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February 28, 2015 / 9 Adar , 5775
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Pounding Headaches

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Dear Rachel,

We are a family that has always gotten along well with others and abhor machlokes of any kind. Yet now we find ourselves in the midst of an increasingly maddening situation, with no solution in sight.

Several years ago we bought into a newly constructed 3-family co-op in a tight-knit frum community. We live in the first floor apartment (we were the first buyers) and the basement is divided (designed) to accommodate storage space for each of us.

Over the years our families have baruch Hashem grown in size. The owners of the uppermost apartment happen to have several rowdy boys, but we understand that’s just the way it is — there were no guarantees when we purchased our home as to the type of people we’d end up sharing it with.

But there are limits. If the litter that gets tossed from the upper floor windows onto our lawn and driveway wouldn’t be enough of an annoyance to put up with, the incessant drum-playing at all hours of the night and many daytime hours are driving us crazy. These boys have turned their family’s share of the basement into their personal drum-practicing chamber right below us!

Don’t bother advising us to speak to the grownups — been there, done that. We didn’t yell or carry on or threaten. We spoke calmly, and respectfully asked that they consider how disturbing and distracting it is to be kept awake late into the night and to be deprived of peaceful and quiet evenings.

Rachel, all of our pleading has fallen on deaf ears. These people have never even made a pretense of caring or sympathizing, nor did they give any indication that they would talk to their kids about curtailing their racket. In fact, they downright defend their boys’ rights to practice their “music” in the space that is rightfully theirs.

The subject of moving has been raised by some family members, but that’s easier said than done. We live in a densely populated area where there is a shortage of housing and were fortunate to buy when we did. The location is ideal for us and suitable to our children’s needs, so you can see that moving elsewhere is for us neither a practical solution nor a realistic option.

This situation is especially hurtful to us since both my husband and I happen to be mild-mannered in nature and have never gotten into any disputes with anyone. Yet here we are, barely greeting one of our closest neighbors.

I have no doubt that others have experienced this headache. We would be interested in hearing how they went about dealing with this problem.

 

Frayed Nerves  

Dear Frayed,

Noisy-neighbor headaches have been a part of society for ages. Nonetheless, the lack of concern and sensitivity on the part of one neighbor to another in a “close-knit” Jewish community is most disturbing. Of course a letter to a column cannot possibly tell the whole story and offers only a snapshot of the goings-on through one lens, making it impossible to see the whole picture.

Some thoughts on the subject, based on your account: The parents of these boys are getting some respite at your expense and are obviously disinclined to give up their downtime. Since they refuse to heed your pleas or acknowledge your misery, why not go straight to the source of the racket and engage the boys themselves (if you haven’t yet done so) in a friendly but earnest discussion?

In a non-confrontational manner, invite them into your kitchen for some homemade cookies. Gradually steer the conversation to their beloved hobby and educate them subtly in the mores of social and acceptable behavior — all the while keeping your tone casual and friendly. These boys are probably so immersed in their activity that they fail to realize how annoying it can come across to others and they might, for the very first time, begin to see things from an outsider’s perspective.

Compromise is often the key to settling disagreements. Perhaps you can reach a compromise on a curfew, for example 10 pm, 3 days a week. Have you ever suggested that they soundproof their basement quarters?

Should attempted negotiations fall flat on all fronts, don’t hesitate to take your grievance to your Rav. He’s heard it all, will rule with halachic authority, and his occupation qualifies him as quintessential peacemaker.

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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