From my friend, Francisco, an addictive Passover dessert.

Chocolate Caramel Matzah

Chocolate Caramel Matzah

(In this batch Francisco substituted 2 1/2 cups of chopped up almond M&Ms for the chocolate & almonds the recipe calls for.)

Chocolate Caramel Crack(ers)

4 to 6 sheets matzo or approximately 40 Saltine crackers or crackers of your choice
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into a few large pieces
1 cup packed light brown sugar
A big pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semi- or bittersweet chocolate chips (or chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate)
1 cup toasted chopped almonds, pecans, walnuts or a nut of your choice (optional)
Extra sea salt for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 11-by-17-inch baking sheet completely with foil, and then line the base of the foil with parchment paper, cut to fit.
Line the bottom of the baking sheet with matzo or crackers, covering all parts. [If using matzo, you'll need to break pieces to fit any extra spaces, which will be annoying because despite being perforated, it does not actually break in straight lines. I have some luck pressing a serrated knife straight down along a section between perforations, if that (hopefully) makes sense.]
In a medium heavy-duty saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together, and stir it over medium heat until it begins to boil. Once it has begun boiling, let it bubble for three more minutes, stirring it well. It will thicken a bit as it cooks. Remove from the heat and add the salt and vanilla, and then quickly pour it over the matzo or crackers. You’ll want to spread it quickly, as it will begin to set as soon as it is poured.
Bake the caramel-covered crackers for 15 minutes, watching carefully as it will bubble and the corners might darken too quickly and/or burn. You can reduce the heat if you see this happening.
Remove from oven and immediately cover with chocolate chips. Let stand five minutes, and then spread them evenly across the caramel. An offset spatula works great here. If you’re using them, sprinkle the chocolate with toasted chopped nuts and/or sea salt. (The sea salt is great on matzo. On Saltines, it’s really not necessary.)
Once completely cool — I sometimes speed this process up in the fridge, impatient as should be expected in the face of caramel crack(ers) — break it into pieces and store it in a container. It should keep for a week but I’ve never seen it last that long.

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Here’s a recipe sent to me by a lovely member of our community. She says her family loved it. It is a recipe she found on Epicurious and modified slightly to reduce the sugar. Here’s her version.

Apple Matzah Kugel

4 large apples, Granny Smith or any tart apple, cored and cut into medium dice
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
6 plain matzohs
8 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter or margarine, melted
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup dried apricots, medium, chopped
4 tablespoons butter or margarine, cut into small pieces, for casserole topping

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Toss the apples with half the brown sugar and orange juice, set aside in a medium bowl.

3. Break the matzoh into 2- to 3-inch pieces and soak in 1 cup of warm water until soft but not mushy. Set aside.

4. While the matzoh soaks, beat the eggs with a wire whisk in a large bowl until blended. Add the salt, remaining sugar, cinnamon, melted butter, raisins, and apricots.

5. Squeeze the liquid from the softened matzoh and add the matzoh to the egg mixture with the apples. Stir the kugel well and pour into a lightly greased 2 1/2-quart casserole dish or a 10×14-inch pan. Dot the top of the kugel with the 4 tablespoons of butter.

6. Bake the kugel for 1 hour. Cover the top with foil if the top begins to become too brown early in the baking. Remove the kugel from the oven and cool to room temperature.

Cook’s Tip:
The kugel can be made 2 days ahead, cooled, and refrigerated, covered. Bring to room temperature and reheat in a 350°F oven.

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In my January 2014 column, Mixed and Matched, I shared a letter from a Jewish Dad who felt his wife was not doing enough to raise his children as Jews. After reading the article a gentleman who is the non-Jewish husband in a couple who has participated in my programs wrote a very astute article expressing his thoughts as they have developed on this topic. Here is Peter Gardner’s article.

Peter Gardner

You can read a non-Jewish Mother’s thoughts here.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Children, Parenting, Spirituality
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Alef Bet

In January 2014 my Mixed and Matched column addressed the concerns a Jewish Dad had about his wife’s ‘failure’ to raise the kids Jewish. Many people reacted to the article with some anger at his failure to take responsibility for raising his own children. But some non-Jewish spouses had other thoughts.

