My kids would agree.”
Asked how she felt about her children navigating a post-COVID-19 world unvaccinated, she said it was “a huge concern”.
“I’m concerned that their freedom will be taken away because of this. However, is that a good enough reason to go against what I wholeheartedly believe to be the truth about the vaccine?” she asked. “I don’t believe that by not vaccinating kids, I’m putting anyone else’s life in danger.”
Johannesburg pulmonologist and parent Dr Anton Meyberg told the SA Jewish Report, “This is definitely a scary and emotive time in our lives as parents. It’s one thing to vaccinate ourselves, the adults, but now we are being asked to trust science with our own children. Whereas we know that children definitely don’t get as sick as adults, they definitely can still get sick [from COVID-19]. And some get severe multisystem inflammatory syndrome while others can suffer from ‘long COVID’.
“There are so many myths and misconceptions about vaccination and they need to be dispelled,” he says. “As a doctor on the frontline, it’s a ‘no brainer’ to me that my daughter and children over the age of 12 should be vaccinated. As parents, we have the responsibility of safekeeping and caring for our children, and vaccinating them allows us to do this. No doubt by vaccinating our teens, we’re protecting their parents and grandparents, but we’re also making sure that schools can remain open and our children can lead almost normal lives.
“The most documented side effect in children after the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, mainly in boys 16 to 30 years of age, is myocarditis [inflammation of the heart muscle],” Meyberg says. “Males aged 12 to 17 are more likely to develop myocarditis within three months of catching COVID-19 at a rate of 450 per million infections. This compares with 67 per million after the vaccine. The condition is self-limiting and easily treatable, and it’s crucial to avoid exercise for up to a week post vaccination in order to decrease the chances of its occurrence. Widespread vaccination is a critical tool to help stop this pandemic. The question shouldn’t be if you’ll vaccinate, but rather when.”
Jeffrey Dorfman, associate professor in medical virology at Stellenbosch University, says “the arguments for vaccinating children are very strong in countries such as South Africa and the United States where there’s still a lot of COVID-19 transmission and the potential for more waves. Children may be at lower risk of severe COVID-19 disease than adults, but not zero. In the United States, more than 63 000 children have been hospitalised since August 2020, and more than 500 have died. More than 4 000 have been diagnosed with multisystem inflammatory syndrome, which is dangerous.
“Additionally, the vaccines in use prevent many COVID-19 infections – not 100%, as we all know about breakthrough infections, but even for the Delta variant, vaccination prevents about 70% of infections based upon current studies,” he says. “That’s enough to matter to the people around children who are vaccinated, and may be enough to stop or reduce school outbreaks. Vaccination will certainly reduce the risk of a child bringing a COVID-19 infection home to vulnerable adults. It’s certainly not unheard of for children to bring an infection home from school resulting in the death of a caregiver, and this is tragic and preventable.
“Additionally, I know of cases of children who were asymptomatically infected and had to move away from vulnerable grandparents,” he says. “It was scary for the people involved. The children had no symptoms and were tested only because they had a COVID-19 positive contact. Were the contact not known, they would have continued to live with the grandparents, who would have been at risk. Even children who have had COVID-19 can have it again, and a large study from Kentucky in the United States shows that vaccination further reduces the risk of COVID-19 re-infection. We aren’t going to get on top of COVID-19 unless we use the tools at our disposal. As a society, we can’t afford serious lockdowns and have to use less disruptive tools. Vaccines should be high on everyone’s list.”
A third mother expressed mixed feelings about vaccinating her teenage sons. However, after reading a letter by Johannesburg family physician Dr Sheri Fanaroff, she has decided to go ahead with it. In the letter, Fanaroff laid out all the questions and concerns to show that “the risk of getting COVID-19 infection far outweighs the risk of vaccination in teenagers. I can say without hesitation that I will be relieved to have my own teenagers at the front of the queue to get vaccinated this week so that they can return to a more normal lifestyle.”
