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August 6, 2021

The Magic of Fences

According to the Bible, one is supposed to stay close to home over Shabbat. It was a great rule in ancient times because it ensured strong family and communal ties. Anyone who has ever fought rush-hour traffic gets why such a rule is important. As Jewish towns and neighborhoods grew in size, however, the Torah’s law made it more difficult to create meaningful community—the exact opposite of its original mandate. Geographical spread meant that one couldn’t spend time with cousins or friends who lived more than a mile away.

A workaround was developed, called an eiruv. In colloquial Jewish usage, this refers to the creation of a virtual wall consisting of wires and small “posts,” all of which allowed larger Jewish communities to operate like a single home. While the laws of eiruv are technical, their purpose is especially valuable in our era when people are busy trying to figure out how to strengthen real communities in our increasingly virtual and fragmented world.

Over the past couple of years, Camp Solomon Schechter has been reconstructing parts of its eiruv. As the camp’s religious advisor (mara d’atra), I have provided advice on this project and been sent photographs of the work. This past Shabbat, I was able to visit in person. Like so many of you, I am deeply grateful that we were able to resume camp operations this summer. It was great to meet Frank, the new chef, and check in with Avishai, the onsite camp mashgiach, or kosher supervisor, whom I oversee and communicate with whenever kosher questions arise. I always appreciate my in-person conversations with Zach Duitch.

What mattered most to me, however, was to see how well the eiruv was functioning—and I don’t mean the physical eiruv, which looks great. I mean the spiritual eiruv. After effectively a two-year absence because of Covid-19, would the camp’s community be as strong as I remembered? Would our campers be able to regain their long dormant social skills that are so necessary to live well with one another? Would what happened within the eiruv be meaningfully different from what life outside those posts and wires looks like?

I am not one to wear rose-colored glasses or to sell the sizzle over substance. Without a doubt, some kids were a little bit rusty at the beginning of their session; camp provided them an invaluable opportunity to continue their social growth. What a valuable opportunity for them! I am also pleased to announce that, overwhelmingly, the magic of CSS remains intact. Campers were happy. Real friendships were evident wherever I looked. Laughter rang out on the footpaths, in the amphitheater, and by the lakefront. In conversations with counselors, I got to hear specific details about the impact of Covid on our youth, and the important work camp was doing to restore a sense of normalcy and joy to our precious youth. It didn’t hurt that I also got to watch my younger son’s cabin clinch the basketball championship, but that’s just one poppa’s pride.

A dozen more stories fill my head. Let me share two moments that should make us all feel confident about the camp’s spiritual foothold and community. One happened as I was walking to meet someone and this excited camper loudly exclaimed to friends, “I love being Jewish.” Wow! What an amazing spontaneous outburst, especially since it wasn’t meant for adult ears. I was just fortunate to overhear it.

The other moment occurred during havdalah. Havdalah is always a special moment at CSS as the entire camp gathers around the lake and bids farewell to Shabbat. It is always a heightened moment of connection. This particular Saturday, a new camper came forward to speak. She shared her nervousness as a first-time camper. Would she need to pretend so that she could fit in? No, she said with touching conviction. The camp she found allowed her to be fully herself and she witnessed how that story was repeated over and over. Camp Solomon Schechter supports people in their individuality, and she got it. What a powerful advocate for Jewish camping in general, and the special juju (or JewJew) of CSS!

At the end of Saturday night, the inner gate, which was closed on Friday to form the final link of the eiruv, was reopened. With that simple act, the physical eiruv for the camp disappeared. But the power of fences and what they allow to happen within? That remains. As I drove off on Sunday, I left feeling deeply content. The world outside the gates of Jewish community doesn’t always look or feel like we might desire. Yet so long as there are places where Jewish communities can thrive, so long as we maintain strong camps and synagogues where our values can be given expression—well then, when we leave our strongholds of faith, community, and inclusion, we get to bring some of that out into the larger world.

That’s the magic of fences. That’s the magic of Camp Solomon Schechter.

