The Great Latke-Hamentaschen Debates

There are a many things that American culture has contributed to Jewish history and not all of them are accessible only to those on the “inside.” Consider the annual Latke vs Hamantaschen debate that is familiar to many college campuses. As reported in the New York Times, it is such a long-lasting annual tradition at the University of Chicago (beginning in 1946!) that it has recently been chronicled in a book. Imagine the best of this country’s Jewish minds absurdly debating which is better, which is the truer Jewish food, which region of the country has a better spin on the recipe. No talk here of Jewish law or ritual. Only Jewish culture—and comedy—at its best.

The Times article notes that one of the participants, Colm O’Muircheartaigh, a professor of public policy, is not even Jewish and “tasted the first latke of his life—and hamantasch, too—after last year’s debate.” If he feels comfortable celebrating Jewish culture, certain an unaffiliated Jew will too, or a young adult child of intermarriage who may be unsure as to his or her status with the community. Is it any wonder that, as the article points out, “By 1965, the crowd of 700 was more than double the number that attended High Holy Day services on campus. Now, the tradition has spread to more than a dozen campuses.”

What other imaginative doors into Jewish life can we envision?

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