She explained amongst other points that “vaccination reduces the risk of teenagers dying: the virus was the fourth leading cause of death for those aged 15 to 24 and the sixth leading cause for those aged five to 14”.
Fanaroff also explained that “vaccination reduces the risk of severe infections, hospitalisation, and the need for oxygen and intensive care in teenagers. Recent figures from the US show that the hospitalisation rate among unvaccinated adolescents was ten times higher than that among fully vaccinated adolescents.
“There’s no biological reason or proof that a COVID-19 vaccine can interfere with the progression of puberty. There’s also no biological mechanism whereby hormones associated with puberty can have an impact on immune responses to COVID-19 vaccines. There’s no evidence that the vaccine has any impact on fertility.”
During the health department briefing on Friday, 15 October, acting Director General of Health Dr Nicholas Crisp stated that based on the Children’s Act that allows children aged 12 to 17 to consent to medical treatment, children in this age group don’t require their parents’ consent to have a COVID-19 vaccine. Teens can register and consent to being vaccinated without permission.
SA warmly welcomes Palestinian foreign minister
Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Dr Naledi Pandor, warmly welcomed the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the State of Palestine Dr Riad Malki to South Africa last week – hospitality certainly not offered to Israelis.
Malki was in the country from 7 to 9 October, and was hosted by Pandor on 8 October for bilateral talks, according to a media statement made by department of international relations and cooperation spokesperson Clayson Monyela.
In reiterating their commitment to each other’s causes, “both sides agreed to exert joint efforts aimed at reversing the decision to admit Israel as an observer member to the African Union”, according to a joint post-talks communiqué. The ministers also agreed to a planned a state visit in which South Africa would host Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
South Africa is also going to host a conference for Palestinian heads of missions in Africa this year to deliberate Palestine’s policy towards Africa.
“South Africa attaches great importance to its relationship with Palestine, which is underpinned by historic bonds of solidarity, friendship, and co-operation. South Africa’s support for the Palestinian cause conforms with the basic tenets of its foreign policy,” Monyela said.
“The international community has an obligation to find a comprehensive and just resolution to the Palestinian issue,” he said. “South Africa calls for international support and increased efforts for the just cause of the Palestinian people to address their legitimate demand for an independent state alongside a peaceful state of Israel. The visit aims to further strengthen the relationship between South Africa and Palestine.”
In their joint communiqué, the ministers “expressed their satisfaction with the cordial relations that exist between the two countries, which is to be further augmented by Abbas’s visit and the Palestinian leaders’ conference to be held in Cape Town in November this year”.
The South African government committed its support for initiatives that would refocus the international agenda on Palestine and the Middle East peace process. South Africa reiterated its support for a two-state solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
The two ministers agreed that “they would continue to work to achieve peace for the Palestinian people”, and “in the absence of sustainable peace in the region, there could be no global peace, stability, and economic prosperity”.
In their communiqué, the ministers insisted that “security and stability in the Middle East is being undermined by continued occupation of Palestinian territories and the aggressive actions of the Israeli regime”. Having said that, they called on the international community to “further strengthen their support for the return of all parties to the negotiation table without pre-conditions”.
They agreed to “exert joint efforts aimed at reversing the decision to admit Israel as an observer member to the African Union”. They also expressed support for “the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action” which they say “remains a clarion call for anti-racism advocacy and action worldwide”.
The Durban Declaration was the document that emerged out of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, also known as the infamous “Durban Conference” held in South Africa in 2001.
According to the Embassy of the State of Palestine in South Africa Facebook page, Malki also met with a group of African National Congress leaders in Pretoria, and Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) groups Africa4Palestine, Palestinian Solidarity Alliance, and the South African BDS Coalition, amongst other meetings.
Local political analyst Steven Gruzd says the visit shows that South Africa’s support for the Palestinians “continues to be vocal and loyal. The hot issue, however, is the granting of Israel’s observer status at the African Union. The two pledged to work together to overturn it. Relations with Israel will remain tense. There has been no change from South Africa towards the [Naftali] Bennett government.”
