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.

In lieu of perfection

Two Jews once came before the Talmudic sage Rav Yannai.

“The branches of his tree extend into the public domain,” one claimed. “They’re a public hazard,
interfering with the camel traffic. Master, you must surely rule that he is obligated to remove the tree.”

The tree owner fidgeted silently, hoping against legal hope that somehow the tree could be spared.

Rav Yannai sat silently in thought, and finally, cryptically ruled, “Go home today, and come back tomorrow.”

Puzzled but always respectful, the parties agreed to do so.

When they returned on the next afternoon, Rav Yannai issued a clear and definitive ruling.

“It is obvious that you are obliged to cut the tree,” he said to the tree owner with little doubt as to the accuracy of his ruling.

But the tree owner had one last appeal up his sleeve.

“But my master also owns a tree whose branches extend into the public domain,” he said.

Rav Yannai replied, “Go and see. If my tree is still there, you may keep yours. But if mine is cut down, then you must cut yours, too.”

Apparently, Rav Yannai had been busy with his saw overnight, anticipating the ruling he’d be issuing the next day. (For the record, the Talmud records that up to that point Rav Yannai hadn’t thought about the negative impact of his tree on public traffic, thinking instead that the pubic enjoyed the shade it provided.)

Right there, in the shadow of the ever-popular “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” another mitzvah quietly sits: “Thou shall surely rebuke thy friend.” And while this may seem rude or intrusive, the Torah regards the obligation of mutual rebuke as the engine of communal righteousness.

To be sure, the Torah immediately adds safeguards, prohibiting us from publicly humiliating our wrongdoing friend, and enjoining us from engaging in rebuke that we know will be futile. But carried out appropriately and with good common sense, rebuke is a vitally important activity. Both our sages and our own experiences have taught “a person cannot perceive his own flaws.” There is no way that any of us can achieve continuing moral and religious growth, unless we are willing to point out flaws to one another. (And unless we are willing to accept constructive criticism from others.)

But the story of Rav Yannai points to a nasty Catch-22 in the rebuke mitzvah system. The Talmud wonders why Rav Yannai was so particular about cutting his own tree before he issued his ruling. Couldn’t he have just as well done so immediately afterward? The Talmud then concludes that we learn from Rav Yannai that you must first “adorn yourself. And only then, tell others that they should do the same.”

It is not permissible, and it probably isn’t effective, to rebuke a friend for a flaw that we ourselves also possess. We need the system of mutual rebuke because we cannot perceive our own flaws. But if we cannot perceive our own flaws, then we run the constant risk of urging others to “adorn themselves” when we utterly lack the necessary credentials to so do.

The whole system therefore grinds to a halt. Rabbi Tarfon bemoaned this paralysis, commenting, “I would be surprised if there is anyone in our generation who can deliver rebuke. If one says, ‘Remove the splinter from between your eyes,’ the other will respond, ‘Remove the beam from between your eyes.'”

How then are we to go about fulfilling this vital mitzvah? How then are we to enable the ones we love to grow and achieve greater moral and spiritual refinement?

Fortunately, there is another way to go about it. The tradition recognizes a way in which one can deliver rebuke without necessarily having to meet the criterion of being completely personally “adorned.” Love can take the place of perfection.

As we read in the parsha a few weeks ago, God specifically chose Aaron to be the one who diagnosed the skin condition tzara’at, which was an external manifestation of the person’s ethical flaws (in particular that of habitually speaking ill of others). God knew that Aaron, although not without blemish himself, overflowed with love for each and every one of the people. Aaron was the one who reconciled friends and spouses, pursued peace and loved all. If Aaron were to say to you, “Dear friend, there is flaw in your character that you need to repair,” you would not question that he was right.

Rebuke that is a function of and which flows from love avoids the Catch-22 altogether. Rebuke is the catalyst for moral and religious growth, and true love is the necessary prerequisite for rebuke.

“Be among the disciples of Aaron,” the legendary sage Hillel taught. There is realistically no other way to fulfill the mitzvah upon which all of our individual growth and development hinges, and, in the end, the mitzvah upon which human progress hinges.

Yosef Kanefsky is the rabbi of B’nai David-Judea Congregation, a Modern Orthodox congregation in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood.

New Year, New Orleans

“I think of Pompeii,” wrote Anne Brener in a September article for The Jewish Journal. “New Orleans was so beautiful.”

She wrote of her beloved New Orleans in the past tense, but during the High Holidays, she helped restore a measure of present hope. L.A. transplant Brener, a fourth-year rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, conducted Rosh Hashanah services at Shir Chadash, a Conservative synagogue in Metairie, La., for congregants who braved a return. The challah came from Dallas.

The main auditorium was unusable, so some 80 congregants gathered in a smaller prayer room, according to a report by Associated Press. While their Torahs had been safely evacuated, hundreds of religious texts were damaged beyond repair and buried in a nearby cemetery last week, as per Jewish tradition.

“We’re being given a fresh start, a new beginning,” 19-year-old David Weber said. — Staff Report

Restoration’s Silver Lining

Silversmith David Friedman has the unique ability to trace the origin of almost every antique that comes across his desk. “People ask me all the time, ‘How did you know that? How did you know that goblet was actually made in India?'” Friedman said. “We just know from experience. We see a lot of pieces and a lot of metal.”

The founder of Friedman & Co., an antique repair and restoration service, Friedman has been working with metal since he was 17. Trained in the apprentice style in southeastern Wisconsin, he began making his living repairing musical instruments. But when his clients urged him to expand his business further, Friedman discovered the world of antiques.

“I found this work much more interesting and stimulating,” said Friedman, who runs a store in Beverly Hills and a plating facility in North Hollywood. “Musical instrument work, although it’s very rewarding, can be somewhat repetitive, because once you’ve overhauled a clarinet and you’ve overhauled 1,000 clarinets, a clarinet is still a clarinet.”

Friedman prefers antiques because each one tells a story. He often sees pieces that have been passed down through generations or have sentimental or historical significance.

“I remember repairing a tray once that was buried before or during World War II,” Friedman said. “Jews often buried their possessions so that they would not be confiscated. When the owners dug up the tray after the war there was a pick ax hole through the middle of the tray, which they brought to me all these years later to repair.”

While Friedman often hears such stories because much of his clientele is Jewish, he insists that those who use his services are as diverse as the art itself.

“Silversmithing is an ancient art and there were Jews that were silversmiths. It’s part of Jewish life and Jewish history, but silversmithing covers the entire spectrum of humanity and it’s associated with all religions … our door is open and welcome to anybody to come here. Whoever comes to our counter we treat them with respect and try and help them.”