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Old 08-13-2008, 10:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm converting to Judaism, but I haven't entirely chosen a congregation yet. I was invited to join a friend's family for services for the High Holy Days, which are coming up at the end of September at the Reform Congregation in town. Apparently, since I am not officially a member of the Synagogue, there is a $75 ticket fee for adult guests to attend, per holiday service.

That kind of weirded me out, since I've never encountered any fee to attend a religious service before -- there is no fee at the Conservative shul I would generally attend. I can kind of understand that they'd want to make sure that people who were members and active in the congregation have first chance at attending services over people who just show up for the "important bits". And I assume that there are costs associated with putting on a religious service that I can understand the congregation might not want to bear for random onlookers. But there is still something about it that feels... not-right to me. I don't know if it's the amount of money (which seems high, but what do I know?) or the fact that seems kind of "for-profit" to me, or the feeling it would discourage people from participating. But it does make me feel really trepidatious about this congregation. Which is tough for me because they are by far the most family friendly and interfaith friendly of the congregations in town.

Please help me understand this -- is there something I'm just not getting, here?



ETA: When I called their office to ask about it, I was informed that it would be a $75 fee, if I were from out of town. Since I live here I would be required to sign an application to join their congregation and make a financial commitment to pay dues before I would be allowed to attend services.

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Old 08-13-2008, 10:19 PM
 
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I've never heard of such a thing and would not participate in a congregation that had this policy. Although maybe it would deter people from just showing up on Christmas and Easter and taking all the good seats.

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Old 08-13-2008, 10:29 PM
 
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It's actually quite common for the High Holy Days because many congregations rent space for it. For example, at my DH shul they actually rented out a theater each year when he was a boy they had so many people. So tickets help defray the costs of the rental. Plus unlike my local Catholic parish the service is not repeated. At church we have more than one Christmas Mass. There aren't multiple Kol Nidre at synagogues though. So you can't break up the worshipers.
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Old 08-13-2008, 10:39 PM
 
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I couldn't see it happening in any Christian church (and haven't at any church I've gone to), but I'd assume you're looking for answers from Jewish mamas.

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Old 08-13-2008, 10:41 PM
 
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Ard, that's really interesting, and something I did not know.

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Old 08-13-2008, 10:50 PM
 
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that is odd. that is no small fee.

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Old 08-13-2008, 11:44 PM
 
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that is odd. that is no small fee.
:

I could understand a $10-$15 fee....but $75!!?? Jeez. So, will the fee go away on non-high holidays? Will they be checking membership cards at the door? The more I think about it, the more I think it's weird. I would probably not go to that congregation honestly, I really wouldn't want to be forced into signing any financial agreement if I wasn't ready yet.

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Old 08-14-2008, 01:25 AM
 
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i agree. I wouldn't be interestd in visiting somewhere that was that hung up on money. members at our church are expected to contribute but they aren't checking reciepts at the door. Guests certainly aren't expected to do anything.

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Old 08-14-2008, 02:45 AM
 
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yep. i was raised in Reform Judaism and you have to be a member of the congregation to get a ticket to the high holy day services.
If you are a member, it is included in the membership fee.

I am now a Christian but looked into attending high holy day services at the Chabad near me last year.
I chose not to attend though.
Here is the info from the Chabad near me for this year:

Quote:
All Jews, regardless of religious background, are welcome! No membership required.

Prices

Seats for Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur are $125 per person.

Teenagers and full-time students are $65 per person.

Children under Bar & Bat Mitzvah age are $36 per child. This fee includes childcare services and junior congregation

A letter of confirmation and a more detailed schedule of all the Holiday services and children's programs will follow shortly. Looking forward to seeing you on the High Holidays.

No one will be turned away because of inability to pay. Please call our office to make arrangements.