He says the visit “reinforces ties [with the Palestinians] and puts South Africa squarely in the Palestinian camp. It has shed all pretensions of being an ‘honest broker’ in this conflict, and for a long time, has chosen sides. The key thing to watch is what happens at the African Union. Israel has its fair share of African opponents, but also many African friends. Will they stick their necks out for Israel? We will see. South Africa has been lobbying against the [observer status] decision, and has influenced southern African states to oppose it.”
Gruzd maintains there’s “virtually no chance” of Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid being invited for a similar visit. “Relations remain tense, and South Africa won’t be seen to reward Israel for its policies and practices,” he said.
Wendy Kahn, the national director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), says, “The SAJBD believes that for South Africa to play a meaningful role towards a peaceful outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian situation, it would need to engage with both Israelis and Palestinians. Without speaking to the Israeli leadership, it’s not possible to truly understand the situation and to gain trust in order to bring the parties to the negotiating table.
“The dogged campaign by South Africa to exclude Israel from the African Union is antithetical to our international-relations policies of conflict resolution through negotiation and talking,” she says. “This action only seeks to push peace building and the attainment of a sustainable two-state solution even further away.”
“The South African Zionist Federation [SAZF] has noted the comments of Minister Pandor and Palestinian Minister Malki. It seems the entire focus of the engagement was to undermine Israel’s admission as an observer to the African Union,” says SAZF National Chairperson Rowan Polovin. “We believe this is a foolhardy and hypocritical approach to international relations.
“Israel has had a mutually beneficial relationship with African states for more than 70 years. It has been at the forefront of efforts to help solve some of the most important developmental challenges on our continent, including in the areas of health, agriculture, youth development, water, education, and energy,” Polovin says.
“The admission of Israel as an observer to the AU, alongside more than 70 other countries, is a historic and welcome development. The South African government remains out of step with the rest of the continent who are moving swiftly ahead with relations with Israel,” he says.
“The new Israeli government’s prime minister and foreign minister have been warmly welcomed in the major capitals of Europe, the United States, Africa, and the Arab world. It’s not Israel, but South Africa, that’s the odd one out. We would encourage the South African government to take the opportunity to reach out to Israel to engage for the mutual benefit of both nations and as a means of making a positive, proactive contribution to finding further peace in the region.”
Unterhalter’s bid for Concourt thwarted again
It was a case of action replay for esteemed Judge David Unterhalter this week at the re-run of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) Constitutional Court judge interviews. The internationally renowned lawyer was yet again grilled about his brief charitable association with the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) during the pandemic.
Never mind his years of pro bono work, mentorship, and dedication to academia, as well as his global expertise gleaned from serving on the World Trade Organisation’s Appellate Body, it appeared to many commentators that his gender, race, and possibly even his faith stood firmly in his way of being included on a shortlist for possible appointments to the apex court.
He was again excluded from the latest JSC shortlist for two vacancies.
The JSC was forced to re-run its highly controversial and heavily politicised April 2021 Constitutional Court interview process after the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) challenged its lawfulness in the High Court.
Casac accused several members of the JSC, including Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema, of “political grandstanding”, and argued that “party political considerations and political agendas should play no role in the JSC’s decisions and processes”.
During the first round of interviews, Unterhalter was interrogated about his association with the SAJBD after his candidacy was vehemently opposed by the South African Boycott Divestment Sanctions Coalition and the Black Lawyers Association.
Unterhalter briefly assisted the SAJBD with the upliftment and welfare of the Jewish and broader community during the direst phase of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. He resigned from the SAJBD because he recognised that it sometimes litigates in the Constitutional Court which might cause conflicts.
The issue was raised yet again this week. JSC commissioner Advocate Thandazani Griffiths Madonsela, one of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s candidates on the JSC, rehashed the now stale objections to his candidacy and persistently probed him about his time at the Board.
The Board criticised the JSC interview process describing it as “Groundhog Day for the Jewish community”.
