The Star

Bi-monthly newsletter from

Congregation Beth Elohim

in Acton, Massachusetts

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August/September 2023 • Elul 5783/

Tishrei 5784

  • Message from our Rabbi and Cantor
  • Behind the scenes with board members Linda and Frank Cohen
  • Q+A with Miriam Beit Aharon
  • Showing up - a personal reflection
  • The People of Chelm Want To Know…..  
  • Contemplating Jonah: a lay-led program
  • Behind the scenes with the CBE Choir
  • Lifecycle events
  • Calendar 
  • Donations
  • Resources
  • Feedback/get in touch

In this issue...

Welcome to the August/September issue of The Star, our "High Holidays edition." We hope you will savor its contents as you begin to think about September. Start with a message from our Rabbi and Cantor about our beautiful theme for 5784. Follow this with a preview of a special lay-led program around the Book of Jonah; the 43-year history of the CBE choir; and a Rosh Hashanah question from the wise people of Chelm. In addition, we have an interview of our wonderful new administrator Miriam; a Q+A with our membership chairs Frank and Linda Cohen; a touching and beautiful piece from the heart sent to us by Ellen Krueger; a Bar Mitzvah to kvell about -- and our donations of the last several weeks. L’Shanah Tovah, and wishes for a happy and healthy new year. See you all in September!

Message from our Rabbi and Cantor

L’Shanah Tovah! 

Our theme this year is Kehillah Achat – One Community. We come from diverse backgrounds and represent the span of generations – and we all have a home, a purpose, and an extended family at CBE. We choose to come together for different spiritual, educational and social opportunities. Some of us are primarily involved in our wonderful religious school or preschool. Others find meaning in our Shabbat services, social action, brotherhood, or sisterhood activities. No matter what brings you to CBE, we are all connected and an important part of one family, one kehillah, one community. 

This fall, we are back to a new normal as we welcome more of you back to our in-person services and activities. We hope that everyone will find hope, joy, and inspiration in our holiday services and celebrations. 


Last year, we received very positive feedback on our streamlined High Holiday services and innovations. Our services this year will have a similar pace and length, with some additional moments for silence and reflection. Our Torah readings will again focus on stories of forgiveness and reconciliation, and we will offer an alternative to Untaneh Tokef with words and music that acknowledge both the uncertainty of life and our power to take action to make our world a better, kinder place. 


We will offer a version of the Aleinu prayer created by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi zt”l that emphasizes our shared human destiny, sung to our familiar melodies. During the Great Aleinu, Rabbi David will invite those who wish to do a full bow to the ground.  

We’re also excited to include an optional lay-led chanting of the book of Jonah (read more below!) and a guided meditation, right before our Yom Kippur afternoon Mincha discussion with Rabbi Mintz. 


Community participation makes our services special. If you haven't already, you can still sign up for an honor. We especially welcome all interested in joining our Shofar chorus! Please note that we will have a shofar service on the First Day of Rosh Hashanah, which falls on Shabbat, so that everyone has a chance to hear the sound of the shofar this year.

Finally, while we still offer Zoom, we encourage you to join us in person if you are comfortable doing so. Following the service on the first Day of Rosh Hashanah, we will gather across the street at Mt. Calvary Church for a community lunch. This will be a beautiful opportunity to relax, socialize, greet old friends, and meet new people. To register, please look for details in Star-Lite.


We’re looking forward to coming together this fall to celebrate a New Year of wholeness, strength, renewal, and blessing for all of us as an even stronger, unified community - a true kehillah achat!


Rabbi David and Cantor Sarra

Behind the scenes — board members Frank and Linda Cohen

Linda and Frank Cohen joined CBE seven years ago and fell in love with our community. Here's what they ve been up to since.

What is your Board Position and what are your responsibilities?

We are the Co-Chairs of Membership. We conduct outreach and recruitment with respect to prospective members and in-reach and retention with regard to current members of the Congregation. These responsibilities involve one-on-one meetings with prospects and congregants in conjunction with collaboration and consultation with fellow board members and the co-presidents.

How long have you been members at CBE?

Seven years. We came here from the congregation in Leominster, the city where we reside.

When did you first join the Board of Directors?

June 2021.

What made you decide to join the board?