Warm regards,

David

Rabbi David Kosak (Rav D) is the mara d’atra of Camp Solomon Schechter and serves as the senior rabbi of Congregation Neveh Shalom in Portland, Oregon.


March 26, 2021
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Shalom, CSS Camp Community:

The Board of Camp Solomon Schechter would like to recognize Executive Director Zach Duitch for navigating the organization through the unprecedented disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the resulting economic crisis, and also for taking the initiative to organize and create the Washington State Camp Coalition (WSCC).

Zach recruited other camp leaders to form the WSCC, which now has over 70 member organizations from across Washington State. With the help and support of the WSCC Steering Committee, Zach worked with Governor Inslee’s office, the Washington State Department of Health, and key stakeholders to secure guidance that allows overnight summer camps to operate safely this summer.

Zach has demonstrated true leadership and advocated for all 145 overnight camps and their camp families. Zach and the WSCC Steering Committee crafted a solution that works for small camps as much as it does for large programs. CSS’s Board is so proud of Zach’s initiative and commitment to the entire camp community. It’s the ultimate expression of tikkun olam (repairing the world), and we couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome.

Thanks also to David Shore of Environmental Health & Engineering and Michelle Branconier of the American Camp Association for their invaluable input and guidance to ensure a path that complies with Washington State’s expectations, as well as those of the CDC. We are also grateful to Max Patashnik and Nancy Sapiro of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and Andy Kaplowitz of Tikkun Olam Consulting and CSS’s Immediate Past President for their assistance on strategy and advocacy during the process and, of course, to the WSCC Steering Committee members for their dedication to getting this right.

Our children will now have access to another memorable summer at the place where Judaism and Joy are One!

B’Shalom,

Mark Kalenscher


February 24, 2021
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Every year, Jews all around the world come together to hear the reading of the Megillah of Esther. Children and parents alike dress up in costumes and listen to the amazing story of how Queen Esther saved the Jews of Shushan from an evil plot by a mean man named Haman (booooo). The story is filled with drama, humor, plot twists, fascinating characters, and plenty of opportunities to shake your grogger (noisemaker)! But even more amazing than the plot points and events that take place in the Purim story is the secret, hidden story, woven throughout the Megillah of Esther. 

To understand what I’m talking about, we need look no further than the name of the book itself. Esther (אסתר) shares the same root as the word “hester” (הסתר), which means “hidden.” What a fitting name for a woman who hid her Jewish identity from the king! The word Megillah comes from the root “megaleh,” which means “reveal”. So, “Megillah of Esther” literally means “the revelation of the hidden.” On the surface, it may seem as though Esther’s secret Jewish identity, which was revealed to the king at the end of the story, would be a good enough reason to name the book the “Revelation of the Hidden.” But, I think there’s a second, and even deeper, lesson waiting to be revealed. 

Queen Esther was not born into royalty. In fact, she was born an ordinary Jewish girl by the name of Hadassah. The Megillah is filled with various names and titles for Esther, but those are mere distractions from her true identity. On the surface, it may seem amazing that this ordinary Jewish girl became the queen of one of the largest empires in world history. But, she was only able to become queen, and save the Jews, because with every step of her journey she discovered a little bit more of the courage and potential that was always inside of her. The real point of the story is to show us that an ordinary kid can grow up to be an extraordinary person. It is a story about radical self-actualization. And, to drive home this point even further, we must look at the next hidden element within the Purim story – G-d!

The Megillah of Esther is one of the only books in the Bible to not explicitly mention G-d. Unlike most biblical stories where the divine directly interacts with humans, here, salvation from evil Haman’s plot is the work of human agency, ingenuity, and courage. G-d’s hiddenness within the story teaches us that we need to take action and stand up for ourselves, rather than let G-d do the work for us. 

Purim teaches us that you do not need to be born into greatness to accomplish extraordinary things! Nor do you need to wait for a sign from up above to take action. A single act of courage may impact the lives of a few people nearby, or end up changing the course of world history. But, no matter the outcome, it all begins with an ordinary person who is willing to discover their hidden potential. 

