Jerry Seinfeld sells 17 cars for $22M


Jerry Seinfeld sold 17 collectible cars at auction for more than $22 million.

The Jewish comedian’s cars – 15 Porsches and two Volkswagens – brought in $22,244,500 this weekend, according to the Los Angeles Times. A 1955 Porsche 55 Spyder alone went for more than $5 million.

Seinfeld is known to be a car aficionado. In his web series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” — which featured President Barack Obama in December — he goes out to eat with a well-known comedian in a vintage car.

Gooding & Co. estimated the auction would actually bring in $10 million more than it did, Jalopnik said.

The “Seinfeld” star and co-creator showed up at the auction house to promote the sale.

Seinfeld had previously said he loved owning the cars and would have held onto them in an ideal world.

“[T]he reason I wanted to bid these cars farewell in this way is really just to see the look of excitement on the faces of the next owners who I know will be out of their minds with joy that they are going to get to experience them,” he said in February statement.

Seinfeld only failed to sell one car at the auction, a non-drivable Carrera GT concept car, one of two in the word, which didn’t reach its minimum $1.5 million minimum asking price.

Voices of LA arts fest brings ethnic, religious diversity to city


A new summer cultural arts festival is bringing a fresh Jewish feel to Los Angeles.

Voices of LA: The Krupnick Festival of the Arts pairs a diverse array of Jewish and non-Jewish artists from all genres and mediums to create new and exciting works with strong local roots. A co-production of the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles (JCF), Community Arts Resources (CARS) and Wilshire Boulevard Temple, the festival runs through Sept. 14 at various locations throughout the city.

Voices of LA (voicesoflafest.com) is firmly focused on reaching the larger Los Angeles population, something that was done by design, according to JCF President and CEO Marvin Schotland. The festival is named in honor of the late Harry Krupnick and his wife, Belle. 

“He was someone that was very proud of his Jewish heritage,” Schotland said of Krupnick. He described him as “very much interested in the ethnic diversity of L.A. He celebrated it; he loved it.”

When the idea arose to do a multicultural festival in Los Angeles — with Jewish culture woven in at all levels — Schotland knew who to ask for help: Aaron Paley, president and co-founder of CARS. 

“What we asked Aaron to do … was to find artists in various ethnic communities that were representative of Los Angeles and pair a Jewish artist with an artist from an ethnic community.”

Jarell Perry

The plan resulted in some unique couplings. Wil-Dog Abers of the alt-Latino-world fusion band Ozomatli will be performing alongside alt-R&B singer Jarell Perry. Yuval Ron and his ensemble, which focuses on world music, will be paired with Grammy-winning group La Santa Cecilia. The events will include a visual arts exhibition, a dance performance at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills and spoken word events featuring artists from many ethnic communities in L.A.

Wil-dog Abers

Selecting the artists for the festival often came down to practicalities, Paley said. 

“What’s going to work? What’s possible to do? And who do we think is also really good at collaborating?” 

The one thing that everyone agreed on from the start, as Paley tells it, was that everyone had to be local, with a direct connection to Los Angeles.

Most of the artistic duos will perform twice during the course of the festival, one time at each of two different venues. The concept — though it wasn’t realized in every instance — was for each set of artists to perform at both a Jewish community location and a non-Jewish site. For instance, the Yuval Ron Ensemble and La Santa Cecilia will perform at the Pico Union Project on July 28 and at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes on Aug. 26. Other venues hosting events include Fais Do-Do, the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, the Breed Street Shul, the Echoplex and Beyond Baroque.

La Santa Cecilia

All the artists, however, will be coming together for a culminating performance as part of the festival’s closing event at Wilshire Boulevard Temple on Sept. 14 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event will be free to the public and feature family-friendly workshops, food trucks with kosher options, live music and performances from the previously featured artists.

For Paley, putting together events like Voices of LA has been a job and a passion for more than 30 years. He said he was eager to help create Voices of LA after being approached by JCF. 

CARS is a “double bottom line company,” according to Paley, which means that while it’s not a nonprofit, its focus is both on meeting its bottom line and improving the Los Angeles community. 

“I’m from L.A., and I grew up in the Jewish community,” he said. “I was brought up with this idea that Jews had a role to play in the larger picture of Los Angeles.”

