What a magnificent Yamim Noraim – High Holiday – period we were blessed to share! Thank you for your presence and active participation in making our entire season both beautiful and inspiring. And, in the same breath, thank you as well to the small army of community members – synagogue professionals, ushers, Honors Committee members, Trustees, Torah readers, Youth Service leaders, custodial staff, parking lot attendants, Shofar blowers, Ashrei Leaders, parallel service leaders, Ark Openers, JCCH office staff, security guards and more – whose work (visible and behind the scenes) make our holiest of days possible.
On Kol Nidrei evening, I was pleased to share a version of these remarks, celebrating the achievements of Israel and an Israeli beverage company that many of us are familiar with – SodaStream. A story: Two older Jewish men were sitting together on a park bench, friends for many years. One looked at the other and said, “Oy.” The other looked back at his buddy and replied, “Oy.” The first gentleman repeated again, “Oy,” to which his friend acknowledged in return, “Oy.” Back and forth they went, running through this exchange several more times, until Max finally turned to Irving. “Hey,” he said, “I thought we had agreed not to talk about Israel.”
Yes, there’s a lot of “Oy” about Israel – external enemies and internal challenges. But, we’re not going to talk about any Oys of Israel today.
You may have caught the news over the last several weeks of the major acquisition of the Israeli SodaStream company by a local Harrison outfit called… Pepsico. Yes, our neighbors in Purchase – Pepsico – just spent $3.2 Billion to buy Sodastream.
For the uninitiated, the SodaStream machine allows you to take tap water and, with a few pumps, add Carbon Dioxide and, voila: seltzer with no plastic waste. Pepsico was so attracted to the company’s technological innovations and healthy products that it decided to spend over $3 Billion to acquire SodaStream. When the CEO of SodaStream, Daniel Birnbaum was hired eleven years ago, a private equity firm had just bought Sodastream for $6 million. Last week, it was sold to Pepsi for $3.2 billion. Not a bad return on investment.
But the sale is so inspiring because it is not just about business value — it’s about values.
Most companies operating in Israel try to avoid the Israeli-Palestinian conflict like the plague. They don’t want it to hurt their business operations, and they certainly don’t want to talk about conflict. They figure that it’s just too sensitive, too difficult. In their eyes, touching the conflict presents all risk and no reward. But SodaStream is different – and that why I wanted to tell you some of its story this evening.
Over many years, this company has shown the upside of engaging with Israelis and Palestinians together in a positive way. It’s built a brand based by building a shared future. The
conflict has knocked threateningly on the company’s door more than once. Yet, SodaStream has not relented. Instead, it has doubled down on its values. The results speak for themselves. Not only has SodaStream thrived – $6 Million to $3.2 Billion – but it has become a model for the international community.
One story from eight years ago — CEO, Daniel Birnbaum, was invited to receive an award from then-Israeli President Shimon Peres. Birnbaum’s employees included both Israelis and Palestinians, and he decided to bring a representative group to share in the awards event to highlight their sense of solidarity and hope.”