Cantor Melanie Blatt

Cantor Blatt recently was ordained by Hebrew College and serves Beth El Congregation as Cantor Educator and Director of Community Engagement.  In this new position, she works closely with the clergy to enhance congregational life. Cantor Blatt has also been working to build the Chesed program, which supports congregants when they need it most.

Cantor Blatt has a Bachelor’s Degree in Fire Protection Engineering from University of Maryland College Park with a Scholars Citation of the Arts.  She has also earned a Master’s Degree in Jewish Education, Leadership, and Communal Service from Baltimore Hebrew Institute at Towson University and a Master’s Degree in Jewish Studies from Hebrew College.  Cantor Blatt has performed for audiences all over the country including President Obama at the White House.  She also has a background in dance, movement, meditation, and has been a certified personal trainer since 2010.



Lisa Bleich Founder SignalFire


Lisa Bleich
Founder, SignalFire

Lisa Bleich believes deeply in every human’s capacity to grow, change and connect. Lisa’s commitment to social change has fueled her work as an Executive Leader at some of Baltimore’s most impactful nonprofits including Community Mediation, The Alliance for Community Teachers and Schools, Creative City Public Charter School and Fusion Partnerships. Currently, Lisa serves as the Managing Partner of Signal Fire, LLC which works to transform the way that organizations make decisions and engage the community using the power of truth and authenticity.



Diana Bloom
Productivity and Efficiency Consultant

Diana Bloom
Diana travels internationally, teaching take-away actionable systems to achieve higher productivity and efficiency in all areas of an organization.

Diana spends her summers as Head Counselor at URJ Camp Coleman in Cleveland, Georgia supervising 7 unit heads who oversee 80+ bunk staff and over 400 campers per session.

Participants around the country have gained knowledge and tools during her seminars, conference workshops, and executive coaching sessions that have enabled them to immediately implement permanent changes in their personal and professional lives. Her techniques are presented in a manner that can be quickly understood with measurable results.

Diana’s humorous, engaging and straightforward training style has assisted thousands of people achieve dramatic change in their lives. Her workshops and executive coaching sharpen delegation, improve project management, strengthen communication and eliminate mistakes, while creating a Totally Accountable culture.

Dr. Erica Brown
Associate Professor
George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development and the director of its Mayberg Center for Jewish Education and Leadership

Dr. Erica Brown

She consults for non-profits and serves as the community scholar for The Jewish Center in Manhattan.  She previously served as the scholar-in-residence for The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, where she directed its Jewish Leadership Institute. She also held that position at the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston. Erica was a Jerusalem Fellow, is a faculty member of the Wexner Foundation, an Avi Chai Fellow, winner of the Ted Farber Professional Excellence Award, is a recipient of the 2009 Covenant Award for her work in education and the 2012 Bernie Reisman Award (Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program, Brandeis University). Erica has degrees from Yeshiva University, University of London, Harvard University and Baltimore Hebrew University. She lectures and writes widely on subjects of Jewish interest and leadership and lives with her husband and children in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Erica is the author of 11 books. Her forthcoming book is Jonah: The Reluctant Prophet (fall, 2017). She is the author of Take Your Soul to Work: 365 Meditations on Every Day Leadership (Simon and Schuster, December 2015) and Happier Endings: A Meditation on Life and Death (Simon and Schuster), which won both the Wilbur and Nautilus awards for spiritual writing. Her previous books are Leadership in the Wilderness (OU/Koren), Inspired Jewish Leadership, a National Jewish Book Award finalist, Spiritual Boredom, Confronting Scandal and co-author of The Case for Jewish Peoplehood (all through Jewish Lights), In the Narrow Places: Daily Inspiration for the Three Weeks (OU Press/Koren) and Return: Daily Inspiration for the Days of Awe (OU/Koren) and Seder Talk: A Conversational Haggada (OU/Koren). She writes a monthly column for the New York Jewish Week and London’s Jewish Chronicle and has blogged for JTA, Psychology Today and Newsweek/Washington Post’s “On Faith” and tweets on one page of Talmud study a day @DrEricaBrown. She also writes Weekly Jewish Wisdom. Access her articles at

Lindsey Davis
PowerThrough That

Lindsey Davis
Lindsey uses the power of effective communication to impact audiences from the backcountry to the board room. Since 2001, she has worked with local governments, community organizations, and educational institutions to craft powerful content, overcome fears, set priorities, and deliver stories creatively. After witnessing leaders who could be better, athletes who could be stronger, and stories that could be louder, Lindsey has developed and designed programs and training to help those with passion get what they want.

