Oct 24, 2013

The yearbook that became a stumbling block

I need your help understanding what could possibly be wrong with a yearbook, assuming the content is "kosher".

for some background - the girls in the senior class had started to work on preparing a yearbook. The principal told them they must do it through her supervision. When they decided she was being too overbearing on them, so they decided to stop. The girls went to a local rav, one of the very big names in town, and asked if they can continue on their own or not. His answer was that after the school year would be over they can print it then, and without the schools name on it. So that is what they did.

We received the following letter yesterday from the school my daughter used to attend, until she graduated Translation after the letter).



The letter says:
Valued Student,
I was saddened - and I was shocked to hear that you published a yearbook.
It pains me greatly to write this letter, especially because I valued and I continue to value each one of you so much. As was said to you then - Rav Gans shlit"a decided that it is prohibited for you to print the book even on your own - even without mentioning the name of the school.
The girls who were responsible for printing the yearbook - bear a very serious responsibility, also for the damage done, and also for causing others to stumble.
This incident is so harmful that I am unable to forgive you over it. This si a sentence that I have never before said - in all the years of the school.
I will be able to forgive you if all the books will be given to me, along with a promise that no additional books will be printed. Alternatively, each girl individually can personally give her copy to me - and, with God's help, I will personally forgive her.
I hope that we will be able to continue forward, to get past this obstacle - and to continue with good relations and amazing memories that we have of you from during your years in the school.
With blessings,
signed
The girls asked a rav now whether this is something they should be concerned about and whether this obligates them in any way, and he told them that they should ignore it, they do not need to turn in their yearbooks.

This letter raises so many questions, not the least being about the state of mind of the principal of the school. Does a psak that she asked obligate the students, especially when they are no longer part of the school? What is so bad about a yearbook, which is basically a compilation of memories, that it is called an obstacle? What is so bad that it demands her saying she will never forgive them for it? Do they even need her forgiveness? Can she only have good memories if the yearbooks are turned in - but if not, all four years as students are now tainted as bad?


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45 comments:

  1. I would respond, if at all, that if the principal can say what sin the girls committed against her (which is the only type about which it is relevant to talk about the principal forgiving anyone), then you can begin to think about it. Otherwise, she's just talking nonsense. (Maybe put the last part a bit more diplomatically.

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  2. OH MY FREAKING LORD. At least she gets to share the same roof in misery with one of the Dr's for Abutbol!

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  3. And why, again, do otherwise normal people send their children there?

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  4. YOU ALLOWED YOUR DAUGHTER to appear in a...... PHOTOGRAPH! Kofrus! Now, if all the pictures had the faces blurred out or the girls were in their burka's, that's another matter. I recommend you immediately rush to a mekubal for a tikkun. And if this ever comes out, you're daughter may have to worry about a shidduch.

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  5. Reminds me of the story on Failed Messiah about how some rabbi in Satmar banned boys from riding bikes. No one could think why but my suggestion was that the guy probably saw some boys biking, smiling and laughing and thought "Ah, must be assur!" Same thing here: the principle probably has a thing against yearbooks (maybe no one signed hers when she was in school, loser!) and arranged a psak against it lest her students have an enjoyable experience she didn't get to have.

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  6. I think Akiva's right. I remember Rebbetzin Spetner mentioning as a side point how the group she spoke to in America gave her a book with all their pictures as a momento, while in Israel the shtark haredi community she's part of considers photos of women untzenua. It's another American Israeli culture difference. I have to admit I don't understand why the girls went to another rav after the school had already paskened. I'm also surprised that the principal didn't manage to explain to the girls what her problem with the yearbook was, only to tell them it's assur. I assume if she had explained, you would know what her objection was about.

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    1. You do realize that Akiva was not being serious, don't you? What could be wrong with GIRLS having a book of pictures of other girls???? How ridiculous can people be?

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    2. How ridiculous can people be?

      Everytime I ask that I have realised that I really don't want to know

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  7. The principal is the wife of one of the Four Doctors, no?

    Progress you can't deny!

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  8. Even though this isn't election related, it does mirror the political challenge we have in RBS, which is newly-Chareidi people who come from chu'l and forget what "normal" is, because they associate "normal" with being modern/non-frum. Unfortunately, people like this were the swing-voters who gave Abutbol his 0.6% mandate to continue the chareidization of Beit Shemesh. Oy vey!