Schotland said he has enjoyed working on the festival and feels that it has opened up new artistic horizons for him personally. 

“If I had talked to you before doing this festival, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you who [Wil-Dog Abers] was,” he said. “I think it’s a fascinating experiment, and we at the JCF are really proud to be the catalytic institution to make it happen. In particular, it’s a great way to honor the Krupnicks.”

Paley is simply thrilled to see the whole thing come together. “We’re all so excited because it feels like magic when everyone’s together,” he said.

Schotland said that even though the festival has been planned as a one-time event, he’s open to the idea of doing more programs like it. 

“I think people are looking for opportunities that celebrate our unity with each other, even though we come from different backgrounds, and one of the nice things about this festival is that it really provides an opportunity for that,” Schotland said. “There’s a universal language connected to art, and creativity is good for any community.”

Voices of LA: The Krupnick Festival of the Arts runs through Sept. 14.

Mechanic Mom: Carchick Rebekah Fleischaker brings female knack to a male-dominated field


Rebekah Fleischaker knows a thing or two about working as a woman in a male-dominated field. A mechanic for more than 20 years and owner of Sherman Oaks-based California Automotive and Mobile Mechanics, she goes by the moniker “Carchick.”

When Fleischaker speaks at women’s conferences, she encourages female attendees to not make their physical assets a focus when they enter a male-dominated career. She refers to it as drawing the “girl card.”

“Once you draw that card, you cannot put it away, and you instantly limit yourself,” she said. “You need to avoid limiting yourself through other people’s preconceptions.”

Whether Fleischaker is dealing with an ambitious entrepreneur or a customer, her message is to try something new and to not be afraid to ask somebody else you admire and respect to teach you how to do it right. In her case, that person was her first boss in auto repair.

Raised in a traditional Jewish home in Florida, Fleischaker joined the Navy out of high school to earn money for college. When her tour ended, she returned to find her truck totaled by a friend. It turned out to be a happy accident.

“While I was waiting for the [repair shop] owner to survey the damage, his phone rang and I answered,” she recalled. “Soon after that, he hired me as his secretary.”

Fleischaker spent her downtime reading auto repair manuals and catalogs. When she asked what a word meant, the owner said, “You don’t need to know.”

“And I responded, ‘If you could teach me a little bit about this, I feel that the garage would make more money because we would be better able to communicate with customers,’ ” she said.

The relationship ended up being a dynamic one.

“I never thought I would ever develop a passion for working on cars,” she recalled.  “However, he nurtured my curiosity and interest so much because he loved what he did.”

Shortly after moving to Los Angeles in 1989, Fleischaker happened across her first customer — a woman who needed a master cylinder installed for her clutch. After that, word of mouth spread so quickly that she quit her retail job to start an auto repair business that will pick up your car and deliver it when done, do the work where you are, or in their shop.

Fleischaker, mother to 9-year-old son Zane, notes that being a woman in a trust-based business like auto repair is actually an asset, especially at times when you have to break bad news to a customer.

“Most of my clients know that I will not lie to them, and that I am a good listener,” she said. “With each customer, however, I have to prove it to them through the quality of the work my shop does in rebuilding an engine or fixing the brakes. The other part of my gift is being able to tell my customers something, and from there be able to find a good response to their concerns. I listen closely to what they have to say back to me — or what they don’t say to me or ask me. I often look at their facial expressions to figure out how to solve a problem.”

Though the temptation to expand her business is there, Fleischaker says she would rather keep it the same size to ensure she and her team will never lose sight of the complex, quality work that has kept clients loyal.

“This is not a Jiffy Lube, in-and-out kind of place, but somewhere a customer would go to get specialized work done on his or her car,” she said. “With that attention to detail and commitment to getting the job right, there are only so many customers you can see in a day, and, as a Jewish mama, I want to give them and my staff the care and attention they deserve. After all these years, I still make the coffee at my garage. However, it is because I want my employees to have my coffee, because I love making it and I know it is better than the coffee they are able to make.”