What made us join was our gratitude for what Beth Elohim gave our family. My daughter had already become a Bat Mitzvah at our Leominster synagogue. Our son, Matt, who attended Hebrew school there until fifth grade, was the new kid in the religious school here. Our previous shul is where his roots were. Waky’s Vav class was a wonderful place for Matt to become re-rooted and adjust to a new setting for his spiritual and religious education. Years later, as a college freshman, he recalls Waky fondly as a favorite teacher in his schooling, religious and secular. His 20+ classmates quickly included and bonded with him. The dads were great too. Chuck Pollak and David Jarsky used to take all the boys on hikes for spiritual reflection. Matt went on from his Bar Mitzvah to remaining very involved in BBYO by way of Beth Elohim’s chapter. Those positive peer influences speaks strongly of the parents, families and households comprising our congregation.

For the two of us, Brotherhood, Sisterhood, social activities, educational programs, softball league, the creative variety of Shabbat services and festival celebrations, the choir, etc. – have all been part of a vital community that welcomed us with open arms and now make us feel grateful just for being members. So, when the then newly-inaugurated co-presidents, Jaymi Formaggio and Chuck Pollak asked us to take charge of Membership, we accepted as our way of giving back to a community that gave us so much. Our respect for the Formaggio and Pollak families as models for doing good for CBE sweetened the invitation to be part of the Board. Lindsay Rosenman and Laura Kelmar made it easy for us to continue in our roles.


What other roles have you had at CBE?

These were our first formal roles.


What have been the most memorable or rewarding experiences during your tenure on the board? What are you most proud of accomplishing as a CBE as a Board Member?

Working with our lay and religious leaders, collaborating with board members, working with the synagogue administrator are routinely rewarding. One fondly memorable event was our outreach brunch in October of 2021 when covid-protocols guided our arrangement of outdoor dining and social distancing. It wasn’t the best circumstances but there was a great turnout of board members and congregants that came all the way out to Leominster to support our effort to recruit some new members. Another great event was our “Welcome Back” event the following year as we were just reopening our facilities in advance of the 2022 High Holidays. It was rewarding to see committee and group representatives make their elevator pitches on the PAs and it felts so good to see such a large crowd of people (about 150+) eager to see each other in person. That was a pretty special “reunion” of sorts. We take pride in doing what we can to sustain and grow membership in the congregation.


What is one of your biggest takeaways from your experience on the board? What would you like congregants to know about being a board member?

 Our biggest takeaway is that the Congregation is as great as it is due to the efforts of its volunteers to contribute in their own special way to fostering and supporting community. Board membership is the foundation of the sustained endeavor to strengthen CBE communally, spiritually and institutionally.

Q+A with our new administrator — Miriam Beit Aharon

Miriam joined CBE on August 8 — and we were so lucky to catch up with her during her very first week. Welcome, Miriam!!!!

Tell us a little about yourself and what you had been doing prior to taking a position at CBE.

I worked for two years after college as a Tall Ship Sailor on sailing ships around the east coast, and then moved to land to work at Kolbo Fine Judaica for three wonderful years where I was their product photographer among other things. After that I worked a series of Human Resources Generalist roles, till now when I've found my way back home to the Jewish community.  

What would you most like the CBE community to know about you?

I speak Hebrew, my father was born in Israel, and I love to keep those skills in use if you ever want to stop by and chat in Hebrew.

Do you have any secret talents you’d like to use at CBE?

Hmm...I love singing nigunim and Shabbat songs with anyone who will sing with me, and make a pretty good challah!

What do you most like to do in your spare time?

I love going to the park or pool with my 6 year old step-daughter, writing song lyrics, arts and crafts projects, organizing things, and lately I've been working on learning how to quilt! 

How can our synagogue membership contact you?

My email is [email protected], and my office number is 978-263-3061

Blacksmithing photo—Miriam is punching a hole in a hook she had made so it could attach to a wall with a nail or screw.

Sailing photos—learning how to use a traditional sextant (although GPS is more commonly used these days); hanging from the yard arm (second from left), of a square rigged tall ship where it was part of her job to set and stow sails ("I love square riggers"); enjoying the Passover seder that she prepared on board, after completely kashering the ship's galley!

