While Santa and polar bears may be the first images that come to mind when thinking about Coca-Cola in December, other holidays aren’t ignored by the beverage giant.
For the third consecutive year, Coke has celebrated Chanukah, uniting many of the employees, both Jewish and non-Jewish, in recognition of the festival of lights at The Coca-Cola Co. headquarters in Midtown on Dec. 16.
Evan Charles, a 23-year Coke veteran and a group director for the company’s revenue growth management, organized the event. He spoke to the AJT about the program’s importance.
“Three years ago, I asked if I could bring in my menorah and they displayed it prominently in the main reception area,” Charles said. “They said, ‘next year, we’re going to include it in our budget,’ and they purchased a 12-foot-tall electric menorah, which is absolutely beautiful.”
In addition to two menorahs now displayed at prominent locations, there is also a Chanukah wall display this year for the first time ever, which includes a decorative menorah and a story to go along with each night of the holiday.
“Each year it just grows more and more, and our company is so receptive to celebrating Chanukah,” Charles said.
Rabbi Ari Sollish, of Chabad Intown on the BeltLine and Intown Jewish Academy, has also been leading Torah study lunch-and-learns at Coke every four to six weeks. He brought kosher food to the party and shared eight messages, one for each night.
“Chanukah is definitely a Jewish holiday, but its message seems to reverberate for many people,” Sollish said. “Ideas of light over darkness and fighting for our values, even when they weren’t the popular ideology, seem to resonate.”
While Chanukah hadn’t officially kicked off, those gathered symbolically lit a menorah and Sollish offered menorah kits for those who wanted.
The food was, unsurprisingly, also a big hit.
“We had latkes and jelly donuts, chocolate gelt as well, but Coke supplied the beverages, of course!” Sollish said. “We sang Chanukah songs and people got really excited about the holiday.”
The event was certainly fun for all in attendance, but Charles also stressed the importance of the educational nature of the afternoon.
“It really is an educational opportunity, whether people are affiliated Jews, unaffiliated Jews or not Jewish,” he said. “It’s a holiday that really speaks to lighting up the world, and that’s a message that relates to Jewish people, but also others, as we all can continue to bring light into the world.”