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[Page 237]

Institutions of Social Assistance

by M. H-D

a. The Interest-Free Loan Fund

Radomsk, like every other Jewish settlement had an Interest-Free Loan Fund, which helped the small merchants, market sellers, craftsmen and the like with small loans – without interest. The First World War and the later devaluations of money ravaged and eroded all of the interest-free loan funds. First in 1926, when the economic life of a large part of the Jewish population rolled down hill each time, several of the retailers' community workers decided to create an Interest-Free Loan Fund, which would help with small sums of credit, to support a workshop or “stall” in the market.

At the beginning, the Interest-Free Loan Fund developed very weakly. It was unable to accumulate the appropriate sums of money with which it could operate. Eventually, individuals were found who held to the dogma “the world was not created only for my selfish cravings” and other societal elements also supported the institution to a great length. If from the start 5 loans a week could be given and actually in the month of January 1927 not more than 5 loans, by July 1927 it was possible to allocate 30 loans (the capital reached 1,034 zl. at that time).

Because of the economic crisis of the Jewish population at that time in Poland, the “Joint” (Joint Distribution Committee) in Warsaw also created a central aid fund with a larger sum, which supported the local interest-free loan funds with credit. At that time Radomsk also benefited from this credit, which naturally helped in very significant measure the development of the institution.

In order that the Radomsker Interest-Free Loan Fund could benefit from the “Joint,” it was [necessary to show it to be deserving of credit] with both its own capital and with its management activity. The Messieurs Dovid Rodol, Dovid Bugajski, A. Lefkowicz and others brought in the first large sums. The following stood at the head of the Fund: honorary chairman, H.D. Rozenbaum, chairman, M. Berger, Sh.L. Witenberg, Kh.Sh. Szitenberg. M. Waksman, P. Bugajski, D. Sobol, Waldfogel, Yakubowicz and Pelman.

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From the report in 1928, that is for 2 years' activity, we see: “Through the 2 years of the Fund's existence 12,236 zl. was borrowed. The assets of the Fund are: loans from central – 6,926 zl.; donations and registration fees – 3, 725 zl.; deposits – 1,683 zl.; local loans – 375 zl.; subsidy from the council – 250 zl.; total – 12,959 zl.

In the newly elected managing committee were Sh.L. Witenberg, F. Bugajski, Berger, Fajerman, Waldfogel, Kaplan, Lustiger, Dovid Goslowski and Pelman.

[As reported by] the local newspaper of 8.8.30, the Interest-Free Loan Fund received a second loan of 6,000 zl. in recognition of its good activity.

The management of the Fund endeavored to increase its capital, in order to be able to alleviate the ever-increasing need among the Jewish population as a result of the anti-Semitic economic policies of the government. Meetings were organized and clarifying lectures about the necessity of having the institution. The “Joint” supported the Fund with additional credit.

At the end of 1930 the account appears this way: in 1928 loans were given out with a sum of 17,030 zl.; in 1929 – 60,090 zl.; in 1930 up to August – 32,890 zl.; the sum total of the loans given out since the founding of the Fund – 2,288 loans in the amount of 164,570 zl.

It must be underlined that even though the institutions had constructive goals, it was supported minimally by the landsleit in America.

In the general account of the “Radomsker Zeitung ” for 1930, we read about the Fund: “The institution constantly increases its activity and its capital already amounts to 40,000 zl. Thanks to its exemplary arrangements, in the span of a year the institution received further long-term loans from the 'Joint.'”

In the account of the newspaper of 1931, we read about the Fund: “The Interest-Free Loan Fund – the most important institution for constructive social assistance. Although its circulating capital for the last year did not increase, it distributed many hundreds of small loans without interest to be paid back weekly in small installments. Until today almost 50 members partake of the institution.”

Alas, the institution also was not spared from human weaknesses. However, then the generous donor and devoted community worker M. Lakhman stood up as the head of this important institution and he further assisted the development of the Interest-Free Loan Fund.