Lindsey holds master’s degrees in city and regional planning and public administration from UNC-Chapel Hill and teaches leadership at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and founded PowerThroughThat – the work of which you’ll be exposed to today.

Lindsey is joined by four PowerThroughThat practitioners.

Mandy Diamond
Blue Zone Thinking

Mandy Diamond
Mandy started her leadership and learning career in Australia, working as a Learning and Development Consultant for one of Australia’s major banks. This saw her move through various roles in learning and development with her focus always on leadership and team development. Mandy was responsible for developing, designing and facilitating a leadership development program for frontline managers and worked through a company merger, playing a pivotal role in the change management program. While on maternity leave with her first child, Mandy co-authored a book with Ivan Nurick, “Leaders developing Leaders”. The success of this book led her to leave her role at the bank and join Ivan at On Cue Executive development. This saw Mandy expand into Executive level leadership and strategy development as well as working with organizations at an executive level to work through cultural change. Mandy has worked globally with clients in Australia, Asia, Middle East and the USA. She has worked across a variety of industries from mining to hospitality and in both the private and public sector. Whether her focus is at a 1-on-1, team or organizational level, Mandy has the ability to connect with individuals and open their eyes to possibilities and capabilities they never thought possible. This is the foundational principle of her business, Blue Zone Thinking. Mandy has made it her mission to provide organizations (and their leaders) with the tools (and the confidence) to move beyond their comfort zones. Everything you have ever desired lies just outside your comfort zone. We refer to this space as the Blue Zone, because once you’ve broken through the barrier of comfort, the sky is the limit. For more information on Blue Zone Thinking please contact Mandy:, 410-733-3672

Rabba Yaffa Epstein
Director of Education, North America for the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies

Rabba Yaffa Epstein

She received Rabbinic Ordination from Yeshivat Maharat and holds a Law Degree from Bar-Ilan University. She has studied at the Pardes Kollel, the Advanced Talmud Institute at Matan and the Talmud Department of Hebrew University.

Yaffa has been a teacher of Talmud, Jewish law, and Liturgy at Pardes for over a decade, and has served as the Director of the Beit Midrash at the Dorot Fellowship in Israel. She has taught Talmud and Jewish Law at Yeshivat Maharat, The Drisha Institute, The Wexner Heritage New Members Institute, Kayam Farm Kollel and Young Judaea. Yaffa has lectured at Limmud Events around the world, has written curriculum for the Global Day of Jewish Learning and has created innovative educational programming for Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.



Natalie Gillard

Natalie Gillard, a passionate DIYer who routinely creates her own clothing and household items, took DIY to the next level when she created a board game. Integral to her work as Assistant Vice President of Multicultural Experience at Maryland’s Stevenson University. As a de facto ambassador of diversity and inclusion, Gillard travels to a wide range of colleges and universities and cultural events such as New York City’s Games for Change.

Gillard game uses a version of Monopoly to explain the differences between people. (Courtesy photo)

Gillard moved to Maryland about six years ago and has been working at Stevenson University for almost two years. She grew up in Boston. There are certain things about her hometown she misses. “I miss the ability to be on one street and hear upwards of five different languages. Cultural diversity in Maryland seems to quickly get boiled down to Black and White whereas in Boston it’s so much about your ethnicity.” She also appreciates the cultural richness she finds in Maryland. “I enjoy what I consider a ‘better Black experience’ living down here. There’s a surplus of cultural experiences centered around Black culture in Maryland. It is much easier to find here than it was in Boston.”