California Automotive and Mobile Mechanics, 14254 Oxnard St., Sherman Oaks. (818) 780-4369. carchick.com

Israel flying high with NASCAR


There is not a long and storied history of Jews in motorsports. The cast of characters is limited and filled mostly with names like Jody and Tomas Scheckter, François Cevert and Peter Revson, all of which likely means little to the average American, and less to the average American Jew. Even Kenny “The King of Speed” Bernstein, a Motorsports Hall-of-Famer, isn’t well known outside racing circles. Perhaps the most iconic Jewish racer was Paul Newman, a man far better known for his acting and activism. And if you narrow the story’s scope to Israel, it becomes so short it could be a haiku: Chanoch Nissany /did not race in the Grand Prix /how good could he be?

So it might have come as some surprise if you happened to catch the trials for this year’s Daytona 500 and caught an odd sight on the track. There, among the cars emblazoned with the logos of corporations like Target, Burger King, GEICO, FedEx and Miller, was the No. 49 car, a bald eagle on its hood, clutching the flags of Israel and America in its talons, with the words “United We Stand” above its grille.

If your first instinct is to suspect that this development is AIPAC’s latest foray into public relations, or that a pro-Israel billionaire like Sheldon Adelson decided to drop a couple million on a car to bring his message to the masses, you’d be wrong. In fact, the No. 49 car was conceived in a partnership between Robinson-Blakeney Racing and America Israel Racing, and their background might surprise you.

Speaking on the phone from North Carolina, America Israel Racing (AIR) co-founder Rich Shirey wasn’t hesitant to say that there’s “not one Jewish person on our team.” Shirey was raised Baptist in a home where, he says, they were always taught to stand behind Israel. Shirey, who has no background in racing, says the idea for America-Israel Racing came out of a desire “to show the world, and Israel, that a majority of Americans do support Israel.”

After being inspired to do something in support of Israel, Shirey got in touch with his friend, AIR co-founder Mark MacCaull, a former NASCAR engineer, to try and make his idea a reality. In Shirey’s mind, there was no better way to raise awareness about Israel than through NASCAR racing, the sport he loves. “Fortunately enough, Jay Robinson of Robinson-Blakeney Racing was coming up out of the Nationwide Series,” NASCAR’s second division, “to the Cup Series, and we went and met with him and it just was a perfect fit,” Shirey said.

“Everybody we have on our team, from the air team to the driver, to the crew chief, to the team that actually owns the racing team … everybody is 100 percent on board with this,” Shirey said. Even driver J.J. Yeley, when told what would be on the hood of his car, was hugely supportive. “When J.J. found out what we were trying to do … he was ecstatic.”

With Robinson-Blakeney and Yeley on their team, Shirey and MacCaull knew there were still many hurdles ahead. “Everything we do, NASCAR has to approve of,” said Shirey. And while the sport’s governing body has been very supportive, there’s still the matter of funding a race car, which is no small feat.

“We’re not rock stars or movie stars or anything like that, we’re just ordinary people,” said Shirey. “We have enough money to run Daytona, and Phoenix, and there’s a good possibility we’ll be in Las Vegas, but we definitely need to get funding.”

While AIR has been collecting donations on its Web site, americaisraelracing.com, the real struggle is “to try and get some corporate sponsors on the car.” But despite having yet to find a big-name sponsor, Shirey remains hopeful. “In America right now, things are tight for everybody.”

More than anything, Shirey wants to get the message out that America and Israel need each other and that, at least in the world of NASCAR, Israel is a true friend to America. “We’re two countries that are a lot alike in everything we do. They’re our closest ally in an area of the world that’s not real friendly to the West. And we need Israel as much as Israel needs us.”

Arab cars set alight in eastern Jerusalem


Two cars owned by Arabs were set on fire near the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo.

The words “price tag” and “revenge” were spray painted near the site of the suspected arson attack, which occurred early Wednesday morning.

No suspects have been identified, but the graffiti is typical of other attacks by extremist right-wing Jews.

At least three mosques in the West Bank and Jerusalem have been torched in recent weeks. Similar graffiti was left at the sites of those attacks. Jewish settlers were arrested in connection with at least one of the attacks.

My 2011 Nissan Solyndra


Last June, I wrote about my initial love/hate affair with Nissan’s all-electric production car. Since then, people keep asking me how I like my Leaf.

Here’s what I tell them: I am ready to turn over a new Leaf — my own.

