Latke-Hamantash Debate returns to campus for 66th year

Some questions are never settled.

More than 60 years after the first Latke-Hamantash Debate at the University of Chicago, the University community will come together once again at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 12 in Mandel Hall to weigh the merits of the two Jewish foods.

The tongue-in-cheek event invites distinguished scholars to make a case for the superiority of either latkes (fried potato pancakes traditionally prepared for Hanukkah) or hamantashen (triangular, jam-filled cookies eaten during Purim), and has been a mainstay of campus life since 1946.

This year, the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity organized the debate with the help of a coalition of students representing the diversity of Jewish life on campus. Debaters Douglas Baird, the Harry A. Bigelow Distinguished Service Professor of Law; Susan Gzesh, executive director of the Human Rights Program and senior lecturer in the Social Sciences Collegiate Division; and Glen Weyl, assistant professor in Economics, will take up the latke-hamantash question.

Ted Cohen, a noted latke enthusiast and professor in Philosophy, will moderate the event. (Cohen took a stand in the 1976 debate, when he argued, “the hamantash is a very, very good thing of its kind. The latke, however, is a perfect thing.”)

Previous debate participants include Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman, President Emerita Hanna Holborn Gray and philosopher Allan Bloom. Their contributions to the debate, along with Cohen’s and many others, are anthologized in The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate, published by the University of Chicago Press in 2005.  

The Latke-Hamantash Debate is free and open to the public, and seating is assigned on a first come, first served basis. Attendees are invited to sample both latkes and hamantashen at a post-debate reception in Hutchinson Commons ($5 at the door). The event also will be webcast on the UChicago Live tab of the University’s Facebook page.