At Schechter, we are in the business of revealing the hidden. We encourage every child to try new things and to hone in on the skills they want to get better at. Our campers learn to navigate social situations, independent of their parents. They act courageously, which for some kids means jumping off the “leap of faith” on the challenge course, and for others means sleeping away from home for the first time. Each time a camper acts with courage, fosters a friendship, tries their hand at a new skill, challenges an accepted idea, refines a talent, expands their comfort zone, builds confidence… a little more of the hidden is revealed. Our campers routinely leave camp knowing that they are capable of far more than they thought they were when they arrived. In essence, Camp is a place where one’s potential is revealed. 

We’d like to wish everyone a Happy Purim and remind you that no matter which superhero you dress up as, there’s another superhero hiding underneath! 

!‏חג פורים שמח

Happy Purim!

Josh Niehaus

Associate Director

Camp Solomon Schechter


February 10, 2021
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At CSS, we aim to be the premier outdoor adventure and educational program on the west coast, and we know just the guy to help us get there! We are thrilled to announce that Josh Lake of Outdoor Jewish Adventures will be our 2021 Teva Director! We can’t wait for our campers to explore the great outdoors with him this summer!

Upon completing his Master’s Degree in Jewish Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1997, Josh headed to the Northwest for the first time to work as the Teva specialist at Camp Solomon Schechter. It proved very fruitful, as the Teva/nature program at camp had been dormant for years. At Schechter, Josh revived the Mt. Rainier Oded trip, took the 10th graders camping, and created fun, meaningful and interesting Teva chuggim (nature programs) for the Aleph, Bet, and Gimmel campers. From meditation to meeting trees, campers learned about nature and how we, as Jews, relate to the natural world. Schechter was Josh’s first opportunity to create his vision of making nature a Jewish classroom.

After leaving Schechter, Josh helped to create the Shalom Nature Center at Camp JCA Shalom in Southern California. There he infused programs with the skills and pedagogy he learned and refined at Schechter while continuing to learn from campers, staff, and the natural world. After five years at the Shalom Nature Center, Josh started his own company, Outdoor Jewish Adventures, a company whose mission remains making nature a Jewish classroom.

Josh continues to evolve and to lead Jewish groups outdoors around the country. From canoeing Bar/Bat Mitzvah adventures, staff trainings, Jewish hiking and backpacking excursions, developing and writing curricula, and unique Bnai Mitzvah training, Josh continues to push his mission into new environments. In the summer of 2019 Josh developed a Teva curriculum uniquely for Schechter and trained the Teva staff to implement the curriculum.

Josh currently lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife Tamar and their two daughters, Ayelet (a camper at Schechter and student at PJA) and Dov (a future camper at Schechter, as well as a current student at PJA), along with their dog, Stanley. In Portland, Josh is the chair of the Climate Action Committee of the JCRC, a part of the Jewish Federation of Portland. Josh has hiked, backpacked and biked around the Pacific Northwest and has summited numerous peaks in Washington and Oregon. Josh is excited to be part of the Schechter family again and is looking forward to a phenomenal future of dreaming about nature and Judaism together!


November 30, 2020
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Dear CSS Community,

In a normal year, I write our annual appeal to tout our recent successes and let you know how much your gift will make a difference in the lives of Jewish children all over the Pacific Northwest and beyond. And, while this year has been an extraordinary time of great successes and impactful giving from our community, I thought I’d take a different approach to our annual appeal. Following our summer program’s cancelation – the first time in Schechter’s sixty-eight year history! – our staff called every camp family to check in on our campers. The outpouring of support that our Camp team received throughout that period, both financial and emotional, quite literally, moved us to tears. So, this year, rather than telling you directly how much your gift will impact our community, I’d like to share a letter I received from a camp grandmother. (Names have been changed to ensure anonymity.) 

DONATE NOW

Dear Zach, 

Thank you for calling and checking in on Abby last week. She is still coming to terms with the fact that she will not be spending this summer in her favorite place on Earth, Camp Solomon Schechter. You told us that our family means the world to CSS, and I wanted to reach back out and let you know how much CSS means to our family. When I asked Abby what she’d like to share with you, she said, “Schechter is totally FUN!” And, while I do not doubt that Camp is “totally fun,” I know that it is a whole lot more than that as well.