Membership at Chabad

High Holiday Seats are included with membership at Chabad . As a member, your spouse and children attend services at no additional cost. Both out-of-town and local relatives of members can reserve seats for reduced rates.
I imagine the Reform Synagogue might not require you to be Jewish to attend, but the Chabad does. I get a kick out of this line
Quote:
All Jews, regardless of religious background, are welcome! No membership required.
I have taken my children to some of their children's programs which are very good. At the last one I told one of the ladies in charge that I had been raised going to a local Reform Synagogue but I now attend a church. She came back to me later and asked me if either one of my parents were Jewish. I told her both of them had been and she said ok and left.
I think I may be a bit of an enigma to them.
But I really do admire them. They are Hasidic Jews I believe. They send their teenagers to Yeshivas - an uber religious boarding school. They are really serious about what they are doing. I like that. They would love to convert me back to Judaism and convert my children too.
They are the most evangelical Jews I have ever met although they are probably only evangelical to Jewish people who are not practicing Judaism I imagine.

Anyway, sorry to go off topic.
It is my understanding that most Jewish synagogues charge money for high holy day services because many people only attend for those.
So, some people join and become members just so they can attend the services which raises their membership and helps them financially and if they don't join as members, they charge a fee.

Notice that the Chabad states you won't be turned away because of inability to pay. I wonder if they check you finances or just trust people who say they can't pay. I don't know. But, it is not worth that much money to me to attend the services. So, I am not going.
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Old 08-14-2008, 02:52 AM
 
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Our (reform, if it matters) synagogue charges $75 for non-members as well. The HH fee for members is included in your dues, and we have 2 services of everything - yes, including Kol Nidre. Even though we have 2 services, it's packed. We need to know how many people are coming so we can have chairs for everyone. Because everyone in there paid for a seat. The $ is to ensure that all members who want can come and have a seat (which they're paying for in their dues), and non-members who say they'll come will actually come.

No offense meant, but I grew up Christian and I remember a collection plate being passed around at EVERY. SERVICE. We ask once a year to make sure that if you don't normally come, we know who to expect (and so you'll get a seat!). I think yeah, the price is higher, but I remember paying LOTS more to be part of my Christian congregation - what with dues AND the collection plate. I also remember having to stand through a Christmas service, even though we were regular congregants. My mom would have paid $75 to get a seat for THAT 2 hour service.

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Old 08-14-2008, 03:03 AM
 
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How do they manage 2 services? I've never heard of this or seen it before. Do you just mean they have services in 2 locations? Or they perform it twice. This is a new one for me.
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Old 08-14-2008, 03:13 AM
 
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How do they manage 2 services? I've never heard of this or seen it before. Do you just mean they have services in 2 locations? Or they perform it twice. This is a new one for me.
It's just the rabbi and I (I'm the cantorial soloist). Here's the schedule (remembering that the holiday starts in the evening):

Rosh Hashanah: 6:30pm and 8:30pm (same service twice)
8:15am, 10:45am children's service, 11:15am (first and last are same service twice)

Yom Kippur:6:30pm and 8:30pm (same service twice)
8:15am, 10:45am children's service, 11:15am (first and last are same service twice)
Yizkor in the afternoon at 3.

The $75 fee covers any and all services you'd like to go to. The rabbi and I have the lucky job of officiating at all of them

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Old 08-14-2008, 04:31 AM
 
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Yes, charging for High Holidays services is very common. In fact, it is rare to find a shul that doesn't charge at all. There have been years when I could not afford to pay, so I went anyway. I knew I would have to stand unless someone wasn't there, but I went. Some shuls will turn people not on the list or w/o tickets away, but many collect the money yet don't make a big deal about it on the day.

It's important to understand that this is the time of year that people who attend once a year attend. It's hard for the regular members of a shul to show up and find that their seats have been taken. Especially during the long R"H and Y"K davening, people want to be able to go home for a rest or to take care of children, etc. and be able to come back and still have a seat.