This is not easy to admit. First, because it makes me feel like a jackass. More than a year ago, when I first read about the Leaf, I put my deposit down and eagerly waited eight months to buy the car. If America is ever to end its dependence on fossil fuel in general, and foreign oil in particular, we must develop sensible, economical alternatives. Not only that, we have to actually buy them.

According to every ad and brochure Nissan put out, the Leaf gets 100 miles per charge. With federal and state tax credits and subsidies, its $34,000 price tag approached a more affordable $22,000. Another federal subsidy would cover the estimated $2,400 cost of installation of a 220-volt charger in my home. I wouldn’t be spending a penny on gas, I’d be sticking it to the Saudis, and I’d be leading the way to a brighter future.

Well, half the way.

Because after driving this car for five months, I can tell you I have yet to get 100 miles per charge. The last three times I measured, it was 55, 58 and 58. 

My life now revolves around a near-constant calculation of how far I can drive before I’ll have to walk. The Nissan Leaf, I can report, is perfect if you don’t have enough anxiety in your life.

I told a friend of my disappointment, and his response was, to say the least, humbling.

“You mean to tell me,” he said, “a car advertisement lied?”

OK, I fell for it. Who’s to blame?

Well, Nissan. Over and over, they promoted the Leaf as getting 100 miles per charge. They still do — and Leaf owners have yet to weather their first winter, when heating will gobble up even more mileage than air-conditioning. 

At the AltCar Expo in Santa Monica a few weeks ago, I stopped by the massive Nissan Leaf display. I wanted to see if the company was sticking to its rap. As a crowd gathered round, a perky model in a tight T-shirt lifted the car’s hood. 

“It’s not even an engine,” she said, pointing inside, “but we make it look like one ’cause that’s what y’all are familiar with.”

The crowd giggled along with her.

I raised my hand. “How many miles does the Leaf get per charge?” I asked.

“A hundred,” she said.  

The audience oohed and aahed.

Five months ago, I did the same when the salesman at Santa Monica Nissan told me that. (He also assured me there are no problems installing home charging systems. I balked when the actual estimate came in close to $6,000.)

But I’m to blame, too. I bought the car. I signed the papers. I wanted it to prove a point. The life lesson: A fool and his ideology are soon parted.

I know a few Leaf owners who are happy. Keep your daily mileage requirements far, far below 100 miles, and you’ll find the Leaf zippy and well engineered. Economical? I’m not so sure — if you only drive 20 miles a day, is your gasoline bill high enough to justify the Leaf’s nonsubsidized cost?

The final straw for me came in late August. My gauge said I had 82 miles available, and I decided that was enough to drop off my son at Camp Alonim in Simi Valley. You may remember that in my first Leaf column, that was the exact trip I assumed I would never be able to make in a Leaf. Well, guess what?

Alonim is 35 miles from our home. I drove below the speed limit on the freeway, windows down so I could keep the mileage-guzzling AC off. Nevertheless, by the time I arrived at camp, I had only 31 of the original 82 miles left. That’s been my experience day in and day out — the gauge reports a best-case scenario that lures me into magical thinking. I left Alonim and drove another 10 miles to Mission Hills. Reported miles: 82. Actual miles driven: 41. Now the gauge showed me having three miles to go. 

Knowing that charging stations are as rare as monorails in L.A., I decided to pull off the freeway and drive very slowly to the closest Nissan dealership, where I could put in more juice. I called my office and told them I’d be late, as I had to charge enough to drive the next 20 miles. That would take two hours.

Needless to say, I didn’t join the electric car parade held on Main Street in Santa Monica two weeks ago. Nor did I rush out to see this week’s new documentary, “Revenge of the Electric Car,” which documents the efforts behind the Tesla, the Leaf and the Chevy Volt. I didn’t have to go see “Revenge of the Electric Car.” I’m experiencing it.

The Volt’s gas engine, by the way, kicks in after 40 miles. So what do I tell the people who stop me to ask how I like my Leaf? “Buy a Volt.”

I still believe the electric car is the future. But the raised public expectation for new technology can easily create a wicked backlash among a public already skeptical of change. Witness the recent Solyndra debacle, when the federal government pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into an over-hyped solar technology company, leaving taxpayers leery of supporting the development of the next good idea.