Jody Hoffer Gittell

Jody Hoffer Gittell,PhD, is a professor of management at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management.  She founded the Relational Coordination Research Collaborative, bringing scholars and practitioners together to help organizations build relational coordination for high performance.  She co-founded a university spinoff called Relational Coordination Analytics Inc. offering measurement and intervention support to organizations seeking to improve their performance, and serves as its Chief Scientific Officer.Gittell has developed a theory of relational coordination, proposing that highly interdependent work is most effectively coordinated by frontline workers with each other, their customers and their leaders, through relationships of shared goals, shared knowledge and mutual respect, supported by frequent, timely, accurate, problem-solving communication.  The theory of relational coordination has two central propositions: 1) relational coordination drives quality and efficiency performance outcomes along with client and worker well-being, under conditions of interdependence, uncertainty and time constraints; and 2) organizational structures support or undermine relational coordination and its associated performance outcomes, depending upon their design.  Gittell’s relational model of organizational change has extended the theory to address how organizations and their stakeholders increase relational coordination to achieve their desired outcomes, proposing three types of interventions needed to do so – relational and work process interventions, as well as structural interventions.Gittell’s research is published in a wide range of scientific journals, for example Management ScienceOrganization ScienceAcademy of Management ReviewJournal of Applied Behavioral ScienceHuman Resource Management JournalHuman Resource ManagementIndustrial and Labor Relations ReviewHealth Services ResearchJournal of Nursing ManagementMedical Care, Health Care Management Review, Journal of Interprofessional Care,and Journal of Air Transport Management.  She has published five books, most recently Transforming Relationships for High Performance: The Power of Relational Coordination(2016).  Gittell received her PhD from the MIT Sloan School of Management and taught for six years at the Harvard Business School before joining Brandeis in 2001.  She currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the Endowment for Health, as Treasurer for Seacoast NAACP, and on the Editorial Review Board of the Academy of Management Review.


Dr. Yarden Fanta-Vagenshtein

Her captivating and inspiring story began in a remote Ethiopian village as an illiterate girl shepherding her family’s sheep and helping with chores that included collecting water from the river, wood from the forest and grinding grain on a millstone. It continues with a challenging journey with her family from Ethiopia to the state of Israel. Often barefoot, with one of her two-year old twin sisters on her back, Yarden walked at night more than 450 miles across the Sudan desert. After spending a year in a Sudanese refugee camp, she and her family were airlift to the state of Israel.

In Israel, she started attending school – learning for the first time in her life how to read and write at the age of 14. In 2005, she completed her Ph.D. in education at Tel Aviv University, becoming the first Ethiopian woman to earn a doctorate in Israel. In 2012 Dr. Yarden Fanta-Vagenshtein completed her post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard Graduate School of Education in the Human Development and Psychology Department.

Yarden was a teaching fellow at Tel Aviv University’s School of Education, Science and Technology Department. Dr. Fanta-Vagenshtein’s research focuses on immigrants’ transition, literacy and technological knowledge among immigrant populations.

Currently, Dr. Fanta-Vagenshtein is investigating the literacy and life skills of immigrants in the United States, and particularly the factors that impact cognitive skills, employability, social integration, and language acquisition in diverse immigrant groups.

Dr. Yarden Fanta-Vagenshtein is an experienced, sought-after public speaker, who has spoken around the world to philanthropists, politicians, educators, and students. She has spoken to national and international communities and organizations alike inducing Sydney Opera House in Australia, Parliament in London and on Capitol Hill in the United States, Synagogues, Churches and Women’s groups. Her first speech was to Lion of Judah women in D.C. with the first Lady at the time, Hillary Clinton.

Courtney Feldheim is a certified personal trainer, TRX trainer, fitness nutrition coach, and amateur boxer. Formerly a sixth grade teacher and high school sports coach, Courtney transitioned to full-time trainer in 2012 after finding boxing as a healthy outlet for stress.




Naphtali Hoff, PsyD
Impactful Coaching

Naphtali Hoff, PsyD

Naphtali is an accomplished executive coach, organizational consultant, and sought after trainer and lecturer. He completed his doctorate in human and organizational psychology, which analyzes successful individual or organizational change and development, and holds two master’s degrees in education and educational leadership, respectively. Naphtali’s practical, action-oriented approach has endeared him to his many clients. His personal experience in the leadership field allows him to understand leaders’ needs and craft solutions to help them optimize their performance and success.