One non-Jewish mother had this to say:

I agree that the Dad needs to get more involved but I would not want him to necessarily “lead the way”. I am not Jewish but am raising my children Jewish. I don’t take a back seat to my Jewish family members and would not want them to “lead the way” in my children’s spiritual upbringing. I think instead it is important for the non-Jewish parent (who has agreed to have a Jewish home) to determine how best to embrace Judaism in a way that resonates personally with him/her.

In fact, I chose the Jewish preschool that felt most comfortable to me. I chose our temple. I go to the schools to spin dreidles and host parties for the Jewish holidays. I have one chance to raise my children and their spirituality is important enough to me that I want a central role in guiding my children (rather than deferring that to others). That is why, when I learn of Jewish traditions, I determine which ones are meaningful to me and have the most parallels with my own upbringing. And then I embrace these traditions and weave them into the fabric of the family that my husband and I are building, together.

I would suggest that the husband ask his wife what spiritual traditions were meaningful to her growing up. For instance, did she say a certain prayer? Can she weave elements of this prayer into Shabbat? Make date nights to go to services and let her choose the temple that feels best to her.

As you point out, his wife agreed to raise their children in a religion that is somewhat foreign to her. As much as possible, he should let her take the lead in defining elements of a Jewish life that resonate with her—including choosing a temple and adopting meaningful traditions. I believe this is the surest way for her to embrace Judaism, and therefore their family to embrace Judaism.

Every couple will have their own approach to raising their children. Just be sure that you and your partner are openly discussing both your desires.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Jewish holidays at home, Jewish home celebrations, Jewish Learning, Parenting, Spirituality
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SFJCC_Passover (2)

First Night Seders

35th Annual First Night Community Seder
Join our community on the first night of Passover and participate in the telling of the story of the Jewish people’s journey from slavery to freedom. Sing old and new favorites, ask questions and find the afikomen (piece of matzah). A traditional kosher Seder meal is served. Seder led by the JCC’s Rabbi Batshir Torchio.
Catering provided by Continental / Too Caterers

To see the menu, get tickets, and learn more, click here

Date: Monday April 14
Time: Doors Open at 6:00 pm, Program Begins at 6:30 pm
Place: San Francisco JCC, 3200 California St., San Francisco

Passover Seder for Families with Young Children
Celebrate the first night of Passover at the JCC East Bay with this interactive and music-filled Passover Seder! Especially for 2-7 year olds, though younger and older children are also welcome. No Jewish knowledge or experience is necessary. The Seder will include a light, kid-friendly meal, served picnic style, and will be led by Rabbi Bridget Wynne.

Date: April 14
Time: 5:00 pm
Place: East Bay JCC, 1414 Walnut St., Berkeley
Cost: $15.00 per child (age 2-13), $25.00 per teen (14+) or adult
Vegetarian option available. Volunteer opportunities and discounts available on first-come basis. Contact Emma at No one turned away for lack of funds.
This event will sell out, so you’re encouraged to buy tickets as soon as possible.

Community Passover Seder
Celebrate the first night of Passover with this interactive, lively, and music-filled Passover Seder. All are welcome, and no Jewish knowledge or experience is necessary. The Seder will include a full meal with chicken, matzoh ball soup, and wine, and will be led by Rabbi Bridget Wynne.

Date: April 14
Time: 7:30 pm
Place: East Bay JCC, 1414 Walnut St., Berkeley
Cost: $60.00 per adult or teen (14+); $40.00 per JCCEB member, senior, or college student; $20.00 per volunteer or child.
Vegetarian option available.
Volunteer opportunities and discounts available on first-come basis. Contact Emma at No one turned away for lack of funds.
This event will sell out, so you’re encouraged to buy tickets as soon as possible.
Sponsored by the Jewish Community Center East Bay.