The economic life in Radomsk – as in all of Poland – on the eve of the Second World War was more and more difficult for the Jewish population. The larger cooperative financial institutions, alas, had to liquidate sooner rather than later. True, the Fund could be represented as a credit bank. However, it supported the dejected retailers, market sellers and craftsmen with interest-free loans, which greatly helped them. Let the community workers for this institution be remembered with honor.

b. “Linat-ha-Tzedek”
(Translator's note: Hostel-like institution)

The words Bikur-Khoylim (Trans. Note: a rudimentary hospital or infirmary) belongs, of course, to the oldest concept in Jewish life. In the smallest Jewish settlements, with only a place to daven, there already existed the idea of a Bikur-Khoylim, for help for the “other one.” Help was given not only to the sick, but to everyone who was in need. Although it was not possible to take care of everyone, the will to help another was very strongly developed, and this was shown within the framework of the Bikur-Khoylim and later in the Linat-ha-Tzedek.

In Radomsk, the Bikur-Khoylim Society was founded many years ago. There was already a Society in the house of H. Zilberszac at the end of the 18th century. It is certain that earlier it was found somewhere else. There is very little information available about the society. We know about keeping watch over the sick, helping the sick and coming together to daven and learning together several times a week. Mainly, in the winter Friday evenings and summer on Shabbosafter noon. In the first years of the 20th century a Linat-ha-Tzedek had already been founded. Its actual activity began to expand in the time before the First World War. Mr. Moishe Fiszhof, Abraham Moishe Waksman and others actually were the endowers, who maintained and supported the Society. Not long before the First World War the Society sent its members to watch over the sick Jews, strove to assist with doctors and medicines, “annexed” Ferszter's shul for its only minyon and the like. However with the outbreak of the First World War, when in 1914-15, poverty among the Jewish population became even more extensive, the above-mentioned Jews really did great things. Because of the hunger, which then reigned, different illnesses began to spread. The Linat-ha-Tzedek helped a great deal, not just with medical assistance, but with weekly allowances to strengthen the food supply and the like. Up to today, it is not really clear from where the Jews – mainly Mr. Fiszhof – got the money for all of this. The Kehile did not help, nor the American brothers. The activity then was very significant and virtuoso.

At the end of the World War, epidemic sicknesses spread very quickly in Radomsk. Moishe Fiszhof and his devoted assistants created a special epidemic hospital for the Jewish sick. True, not with sanitary arrangements. At that time in Radomsk in general, there were no more than 3 doctors. Later, when Dr. Mitelman returned from the war, the epidemic hospital was moved from the old wooden building to the premises of a brick house, with the possibility of sanitary arrangements and proper medical personnel. However, this does not diminish the devoted work of the community workers, with Moishe Fiszhof at the head, to help the sick poor Jews in Radomsk. And who knows how many further victims the institution saved from the epidemic illnesses that reigned at that time in Radomsk.

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Right after the war, Dr. Mitelman himself fell victim to the epidemic illnesses – after a relapse of typhus, he parted from the living world. This had a deep effect on the active workers of Linat-ha-Tzedek and a cessation of their activity was noticed.

A second Jewish doctor came to Radomsk at this time – Dr. Abusz – and with his initiative a section of the medical society, TOZ (Society for the Protection of Health), was founded. Dr. Abusz, Dr. Glikman, Romek Rozenbaum, Y.H. Tiger, L. Wajnberg and the Mrs. Fiszman and Sobol were elected to the first provisional managing committee.

The first action of TOZ was the founding of its own out-patient infirmary and the first 6 children were sent to Warsaw for treatment.

In 1928 the infirmary of Mr. Moishe Fiszhof was again revived by the Linat-ha-Tzedek Society. As the first activity it was again decided to keep watch over the sick. The city was divided into precincts and in every precinct supervisors were told who needed to be called upon about a vigil. Later both organizations – the Linat-ha-Tzedek. and the Bikur-Khoylim – were united under the name Linat-ha-Tzedek and the society undertook intense activity.

In a report by Mr. Fiszhof, it turns out that during the first 3 months income was 347.53 zl. and expenses were 341.69 zl. During that time 81 vigils were held for the sick, etc., etc.

At the managing committee meeting of 2 September 1928 Messieurs Yakov Rozenbaum, Mikhal Waksman, A. Grundman, M. Fiszhof, L. Ruszeinski, H.A. Yakubowicz, Pesakh Lifel, Asher Winer, Abraham Kamelgarn and Yisroel Birnbaum were elected. Activities were also revived. Free medical night visits were made and support given, such as sugar, tea, milk and the like. Further, the Society received recognition and support from the Radomskers in America.