Faye Katz worked as the Resume Specialist for the Career Center at Jewish Community Services in Baltimore, MD for over twelve years. She recently launched her own company, Fast Track Career, offering Resume, Cover Letter and LinkedIn writing services to the public. With a background in marketing and copywriting, Faye has helped hundreds of job seekers from all industries at all levels achieve their dream job. Her expertise includes resumes for Executives, New Graduates, Career Transitioners and Technology Professionals. She recently became certified as a Social Branding Analyst and holds an M.B.A. from Loyola University with a concentration in Marketing.


Erica Keswin, Author, Facilitator, Workplace Strategist

Erica Keswin
She is a workplace strategist who has worked for the past twenty years with some of the most iconic brands in the world as a consultant, speaker, writer and professional dot-connector. She helps top-of-the-class businesses, organizations and individuals improve their performance by honoring relationships in every context, always with an eye toward high-tech for human touch.

Erica is the Founder of the Spaghetti Project, a platform devoted to sharing the science and stories of human connections with global brands, community groups, teams and individuals. Inspired by a 2015 Cornell study showing that firemen who eat together are better at their jobs (they save more lives!), and as a hats-off to the firemen and their go-to firehouse meal, she calls her work the Spaghetti Project. Because left to our own devices, we’re just not connecting.

Erica received her MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, a pioneer in teamwork and collaboration, and her BA from the University of Vermont.

Her book, Bring Your Human to Work: Ten Sure-Fire Ways to Design a Workplace That is Good for People, Great for Business, and Just Might Change the World, was published by McGraw Hill in September, 2018.

Leslie Klein
Academic Dean
Women’s Institute of Torah Seminary

Leslie G. Klein
Leslie is the Academic Dean of Women’s Institute of Torah Seminary/Maalot Baltimore, a Jewish college for women. An accomplished speaker and writer, Dr. Klein has lectured on leadership and communication through the prism of Jewish sources across the United States and internationally. Dr. Klein received her Ph.D. from New York University and has taught at Gratz College, Touro College and Hebrew Theological College.  She is an alumna of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship and a recipient of the  New York Jewish Week’s “36 Under 36” award (2009). Dr. Klein is on the editorial board of Lehrhaus and the founder and director of Girls’ Night On, a not-for-profit organization that promotes Jewish women in music and the arts.



Judy Klitsner
She is a senior lecturer in Bible at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem and lectures to the Jewish Theological Seminary’s rabbinical students in Israel. A student of the great Bible teacher Nehama Leibowitz, Judy weaves together traditional exegesis, modern scholarship and her own original interpretations that are informed by close readings of the text. She is a frequent guest lecturer at venues throughout the US, Israel and Europe and is a regular visiting lecturer at the London School of Jewish Studies. Judy is the author of Subversive Sequels in the Bible: How Biblical Stories Mine and Undermine Each Other, which received a National Jewish book award. She is the founding board chair of Sacred Spaces, an organization that seeks to prevent abuse in Jewish institutions.

Daniel Langenthal

Daniel Langenthal is the Director of the Leadership Development Institute. He is an experienced educator, whose approach to human and organizational growth is informed by values of openness, engagement, reflection, team-building, and empowering others. As an experiential educator, his professional practice helps facilitate growth through active learning that helps identify obstacles and engages participants working together to find solutions. He has worked as a trainer, consultant, and educator with a wide array of clients from businesses to non-profit organizations, including working with teachers and youth-at-risk in both the US and Israel.

In his most recent role, as the Director of Experiential Learning and Teaching at Brandeis, he worked with faculty to help them incorporate active and reflective learning into their teaching. Prior to that, Daniel founded and directed MABAT, an Israeli non-profit dedicated to improving intercultural awareness among all Israeli citizens through experiential and diversity programming at Israeli colleges and universities. Daniel also served in the IDF, as a tour guide for the Society for Protection of Nature in Israel and as an Outward Bound instructor.