Dan Feder leads Seder

    Second Night Seders

Kol Hadash Humanitarian Congregation Community Seder
A woman emailed me to say that Kol Hadash’s Seder is April 19 and the deadline to register is 4/15. But the website said the deadline is Monday, April 7. So go to their website immediately to sign up,

Date: April 19 at 6:00
Time: Doors open at 5:30pm & the Seder is at 6pm
Where: Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin, Albany
Costs listed on website.

Community Passover Seder
“Let all who are hungry come and eat” is one of the central motifs of Passover, when we celebrate not only the freedom of the Jewish people from the tyranny of slavery, but also freedom for all people from the tyranny of hunger. On the second night of Pesach join us for a lively retelling of the Haggadah as the Israelites make the journey from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land. The Seder will be led by Rabbis Larry Raphael and Julie Saxe-Taller.

Date: Tuesday, April 15
Time: 5:00 pm
Place: Sherith Israel, 2266 California St., San Francisco
Cost, details and registration here.

Second Night Community Seder
Join Rabbi Reuben Zellman along with Beth El friends, old and new, for a festive Pesach celebration and delicious catered kosher-for-Pesach meal. We are never too old or too young to learn and retell the story of liberation. Through song, ritual and discussion, we will retell the Pesach story, making connections to our own lives and our world.

Date: Tuesday, April 15
Time: 6:00 pm
Place: Beth El, 1301 Oxford St., Berkeley
Cost: Members: Adults $54; Young Adult (30 and under) $36; Children $18
Non-members: Adults $72; Young Adult (30 and under) $36; Children $25; College students w/ID $18
Through the generosity of anonymous Beth El members, no one will be turned away for lack of funds. RSVP by Monday, April 7 online here.

Second-Night Pesach Seder
Join the East Bay Minyan and Urban Adamah for a community Seder!
Join us for a wonderful evening of delicious food, lively conversation, spirited singing, and uplifting explanations as we experience our liberation! Dinner will be fully kosher l’Pesach with gluten-free, vegan, and meat options. “We were slaves, now we’re free!” Come celebrate!

Date: Tuesday, April 15
Time: 7pm-10:30pm
Place: Urban Adamah, 1050 Parker St., Berkeley
RSVP: Required! (By April 12.) $25 to $50 per person, sliding scale.
Sign up here.

Second Night Passover Seder
All are invited to our community seder! A full meal will be served. Both a meat and a vegetarian version are available. Advanced reservations are required by April 11. To sign up call the Temple office at 510-522-9355.

Date: April 15
Time: 6:30pm
Place: Temple Israel, 3183 Mecartney Rd., Alameda

Two Seders at the same time and day at Etz Chayim -
Talk Amongst Yourselves Seder
In addition to the basic songs and symbolic foods and rituals of the seder, Rabbi Cartun will use Haggadah artwork from various artists, genres, eras, and parts of the Seder to “illustrate” the Exodus story. Basically, this will be a Rohrschach Seder, talking about what we see in the art, and how it “speaks” to us about the Passover story. We’ll celebrate, sing and discuss for almost two hours before we eat dinner, but there will be plenty of karpas (crudites) to tide us over.

On One Foot Seder
Long before they were here, there, and everywhere, frogs were living in Egypt, and they are very proud of the role they played in freeing the slaves. For generations, they have continued to tell the story. At this interactive, family-friendly Seder, we will hop through the Haggadah along with the frogs. We have our Four Questions, and the frogs have theirs! Jump right in to celebrate the Seder from a whole new perspective. Abra will lead us in singing and fun for about one hour before dinner.

Both seders will offer a catered, gourmet dinner with a chicken or vegetarian option. If you’d like wine, please bring a bottle to share (must be kosher for Passover).
Kosher catered by Wendy Kleckner of Too Caterers with everything that you would hope to find in a seder dinner. By reservation only. Non-members welcome. Reservations close Tuesday, April 8.

Date: April 15
Time: Doors open at 5:30; Seder begins at 6pm
Place: Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma Street, Palo Alto
Register here.