CSS means a whole lot more to me because I was not raised in a Jewish home. I discovered Jewish values and culture later in life, and I am doing my best to provide a Jewish upbringing for my children and grandchildren. Camp has a way of making learning “cool.” Abby returns home each summer excited to sing songs, lead prayers, do activities, and just about anything else, Schechter-style! The lessons she learns at CSS make a lasting impression on her and support what I do at home.

CSS means a whole lot more to me because I am raising Abby as a single grandparent, and she needs to spend time with a younger crowd, filled with ruach (spirit) and energy! At Camp, she gets to be with kids, doing fun kids things, from morning until night. She gets to hear music that is not from the 60s. ~lol~ And I also get to have a bit of quiet, “me” time, which is something I don’t often get, having been raising kids now for nearly forty years.

CSS means a whole lot more to me because Camp has been there to support us financially. For decades I was a stay at home mom and did not work. Now, I am starting over with a young grandchild and still finding my financial footing. What’s more, I had to step back from my job to be with Abby, who is now home during the day for school. Money for Camp is simply not in the budget. I know I am not the only single grandparent or parent who is struggling in our community. We struggle quietly so as not to draw attention — but we are here, and we’d never be able to give our kids/grandchildren these experiences without Camp’s financial assistance.

Schechter has always supported us when I asked for assistance and, now, we are here for you. Please convert my deposit into a donation for Camp, so I can return the goodness. Tzedakah (charity) is an important Jewish value in our home and one that I hope to instill in Abby, no matter how much we may be struggling.

I wish you the best through these difficult times. I have faith that you and your team will navigate the road ahead, and I will be able to send Abby back next summer. In the meantime, we will be singing, dancing, praying, and doing activities — Schechter-style! — all summer long.

B’Shalom,

Sharon

Thanks to community members like Sharon, we will be ready to welcome back our campers in 2021! But we need your help. The loss of an entire year’s income has meant deep cuts to our staffing and programming budgets. And, most notably to families like Abby’s, it means less money available for financial assistance. Many families in our community are hurting right now, and the need for financial aid is greater than ever. After a year with no Camp, we don’t want a single camper to miss another summer due to affordability. We know that Jewish summers lead to Jewish futures and, as such, Camp should be a right, not a privilege, for every Jewish child. With your help, we can ensure that no one “suffers quietly,” and every camper can spend their summer in a “totally-fun,” fully-immersive Jewish environment and experience a whole lot more for themselves!

Your donations will go directly to:

  • Providing financial assistance to families who can’t afford Camp (and can’t afford to miss Camp);
  • Offsetting COVID related impact (PPE, testing, cleaning supplies, additional medical support); and
  • Creating sacred moments, where Judaism and joy are one!

You can easily donate today with our new CSS Venmo account (@Camp-Schechter). Every gift counts, whether it’s $36, $180, or $360 today; $18 a month; or more.

DONATE NOW

Happy Channukah,

Zach Duitch

Executive Director


December 27, 2019
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We are saddened by the news that Rabbi Joshua Stampfer, z”l, passed away yesterday evening. Rabbi Stampfer was the driving force in founding Camp Solomon Schechter, but his legacy goes much further. His tireless efforts over the past 65 years to strengthen Jewish institutions, make Conservative Judaism more accessible and inclusive, advocate for peace, and share his extraordinary scholarship through teaching have left us all a great legacy.

On a personal note, I will miss his wisdom, guidance, conversation and, most importantly, friendship. At an initial meeting with Rabbi after returning to CSS, we took this photo, and I have it framed in my office to remind me of Rabbi’s intention for camp . . . that we continue to inspire, teach, and empower our campers and staff to be proud of being Jewish. We will honor his commitment to building Jewish identity, community, and continuity by infusing Jewish tradition and culture at the foundation of everything we do. Rabbi Stampfer’s impact on our community will last forever.

Our thoughts are with Rabbi’s children, Elana (Matt, z”l), Meir (Claire), Nehama (Rod), Shaul (Sylviane), and daughter-in-law Carol (Noam, z”l), as well as 20 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. May you have strength and great memories of your loving parents and family.

