Howard Kaplan

The Orthodox Are A’Comin in Los Angeles

My house

I live in the Beverlywood suburb of Los Angeles, originally built in the 1940s, two to three bedroom houses adjacent to Beverly Hills, a 30 minute walk. In my 1950s childhood there was a kosher butcher or two on nearby Pico Boulevard. Now Pico spouts many Orthodox synagogues, kosher restaurants, kosher bakeries, Orthodox schools and The Simon Wiesenthal Center. I have been in my current house since 1993 after living for 14 years in a nearby neighborhood off LaCienega Boulevard that was half African-American, some of the loveliest people I’ve known. In 1977 I bought a 1,700 sq ft house there for $60,000 with the profits from my first novel, THE DAMASCUS COVER.

Increasingly in the last 10 to 20 years, Beverlywood has become a Jewish Orthodox enclave of younger people with large families. At the moment, and I kid you not, on both sides of me one house was knocked down and the other is extensively being remodeled so there is banging from both directions. I sold the first house in 1993 for a little over $200,000 and bought this one for $555,000. For the first year I wouldn’t turn on the air conditioning because I was worried about the cost. About 6,000 people reside in Beverlywood, 2/3s homes, 1/3 apartments or condos and 1,000 homes comprise the central homeowners association where I am. I regularly receive letters offering $2.5 million from individuals and real estate brokers who don’t want to see the house but will pay cash and cover all sale costs. They want to bulldoze and build. We have a security patrol paid for by the homeowner association dues.

My house

I live by chance on one of the two toniest streets, i.e. the biggest houses, which are a block from each other on S. Beverly Drive but not contiguous. During the Black Lives Matter protests there were no demonstrations near my neighborhood, all homes and the nearest glass breaking sounded in Beverly Hills two miles away in a heavily police patrolled business area. There are no businesses within the homeowners association.

Somehow I was missed when everyone on these two streets were emailed to form their own, I don’t know what to call it, “security enclave.” The leader solicited $100 from each household to hire our  own single security car to patrol our two blocks, hard to estimate, 70 homes? They found enough takers and such security was hired to augment the existing patrol of the 1,000 homes — maybe four or five twenty-four hour vehicles. A short time later another solicitation for $100 was again successful though a third attempt for the November Presidential election failed to find enough takers to bear the nominal cost. Newly built McMansions around here sell for upwards of 3 million, almost all Orthodox Jews, though  one of the largest was bought by a Samsung heir from Korea which went for 5.4 million or maybe 4.5, I forget. The Israeli speculator who bought the house across from me last year — after a man in his sixties was found naked in his living room by our mutual gardener — built a full basement to circumvent the city’s maximum square footage laws. Cost him $200,000 to complete and reinforce and he sold the house for an extra million. About half the homes have been knocked down and resurrected larger and eventually it will be all of them. One enterprising real estate agent sends yearly letters to elderly homeowners and suggests they hand them to their adult children to keep for after they pass.

My neighbor, a single divorced woman in her 70s paid the first time for the private security augmentation. She tells me regular emails or texts go out with alerts to our two blocks that on occasion are helpful — the only one she could cite was of two coyotes in the neighborhood. There was one about the street being temporarily blocked. There are easily logical ways around.

I was appalled at the white privilege though these very wealthy young Jews may too have contributed to worthy causes. I would not have joined this “movement,” would rather dole out an extra $100 to cafe workers and delivery boys during this pandemic which I always do by leaving oversized tips.

It’s 6:40 am so quiet but fortunately I am not greatly sensitive to noise.

About the Author
Howard Kaplan's new novel, THE SYRIAN SUNSET: a novel of the Syrian Civil War, the failure of the West to save the Syrian people, and how that inaction against the Russian incursion in Syria emboldened Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine. The film adaptation of his THE DAMASCUS COVER, starring Sir John Hurt in his final film, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and seven Israeli actors is available on Tubi in the U.S.
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