Second Night Passover Seder: Fun for The Whole Family
Join us for a warm, celebratory, and multigenerational seder in the Lillian Byer Social Hall. We’ll share our stories of slavery and freedom, join together in singing songs old and new, and enjoy a delicious Passover feast.

Date: Tuesday, April 15
Time: 6pm
Place: Peninsula Temple Sholom, 1655 Sebastian Dr, Burlingame
Cost: Adults $49; children $28
For more information and to RSVP click here. You can also RSVP to Georgina at or (650) 697-2266.

Second Night Community Seder
Congregation Beth Jacob invites you to a night of story, study, and song, led by Rabbi Nathaniel Ezray
A night with Passover games and activities for kids
A night with a delicious catered kosher dinner
A night with no dishes afterward!
A night to reflect on our freedom
A night for intergenerational Jewish community

Date: Tuesday, April 15
Time: 5:45 pm
Place: Congregation Beth Jacob, 1550 Alameda de las Pulgas, Redwood City
Cost: $50/adults; $30/children ages 4 to 12; $10/children 3 years & under occupying a seat.
The reservation deadline is Friday, April 11. Go here to register and pay.

Annual Passover Congregational Seder
The community is invited to a family-friendly, participatory Seder on the Second Night of Passover with Temple Beth Hillel. Join Rabbi Dean Kertesz in retelling the Passover story, sing holiday melodies, and share a festive meal with all ritual Seder foods. (Vegetarian option available.)

Date: Tuesday, April 15
Time: 6:30 pm
Place: Temple Beth Hillel, 801 Park Central (Hilltop exit off I-80), Richmond
Cost: Reserve early to assure seating: $8-$30. Please read the details on their website.
Questions: 510-223-2560/

Kehilla Annual Community Passover Seder
Led by Rabbis Burt Jacobson & David J. Cooper; with Special Guest, Reverend George Cummings of Oakland Community Organizations, and Imani Community Church
Our Theme: The Mitzvah to Take Action
The Hebrew prophets, A to Z (Amos to Zachariah) were called to protest the injustices in ancient Israel. And even though they were resistant, they felt compelled by divine command to speak out in order to turn their society around.
The Torah says to “not stand idly on the blood of your brother,” i.e. that in the face of suffering and oppression—of others and our own—we are forbidden to simply witness; we must act. But no one of us alone has the ability to be effective. Yet united with others who are also acting under the same prophetic responsibility, we have the power to effect change.
Many activists in Kehilla are involved in the struggle against the Pharaohs of our time. How are you or can you make a difference, too?
Moses, Jeremiah, Miriam and Micah are all invited to join us we celebrate the process of liberation and retell the Exodus story as a paradigm for our own situation today. Join them for Passover.
This year we are featuring a delicious organic catered primarily vegetarian dinner.

Date: April 19
Time: 4:45 pm – 8:30 pm
Place: Kehilla, 1300 Grand Ave, Oakland
Cost: $40/adult member; $55/adult non-member
details and registration here.

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Got a fabulous Pesach recipe? Please email it to me at; I’m posting them!

Francisco and daughter
Here’s one from a San Francisco Dad, Francisco, seen here with his daughter.

Francisco Caravayo’s Charoset
“My family loves this charoset. I don’t use dates or wine because I don’t like either.”*

1 apple, minced
5 prunes (dates)*, minced
¼ cup golden raisins
10 dried apricots, minced
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp kosher grape juice (wine)*
¼ cup toasted almonds, chopped
¼ cup toasted pistachios, chopped
¼ tsp each, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice
1 dash of kosher salt

Either chop by hand or make it easy on yourself by using a food processor.

*I’ve noted where one would use the dates or wine if you so desire.

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Set table

Getting ready for the Seder

What are ways to make your guests feel that they are a part of the evening even if they are not Jewishly knowledgeable?
Invite guests to bring something. This will give them a feeling of ownership and contribution. Anyone can buy matzah or kosher wine. They can make a fruit salad or follow a recipe you give them. They can steam, roast or broil vegetables or potatoes.
Invite them to come a bit early and pitch in by putting the Haggadahs at each plate.
Invite them to bring a thought about how they define “freedom;” it can be serious or whimsical.