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    1. Finally someone in RBS confirms this for me. 'Normal' frum people making aliyah suddenly discover that they are Haredi and make an effort to go inline with that whole crowd. I was hoping that TOV would get some power but unfortunately, they chose a very poor name so that many voted for the Mafdal instead.

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  9. I don't think her problem is the yearbook as much as the girls doing something independently and relying on a different Rabbinic authority than the one she chose. The letter is manipulative in my opinion, conditioning her forgiveness on returning and destroying the yearbook. It places girls who are impressionable to the belief of negative metaphysical effects resulting from a teacher's refusal to forgive in a very uncomfortable situation where they will struggle to deal with the dissonance of their assumption that they did nothing wrong and the fear of divine or other retribution for their actions. Certainly once they have left the school why ruin their positive memories and experiences (I assume they had plenty) with a letter like this?

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    1. she didnt even know about the other rabbinic authority. that isnt her issue.

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    2. Ok so it's just a control issue.

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  10. This is very revealing of the type of bizarre psychological brainwashing that takes place on a daily basis in Ko Tomar. I hope that this will help parents in RBS realize that Ko Tomar is totally extreme- the Rav who approved printing the yearbook is himself considered to be very Chareidi. It's sick for a principal to write to girls that she will not forgive them for not listening to one rav vs. another. What a twisted way to be "mechanech" our girls. I would love to know ifshe asked Rav Ganz for a heter to not forgive girls for doing this. Since when does one yid not forgive another because of "an aveira" they may or may not have committed bein adam l'makom? Is she G-d himself? How dare she imply that she can decide who is forgiven or not forgiven? And the fact that there is no explanation given of what the supposed issur involved might be, is unfortunately typical of the kind of "Chinuch" our girls get at Ko Tomar. Just do what we say, because we say so- is it any surprise that the girls are comfortable ignoring her the second they graduate? The worst part is that this letter is just one example of the many wacky things that go on there all the time.

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  11. Your point be made just as eloquently without displaying the name of the school and the author of the letter.

    Doesn't lashon hara exist as more than a nice idea in a drasha??? Far be it from me to question people's motives, but there is a long list of conditions for saying things like this, all of which must be met...

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    1. Oy Herb. I honestly don't think this blog is for your innocent eyes. All of us crazy new-age jews are not having a good influence on you.

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    2. And how in the world is Rafi's post lashon hara? All he did was re-post a letter that was sent TO ALL THE PARENTS of last year's graduating class. It was publicized already. And all Rafi did was ask for some guidance in understanding what to do...

      now some of the comments, on the other hand.....

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    3. Anonymous #1 - we were given mitzvot, not suggestions or recommendations

      Anonymous #2 - posting the name to those who did not know the identity motivated many of those comments. That itself is within the realm of lashon hara.

      I think it was just a slip of the mouse that the the full scan was posted. Rafi clearly avoided any identifying details in his actual post.

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  12. I just edited the post. I was corrected on a detail or two - the girls never knew anything about Rav Ganz. She had initially told them they could but only through her supervision and proofing. When she became too overbearing on them they decided to stop and asked a rav if they can continue on their own. He told them to wait until the end of the school year and not use the schools name.
    when she got her own psak from rav ganz I have no idea. But whenever it was, I have no idea why her psak from rav ganz would obligate them , especially when they are no longer in her school.

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    1. It seems like the principal is scared that she will get in trouble from the Rabbanim in the community for letting such a thing happen. They might not back her school up b/c of this. She is reacting in the only way she thinks she can control this "terrible" situation and laying on the guilt. She should drop it and thank the girls that they asked a Rav and waited until the end of the school year when it really has no reflection on her or the school at all. I think it shows a positive reflection on the girls themselves that they showed respect and listened to a Rav. Kol Hakavod.

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    2. It's a problem that the Charedi schools that include Americans run the risk of looking bad because their graduates do not look like one would expect them to. In Jerusalem it is much more difficult to get children of American olim into many Charedi schools - here you just have to prove that you will tow the line during the application process.