According to the Radomsker Zeitung of 13.9.1929 (September 9, 1929) the Linat-ha-Tzedek Society sent 466 visitors, 54 of the sick received 976 liters of milk, 17 of the sick received 26 kilos of sugar, 2 of the sick butter, 173 utensils were lent to 129 of the sick, 152 benefited from 456 doctor visits and 412 prescriptions, 130 visits were made by feldshers. The subsequent budget amounted to 8,059 zl., of that, 6,000 zl. for medical assistance.

In the first 4 months 264 prescriptions were given out, 138 doctor visits and 43 visits by feldshers. And the income from that time amounted to 2,000 zl.

In 1930, the Linat-ha-Tzedek received 25 dollars from the Radomskers in America.

In 1931 the Society had to increase its activity because the local city hall at that time came to be led by an appointed commissar who stopped all aid for the Jews.

In later years, up to the outbreak of the Second World War, the Linat-ha-Tzedek received significant monetary support from the Radomsker landsleit, particularly from fellow townsman Mr. Sol Grinberg, who supported the Society with a generous hand and in which he also became an honorary member.

In general the Radomsker Jews showed a strong inclination to help, not to let, G-d forbid, their fellow Jews become needy.

In the summer of 1928 a fire broke out in the nearby Jewish shtetl Rozprza. The Radomsker Jews come right to the aid of the local Jewish inhabitants and almost 2,000 zl. are collected and clothing, too.

In 1929 the Radomsker Jews carried out a large action of mitzvus for Russian Jewry. Alas, we do not possess any information about the results of that action. The poverty at that time was already great among the Jewish population. In fact, a special committee distributed free matzohs to 500 Jewish families. And we know that a Jewish family does not easily turn for help.

New aid institutions were founded in Radomsk. The young men studying in the Beis Hamidrish founded the Tomchei Aniim Society (Support for the Poor), with the purpose of giving aid to the impoverished Jews – both local and those passing through – at least with a free lunch from time to time.

A society for the protection of children and orphans' welfare was created, too, with the Messieurs Kreindler, H. Frochter and Mrs. Bem at the head.

This widespread help activity lasted until the Hitleristic hordes annihilated the whole Jewish community in Radomsk.

c. The Women's Association to Support Poor Pregnant Women

An organization for the support poor Jewish pregnant women existed in Radomsk before the First World War. Quietly, modestly, without turmoil and societal clamor, several idealistic women carried out the lofty mission of visiting the women who had turned to them before giving birth and helped with whatever was needed, because women did not give birth in a hospital, but in their poor cellar-dwellings. The above-mentioned idealistic women often had to bring clean sheets and shirts and the first underwear for the newborn child. Often the institution communicated with Malka the midwife or with her daughter Rusza, that they should go to the poor women and be there several days when the pregnant woman lay in bed and also help to prepare the bris celebration.

This all was done quietly and modestly, without meetings and voting. The idealistic women understood that one must not violate the respect of the unlucky poor Jewish families.

The value of this noble necessary institution was demonstrated with the subsidies in the last Kehile budget and from smaller or larger support from the landsleit in America. Their names cannot be mentioned simply because they are not known; let their idealistic activity be remembered with honor in the Yizkor Book of Radomsk.

[Page 240]

The “Beis-Lekhem” – Bread for the Needy

by Abraham Waldfogel

The social institution Beis-Lekhem was founded in 1933 by the communal workers who took as their goal to alleviate the need of economically ruined middle class families, who were ashamed to put out their hands themselves for support. The founding committee of the institution met in the shtibl in Yakov Rozenbaum's house (Reymonta 38), during which the condition of respectable families who lost their possessions but refused to ask for charity was discussed.

The committee for “Beis-Lekhem”

On top (from the right): Mordekhai Kaminski, Abraham-Yitzhak Beser, Dovid Grosman, Yakov-Dovid, ——, Y. Ganczorski.
Second row: Wolf Fajerman, Y Waldfogel, Zalman Zilberszac, Shlomoh-Yitzhak Hampel, ——, Abraham Karnowski, Groiner Fiszman.
First row: Yakov Henczinski, Malek Yakubowicz, Daniel Rozenbaum, the Rabbi Yisroel-Pinkhas Hacohan Rabinowicz,
Mendel Rozental, Yakov Rozenbaum, Yitzhak Landau.

