Scott Goodstein is probably best known for his work with unique political campaigns that blend art, music, and culture. Having co-founded Punkvoter.com, Rock Against Bush, Artists For Obama, Artists For Bernie, DailyAction, CreativeMajority, and LadyPartsJusice, he has built impactful programs that have changed the world in which we live.
Goodstein also founded Revolution Messaging, which would grow to become America’s leading progressive digital agency. With Revolution Messaging, he created infrastructure and new technology for different types of grassroots movements. His tech firm specialized in revolutionizing call, mobile, and online communications. Under his leadership the company was awarded “Digital Agency Of The Year” by the American Association of Political Consultants and “Best Global Presidential Campaign” by the European Association of Political Consultants, as both awarded in 2016.
When interviewing Faith No More bassist Bill Gould – also the head of Koolarrow Records and a member of Talking Book – I was connected with Scott Goodstein, with a partner of Yebiga. Yebiga is a true Balkan rakija (a famed Serbian spirit) and it happens to be kosher. I learned about Yebiga and plenty more by doing Q&A with Goodstein.
Darren Paltrowitz: How did you and Bill first meet?
Scott Goodstein: I first met Bill in 2003. I was helping Fat Mike of the music group NOFX build PunkVoter. We kept in touch over the years and worked on a number of fun projects. We both appreciate underground culture, from all over the world, and turn each other onto interesting people and resources all the time.
DP: How long did it take from coming up with Yebiga to having a finished product?
SG: We started discussing our love of slivovitz and Balkan culture years ago. It became more than swapping drinking stories, as we realized there has not been quality slivovitz in the U.S. in years. Most of my family and friends only knew the cheap bottle of slivovitz that everyone drank at Passover. Unfortunately, this stuff tasted like kerosene more than finely-aged and distilled plums.
We had a dream of introducing our friends to traditional small-batch liquor that you find in villages all across the Balkans. The type that grandparents made with pride for their families.
So it took almost two years before we were able to launch. We have an amazing supplier that has been making slivovitz on their family’s farm for four generations. We are just now slowly rolling it out in limited quantities.
DP: So why Slivovitz?
SG: I wanted to get involved in doing something that has history, value, and meaning. Yebiga is not just about importing a foreign liquor. It’s about preserving part of a culture that was vanishing.
Re-introducing slivovitz has been a fun experience. Everywhere I go, there are one or two folks that have Balkan ancestors and light-up with joy hearing that they can get quality slivovitz again. They immediately share stories with me about old celebrations, toasts, songs, etc.
DP: Yebiga comes from Serbia. So how exactly did it get a kosher certification?
SG: From the very beginning, I wanted to make sure I would proudly be able to have Yebiga sit on my family’s Passover table for the seder. On my first trip to Belgrade, I reached out to the Head Rabbi of Serbia through a friend and he was unfortunately out of town.
Nonetheless, we stayed in touch and talked throughout the certification process. He was clear that everything would need to be inspected to make sure there were no additives, sweeteners or grapes. He visited the farm and observed the quality that goes into each bottle. Everything is done on the premises: growing, harvesting, distilling, aging, bottling, and labeling. Everything is done by hand and he approved.
DP: What’s coming up for Yebiga in the near future?
SG: We will grow this slowly in the years ahead and make sure the quality never changes. Each batch needs to impresses both those that have never tried slivovitz as well as those that have not had good slivovitz in years.
DP: Your credits are extensive, beyond Yebiga, to say the least. What else are you currently working on?
SG: I run a communications and impact strategy firm called Catalyst Campaigns. I help organizations around the world evolve their technology and communications infrastructure. Currently, I am advising Invisible Hands Deliver as they scale their efforts to deliver more groceries to those in need during the Coronavirus.
DP: Since this is for the Jewish Journal I feel compelled to ask: Did your bar mitzvah have a theme?
SG: I called and asked my folks. They said that my theme was simply “Bar Mitzvah” — the centerpieces were little bar mitzvah boys with glasses.
I grew up on the east side of Cleveland, where old-men at my synagogue would all talk about the best slivovitz that they had ever tasted, and every once in a while a bottle would show up and be passed around after morning minyan. Especially during Passover.
DP: In honor of Bill, to you, what are the best songs by Faith No More and Talking Book?
SG: He’s done some cool projects over the years. I just saw him play with Wayne Kramer of the MC5 as part of the supergroup the MC50. For this article, I’ll have to say Faith No More’s song “Take This Bottle” seems appropriate.
DP: Finally, Scott, any last words for the kids?
SG: I don’t want slivovitz to be relegated to distant memories anymore. I’m excited to be part of helping a new generation toast with slivovitz.