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  13. Herb, Rafi already posted the letter - with the school's name and the principal's name. It wasn't the commenters who revealed the names.
    Anyway, a school principal can expect girls to behave the way she wants while they are in her school - including, say., their conduct in extra-curricular activities, as long as they are in fact her students. BUT THESE GIRLS GRADUATED!!!! What if she tells her graduates they can't date guys who work? I mean, why does she think she can control anything they do?

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  14. ...she aint getting my copy!

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  15. Frumkeit + Demented = Frumented

    Frumentia (noun): A personality disorder characterized by foolish piety combined with narcissism, psychopathy, and all around stupidity.

    Sentence: Frumentia is endemic to the city of Beit Shemesh.

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  16. Because of "loshen hara", and fear of getting kicked out, half the crazy things that happen in that school go unreported....perhaps this is the moment to share them.

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  17. I don't know how many of you remember being in high school, but there are many reasons why a school would not want their students to have a yearbook, other than tzenius concerns about photos. Teenagers often do not have the sensitivity to understand how the printed word can be hurtful to their peers (and judging from the comments here....). When I was in high school, it was viewed as a game, to see what inside jokes we could sneak by the censor. Looking back, I am glad that they caught most of them, or else I would be embarressed of my immature behavior. The decision to not allow or to closely supervise a yearbook is entirely reasonable. And if the students felt they were being monitored too closely, perhaps the monitors were just doing their job.
    Additionally, I do not know why there needs to be ad hominem attacks questioning the integrity of the pricipal. She claims that she received a pesak from Rav Gans. Rav Gans is a well-respected posek, who many schools, including Ko Tomar, consult with frequently. If you think that she did not receive this pesak, and is just acting as some gone-off-the-deep-end olah who wants to outchareidi the Israelis, why don't you pick up the phone, call Rav Gans, and ask him?

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  18. Mr. Duker- The issue is not the psak she received- no one doubts that. Rather, it's the letter she wrote saying that she will not forgive the girls unless they comply with her demands. Shouldn't post-high school graduates be given a reason for an "issur", as opposed to being treated as children who are incapable of understanding? You mention a few possibilities as to why it was not allowed, why withhold that information in the letter? The method of getting students (and even graduates) to obey is what is troubling to people. Chinuch shouldn't be about controlling and forcing young women to do something because "I said so". That is not chinuch at all. One ahould not decide to follow or not follow a psak halacha on the basis of whether it will make a third party "feel hurt". If girls are trained that they need to follow a "psak" in order not to hurt a particular person, you run the risk that once the relationship changes, the level of shmiras halacha will change as well.

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    1. I was shocked to recognize the name of this principal as the married name of someone I knew growing up. A little research reveals it's the same person. She was the kindest, sweetest young woman, and I can't imagine the words "I cannot forgive" ever passing her lips. What is it about the chareidi world that takes good people and makes them say these hurtful things?

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    2. I do not know all of the facts here, and perhaps you may not either. From what I understand, the principal made an agreement with the students that they would only produce a yearbook with the authorization of the school. Once again, this is standard operating procedure even in non-Chareidi schools. The students, unhappy with the level of supervision, decided not to publish, and then went ahead and published, against what had been agreed upon. I am not blaming the students per se, as they wanted a yearbook, which is understandable. But in a case where someone violates a trust, it is justifiable for the one whose trust has been violated to be upset. I don't know if I would have used the exact phrasing that she used, but I can tell you that many students in that school have sincere, warm feelings for her, and receiving a letter like that would help them to reconsider their actions. [In fact, there is a published letter in the Igros of Rav Hutner where he uses that exact phrase as was used in this letter]. Your point was well expressed, and respectfully expressed, my main problem is with the several other "anonymous" commenters, who hide behind the cloak of anonymity to speak about people in a way that they would never do so in public.

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  19. I feel a need to tell you how special and wonderful both of these people are. (The principal and her husband the doctor.) They live and breathe Chessed. Back in the old country she, along with a friend, founded the local Bikur Cholim, which eventually grew to hundreds of volunteers serving countless people.

    I know they believe the path they've chosen since making Aliyah is the right and true path. They try to do everything L'shem Shamayim, as they believe it to be. I don't know what motivated her to write so harshly, but there's no doubt in my mind that she believed she had the girls' best interest at heart. She's (him too) the type of person that if you, any of you, no matter who are what you are needed something she would be there for you.

