The 40 Year Old Bat Mitzvah

I Am Not My Zip Code

Posted in philosophizing by Juliet on July 11, 2010

It was no surprise to see moneyed folks at Camp Ramah. There was all kinds of money: entitlement money, nouveau riche money, mega McMansion money, yuppie Escalade money, Santa Monica Farmer’s Market money.

But we also saw the flip side. I learned, for instance, about the Wexner Foundation program, in which participants devote YEARS (literally) to classes, seminars, and global conferences, all with the goal of learning about Judaism and how to give back to the Jewish community in a meaningful way. At least two attendees of the Ramah Family Camp weekend were currently enrolled in Wexner programs (one in Los Angeles and one in Arizona.)

We met a self-made man whose eyes lit up with excitement when he described his (ultra-luxury) work and (even more ultra-luxury) hobbies. He lives and works alongside very A-list celebrities but he doesn’t flaunt it.

As we met this parade of wealthy people over the weekend, we had a chance to talk seriously about what values and attitudes toward money we want our own kids to have.

The natural corollary to the conversation is the why: Why Ramah? Why Jewish camp? Why a Jewish camp in Southern California?

There is a certain type of savvy, snappy, sassy Jewish girl. Here on the west coast, she may be from West LA or the San Fernando Valley or a Bay Area suburb like Atherton.

Do I want my daughters to be her? No. But I want them to be able to comfortably, self-assuredly navigate her world with discernment and judgment.

In short, I want them to navigate that world, but not to be of it.

It’s a lot to ask, but my kids are smart and have been raised with solid core values.

For instance, all weekend long, we saw: bored kids; complaining kids; rude kids.

Eva whispered to me: “That boy was rude,” when a child blew past us on a motorized scooter without ceding the narrow strip of pavement to us (older) pedestrians.

Kudos to my daughter, at age eight, for recognizing attitude when she saw it, and specifically choosing, in a way I can only describe as super cool, to be above and beyond it. She’s not snooty or snobby; she’s just herself: poised, self-confident, never afraid to be who she is.

I want to arm my girls with the social tools they need to thrive in all situations and with all types of people, and the discernment to align themselves with the best of that affluent world: Opportunities! Experiences!

The question we heard all weekend long was:

TEMECULA? WHY DO YOU LIVE THERE?

(Or, for variety, a left-handed compliment: “How brave of you!”)

So, why?

If we can live anywhere we want, why do we choose to live where we do?

Let me start by saying: I love Temecula! (I have an entire blog pretty much devoted to my love of this beautiful place, after all.) It really took me by surprise how much I enjoy living here and how great it has been for our entire family to have settled in this community.

And now, some history. This post explains a little bit about how we came to live in Temecula in the first place. (And this one tells you why in a weird way I actually like Riverside, too.)

Basically, since Scott has his own business in a largely referral- and relationship-driven industry, we searched for a place to settle by drawing a big driving-distance circle around his Riverside office. Other places we considered besides Temecula included Redlands and some San Gabriel Valley cities, but after we decided to eliminate anywhere with smog, we decided on the Temecula Valley cities of Temecula and Murrieta. Clean air, clean water, good public schools…we were sold.

We actually ended up buying the first house we saw! (Yes, we looked at others, but the Jungle House won us over with its huge mature fruit trees.)

So why here? Why “California’s Bible Belt”?

We immediately discovered that this area is incredibly family friendly. (You know it’s kid-friendly when the wineries have kiddie menus.) I’ve never experienced a place so culturally supportive, in word and in deed, of stay-at-home-moms. It’s ingrained in the culture here to walk your talk. These are people living their values, every day.

There’s a little bit of “keeping up with the Joneses” here but it’s easy to ignore it if you choose. Which we do. What little we have of Peyton Place or Real Housewives of Orange County is fairly self-contained. And there is zero “keeping up with the Greenblatts.” There just aren’t enough Greenblatts to go around.

We noticed a tendency of people we met at Family Camp to identify themselves micro-specifically: not just The Valley, but “south of the boulevard”; not just LA or even West LA, but “Brentwood” or “Pacific Palisades.”

Is it snobbery? Insecurity? The opening salvo in a game of Jewish geography?

It might be a teeny bit, but I think mostly it’s over-identification with one’s zip code.

We’ve chosen to opt completely out of that game. We could have completely rearranged our lives to live someplace with a bragworthy zip code, but then we wouldn’t have money to be at Camp Ramah in the first place.

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