Nissan must be feeling some backlash now, as well. Leafs — which the company had expected to sell out — are piling up on dealer lots like, well, fallen leaves.

So, here’s my advice to any company trying to push the next new thing to save the environment: If you want to save the world, lose the hype.

To read my previous column about the Leaf, click here.

BMW family admits using slave labor for Nazis


The family that owns BMW has admitted to using slave labor during World War II.

Some 50,000 forced laborers are estimated to have worked in the factories of industrialist Guenther Quandt producing arms for the Nazis, according to a study commissioned by the Quandt family.

Gabriele Quandt, grandson of Guenther Quandt, told the German newspaper Die Zeit that it was “wrong” for the family to ignore this chapter of its history.

The independent study by the Bonn-based historian Joachim Scholtyseck concluded that Guenther Quandt and his son Herbert helped bolster the Nazis, according to the newspaper. The three-year study was commissioned in response to public outrage over a German television documentary that made the accusation; the documentary had access to the company’s files from the Third Reich period.

Guenther Quandt also is accused of taking over Jewish-owned companies during the war with the blessing of the Nazis.

The Quandt family bought shares of BMW 15 years after World War II.

Guenther Quandt became a Nazi Party member on May 1, 1933. He died in 1954.

The family still owns a majority of shares in the luxury carmaker.

Safed teens indicted for torching Arab cars


Two Jewish teens from Safed have been indicted for setting fire to two cars owned by Arab students.

The teens were indicted Thursday for torching the cars as revenge for the murder of five members of the Fogel family in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Itamar. They deny the allegations.

The two cars owned by Arab students at the Safed Academic College were set alight March 16 following a campus event to promote dialogue between Jews and Arabs.

Anti-Arab graffiti also was spray-painted on the walls of the college following the event, according to reports. “Arabs get out,” “Death to Arabs” and “Kahane was right” were among the epithets.

The event broke down into heated discussions, including whether Arabs have a place in the Jewish state, Haaretz reported.

Tensions between Jews and Arabs in the mixed city have been on the rise for months, spurred by a call last fall from the city’s chief rabbi asking Jews not to rent to non-Jews, specifically Arabs.

Many Arab students attend the college and rent apartments nearby.

Arab-owned cars set afire in Safed


Two cars owned by Arab students at the Safed Academic College were set alight following a campus event to promote dialogue between Jews and Arabs.

Anti-Arab graffiti also was spray-painted on the walls of the college following Tuesday night’s event, according to reports. “Arabs get out,” “Death to Arabs” and “Kahane was right” were among the epithets.

The event broke down into heated discussions, including whether Arabs have a place in the Jewish state, Haaretz reported.

The college condemned the incident. Galilee police are searching for the vandals.

Tensions between Jews and Arabs in the mixed city have been on the rise for months, spurred by a call last fall from the city’s chief rabbi asking Jews not to rent to non-Jews, specifically Arabs.

Many Arab students attend the college and rent apartments nearby.

The Parking Spot Theory


Here’s my "Parking Spot Theory": Let’s say you’re driving around, looking for a parking spot and you can’t find one. You drive around the block again and, still, nothing. You look up ahead at the other cars circling the block and no one is getting a parking spot. Frustration builds. Then, suddenly, a spot opens up and the guy ahead of you pulls into it. The first thing you think is, "Damn, that could’ve been my parking spot." Disappointment. Anger.

The next thing you think is: "Hey! That guy found a parking spot! There are parking spots to be had!" You suddenly feel optimistic about the future. "If I continue in my quest with a pure heart and an open mind, I, too, shall find my parking spot." That’s the theory.

My friend Doug just got married to a lovely girl from the East Coast named Debbie. Doug is 42, and this is his first marriage. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Debbie is the parking spot into which Doug has parked. He is a symbol of hope to single people of a certain age all over the world, and the wedding was cause for much rejoicing among Jewish mothers all over the Westside.

Doug walked the aisle to the strains of Etta James’ "At Last," which got a well-deserved laugh from the congregation. The message was this: It only takes one.