    This is not meant to squelch important questions and discussion. I too have a hard time understanding how two wonderful NCSY/YU alums, a doctor and lawyer, went in this direction, but I just wanted to sensitize you to who they are and how special they are so the discussion remains fair and respectful.

    Thanks

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    1. Fair enough, but this does need to be explained.

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    2. It's the broader cultural phenomenon that needs to be explained, not this particular couple's choices.

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  20. Logical ConclusionOctober 24, 2013 11:06 PM

    Logically, of course, this type of thinking regarding pictures of girls leads straight to the Burqa. There's absolutely no way around it.

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  21. I wish people would use the word "psak" and "halacha" accurately. The school's policy about yearbooks is neither - it's called an "opinion" or perhaps "hashkafa". The idea that any student upon leaving a school would have to submit to the opinion of the principal, or the Rav who gives advice to the hanhala, based on a "psak halacha" is preposterous.

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  22. The girls should write to her and tell her that they can't forgive her.

    If she asks "what for?" say "exactly".

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  23. It is obvious that this couple, as well meaning as they may be, are under the influence of the same type of rabbonim who write edicts and "open letters" to the community.

    Many olim come to EY and feel that in order to "belong", they must submit to the power and control of the Haredi culture. This means total submission to the word and will of rabbonim whose ego is fueled by the control and power.

    This explains why the rabbonim were so adamant about which candidate for mayor and party for city council their flock must vote. The schools themselves fell prey to this (including the subject of this post), sending letters and allowing specific candidates to electioneer to their students.

    I beg of these otherwise intelligent olim, to look around and see what is happening to their children and in many cases their own shalom bayis because of this path.

    The ways of the Torah are pleasant, and Baruch HaShem, RBS has enough great rabbonim talmidei chochomim who actually inspire true growth and bring shalom to their communities.

    Being able to think for one's self is not a contradiction to a Torah lifestyle.

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  24. Are we discussing the frummed-out people or the letter here?
    This letter might be about a group of 12th graders who wanted to put out an uncensored year book making fun of teachers etc., and then didn't put it out in June but waited until July when they graduated. We don't really know. The problem with the letter is that she doesn't say what was wrong - putting out a year book at all? The mean jokes? How could she think she can control what girls do after they leave her school? What if they get together and put on a play about their high school years? Last I checked, this is a free country.

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  25. Israel in not America. Chareidim here are much more mindful of Hashkafic ramifications than they are in America. Can their Hashkafos appear extreme? Sometimes - at least in our anglo-Chareidi values. But the idea is to look into the heart of the matter. What is it that really bothers them in the issue itself. If you judge each matter in a vacuum you will see what is behind each value and why it matters to them.

    The fact of the matter is that the school had Halachic/Haskafic guidance and the students purposefully went around them. Meaning, in a manner of speaking, they told the educators that now that school is out, we no longer go in line with the schools values. Do the students have to listen to them anymore? Nope. But ask yourselves this, if you, a frum Daati Leumi ben/bat Torah had a child that decided to marry a Chareidi spouse and live with their values, what would your reaction be? Total acceptance? If so, I applaud you - as you are not like the woman I spoke with last week who told me with a straight face that she would disown her daughter if she married a Kollel boy. Shrugging off values is not a small matter to you, its not a small to me and it's not a small matter to educators.

    As Yehoshua Duker pointed out before, its very normal for a school to censor what is written in a yearbook. It is also normal for a principal to be insulted when values are thrown aside the moment she steps out of school. This mocks the educators and makes it difficult to teach the values next grade of girls who witnessed the rebellious attitude.

    To clarify, I do not believe in anyway that these girls intended to be rebellious. At least not in a way that would be perceived with such strong emotions. I think it was just kids who wanted what they wanted and found a way to do it and still justify themselves. Very understandable. But still, kids being kids, they don't see how it is perceived; how it is looked at by people who poured their blood sweat and tears into them. The tone of the letter could just as easily be the best lesson the kids learn from the school - that every action they take has ramifications that they must consider - and the teachers were hurt.

    One last point. Rafi, if you needed help understanding you could have asked the principal. As you said your daughter went there you probably have a connection and clarity could have been gained in that way. As you can see from the direction the posts went immediately, posting this doesn't seem to help in gaining insight as much as it helps in inciting. Food for thought.

