This year, the Hillel here at Michigan hosted its first ever debate. The subject? Latkes and hamantaschen. Four prominent professors at the university, Dr. Jan Gerson of Economics, Professor Zvi Gitelman of Political Science and Judaic Studies, Professor Julian Levinson of English Language and Literature and Professor Ralph Williams of English Language and Literature each gathered proof in their respective fields to prove which is more authentically delicious. But first, what are we talking about, exactly?

Latke: A potato pancake, doused and fried in oil, prepared with sides of either applesauce or sour cream. The oil signifies the Chanukah miracle, in which one day’s worth of oil lasted for eight days during the siege of Jerusalem.

Hamantaschen: A triangular pastry traditionally served on Purim, a holiday that celebrates the deliverance of Jews from the Persian Empire. It’s stuffed with sweet fillings such as chocolate, apricot, cherry or poppy seeds. The shape represents the hat of the man who tried and failed to annihilate the Jews in the ancient Persian kingdom.

Both dishes are eaten to celebrate the history of the Jewish people — but really, any excuse for yummy food.

Photo by Alexandra Hayes

These two Jewish staples, which have been passed down through generations of families, are virtually equal in popular Jewish culture, but scholars and professors have been having debates about which is better for years. This obsession with Jewish cuisine became so intense that in 1946 at the University of Chicago Hillel, a few prominent Jewish scholars met to formally debate the subject.
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This year’s debate at Michigan was a big success, as the professors had the audience in stitches with hilarious examples, ribbing each other at every turn — in a friendly way of course. The debate couldn’t agree on a winner, but foodies everywhere are still asking the same question: which is better, the latke or the Hamantash? We may never know…