Also, in many shuls they aren't strict about enforcing membership dues, so this is one time of year they feel they can make sure people contribute in some way financially to the shul.
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Old 08-14-2008, 04:39 AM
 
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Originally Posted by christianmomof3 View Post
I imagine the Reform Synagogue might not require you to be Jewish to attend, but the Chabad does. I get a kick out of this line I have taken my children to some of their children's programs which are very good. At the last one I told one of the ladies in charge that I had been raised going to a local Reform Synagogue but I now attend a church. She came back to me later and asked me if either one of my parents were Jewish. I told her both of them had been and she said ok and left.
I think I may be a bit of an enigma to them.
But I really do admire them. They are Hasidic Jews I believe. They send their teenagers to Yeshivas - an uber religious boarding school. They are really serious about what they are doing. I like that. They would love to convert me back to Judaism and convert my children too.
They are the most evangelical Jews I have ever met although they are probably only evangelical to Jewish people who are not practicing Judaism I imagine.
BTW, I don't think it's a problem at all for non-Jews to attend a Chabad shul. I've known many people considering or in the process of conversion to attend several Chabad shuls I've attended. Like you say, Chabadniks simply have no interest in converting people who aren't Jewish. They will help if a person feels that they *must* become Jewish.

Oh, and you are right; they'd love to see more of you and your kids there. I bet if you tell them your story, you'd get free High Holidays seats for sure!
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Old 08-14-2008, 04:55 AM
 
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Agreeing with the PPs smies and Binah and Ard.



Worth noting that on Yom Kippur in particular, in many shuls (particularly Orthodox and Conservative) the service begins very early, like 8 a.m., and runs continuously till nightfall/end of the fast with maybe a one/two hour break somewhere late in the afternoon.

Now, think about this: If you went to a shul ... and remember, on Yom Kippur you're fasting, and that means no food or drink for 25 hours ... and had to stand for approximately 10 hours of services (assuming the afternoon break) ... well, that's a hard one, you know? So those who pay are generally guaranteed a seat.



Most shuls I know of, anyone can show up to pray (for free) on the High Holidays, but you're only guaranteed a seat to sit in if you've paid.





Also, the passing-the-collection-plate thing is a major difference. There is no such thing as a collection plate in a shul, and for many congregations, the best opportunity the congregation has to make the money to, say, pay the electric bill and the mortgage is with the High Holidays fundraiser (aka the price for the seats).




As an example. in my parents' Conservative congregation on LI, there is a core of about 40 people who attend services regularly. They participate in whatever other events there might be (movie night? you know, that kind of thing) to raise a little bit of money ... always the same faces. That's it. And then on the High Holidays approximately 800 people show up. Think about that ... 40 people hold it up for eleven months, but in this one holiday 760 other people are available to make a contribution.
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Old 08-14-2008, 11:13 AM
 
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*not Jewish here* but, I grew up in a predominately Jewish community and I recall that the Reform and Conservative synagogues charged for High Holiday seats for non-members, but I don't know about the Orthodox synagogues.

I also remember we had no school on those days.

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Old 08-14-2008, 11:26 AM
 
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It's a big deal, especially in non-orthodox shuls. Many people only show up twice a year--on RH and YK. If they didn't charge, these people would effectively freeload. They wouldn't pay membership dues if they could just go those two days for free.

Without requiring membership or stiff tickets for those 2 holidays, congregations couldn't function financially. Jewish congregations are autonomous and self-financing. Many are in high COL areas and paying the rabbi, cantor, and maintaining facilities is expensive. And a lot of people don't want to pay for things they only use twice a year... but boy do they want them then! (Same thing with joining for the years your child is in Hebrew classes and then quitting.)

Also, don't forget that we can't pass a collection plate because we can't handle money on Shabbat or Yom Tov. It has to be done through membership.

if you are genuinely unable to pay, shuls will work with you if you're nice, call in advance and speak to the rabbi. But they need to recoup their costs and this is how they do it.

OP, did you explain you're not Jewish yet and are converting? Usually non-Jews can't be full members anyway.

