Marc Grossfield is a typical entrepreneur who managed a number of successful businesses and eventually sold his marketing promotions company to a public company.
Through family connections, he hooked up with Eddie Philips of Millennium Imports and soon he was learning about such upscale brands as Chopin and Belvedere. Eddie seized the opportunity about 35 years ago when Poland was undergoing its transition from Communism and managed to become the sole importer of the upscale Belvedere Vodka.
It was a time when Absolut virtually controlled the luxury market with an average bottle selling for $15. Eddie took the luxury Belvedere brand with its beautiful bottle to the next level, commanding double what Absolut was charging and he was an instant hit.
According to Marc, Eddie did not keep the success to himself, donating as much as $25 million to Jewish causes. He eventually sold Belvedere to Louis Vuitton LVMH “for hundreds of millions of dollars” and then sold Chopin.
Meanwhile Marc was not only transitioning to Vodka thanks to his mentor Eddie Phillips but also becoming increasingly spiritual. The Gold family in Israel turned out to be a perfect fit.
The family, originally expelled from Russia in 1824, moved to Safed (Tzfat) along with the entire community where they continued to make vodka in the finest Russian tradition. This art was passed on from father to son, today run by Yossi and his dad Joseph Gold.
Yossi’s journey took him to the Israeli Air Force, then to medical school, to Brazil where he became a plastic surgeon and then to Germany to perfect the art of making vodka.
Marc’s mission was to have the Gold’s produce vodka out of the seven species of the land of Israel (i.e. figs, dates, pomegranate, wheat, barley, olives, grapes) so that Jews who wish to make a blessing over the original seven species could do so, and even a non-practicing Jew or non-Jew could feel some spirituality in making a toast.
He even imported sand from Israel to put a handful into every fancy bottle of Aviv. The water is from the Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee.
Vodka is made from 40% alcohol and 60% water. There is even symbolism in the triangular shape of the bottle, representing body, mind and spirit. “The bottom is bigger,” says Marc, “representing kindness. Aviv was launched on Thanksgiving 2013 and in its first year stacked up well against such brands as Grey Goose, Ciroc and Belvedere. It is selling well in such wine and spirit chains as Lund’s and Byerly in Marc’s hometown in Minneapolis.
It is also distributed by Royal Wine in many areas and is certified kosher by the Orthodox Union (OU).
This article was written by Menachem Lubinsky for Kosher Today.
This week Mishpacha Magazine had an article that asked what may be the most important question one could ask about Judaism. What is the biggest existential issue plaguing the Jewish world in our day?
They asked a number of prominent respondents from a wide spectrum of Hashkafos. From Rabbi David Neiderman, a prominent leader of Satmar that heads many of their organizations on one end – to Rabbi Steven Weil, Executive Vice President of the OU and Rabbi Dr. Aharon Hersh Fried, Associate Professor of Psychology at YU’s Stern College for Women.
Mishpacha received a wide variety of answers. Interestingly none of them said it was the move to the right.
More importantly, no one said that sex abuse is that issue. I tend to agree. Of course to the increasing numbers of victims and their families – that is the biggest issue plaguing Judaism today – a Holocaust in fact. While I agree that this is a major problem and the one in most need of immediate action, I do not see this by itself to be the biggest issue. Although I do believe it is a major contributor to it.
The respondents each stated what they thought. I will briefly list what each one of them said.
Jonathan Rosenblum thought it was the idea that too many of us do not think about honoring God. In a nutshell he says that this leads to not thinking about which of our actions constitute a Kiddush HaShem or Chilul HaShem. In many cases we tend to think only about ourselves and our own limited communities and never give a thought to how those outside of our word see our actions and how our behavior impacts on their perceptions of Judaism as a whole. I think he’s right.
Rabbi Niederman (without saying so directly) spoke about the dire poverty he must constantly encounter in his Kehilla in Williamsburg. His point being that without a means of sustenance, spirituality doesn’t even begin. Ein Kemach Ein Torah. To him, poverty is the primary existential threat to Judaism.
Rabbi Weil spoke of the spiritual holocaust of assimilation. A holocaust that he says causes more Jews to be lost from Judaism than the actual Holocaust. 56 percent of all Jews are intermarrying. The great boon to Jews in America is its biggest bane. Because of our broad acceptance – it is easier than ever to become completely assimilated. The largest bloc of Jews under 40 are choosing not to live as Jews. The American ideal of freedom and our widespread acceptance is in fact the double edged sword that is both helping us and skewering us. On the one hand observant Jews have been so accepted that we are invited to serve at the highest echelons of government. But at the same time the freedom this country offers allows us to shed any semblance of our Judaism.
Rabbi Zecharya Greenwald, a published ArtScroll author and head of a Jerusalem based women’s seminary, says that our educational system is failing us in the self esteem department. Our students are being brought up to believe that if one does not attain the ideal state of a Jew as defined by the particular Hashkafa of their schools, they are not worthy of God’s love. The push to perfection has created an entire population of young people who feel themselves unworthy, no matter how accomplished they are, they feel they fall short of the ideal expected of them. Thus feeling worthless!
And finally there is Rabbi Dr. Aharon Hersh Fried. He takes a typically academic approach rejecting all anecdotal information that often inspires various media to become experts about what is or isn’t important. He says we ought not try and isolate issues. Instead he says that all issues need to be studied by professionals which include the entire spectrum of the Frum world – rabbis and lay leaders. Such studies ought to include an interdisciplinary team of professionals – along with ‘a social scientist or two’. After clearly studying and defining those issues – we can develop solutions to them.
Of all the approaches mentioned, it’s hard to argue with Dr. Fried. What better method can there be for determining that than a scientifically designed study that will be objectively conducted and analyzed by the widest variety of people and professionals available to us.