Daniel’s graduate education at Brandeis University earned him an MBA from the Heller School of Social Policy Management and an MA from the Hornstein Program in Jewish Professional Leadership. He also earned an MS in Outdoor Education from the University of New Hampshire. He volunteers with numerous non-profit organizations both Jewish and non, locally, nationally and in Israel.

Wendy Merrill
She is the Founder & Chief Rainmaker of StrategyHorse Consulting Group. She is committed to preparing ambitious and impact-oriented professionals to lead the organizations of the future. Wendy helps Rising Leaders to realize their growth potential by strategically navigating the obstacles to success that are created by both themselves and others. In both her personal and professional life, she continuously mentors aspiring entrepreneurs and ambitious intrapreneurs and is a proud winner of the Greater Baltimore Committee Bridging the Gap Award for fostering the success of women and minorities in business. Wendy provides speaking, workshops, individual coaching and strategic growth planning sessions and is just finishing her first book, set to launch in very early 2019.

Josh Miller, Director of Gen Z Studies, XYZ University

Josh Miller, Director of Gen Z Studies, XYZ University

Josh Miller is a passionate and informed advocate for his generation—Generation Z. He launched his first business, and at 17 years old, he is already on his way to becoming a renowned thought leader. Among his many achievements, Josh is XYZ University’s Director of Gen Z Studies, co-author of XYZ University’s research papers Ready or Not – Here Comes Z and Teaching Gen Z: Everything we wish schools knew about our generation and education, and he’s the host of The Gen Z Podcast.

In addition to his role at XYZ University, Josh is a junior in high school where he is the captain of his varsity tennis team. He is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


Rabbi Phil Miller, Educator, Former VP of JCC

He was a Vice President of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore. Prior to coming to Baltimore he served as the Director of the Bronfman Center for Jewish Life of the 92nd Street Y in New York City. He also served for many years as the Director of the Helene Mirowitz Department of Jewish Life of the JCC in St. Louis. He holds a bachelors degree from Columbia University and received rabbinic ordination from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University. He was a Wexner Fellow in addition to studying for several years at the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem. Phil lives in Baltimore with his wife Ruth and their four children.



Ako Changa Onyango
Lead Facilitator, Signal Fire, LLC
Senior Facilitator, AO Services, LLC

Ako Changa Onyango is a professional facilitator and state trained Mediator. His work covers a variety of subjects including diversity, equity and inclusion in the context of organizational change, historic context of inequity, and the business case for change. Changa is also an advocate for cultural preservation and produces Music & Arts content and events that uplift the ideals of Identity and Generational Justice.

He is Owner of AO services LLC, an organizational development consultancy and a Lead Facilitator for Signal Fire, LLC, which focuses on DEI in business environments. He also serves as a coach with the University of Maryland’s Positive Schools Center where his specialty is DEI training/implementation in school communities. He is a contributing columnist on culture and community, a Baltimore City grassroots organizer and a father of 6 with his wife of 21 years, Maya.


Rabbi JoHanna Potts, Education Director of The Jewish Studio

Rabbi JoHanna Potts
Rabbi Potts is currently the Education Director of The Jewish Studio and the founder of Advancing Wisdom and Education. She served as Director of Education at Temples Solel and Shalom, Director of The Primary School at Washington Hebrew Congregation, and Director of the Middle School at Gesher Jewish Day School in the Washington, DC area. She also taught in the Florence Melton School for Adult Learning for several years. While at the Partnership for Jewish Life and Learning, she designed and led a community education change initiative. Prior to moving to the Washington, DC area, Rabbi Potts worked in university administration and student development. She teaches adults across the metro area at JCCs and multiple congregations. Her current areas of focus involve strengthening organizations and families, engaging others in enJOYable Jewish learning and empowering individuals to create lives of meaning through Judaism.

Rabbi Potts earned an B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis. She holds an M.A.  in Education and Human Development and Jewish Studies from The George Washington University. She has done graduate work in Organizational Studies at the University of Wisconsin and is a certified mediator.