A plan was worked out on how to identify the needy and how to distribute the aid so as, G-d forbid, not to offend the needy.

An operation was proclaimed to solicit stable members for the society, who paid monthly dues. Simultaneously, certain couples were appointed who went around over the city and collected challahs and bread. When the collector would appear in a courtyard, mostly on Shabbos, they would call out: “Gut Shabbos Yidelek” (Trans. note: a diminutive of Jews), the Beis-Lekhem is here,” and immediately people came out from all of the apartments with challahs and loaves of bread in their hands. Everyone considered it a sacred duty to take part in this collection. Understanding and a readiness to help embraced both the collector and the giver.

During the week of Passover, this action would take place all day, and then people gave not only matzohs, but also eggs and other products.

The needy who were reticent about taking products in public were taken care of secretly – quietly, so that neighbors and acquaintances would not know about it.

The institution Beis-Lekhem existed until the outbreak of the Second World War and assisted much of the poor population.

Philanthropic-Constructive Aid Activities

by C. Ois-n

Excerpts from the Press (1931-1939)

“Di Zeit”, 4th September 1931

Solemn Opening of “Hakhnoses-Orkhim”
(Translator's note: a philanthropic Institution to assist those passing through the town and the poor)

As modestly and quietly as his giant undertaking, the benefactor and donor Mr. Mendel Lakhman saw to it that the solemn opening of Hakhnoses-Orkhim should pass modestly and quietly so as not to make any noise in the city. There is already a precept: honor chases those who shy away from honor. Many, many hundreds of people were there at the celebration that took place Sunday evening in the newly constructed building. The congestion was terrible and it must be understood that only a small number could be allowed into the premises of the Hakhnoses-Orkhim, while a larger number remained in the courtyard.

The building proper – a 2-story building fitted with all conveniences and comforts. Great emphasis was placed on the sanitary facilities. On the ground floor, on one side, a large room with nine beds (mattresses and warm blankets), nicely painted, kaffel oivens(Translator's note: tiled stoves used for heating and cooking), electric lighting, washstands, towels, a closet for the visitors' packs; in short – everyone would wish to have such a dwelling with such accommodations. This room is designated for better visitors.

On the second side is a room that [is no different] from the accommodations of the above-described room – but without beds. Here is the parlor for guests, where they can rest and drink a glass of tea, which is given out without cost. A memorial board hangs in this room on which is written that the charitable institution was created by benefactor M. Lakhman and his wife, in the memory of their deceased parents, Yershmial-Dovid and Ester-Haya.

[Page 241]

A second room with nine beds with [accommodations equal] to the first bedroom is found near the parlor designated for guests from the “second level.”

It is superfluous to point out that M. Lakhman, as a very pious Jew, took care therefore that in every room there would be found a cabinet of sforim, complete sets of talisand tefilin and even yarmulkesin which to sleep. In the rules that hung on the wall, it is pointed out that a guest cannot make use of the Hakhnoses-Orkhimif he does not wear a talis-kotn(Trans. note: undergarment with fringes on four corners worn by pious men), which are also available for purchase on the spot from the superintendent, Mr. Y. Zelikowicz.

The supervisor has an apartment on the floor and on the second side – again two rooms for guests that are not yet finished.

In general, the facility made an impressive impression, although the celebration was modest. The first one to make remarks was the Rabbi, who painted a picture of the conditions that existed until now for the visiting poor for over-nighting in Radomsk. Interweaving his drosh with quotations from our sages of blessed memory, he pointed out that considering the harsh times, the donations reflected the great cost and [the desire] to live to see the erection of the eternal building. After the Rabbi, the Messieurs Zelwer and Buki, members of the Rabbinate, spoke about the issues of the day.

Then the benefactor Mendel Lakhman himself gave an hour-long drosh. The drosh was given with enthusiasm and ardor, and it was truly felt that this individual found himself somewhere in “the heavenly worlds.”

