El Dorado Park Estates houses some of the wealthier inhabitants of the town of Los Alamitos, California. Fancy cars line the streets and spoiled children play in the neighborhood park.

I've always felt slightly self-conscious as the only family on the block whose father was a rabbi and made less than $500,000 a year.

Not that I'm ashamed... don't get me wrong.

I've just always felt like we had to be on extra good behavior. Like the need to keep up the good appearance of the house. And make sure the cars went to the car wash more than once a year. I mean, we represent the entire Orthodox Jewish community for goodness sakes.

Not that I'm ashamed... don't get me wrongIt's not about people thinking we have a nice house.

It's about people not thinking the rabbi's family is bringing down the neighborhood.

Ok, fine.

Slight complex.


Our backyard neighbors have quite the view from their house into ours and although we've never met, we are quite aware of the typical American, affluent family that they are. Cute blonde kids. Lots of pool parties and late night barbeques with friends. Beautiful house.

I'm sure they are quite aware that our family is most definitely not the norm around here.

Anyhow, the neighbors have been doing some construction on their pool. Due to some work on their wall which is also our wall, the green hedge that grows near our pool has come loose and hangs precariously over on our side. It threatens to come loose and collapse into the pool at any moment. We mention this to our backyardigans and they promise to take care of it.

A week or two have gone by and the hedge still has not been fixed. So I decide to take a little walk around the block and have a chat with the neighbors.

Actually I was hoping they wouldn't be home as I'm wearing my um, cleaning best...so I write a note, planning to leave it in the mailbox.

A silver BMW greets me in the drivewayA silver BMW greets me in the driveway.

They're home.

A timid knock. Opened by a perfectly manicured blonde American mom.

"Hi, I'm Chani - your backyard neighbor..."

A look of dread comes over her face.

She stammers, "Oh my gosh, I am so sorry...my husband got your note, is that your dad, the rabbi...we came in last night through the garage so we didn't notice the note until this morning at 6:00 am when Jim went to work - he left me a text message to take care of it ASAP. We are so sorry. You know contractors...they never show up when you need them."

(Oops, guess my father beat me to the note...)

I quickly appease her, letting her know that my parents are not upset at all, only, our holiday is coming up and we have guests coming for the weekend, so if they can please get it fixed, we would appreciate it.

She sighs in relief and a smile appears.

"Do you want to see the pool?"

I'd love to.


From here on in the conversation flows as she proudly shows me the fabulous new innovations to her home and pool as they have recently redone the entire interior of the house as well as the backyard.

I am struck by how differently two houses can look. Ours is the same floor model, but the similarities end there.



It seems that the neighbors installed three waterfalls in the new pool and my blonde friend begins to apologize for the noise the falls make, hoping it doesn't disturb us.

Growing up in a large family doesn't exactly lend itself to a quiet household and I've always cringed to think what the neighbors think of all the noise.

I've always cringed to think what the neighbors think of all the noiseHere's my perfect opportunity and I take it to apologize for all the noise we make. (For all of the kids, grandkids, Shabbat and holidays, singing late into the night, Sukkot, our Jewish music CD's blaring from the kitchen…)

"Oh no, please. Actually, I love your music. I hear it all the time and I'm starting to recognize some of the songs...I hum along even though I don't know the words."

(Oh my goodness. Did she just say she loves our music??)

"Y'know, my kids used to call you the “normal family” because you ate dinner together and didn't watch TV a whole day."

(Normal? Did she just say normal?!)

I run home, laughing the whole way back to El Dorado Drive.