Showing Up – a personal reflection

by Ellen Krueger

We are an intrepid little group. We started getting together on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday around 4 pm, pre-pandemic. Someone had lost a family member and wanted to honor that person by saying the kaddish at least once a day for the first year. Up until that point, there had been no daily minyan at CBE. 

The Mincha, or afternoon service doesn’t take long. Especially the way we do it. There’s a leader, either the Rabbi, or Naomi Katz Mintz, or Ethan Sokol. Or someone else who’s confident enough (mostly) to lead our little group in a service that doesn’t last much more than ten minutes. 

We start on page 680 in our prayer book and move quickly through the prayers. If we have a minyan, we include everything. If we have less than ten, we skip the parts that require the minyan. One of the parts that is skipped is the “mourner’s” kaddish. Often, there’s no one saying the kaddish for a loved one, but we always recite the prayer if we have a minyan. But we don’t always have a minyan because it’s not something most people know about, or are used to attending.

Although we started having this service at the synagogue, we continued and made our way through the Covid isolation by continuing to meet via Zoom for the entire ordeal. It became a lifesaver for all of us to be able to be together for this sacred purpose at a desperate time. Just seeing each other also helped. Little by little, as the time passed, we returned to CBE in person, holding Mincha outside.

If we don’t have ten, and someone is observing the yahrzeit of a loved one, a special prayer is recited that calls the person to memory without the usual prayers. It covers the base, but it’s not quite the same. 

Those of us who attend regularly, know to let people know that a yahrzeit is coming up and it would be wonderful to have enough people in attendance so the kaddish can be recited. We all know that no one can be there every day. Yet, the response to that request has yet to fail. People mark it in their calendars so they are sure to be there. It would be sad not to be there to be counted. Some of us invite far away family members to join us at the service via Zoom. It’s a chance to share the blessing of memory, if remotely.

Just this week, Shelley Green was returning from a family wedding in San Diego and had forgotten to let people know that her mother’s yahrzeit was on Monday. It marked a year since her mom had died. Monday is generally a day when we don’t have the Mincha service. But Shelley hoped for the best, posting her request on the CBE Minyanaire Page on Facebook. An email was sent out to those who often attend the afternoon service, but aren’t on Facebook. This all happened on Sunday. 

Monday at a little before 4 pm, ten people showed up at CBE for the service, held outdoors. Four or five other regulars, including Rabbi David, on his day off, showed up on Zoom. And so Shelly was able to honor her mother in the way she wanted. And all of those who were there to make the minyan and stand together with Shelley were there as a community.

Showing up. That’s what it’s all about. Being there for others when they need support. We welcome anyone who would like to join us. Even if it’s only to observe a yahrzeit together. 

To check the Minyanaires Facebook Page, just do a search for CBE Minyanaires.

The People of Chelm Want to Know...

Illustration by Maurice Sendak.

For years the “People of Chelm” column has challenged The Star readers with questions drawn from the long and rich history of Jews and Judaism. We are delighted to continue this tradition, with abundant thanks to Bob Ferrara and Waky.


Rosh Hashanah is a wonderful time of renewal for us, and it will be arriving next month on September 15. Like Judaism itself, this Holiday has undergone its own renewal as its meaning and traditions have changed and evolved over the centuries. Listed here are several traditions associated with Rosh Hashanah. Try to sequence them in the order in which each was introduced into common Jewish practice. A) study and preparation during the month of Elul, B) being inscribed in the Book of Life, C) blowing of the shofar, D) the custom of Tashlich, emptying one's pockets on the first day, and E) volunteering the weekend before Rosh Hashanah for a Beautification and Clean Up Day so Beth Elohim will be in great shape for the High Holidays.

Ponder your response – and find the answers below.

Contemplating Jonah: Lay-led Meditation, Chanting, & Reflection on Yom Kippur Afternoon

The Book of Jonah — Paul Bril (1554–1626); Flemish painter and printmaker

by Jess Rosenblatt & Leslie Knight

What is this program?

On Yom Kippur afternoon, during the break between morning and afternoon services, we will lead a relaxed and contemplative program focused on the Book of Jonah. We are still working on the exact details, but the session will last approximately an hour and the general plan is that Leslie will lead a guided meditation, Jess will chant the full Book of Jonah in Hebrew, and then there will be an opportunity for reflection.

Why did you decide to do this?