M. Lakhman begins his drosh – “It is not I who is the donor of Hakhnoses-Orkhim, but G-d. I am only a messenger because, 'I left my mother's womb naked'(Translator's note: Nothing belongs to me, everything is a gift from G-d). I did not bring any money into the world and I will not take it with me after I die.” In another section of the drosh, which is [studded] with aphorisms from learned contributors to the Talmud, Midrashand Zohar and the Holy Scriptures, and binding one with the other, M. Lakhman points out that a man is rubbish who only lives for his own “me.” He successfully blames those who can provide for the public good but do not think of how they act in the world. Further, the speaker reminds about the importance of the interest-free loan fund in which he works actively and which must now be strengthened with more capital.

After beverages are served and a Psalm of dedication of the building is sung, Y. Szwaitlowski and the Amshinower (Mszczonow) Rabbi speak. With this the celebration ends at 11 o'clock in the evening.

Di Zeit*, 23rd November 1934

*(Translator's note: The newspaper is referred as both Der Zeit and Di Zeit.)

Meeting of the Interest-Free Loan Fund

From the report delivered by Mr. Rodol, it can be seen that 235 loans were given out with a sum of 52,182 zl.in the course of the last year and a half. Most of the loans were from 25 to 300 zl. The administrative costs for the above-mentioned period reached 2,700 zl.

The managing committee made it a rule that committee members could not borrow any money from the Fund and could not endorse any promissory notes.

The assets of the Fund are as follows (the 31st of January 1934): In cash: 1, 304.60; With debtors – 25,416.69; Inventory – 378; a deposit in the Retailer's Bank (of blessed memory) – 430; Total – 27,529.29. The liabilities are: Debt to “Joint” – 18,110 zlotys; Own capital – 9,419.29 zl.

A discussion begins and different speakers come out publicly. H. Waldfogel wants it to be easier to receive loans (Bravo, Mr. Waldfogel, in your time that is how it was; but who knows if it is not because of this that the audit commission cut short your work)… Mr. Yakubowicz blames the managing committee, because they did not take the subsidies from the Kehile (Nonsense, Mr. Yakubowicz, the Kehile does not have any money for such foolishness)… At the end, the speaker brings in a proposal to give the managing committee a vote of confidence, because it has not committed any abuse (Oy, woe to you, Radomsk, if you have reached the level to express confidence for this, that the managing committee has not stolen)…

Mr. Rodol answers the opponents and confidence is actually expressed in the trod upon managing committee.

The voters give further results: The Messieurs Rodol, Kaplan, Sh. Gliksman. Sh. L. Witenberg, Yakubowicz, Z. Zilberszatz, Lustiger, M.D. Frajman and Ofman are elected to the managing committee. An audit committee is elected, too, with M. Wolkowicz, Gerikhter and Tiger.

“Nowo-Radomsker Almanac”, 1939

Activity Report of the Philanthropic Institutions

Here we print a report of L. Finkelkraut, Secretary of the Managing Committee in Warsaw, to which the Federation of Polish Jews in America sends over all collected money. L. Finkelkraut made a special visit to our home-city Nowo-Radomsk in order to help open the Loan Fund, which the Nowo-Radomsk Relief Committee in New York created in the name of our Society.
The Editor

The situation: The attempt to brutally picket Jewish businesses had not begun in Radomsk. Many times the Christian population announced an attempt to try [such an] opposition. However, for a long time there had been attempts to systematically expel the Jews from their established economic positions.

If previously a Polish business or artisan's workshop in certain lines of business were not in existence (as for example: watchmaking, iron businesses, hats and ladies' hats), today in every line of business there are Polish businesses, which are visible in the city with the signs, “Christian business.” With their esthetic appearance, they obscure in large measure a part of the Jewish shops, which are certain to fall behind, particularly from external effects. It is also said that the new stores have already learned to sell.

[Page 242]

With a calmer atmosphere and more widespread support, the Jewish sellers and craftsmen would somehow manage and adjust to the spirit of the time.