I admit that the "Parking Spot Theory" is hardly the story of Job, but it can be a trial, a test of faith. At some point, the thought of going on another date is almost too horrible to imagine. I saw "Harold and Maude" the other day and Harold, an awkward, eccentric young man (not unlike yours truly) greeted each of the young ladies his mother had chosen for him with very elaborate, realistic-looking suicide attempts, including self-immolation. Is that an extreme overreaction to facing yet another blind date? I could argue it both ways.

I think life was simpler when Yenta made a match, like in "Fiddler on the Roof" — and that was that. You got a partner and you made the most of it. Then along comes the second act and Hodel wants something more out of the deal. This is when Tevya turns to the audience and asks in disbelief, "Love?" Believe me, there is always something more. There is always a better parking spot to be had.

I think this is why you find so many people trying JDate, personal ads (see right) and matchmaking services — let somebody else figure it out for you. These are the valet parking guys of romance. When you sign on with one of these outfits, you’re essentially saying, "There’s a big tip in it if you can find a parking spot for me, pal."

I’m not surprised that people have so much trouble finding one another. Men and women are taught completely different things about relationships and marriage and develop wildly disparate world views. I was sitting next to a woman on a plane the other day whose copy of Vogue magazine had a 30-page wedding pullout section, with stories on everything from gowns to "honeymoon secrets." By contrast, my copy of Details, a popular men’s magazine, had a two-page story titled, "How to Have the Perfect One-Night Stand." The only thing the two magazines could agree on is that both of you could do better.

Women are arming themselves with this vital information. There is a whole section on the magazine stand that they read when men are not looking. Women are armed and dangerous. They are gearing up for the big game, and most men don’t even know there’s a game on. There are no magazines for grooms, and what would it say if one did exist? "Good Luck"? "Seven Ways to Pretend You’re Paying Attention"? "See Ya Later, Sucker"?

I’m happy to report that married life is agreeing with Doug and Debbie. They are happily parked. There was a moment at the end of their beautiful wedding ceremony, when they turned around to the congregation, facing the world for the first time as man and wife, they received a standing ovation from their guests. It was a lovely moment, but Doug admitted later that it was the first "standing O" he’d ever gotten in his life. Shaking his head, he said, "It’s all downhill from here."

J.D. Smith is parked @ www.lifesentence.net.

The Rav Revs Up


If you missed the alternative-fuel vehicles at the L.A. Auto Show — and with just a dozen exhibited, they were hard to find — don’t despair. Check out the one on display at Wilshire Boulevard Temple, in Rabbi Harvey Fields’ parking space.

For the last five months, Rav Fields has cruised around town in his silver-gray four-door Prius, a gasoline-electric hybrid from Toyota. With Tu B’ Shevat falling days after the auto show’s panoply of gas-guzzlers, Fields reflected on the Jewish imperative to take care of our world.

“If I can remove some of the poison from the air, and make out of L.A. a more delightful environment, I believe that’s my responsibility [as a Jew],” he said. But this responsibility doesn’t require much sacrifice. The car is “very enjoyable to drive in the city. I can turn and manipulate it beautifully…. I fill up just once a month. Plus, there’s plenty of room for the grandchildren,” said the rabbi from his car phone as he zipped down Wilshire Boulevard.

His only complaint was the long wait to get the car. Ron Cogan, editor and publisher of The Green Car Journal, says the rabbi’s experience is not unusual. The automakers’ goal “is to mass-market products that allow them to make significant profit, and they don’t see that profit with alternative-fuel vehicles,” Cogan said.

But government mandates for clean-fuel cars are changing that. Cogan expects there to be a wide selection of hybrid cars, sport utility vehicles and minivans by 2003 and 2004. Even better, by the end of the decade, many vehicles will run on fuel cells, and their only byproduct will be water.

If you’re curious about greener-fueled cars but don’t feel comfortable asking the rabbi for a test drive, there are other options. EV Rental, for example, sells and rents alternative-fuel vehicles, and will discount your rate if you volunteer for the California Lung Association.

For more information, contact EV Rental, www.evrental.com or (877) EV-Rental;
California Lung Association, www.californialung.org or (800)
LUNG-USA; Green Car Journal, www.greencars.com or (805) 541-0477;
Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, www.coejlsc.org  or (818) 889-5500 ext. 103.

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