The break between services on Yom Kippur afternoon seemed like a good opportunity to try offering additional lay-led programming that complements the main services with other topics or experiences. This program will offer space for meditation and reflection, as well as a more traditional experience of hearing the full Book of Jonah chanted in Hebrew.

Why Meditation? 

Leslie: As we all know, the High Holidays end a season of personal reflection. I find that later in the day of Yom Kippur, after a day of fasting and contemplation, my brain is in a deeply contemplative, meditative state. I want to take advantage of that feeling by focusing my mind on the themes found in traditional Jewish text. I would like for us to meditate together on themes raised by Jonah and hopefully we gain some new insights into these themes and into ourselves.

Why Jonah?

Jess: I really enjoy the Book of Jonah. For one thing, Jonah is somehow arguably both the most whiny and the most effective prophet in the Tanakh. I find a lot of his choices very relatable even though they are clearly examples of what not to do. This deceptively simple story includes a lot of interesting questions and food for thought. To me its ultimate message is about the importance of compassion towards others and towards ourselves. I really enjoy engaging with this text on Yom Kippur.

Anything else?

We hope you will join us on Yom Kippur afternoon for this relaxing and reflective program.

Jess Rosenblatt is CBE's Ritual Chair. She can be reached at [email protected]

Leslie Knight is CBE's VP of Programming. She can be reached at [email protected]

Behind the scenes with the CBE Choir

Warming up for the annual choir Shabbat, March 2023 (photo by Andrew Child)

by Lauren Solomon

CBE's all-volunteer adult choir has participated in CBE's High Holiday services for as long as most of us can remember. As a long-time member of the choir and one of the editors of The Star, I decided to ask choir director Judy Kramer and other singers for a bit of history and why they come back year after year.

Our Origins

The choir was nudged into existence in 1980. Judy and Les Kramer had joined CBE in 1978. it had gotten around that they could carry a tune — and also sang in the Framingham Choral Society (now the Heritage Chorale). Then-CBE president Bill Gratz approached Judy and Les to start a choir on several occasions. As Judy puts it, "he seemed to be under the impression that the ability to carry a tune was the only skill required to start a choir." They politely declined. But Bill was persistent, as was congregant Jo-Ellen Hirsch, who came up with not only names of potential singers, but more importantly – a rehearsal accompanist. Hence, in the fall of 1980, four singers – Judy, Les, Claudia Abramson and Ilene Burwick — with congregant/piano teacher Marty Segal on piano, learned their first 3 pieces. They were soon joined by two other singers — Waky and Tom Wachtell — who, like Judy and Les, have continued to sing in the choir for the ensuing 43 years. Since then our numbers swelled but have hovered at around 18. Our newest members, Ethan Sokol and Jess Rosenblatt, joined in 2022. 

Our fearless leader

Many people assume that Judy Kramer was always the director and had formal training. Not so! Initially there was no conductor at all. Judy recounts "We stood in one line, and since Les stood on the end, he would start and stop each song. When the group got to be about 12 people and we were singing in two lines, we determined that we really needed a conductor to keep us together better. Since I was the one running the rehearsals, I needed to translate whatever instruction I was giving in rehearsals into the conducting." 

Les and Judy Kramer before our concert with Zamir Chorale (2017); a 2015 rehearsal

But Judy's prior music training amounted to merely 4 years of piano lessons as a kid, playing guitar as a teenager, and singing in choruses. When it became evident to Judy that she needed more training, she started attending yearly choral conferences, workshops, and a year-long course with legendary Zamir conductor Joshua Jacobson. She also credits singing under choral masters Eleanor Epstein and John Finney as having contributed to her awareness of the complexity of the conducting role. She says that choral directing is largely teaching: not just notes, meter, phrasing, dynamics – but also the meaning of the words and the passion behind them. Among her favorite quotes: “Passion is what links the soul of the listener to the soul of the composer…the conductor is the keeper of the passion".

Our singers

While we have had (and do have) a singer or two who has sung professionally, we're mostly shower-singers, car-singers, community theater, and high school or college choir singers. Anyone with choral singing experience is encouraged to talk to Judy if they are interested in joining.