  1. The Linat-haTzedek (poor house) possesses premises in the house of the Jewish Kehile. The institution gives medical help to the poor Jewish population that does not benefit from social insurance. It covers the budget through members' dues, approximately 1,800-2,000 zlotys a year (approximately 20% for expenses); through income already in the till and pledges for various occasions and the like. The Society has sympathy in the city.
  2. We have reported on the existence of a society Tomchei Yoldot Aniim (Translator's note: society to help needy women deliver their children), to whose activity Mrs. Markowicz dedicates her time. (I did not have the opportunity to become acquainted with the precise activities of the society.)
  3. An Hakhnoses-Orkhim (Translator's note: an organization concerned with providing hospitality to strangers visiting Radomsk on shabbosim and yomim-tovim) for the wandering poor possesses a special building in the courtyard of the Jewish Kehile. (It supports itself.) I found the accommodations clean in relation to the cost.
  4. The whole question of child-protection is neglected: feeding, clothing, summer colonies. No one is occupied with this and no one caters to this. [This is] in contrast to many other cities, where the question is considered the most important. This is truly a shame. It was reported to me that the organization TOZ (Society for the Protection of Health) made several attempts in this realm. However, this did not have appropriate repercussions. (Due to a shortage of time, I could not personally examine the matter.)

Constructive Assistance

The general interest-free loan fund existed in the city for many years (supported by the “Joint”). For a short time the interest-free loan fund ceased its activities on formal legal grounds. It then eliminated the obstacles, was legalized and again began its activities.

Mr. Dovid Rodol, who was trusted in the city, was the head of the institution. However, not all circles were satisfied with the managing committee of the interest-free loan fund (there were arguments with it). The dissatisfaction carried, according to my impression after the conversation I had with several of the retailers and craftsmen, a purely personal character. It was clarified for me the next time at a general meeting, where matters would perhaps be reconciled.

After the crisis of 1930-2 and the decline of the local bank, the Jewish population in Radomsk (a moderately lively city) remained without its own credit institution. This lack of a cooperative institution was strongly felt by both the merchants in Radomsk and by the general network of the Jewish cooperatives that had to make use of the various mediation operations of the non-Jewish institutions. A group of Jews from the Orthodox circles responded with the initiative of creating a cooperative institution. The management consists of the following people: Moishe Berger, Sh.L. Witenberg, Dovid Waldfogel, Elimelekh Yakubowicz, Mendel Lakhman, Yeheil-Shlomoh Szitenberg. Mr. Yitzhak Szapiro occupies the president's office of the managing committee. (The whole city trusts this Mr. Yitzhak Szapiro.)

Today the cooperative counts a sum-total of 77 members, with 1,703 zl. in funds (5,500 deposits – investments). Because of the lack of capital the institution cannot give credit to the broad stratum and also cannot benefit from external credit. In this connection, its activity is limited both in regard to general credit activity and in regard to the narrow circle of members. The institution belongs to the Agudist Revisionist Union and is controlled and instructed by it.

The goal of the cited Union is that the cooperative should become the true people's bank in Radomsk, should increase its activities and draw members from all circles. The following can serve to show how important is the significance of the cooperative for the general network of cooperatives and for the city:

The cooperative promptly takes care of all relations, benefits therefore from trust and receives income from all corners of the land and from Central. The institution monetarily takes care of almost 2,000 such receipts and distributes, too, although in a more limited measure, credit. During the course of the past three months 88 credits were given out with a sum of 2,511 zl. The balance of the credit given out, for the quarter, amounts to 1,538 zl.

The income is mostly from the streamlined operations. In 1937 the bank took in approximately 15,000 zl. (income). From that remained a surplus of 3,320 zl. after covering all expenses, which was given to the communal reserve-fund. The reserve fund (that is social funds) amounts today together with the surplus from the earlier years (3,339 zl.), the general sum of 6, 659 zl.

From the last three months, for the quarter, the cooperative had:

Income already in the till 2, 787.00 zl.
Interest from credit 620.00 zl.
Total 3, 407.00 zl.
Expenditures from the budget 2,819.00 zl.
Surplus of 588.00 zl.

As we see in the present investigation, in spite of the fact that we still did not receive promised foreign funds, the cooperative more than covered all of its expenses, with a considerable surplus.

Five people are employed in the office, who today could not be employed elsewhere. Therefore, five Jewish families live modestly from the institution, not injuring anyone.

That is how a legal juridical apparatus was created that can be transformed into a proper financial institution in Radomsk without large sums, with proper supporting credit, through which Jewish money can circulate.

The clerical staff works very diligently under the supervision of the widely esteemed Mr. Yitzhak Szapiro.

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