Following a private (family only) interment, the funeral service will be Sunday, December 29th at 4:00pm at Congregation Neveh Shalom (2900 SW Peaceful Lane, Portland, 97239)The service will be followed by a meal of consolation, also at the synagogue.

The family will sit shiva and receive visitors at the Stampfer home (2800 Peaceful Lane, Portland 97239) from 12:00-5:00pm on Monday through Thursday and 12:00-3:00pm on Friday next week.

Shiva Minyanim are also scheduled for Monday through Thursday evenings (December 30, 31, January 1, and 2) at 7:00pm in Stampfer Chapel at Congregation Neveh Shalom (2900 SW Peaceful Lane, Portland, 97239).

Please do not bring food – the family has plenty.

The Jewish community has lost a truly great man. May Rabbi Joshua Stampfer’s memory be for a blessing and let all of us reflect on the many ways that he touched our lives.

B’Shalom,

 

Zach Duitch

CSS Executive Director


May 17, 2019
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After an exhaustive search spanning multiple continents and dozens of Rabbinical schools and Jewish institutions of higher learning, CSS has finally found it’s dream Jewish Life and Learning Professional, Ilana Lipman! But wait, there is more! Ilana’s husband, Matthew, is also an inspiring Jewish educator, and he will be joining our staff as well! And as if that weren’t enough, they will be joined by their four wonderful children. We cannot wait to welcome the entire Lipman family to camp this summer! Check out their introduction letter below.

Shalom CSS Family,

We are all super excited to be joining you all at CSS this summer. We have heard so much about the ruach, the fun, and the wonderful people at CSS. We are looking forward to being part of this special place. We live in Modi’in, Israel which is half way between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Our family loves hiking, going to the beach, and having family workouts together!!

Ilana is joining the senior staff at CSS as Jewish Life and Learning Professional. Ilana hails from NJ (Exit 4!!), grew up in Young Judaea camps, currently is the principal of an online Jewish day school, and after camp ends will be going back to school to train as an English teacher. Ilana’s favorite ice cream flavor is Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup, and her favorite TV show is Shtisel.\

Matthew is originally from London, England. He loves practicing his American accent, but most Americans tell him it isn’t very good!! Matthew is an Israel Educator and works in several gap year programs teaching students about Zionism, Israeli history, politics, and culture. He is an avid soccer (but he calls it football) fan and enjoys listening to 90’s pop music while running through the streets of Modi’in.

Both Ilana and Matthew earned their Masters degree in Jewish education from Hebrew University as well as certificates of advanced Jewish text study from the Pardes Institute of Jewish studies. Before immigrating to Israel, they taught Jewish Text, Study, and Practice at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, MD.

We can’t wait to introduce our four children to the American sleep-away camp experience. Noa is 11, learning for her Bat Mitzvah and is an active member of our local tzofim (scouts) chapter. Matan is 9, a dedicated tree climber and an expert stick collector. Adiel is 6 and will be joining Katan and some of the 2nd grade activities too. Don’t tell anyone but his alter ego is really Iron Man!! Neomi will have just turned three when they arrive to camp. She will be bring a selection of her baby dolls to camp with her.

Wishing everyone a great end of the school year and see you in a short few weeks at CSS.


February 8, 2019
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Michaela joins the CSS team full time after having spent the last five years as a member of the summer staff.  She has held multiple roles including cabin counselor, T’fillah (Prayer) Specialist, and most recently, Judaics Lead. Over her years at camp, as a camper and staff member, Michaela has developed a true love for CSS.

Prior to joining the CSS team as Engagement Coordinator, Michaela studied at the University of Washington, where she graduated with a degree in International Studies: Jewish Studies in June 2018.  During her four years at UW, Michaela worked as a chapter advisor for United Synagogue Youth (USY) and, in her senior year, took on the role of Field Engagement Associate for USY’s Pacific Northwest region. Following her graduation, she continued to work for USY, and served as Youth Director at Herzl-Ner Tamid. Through these roles, she gained a deeper understanding of the Jewish youth experience in the Pacific Northwest as well as a passion for enriching the Jewish life and education of these youth through social experiences. Outside of work, you can find Michaela volunteering as a special needs cheer team coach, tutoring B’nai Mitzvah students, and playing with her dog Charlie.