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Old 08-14-2008, 11:56 AM
 
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Also, the passing-the-collection-plate thing is a major difference. There is no such thing as a collection plate in a shul, and for many congregations, the best opportunity the congregation has to make the money to, say, pay the electric bill and the mortgage is with the High Holidays fundraiser (aka the price for the seats).
See, that shows how biased my thinking was towards my own faith tradition. I didn't know this! I really appreciate you all taking the time to explain.

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Old 08-14-2008, 12:33 PM
 
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Most shuls I know of, anyone can show up to pray (for free) on the High Holidays, but you're only guaranteed a seat to sit in if you've paid.
I have never been to a shul where this wasn't the case. You pay for the seat. I've never seen anyone monitor who is sitting in it. (ie. we stayed in a friend's house when they weren't there and used their seats. Noone blinked. (Orthodox congregations, btw)

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Old 08-14-2008, 08:33 PM
 
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Thinks for taking the time to explain things more. that does make lot more sense. it is not just a holiday service. it is an all day event.

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Old 08-14-2008, 10:26 PM
 
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Oh, and you are right; they'd love to see more of you and your kids there. I bet if you tell them your story, you'd get free High Holidays seats for sure!
I imagine they would. They are really sweet people and I really like them.
I would love to go to more things but I don't want them to let me go to things thinking that I will return to the Jewish religion.
I am a born again Christian and I love the Lord Jesus and He lives in me.
I don't wish to change that, nor could I.
However, I feel very much drawn to the Jewish religion.
Which is kind of odd because years ago I left the Reform Jewish religion because I found it hypocritical.
However, I have learned that not all Jews are like that.
And I really like and admire these ones at the Chabad.
When I have gone to their events, the songs and music and prayers speak to my soul. I enjoy it very much. It is in my cultural upbringing and it feels like home to me.
I don't wish to go to the reform synagogue - I am not thrilled with them and have been to the one close to where I live and I just don't like it.

I just don't want to go to the Chabad in a deceiving way.
That is why I tell them every time I go that I was raised Jewish but am now Christian and want my children to learn about the Jewish religion.
That is totally true.
But, I don't want my children to practice the Jewish religion, nor do I wish to - I don't think.

I think I want to go to Israel.
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Old 08-15-2008, 01:26 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all for such thoughtful answers. I had NO IDEA that the numbers were so overwhelming. I have been attending services at what seemed like a smallish Conservative congregation of like 60 people, and I'm trying to imagine fitting 800 in the building and just not even managing it!

As much as it would be nice to attend services with a friend and her family, it sounds like it wouldn't really be a good idea in the end. They offered to pay, but that's a lot of money and I'd be taking away a spot someone else with actual ties to the congregation could use, and just wouldn't feel right about that. And if I go where I'm at least sort of known, I can stand in the corner and at least the Rabbi has met me and knows I'm a horrible newbie and am still just learning. But now I kind of wonder if I should attend at all... I haven't formally begun conversion. I'd like to go, but I really don't want to be in the way. Meh.

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Old 08-15-2008, 01:58 AM
 
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I've never been able to pay (either dues or for HH seats ), and I've never been turned away from a HH service, ever. In fact, I've never been asked to stand or give up my seat, even when I decided the day before that I ought to go to services and just randomly showed up.

Belle, I'd definately go in your position.

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Old 08-15-2008, 11:25 AM
 
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Belle. Go. Before my conversion, I felt the same way you do. I was so moved by Kol Nidre that I remember crying, and feeling like such a poser because I wasn't Jewish. I'm so glad I decided to go. I actually enjoyed the Rosh Hashanah services that I spent with friends the most and the Yom Kippur I spent sitting alone. They're two very different holidays. Why don't you try one with your friend and another at your congregation? Remember, you've got plenty of options. Explore them all and don't be shy about it. I've never met a more welcoming or understanding bunch than we Jews.

BTW, you're never 'taking away' a seat. They'll just add another for you. Don't ever worry about that.

