The Ultimate Jewish Question: Latkes or Hamantaschen?


As we approach the holiday of noshing hamantaschen, scholars will once again take on a pressing argument. Which is superior: the latke or the hamantasch?

Is such a quibble worthy of any high-minded discussion? According to the University of Chicago Hillel, which sponsored the first Latke-Hamantaschen Debate in 1946, the answer is an emphatic “yes.” The event has since become an annual showdown at the Hillel and across the world, where academics of every field debate this seemingly frivolous issue. With tongues firmly in cheek, and usually with lots of both Jewish delicacies available afterward (because why choose?), the debates are a hilarious way to poke fun at the high-mindedness of academia with Jews and non-Jews alike.

At Harvard, Alan Dershowitz has argued that latkes increase our dependency on oil. At Chicago, Divinity professor Wendy Doniger held that hamantaschen are womb symbols and worshiped in matriarchal society. In Toronto in the ’70s, two lawyers debated, memorably, in full robes and wigs.

Don’t have a local debate? Thanks to this handy paperback—not to mention YouTube—you can still explore some compelling answers to this most Jewish of questions.

Watch Alan Dershowitz argue for “oil independence”:

Check out the most recent Latke-Hamantaschen Debate:

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