Our musicians

We would not have flourished without the amazing piano accompanists — Marty Segal, Cindi Silverman, and Marsha Martin – all congregant volunteers — who each dedicated decades of their lives to our musical collaboration. They have each raised the bar with their sublime musicianship. Over the years many CBE instrumentalists as well as choir members have accompanied our singing – most recently, Mike Stark on guitar, Linda Borghesani on flute, as well as choir members Margot Law (flute), Ann Seigel (violin), and Bob Grappel (autoharp and 12-string guitar). Our newest accompanist is Acton local Jonathan Lehmann.

The choir at its 20th anniversary concert in 2000.

Our collaborations

We partner with Cantor Sarra in producing all of our programs and services. In addition, we have collaborated with musicians outside of CBE: other choirs, cantorial soloists (prior to Cantor Sarra), and with such notables as cantor/composer Robbie Solomon; Joshua Jacobson and Zamir Chorale; and with BSO principal bass and then-congregant, Edwin Barker, who accompanied Kol NIdre for several years. Judy says that acknowledgement of our musicianship by these formidable musicians has been a highlight for her.

Our repertoire

We debuted in 1980 with three songs. Since then we have learned nearly 500 (the gorgeous Ki Tzarich, which we are learning for this year's High Holiday services, is number 489). We have traversed genres and languages (baroque, romantic, American and Israeli folk, jazz, Yiddish, Hollywood/Broadway, Sephardic and Ladino, and even Ugandan). Judy loves to challenge us. Sometimes it's terrifying but we dig in and surprise even ourselves.

The choir's only financial support is the Choir Fund. Nonetheless, through the generosity of congregants we have been able to commission four choral pieces: Mizmor Shir Chanukat Habayit (Charles Osborne); L’chu N’ran’na (Robert Applebaum); Elohai Neshama (Robbie Solomon) and Elohai Neshama (Benjie-Ellen Schiller).

The choir warming up for singing before the wedding of Jai Gluckman and Henry Thomas in 2001. Jai had been in the soprano section since the early 1990s. Henry joined the bass section in 2012. .

What keeps us coming back

Why are CBE choir members almost always in it for life? The choir connects us with our community, our Judaism and our love of music. Together we create beauty that none of us can even dream of creating on our own. As I was told for this piece:

  • It's a high. I love to sing; I especially love to make harmony with other singers.
  • It was my first and most meaningful connection to CBE and it continues to be so to this day. 
  • For me, singing brings prayer to life. 
  • The choir has been a focal part of my life since joining and the best part of my life.
  • One of the perks is feeling true joy as I look out and realize how much I love this place and all the wonderful people in it.

When do we sing? 

The choir typically prepares two major programs per year: High Holidays services, and a yearly choir Shabbat program in the spring. For each of these we typically rehearse 8-10 weeks on Thursday evenings, plus two Sundays at the end. 

In addition, we love to sing when invited, to other programs and simchas, such as Chanukah, special CBE events, and B'nei Mitzvot — even the wedding of two choir members (Jai and Henry). The pandemic interrupted our B'nei Mitzvah singing, but we invite any family planning a future B'nei Mitzvah to consider including the choir. Our participation does not make the service any longer, and it can enhance the musicality and spirituality of the service for both families as well as out-ot-town visitors. And we guarantee to make you cry when we sing "L'chi Lach" ("go forth and be a blessing") to your child.

In closing

The choir and its members are indebted to the CBE community for 43 years of love and support. We wouldn't be here without you. To hear recordings and watch our virtual choir videos, visit

The choir in 2023 (photo by Andrew Child).

Lifecycle and milestone events in our community

Mazel tov to Isaac Cohen on his Bar Mitzvah on June 3! His parents Jason and Amy look on while he chants the hamotzi over the challah on the bimah with siblings Sara, Naomi and Mikayla.

Has your family celebrated a recent simcha or milestone? Send us up to 3 photos with a brief description; and we will make a selection to include in our next newsletter. Email [email protected].

What's happening at CBE this month?

Visit our online calendar for up-to-the-minute programming.


The congregation thanks our members, their relatives and friends, and the larger community for donations received from July 9 through August 18. If you do not see your donation, please look for it in our next newsletter, or contact [email protected].