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Old 08-15-2008, 02:16 PM
 
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JMO, but I think you should go. And as far as them paying for you, if they offered, then I don't see why you shouldn't take them up on it. Many people are able to write off donations to religious organizations.
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Old 08-15-2008, 09:58 PM
 
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My shul (Reconstructionist) doesn't charge.

It's a good-sized congretation in a fairly large city and we rent a nice hall downtown and services for the High Holidays are open to everyone. Members are asked to commit to volunteer hours (set up, supervising child care, etc.) The whole community gets involved and pulls this off. It is a time when many people do choose to make a donation to the shul; before we joined, dh only went for the holidays and he always donated something.

We tend to get a very full house, partly I think because we don't charge; the idea is that being able to come for the holidays means a lot to many people, even if they aren't practicing, and making it accessible could be something that brings them back to Judaism. Even if not, it's still important.

Perhaps not being charged makes people more willing to give, because this has gone on for years and I've never heard about it being a financial hardship.

On the other hand, I know we're the minority and most shuls do it differently.
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Old 08-16-2008, 04:09 AM
 
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Originally Posted by christianmomof3 View Post
I imagine they would. They are really sweet people and I really like them.
I would love to go to more things but I don't want them to let me go to things thinking that I will return to the Jewish religion.
I am a born again Christian and I love the Lord Jesus and He lives in me.
I don't wish to change that, nor could I.
However, I feel very much drawn to the Jewish religion.
Which is kind of odd because years ago I left the Reform Jewish religion because I found it hypocritical.
However, I have learned that not all Jews are like that.
And I really like and admire these ones at the Chabad.
When I have gone to their events, the songs and music and prayers speak to my soul. I enjoy it very much. It is in my cultural upbringing and it feels like home to me.
I don't wish to go to the reform synagogue - I am not thrilled with them and have been to the one close to where I live and I just don't like it.

I just don't want to go to the Chabad in a deceiving way.
That is why I tell them every time I go that I was raised Jewish but am now Christian and want my children to learn about the Jewish religion.
That is totally true.
But, I don't want my children to practice the Jewish religion, nor do I wish to - I don't think.

I think I want to go to Israel.
Have you heard of Messianic Jewish congregations? I know that most (all?!) Jews roll their eyes at them and say they are just Christian churches, and honestly I don't know either way, but it might be something that really speaks to you. There are some very enthusiastic congregations in the larger cities near us.

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Old 08-16-2008, 11:15 AM
 
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Personally speaking (and no, I am not Jewish), I would never attend a service where I was expected to pay an entry fee.

The Church we now attend (a small break-away from ROCOR) has a congregation of around 40 people. Parish "dues" are $25 a year. Yes, a plate is passed around at the end of Liturgy, and most people put in a couple of bucks, tops. So that doesn't yield a heck of a lot of cash. (*)

The one time of year that a plate is NOT passed is during Holy Week. And that's the time - especially Good Friday and Holy Saturday - when everyone who doesn't attend all year shows up. We're standing room only anyway (no pews), but on those days the church is packed to the gills. But it is not a money-making event. And yes, we also fast.

Sorry - just a different perspective. I'd find a different congregation.

(*) There is no external source of funding. Those of us who can manage to, contribute what we can towards bills, and do a lot of manual labor to keep things functional.
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Old 08-16-2008, 11:19 AM
 
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Originally Posted by annettemarie View Post
I've never heard of such a thing and would not participate in a congregation that had this policy. Although maybe it would deter people from just showing up on Christmas and Easter and taking all the good seats.
and

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Old 08-16-2008, 12:35 PM
 
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Originally Posted by thewaggonerfamily View Post
Have you heard of Messianic Jewish congregations? I know that most (all?!) Jews roll their eyes at them and say they are just Christian churches, and honestly I don't know either way, but it might be something that really speaks to you. There are some very enthusiastic congregations in the larger cities near us.
Thank you for the suggestion. I have heard of them and looked into them online and spoke to a friend who went to one for a while.
I have prayed about that matter as well.
But, and no offense intended to those who are in that religion, but it does not seem to be what I am looking for.


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