How can you engage your children in the Seder prep?
Have you ever heard that anticipation of an event is half the fun? It sure is for kids. There are lots of ways big and small to include children in the preparation for your Seder.
Depending on their ages, they can:
Pick flowers to go on the table
Fill the bowls with salt water
Set the table
Make place cards and decorate them with stickers
Shape the haroset in to a pyramid on the serving plate/bowl
Use fabric paints to decorate pillow cases for Seder pillows that guests (or the kids) will lean on

    More fun at the Seder:

Buy Hagadah coloring books from your local Judaica shop, one per child, and let them color during the Seder. They can add comments to the story telling right from their book.
Decorate the table with plastic frogs and bugs
Let the kids act out the story of Moses and the burning bush or Moses meets Pharaoh.

Engaging those without a Jewish education
Type up and put a short paragraph from the haggadah on pieces of paper. Make enough so that you have one on each plate. Then invite your guests to participate by reading what is on their plate. You can number then so you just call out a number and the reading jumps around the table.
Play games like “I’m leaving Egypt”* or “Fun Facts”**
Sing songs like Go Down Moses

*I’m Leaving Egypt Game
The first person says, “I’m leaving Egypt and I’m taking.. they name something that begins with the letter A.” The next person repeats what was said adding an additional item that starts with the letter B. This continues around the table with each repeat becoming more and more challenging to remember.

**Fun Facts
This is a game my son invented based on the saying in the Haggadah than anyone who adds to the telling is blessed. During the Seder you pause every few passages to see if anyone has anything they wish to add from their own knowledge. For each added “fact” they receive a prize. (I use small chocolates.) The recipient lines up his or her chocolates in front of their plate to see who can get the most. One of the biggest fans of this game is a Catholic friend of mine who now comes with facts carefully memorized. He’s a competitive guy!

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condolences candle

Burial and Mourning in Jewish Tradition
A unique opportunity for interfaith families to learn about a difficult topic-issues around death and mourning, from your own family’s perspective. Is cremation OK? Can my partner and I be buried together? Join Dawn Kepler and Robin Reiner for a short introduction to Jewish traditions and a lively, open discussion of options for interfaith families. Great snacks, ample humor and candid conversation await you!

Date: Sunday, March 30
Time: 9:30 to 11:30
Place: Temple Sinai, in the Albers Chapel, 2808 Summit St., Oakland, between 29th and 30th.
For more information contact Dawn at

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Navigating the Interfaith Elements of the Holiday

Pesach at Lauries

Grab a frozen yogurt at Menchie’s and join other Jewish spouses as we discuss the challenges of observing Passover while being sensitive to your non-Jewish spouse’s needs & wishes.

Will this be a week-long observance or just one night? Will there be bread in your home? Will your spouse be expected to participate in a Seder? Should you modify the Seder to soften the focus on the ‘Chosen people’? What Haggadah should you use and how long should the Seder be? Is your spouse comfortable with you setting the tone for the holiday? Does he or she follow willingly or is it a tug of war? Do you include your spouse’s extended family?

We’ll discuss plans and strategies to harmoniously celebrate the holiday for your family and bring more unity and enjoyment for everyone.

Date: Sunday, March 23
Time: 3:00 – 4:30 pm
Place: Menchie’s, 1862 Euclid Ave., Berkeley
Cost: $10, Cost includes yogurt/sorbet

Sign up here.

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Couples often tell me that they want their children to have a religion that will teach the children good values. That’s a great start but it is certainly not a sufficient reason to choose to have a religion practiced in the home. First, you don’t need religion to be a person of principle and decency. There are many atheists and agnostics that are moral and socially responsible people without a spiritual life. What those people do not have, as parents, is a community that backs them up. They also lack ‘story of meaning.’ By that I mean, every religion has a core narrative that informs the daily life of its adherents.

For Christians, the life informing narrative is the story of Christ. You must have heard the phrase, “what would Jesus do?” That simple sentence invokes volumes and implies a way of life that is kind and loving.