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  26. I take offense to the statement that: "Chareidim here are much more mindful of Hashkafic ramifications than they are in America." It is troubling on so many levels - the slur to American Charedim, as well is the elitist attitude...

    We have defined a new category called "Hashkafic" - which are now presented as a "Psak". It makes a mockery of halacha. Please have Rav Gans write a proper Tshuva that cites his reasons based on Shulchan Aruch and Poskim. (I recognize I am hopelessly old fashioned - the volumes of "teshovos" published recording the psokim of Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlita (and the recent volume by Rav Nevenzahl) - simply write single word or sentence answers - reinforcing the sad state of affairs.) Even if he will; by what basis does a graduate need to follow such a psak? The school has a right to follow him - not to compel others to.

    The "unable to forgive" part of the letter. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

    Our religous society is really in deep trouble that this is the state of chinuch and religion.

    May G-d help us.

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  27. to answer questions posed to me, I have one thing to say. I am sick of the terror in the name of Judaism, the bully tactics and intimidation, the corruption of Judaism.
    I know of one nice girl who decided to turn in her book despite knowing she has rabbinic approval and knowing she did nothing wrong and that the principal shouldnt control them for the rest of their lives. but at the end of the day she doesnt want someone having a "kpeida" on her. that is terror. Terror is not just the crazies from RBS B spitting on kids and throwing rocks.

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    1. Earn money from homeOctober 26, 2013 10:03 PM

      Indeed.

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    2. It seems to me like its her own issue to deal with. Meaning, if she spoke to a Rov and feels she did nothing wrong, there is nothing to talk about. Someone else having a Kpaida is not her concern. Its gonna be a hard life if you don't want anyone to be upset at you. The principal is 100% correct in being insulted. Her letter is the issue. Well, her letter was expressing her hurt. Its not called bullying . This is not a corruption of Judaism. In my opinion it's called expecting respect.

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    3. "I am sick of the terror in the name of Judaism, the bully tactics and intimidation, the corruption of Judaism."

      May I ask an honest question? What were you expecting when you chose to enroll your daughter there 4 years ago? Did you not know at that time that this school specifically and intentionally subscribes to exactly this "chinuch" philosophy?

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  28. Perhaps I wasn't clear. They are much more sensitive to Hashkafic ramifications. Is that also elitist? They are equally mindful, but things that bother Chareidim here don't always bother Chareidim abroad to the same extent. I know because I lived with them there and I live with them here. I am not saying they are better. I'm not saying they look down on anyone. I'm saying they are more sensitive. You can disagree with it and be offended by it, but it is the truth.

    School Hashkafa is Psak - in school. You want to stay in school then you follow the Hashkafa of the school School Hashkafa outside school is "only" Hashkafa - Meaning they are expecting that the students follow the same path as the school has taught. They have no right to enforce, and they don't, but to expect it? Of course they do. And willful disregard of a school's request is never looked highly upon by the faculty of any organization ever.

    Since the students acted in a way the school felt was downright rebellious(as I explained in my previous post, I don't want to start retyping all that) - the school rightfully took offense. They sent a very polite and heartfelt letter. Everybody is jumping on them because they have the Chutzpah to be insulted when graduating students purposefully go against the school's expressed wishes and Hashkafic guidance. The overall tone was extremely polite and expressed a tone of deep hurt - which was the message.

    "The school has a right to follow him - not to compel others to." - No kidding - who suggested otherwise. If the students feel different than the school and feel that they did nothing wrong - so ignore the letter. Nobody is being compelled to do anything. Oy, the principal said she won't forgive - so? If they did nothing wrong they shouldn't be upset. The rest of the letter is an expression of a broken heart.

    Last, the school has guidance under a Rav - and Hashkafic guidance is not always Halachic Psak. That is why it's called guidance. It means asking a Rav if this is right for the Neshama of the students or not. Disagree with the guidance? Don't go to that school. Disagree with that idea of having a Rav for guidance? Think "Aseh Lcha Rav" means ask a Rav for Psak Din only and not guidance? That is definitely not a new idea - its an excuse that has been used throughout the ages. So is it old fashioned ? Put it this way, it is just as old as your last sentence "Our religous society is really in deep trouble that this is the state of chinuch and religion." That was has been around since forever.

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