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February 10: The Rabbi Who Kashered Coca Cola

February 10, 2014
geffen-standingTobias Geffen, a Yiddish-speaking Orthodox rabbi in Atlanta, Georgia who in 1935 was given Coca Cola’s “secret formula” and guided the company in making small changes that enabled him to declare the soda kosher and fit for consumption on Passover, died just short of his 100th birthday on this date in 1970. Geffen hailed from Kovno, Lithuania and came to the U.S. at the age of 33. He led Congregation Shearith Israel in Atlanta for sixty years. Because of his proximity to Coca Cola headquarters in Atlanta and his reputation for upgrading kashrut certification in the South, Geffen was approached by Harold Hirsch, the lead attorney for the company, who gave him the secret formula — which the rabbi’s daughter Helen analyzed for him at the University of Georgia. Rabbi Geffen convinced Coca Cola to substitute a vegetable-based glycerin for a non-kosher beef tallow, and to use a sweetener made from cane and beet sugar that would eliminate small traces of grain that made coke unfit for Passover. Soon after, the Nazis in Germany would soon be displaying Coca Cola bottle caps marked “Kosher for Passover” as proof of Jewish control of the U.S. economy. To read a full account of the kashering of Coke, click here. ““With the help of God, I have been able to uncover a pragmatic solution according to which there would be no question nor any doubt concerning the ingredients of Coca Cola. It is now possible for the most stringent halachist to enjoy Coca Cola throughout the year and on Passover.” -Rabbi Tobias Geffen
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