Catholic Jesus

For Jews the narrative of the Bible stories, especially the exodus from Egypt, provide the framework for Jewish behavior. The repeated refrain in the Hebrew Scriptures, “for you were strangers in Egypt” and is a frequent reminder to deal justly with others.

Moses parts the Red Sea

Children learn from stories. Telling them, “Share” or “Wait your turn” or “Eat your vegetables” are instructions that are better understood and retained when they are woven into a story. The same is true of stories that teach a child to be kind, honest, or respectful. Think about the books you have read to your children; didn’t many of them have an ethical message? From Aesop’s Fables to Harry Potter, human beings have been passing on our values through narratives.

Determining which narrative will belong to your child is an important decision. From that decision will extend a community of support, metaphors for life’s challenges and a sense of belonging. A child want to belong. An adult often wants to be unique. But a child is looking for the familiar. Having a place where we are the ‘same’ in a primal way helps a child to feel secure. You the parents get to decide what that will be. You as parents are responsible for giving that to your child.

Back to Basics (San Mateo)
Rockin’ Shabbat Shira (Redwood City)
Tot Shabbat: Eat, Pray, Play (Palo Alto)
Positive Parenting: Setting Boundaries
The Maccabeats in Concert (San Francisco)

Back to Basics
Join Rabbi Dennis Eisner to discuss the Who, What, Where and When of Our Jewish Texts. Learn everything you wanted to know about the great texts of our tradition. Go on a journey with Rabbi Eisner to discover:
Who wrote the texts?
Where did the texts come from?
When were they written?
What is the difference between Torah, Talmud, Gomorrah, Mishnah, the Siddur?

Dates: Thursdays, Beginning March 6, 13, 27 and April 3 & April 10
Time: 7:00 – 8:30pm
Place: Peninsula Temple Beth El, 1700 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo
RSVP to Cindi at

Rockin’ Shabbat Shira
Come to this much-loved first-Friday musical Shabbat service and dinner! Rockin’ Shabbat is a multigenerational spiritual and social experience, enjoyed by members and friends from newborn to 90+!

Date: Friday, March 7
Time: Service at 6:15 pm Dinner after services – Dinner reservations are required by
Wednesday, March 5
Place: Congregation Beth Jacob, 1550 Alameda de las Pulgas, Redwood City
You can make your reservation online here

Tot Shabbat: Eat, Pray, Play
Spring is in the air… Enjoy an early Shabbat experience with friends and family!
Here’s the plan:
4:30 Tot-Friendly Art Projects
5:00 “Wacky Kids” Shabbat Dinner
5:45 Torah for Tots- style Service

Date: Friday, March 7
Time: 4:30pm
Place: Kol Emeth, 4175 Manuela Avenue, Palo Alto
Cost: $10/adults ~ $5/children (ages 3 & up) ~ tots under 2 eat free!

Space is limited. RSVPs must be received by Wed. March 5. Sign up here
Open to the community, feel free to bring a friend! Questions? Email Danny at

Positive Parenting: Setting Boundaries
with Jocelyne Gardner, MSW
Positive Parenting teaches parents how to raise children in a positive, not punitive manner. This creates a strong, peaceful connection and helps children want to behave.

Date: Friday, March 7
Time: 9:30 to 10:30am
Place: JCC East Bay, Berkeley branch, 1414 Walnut St., Berkeley
RSVP to: or

The Maccabeats in Concert
Formed as Yeshiva University’s student a capella group, the Maccabeats perform an eclectic mix of Jewish, American and Israeli songs. Their breakthrough piece, Lecha Dodi, combines beloved words of Jewish liturgy with Leonard Cohen’s melodic Hallelujah. With more than one million YouTube views, the Maccabeats have made numerous TV appearances and have two albums, Voices from the Heights and Out of the Box.

Date: Sunday, Mar 23
Time: 5pm
Place: JCC of San Francisco, 3200 California St., San Francisco
Cost: $25; JCC members get 10% off.

Posted by admin under Children, Community Activities, Parenting
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