Michaela is excited to bring her experience and knowledge to CSS where she hopes to continue to help create lasting memories for campers of all ages. When asked to share one of her own favorite memories, Michaela said, “During my first year on staff at Camp Solomon Schechter, I had a cabin of 5th grade girls. Many of them were new to camp and there was one camper who was particularly shy and hesitant to join the group. On the first Friday night, during Shabbat shira (singing), she started to come out of her shell because of the warm and welcoming community that was created in which everyone was welcome to freely celebrate their Judaism and be themselves. This was the moment I truly fell in love with Camp Solomon Schechter.”


February 5, 2019
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You may be wondering, “What’s Jewish about Superheroes?” Where to begin?! Forstarters, many of the DC and Marvel Superheroes were created by Jews (Superman, Batman, Captain America, Black Widow, Spider-Man, Jean-Grey, Iron Man… just to name a few). Many of the characters have expressly Jewish backgrounds and model Jewish values and practices (Fantastic Four’s The Thing even had a Bar Mitzvah in one comic). And, of course, we can’t forget Gal Gadot, a real life Wonder Woman!

But heroes aren’t simply confined to fictional books and movies. Jewish history is filled with courageous individuals and epic adventures. It’s hard to read about the wisdom of Solomon, the might of Deborah, the determination of Moses, or the courage of Hannah Senesh, and not think there was something “super” about them.

And there are the amazing and heroic acts that happen every day at Camp Solomon Schechter. Every time a camper pushes themselves to try something new, they display courage. Every time a camper learns a new skill or navigates a social situation independently they grow.

With so many avenues to explore within the theme of heroes, this summer is sure to be filled with inspiring lessons, fun educational projects, Jewish values, and young Jewish heroes-in-training! We will be releasing a series of posts on this summer theme over the next few weeks.

So stay tuned to find out which comic book heroes are Jewish, which Jewish heroes had extraordinary gifts, and how your camper will discover their inner Jewish hero at Camp Solomon Schechter this summer!


January 24, 2019
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One of the most crucial roles at camp is the Director of Camper Care. This Head Staff position oversees the social and emotional well-being of our campers. We are so fortunate to be welcoming back a longtime Schechter staff member and alumna, Michelle Danzig-Crandall to lead our Camper Care team and make sure our campers feel safe and happy while at camp! Check out Michelle’s message below.

Hello Schechter family! I’m looking forward to spending another summer at Camp SolomonSchechter. Every summer of my youth was spent at CSS. I have very fond memories of and adoration for camp. I would have to say my top 3 best memories are Ga Ga, Rafting, and Shabbat…evening programs are up there too! I’ve been on the CSS Camper Care Team in previous years and I’m excited to be coming back!
My professional life represents a mosaic of interests. I earned my Masters in Education from Gonzaga University (the one with the stellar basketball team) and my undergrad in psychology with an emphasis on adolescence. I went on to explore my love for Jewish Education, always adding a bissel of environmental experiential education to the mix. I did a tour as co-education director at the synagogue I grew up in, as well as having the opportunity to lead youth as a Kadima and USY advisor. More recent adventures include teaching a variety of subjects in Spokane Public Schools, as well as working for the Hawaii Department of Education. Currently, I reside on the beautiful island of Maui.
My professional interests include innovating organizational systems; effectively measuring performance, problems of practices and solutions through the lens of a humanistic perspective as well as facilitating meaningful youth leadership.
My personal interests include contemporary food issues (anything food related really), agricultural and environmental sustainability, natural health, and paddling. I also have an interest in the impact of mind, body, and spirit on overall health.
I am looking forward to the opportunity to reunite with the Schechter community, new and old, and help facilitate an amazing 2019 season!
See you this summer!
Michelle Danzig-Crandall

Questions About Camp Solomon Schechter? Get in touch!
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