“Once again, a Jewish candidate for the Constitutional Court, Judge Unterhalter, was targeted for his association with the democratically elected representative body of the Jewish community,” it said in a statement, adding “Once again, bias was evident.”
The Board maintained, “In a series of four questions, Commissioner Madonsela’s political agenda was distinctly evident, particularly his comment, ‘It seems to me that the fundamental premise of the objection is the assertion that the SAJBD is a body that is pro-Zionist and that is in fact bullying all their people and organisations who are objecting to the Israeli establishment in the Palestine region’.”
Unterhalter denied this, saying, “Members of the Jewish community in this country, as in many other countries, hold a very wide variety of views about Zionism and the state of Israel. That’s why people who are Zionists subscribe to organisations that bear that name and seek to pursue that particular political agenda.
“The Jewish Board of Deputies is a body that existed long before the state of Israel was ever created, and has its roots in the 19th century in this country, where it’s simply founded to look after the interests of a particular community, in this instance the Jewish community, and largely to take care of its welfare as many community organisations representing many different parts of our society do,” said the esteemed judge.
Unterhalter said that it was on this premise that during the COVID-19 pandemic, when there were “peculiarly large demands” placed on the welfare not just of the Jewish community but also in respect of its charitable work with other communities, he accepted a position on the Board thinking that it could be of some service to the community and the work it did.
The SAJBD said the depiction of the Board as a “bullying” organisation was “a baseless and highly offensive smear against an organisation whose mandate is to protect South African Jews’ civil rights”.
“If anyone should be accused of bullying, it’s Commissioner Madonsela, whose factually inaccurate, prejudicial, and irresponsible assertions have no place in an interview to assess judicial competence. The SAJBD objects strenuously to this vile characterisation of our organisation.”
It said it found it “indefensible” that a person’s association with a body that protects Jews’ human rights in South Africa could preclude them from public office.
Advocate Mark Oppenheimer said the question from Madonsela about Unterhalter’s affiliation with the SAJBD “showed an extreme prejudice against the Jewish community”.
“It tries to insinuate strongly that Zionism is an unconstitutional project, and that it’s a sinister belief system and anything even adjacent to it taints one so thoroughly, that one cannot sit as a judge on the Constitutional Court. I think that borders on a blood libel, and the question should have been interrupted by the chair.
“It’s clear that that series of questions which were there during the first series of interviews were inappropriate, and it’s also clear from the Judicial Services Act that judges have every right to participate in charitable work which Judge Unterhalter was doing when he was at the SAJBD.”
Oppenheimer said many of the other questions faced by Unterhalter were pertinent, addressing his career.
“Anyone watching the interviews would be awed at the breadth of the work that he has done,” he said.
Casac’s Lawson Naidoo told News24 that it was crucial that the JSC explained its reasons for excluding Unterhalter and Advocate Alan Dodson.
There are currently no white judges on the Bench.
Their exclusion from the shortlist has raised eyebrows in the legal fraternity over whether the JSC is taking seriously its responsibilities in terms of Section 174(2) of the Constitution, which says that the judiciary must broadly reflect the demographics of South Africa in terms of race and gender.
Said Oppenheimer, “There’s an impression that has been created by the JSC that your race, gender, and possibly your faith can be factors which can permanently exclude you from the Court. It would be a pity to exclude eligible Jews from the apex court, given the fact that they have played such an important role, which should not be forgotten.”
Unterhalter and Dodson, both internationally renowned legal minds, were pressed about their race and gender.
After a full day of interviews and deliberations, the JSC reaffirmed its April 2021 shortlist, producing exactly the same list as it had done before.
The list of candidates on the shortlist include Constitutional Court Justice Rammaka Mathopo, former Free State Judge President Mahube Molemela, and High Court Judges Jody Kollapen, Fayeeza Kathree-Setiloane, and Bashier Vally. Their names will be forwarded to President Ramaphosa to select two to fill vacancies.
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