Dena Schoenfeld
Branlyn Solutions, Specializing in Organizational Design and Transition Management

Dena Farber Schoenfeld
She is skilled in working with 
organizations to assess, identify and resolve
 misalignments between organizational goals and
structure. Dena’s consulting experience extends
 to commercial, government and non-profit organizations that include efforts around strategic
 planning and organizational development and 
training design and delivery
Dena’s education includes a Bachelor of Business Administration from George Washington University and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Maryland concentrating in Change Management. Dena holds a Top Security clearance.




Claire Tesh, MEd. Bio

Claire Tesh is the founder and principal of LMNO Educational Consulting.   She has worked in the education field for over 25 years and formerly headed the public education division of the American Immigration Council. As a former public-school teacher and adjunct professor, she understands education- from the classroom, community and boardroom perspectives. Before entering the world of education, she worked in advertising and global marketing.

LMNO Educational Consulting assists organizations dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion to adopt and adapt innovative strategies.  Claire works with non-profits, museums, universities and K-12 schools and corporations, assisting in creatively designing public education campaigns, engagement and public relations initiatives, strategic planning, and professional development and multicultural education workshops.

To learn more about Claire and LMNO Educational Consulting (or to stay in touch) please visit



Tirrany Thurmond

Tirrany Thurmond, M.Ed., NCC, LGPC

Tirrany Thurmond is a student affairs leader, and diversity and inclusion educator, with a resume that spans over nearly a decade in large and small university settings. Her professional tenure consists of assisting university leadership on matters of diversity and inclusion, creating equitable programs and access for historically underserved populations, and consulting organizations on matters of social equality.

Tirrany is a national certified counselor (NCC) recognized by the National Board of Certified Counselors and a Licensed Graduate Professional Counselor (LGPC) recognized by the State of Maryland’s Board of Professional Counselors and Therapists. Her areas of interests are racial trauma and race-based stress, destigmatizing mental illness in communities of color, and the impact of Superwoman Syndrome on young adult women of color.

In her previous capacity as the director for the Multicultural Center & Non-traditional Student Services at Arkansas State University (Jonesboro, AR) and director for Mount St. Mary’s University’s Center for Student Diversity (Emmitsburg, MD), Tirrany proudly supervised the administration of university-wide cultural competence trainings for faculty, staff, and students and provided the campus with culturally diverse programming. In addition to her directorship, she served on the Inclusive Excellence Committee and the President’s Advisory Council for Diversity & Inclusion.

Currently serving as the Coordinator for Inclusive Excellence for Anne Arundel Community College’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access and Leadership (IDEAL) Office, Tirrany’s overseeing the implementation of culturally responsive teaching and learning for faculty, inclusive leadership and cultural programming for the College’s 55,000 enrolled students.

Proudly, Tirrany’s love for culture and history led her to give her first TEDxTalk this past February titled Tracing Your Roots: Resiliency and Self-Discovery through Ancestry Research. Her family’s story has inspired her to not only share, but to encourage others to spend time researching their family’s lineage.

Tirrany Thurmond earned a Bachelor of Science in behavior analysis from Savannah State University and Master of Education in counselor education with an emphasis in clinical-mental health from Georgia Southern University. She is a member of the Maryland Equity and Inclusion Leadership 2019 cohort. Her credentials and affiliations include being an Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) Qualified Administrator, a certified Safe Zone facilitator, a member of NASPA, ACA, the National Association of Diversity





Rebecca Weisman
Senior Communications Officer, Mayberg Foundation

Rebecca Weisman
Rebecca brings over two decades of work experience in the Jewish communal world. Currently, she creates professional development programs for K-12 educators and nonprofit staff through the Mayberg Center for Jewish Education and Leadership housed in the George Washington University. Rebecca also brings expertise in leadership and management from her roles as a Jewish day school administrator, congregational principal, Jewish communal innovator, and nonprofit executive director.






Larry Ziffer

Larry Ziffer
Larry was Chief Executive Officer, Macks Center for Jewish Education is a veteran faculty of ACHARAI. He has twenty-six years of experience as a federation planner and the breadth of leadership experience working in a number of large city federations, including Baltimore, Boston and Detroit. Larry graduated from Yeshiva University with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, received his ordination from Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, and his Masters in Social Work (majoring in community organization) from the Wurzweiler School of Social Work. He also holds a number of Jewish and general community volunteer positions.


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