In the 1930s, Coca-Cola was the national drink, and for first-generation Jews, a Coke was a symbol of assimilation. But there was a problem—no one knew if Coke was kosher. Coca-Cola’s formula was secret, known to only a few executives. To this day, the original recipe remains locked away in a vault of the Sun Trust Bank in Atlanta.
Enter an old Lithuanian rabbi named Tobias Geffen, head of Atlanta’s Shearith Israel synagogue and the most prominent of all southern Orthodox rabbis. He took it upon himself to determine the kashrut status of the beverage.
Rabbi Adam Mintz, a visiting professor of Jewish History at Queens College in New York, tells the story.