Amy Naparstek Israel Scholarship Fund

Andrea Harris / In memory of Carol Lobron

Andrea Harris / In honor of Bill Harris, with best wishes for his special birthday

Dan & Shelley Klein / In memory of Dan's Grandpa Louis

David & Chips Naparstek / In loving memory of Chips’s mother, Rosalie Harris, on the occasion of her yahrzeit

David & Chips Naparstek / In honor of Linda and Denis Friedman, with love and best wishes on their anniversary

Chesed Fund

Benjamin Bloomstone & Danya Zimmer-Bloomstone / In honor of Don Hoban and his big heart

Judith Wolff / In appreciation of the Chesed Committee for meals while I recovered from hip surgery

Choir Fund

Doris Goldstein / In loving memory of Manya Rosenkopf on the occasion of her yahrzeit, given by her daughter, Dorrie Goldstein

Orna Shohet / In memory of Lauren Solomon's mother, Joan Lapin

General Fund

Alan & Peggy Berko

Daniel Ross / On behalf of Alan and Peggy Berko

Orna Shohet / In memory of Ita Rosenburg Bell

Orna Shohet / With thanks to Carl Bender of blessed memory for use of the Chuppah

Robin Knight Aronson and William M Aronson / Thank you very much for allowing us to be part of keeping the tradition of the chuppa alive

High Holiday Appeal

Joel & Margy Friedman

Joan Snyder Library Fund

Lynne P. Snyder / In memory of my beloved mother, Joan Feinberg Snyder. Thank you for continuing to allow us this meaningful way to honor her memory

Na'aseh Social Justice Fund

Bob & Deena Ferrara / For the Walk Against Hate on October 15

Rabbi Discretionary Fund

Jonathan & Amy Churchill / Many thanks to Rabbi David for coming to our house to support Amy and our family following our recent loss. We appreciate the fellowship very much. Sincerely, Amy, Jon, Charlotte and Reed Churchill

Martin & Susan Ungar / For helping the Churchills

The People of Chelm Want to Know...


Obviously item E, volunteering for Beth Elohim Clean Up day, is hardly a practice of mainstream Judaism, so this is clearly the most recent. But if you and your family want to participate, by all means please sign up here to volunteer on Sunday morning on September 10. For the other traditions associated with Rosh Hashanah, the oldest is C–blowing the shofar, B–the Book of Life, A–study and preparation, and most recently D–Tashlich. 

Chapter 23 of Leviticus mandates a celebration on the first day of the seventh month (Tishri) and calls for the blowing of the shofar. The suggestion is one of rest and renewal, though the day is not yet called Rosh Hashanah. By the time of the codification of the Mishnah in the first centuries of the Common Era, the day had come to mark the new year and the passing of judgment on the world, when our fortunes are written in the Book of Life. 

Not much later, during Talmudic times (200–500 C.E.), Babylonian Jews began to treat Elul - the month before Tishri – in a special way. They studied, thought, and prepared for the renewal in their lives for forty days, the thirty days of Elul plus the ten days of Tishri through Yom Kippur. The custom of Tashlich originated last of all. Tashlich comes from the Hebrew "you will cast" and this is quite descriptive as we cast out the contents of our pockets and throw bread into a nearby body of water. According to Arthur Waskow, in his wonderful book on Jewish holidays "Seasons of Our Joy", there is no mention of Tashlich until late Medieval times. Then it spread from Europe to the Sephardic regions in the sixteenth century, primarily through the influence of the mystical Kabbalists of the town of Safed in Galilee.


CBE's Chesed Committee | Contact us in a time of need

18 Doors (formerly InterfaithFamily of Greater Boston)

Anti-Defamation League incident reporting

CJP (Combined Jewish Philanthropies)

CJP SeniorDirect

Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life

Hadassah of Nashoba Valley Facebook

Hebrew College events

Jewish Bereavement Support Group

Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston

Jewish Family Service of Metrowest

Keshet | A national organization that works for full LGBTQ equality and inclusion in Jewish life

Mayyim Hayyim | Living Waters Community Mikveh | BRCA awareness, education, and support

Yad Chessed Emergency financial assistance to Jewish individuals and families in need | A Website for Older Childless Jews

Visit the Resources page on our website for our complete resource list.

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Until next time,

The Star editorial and design team —

Gary Budiansky, Maida Fund, Rick Green, Beth Schrager, Lauren Solomon

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