Nov. 21, 2002
Vol. 22 No. 5

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    Purim-inspired pancakes vs. pastries debate returns Tuesday

    By Seth Sanders
    News Office

    With enough cheerful wit to warm the coldest November evening, the 56th annual Latke-Hamentash Debate will be held at the University at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 26, in Mandel Hall.

    The symposium, a pompous and often riotous staged debate between academic proponents of opposing Jewish holiday foodstuffs, has swept the nation, livening up campuses from Arizona State to Mount Holyoke.

    Following the Jewish practice of mimicking teachers and spoofing rabbinical tradition during Purim, distinguished panelists will draw upon their academic disciplines to extol the virtues of latkes (potato pancakes) or hamentashen (triangular pastries).

    Ted Cohen, Professor in Philosophy, who started participating in the debate as a panelist nearly 30 years ago, has since become the regular moderator. He has described the event as one that has grown in popularity. “The symposium has become an amazing event. People from all over the city come every year.”

    He noted that when the Latke-Hamentash symposium started, there must have been an element of daring for those involved. “When this started 50 years ago, it was just after World War II. It was a real risk to have such a public display of Jewishness. It’s much different today.”

    Sponsored by the Newberger Hillel Center on the University campus, the debate has come a long way, appearing in the spoof essay “The Constitutional Foundations of Shirley Edelman’s Latkes” in Daniel A. Farber and Suzanna Sherry’s constitutional critique, Desperately Seeking Certainty: The Misguided Quest for Constitutional Foundations (University Press).

    Spectators are encouraged to show support for their preferred victual by coming to Mandel Hall dressed in a latke- or hamentash-related costume.

    The debate is followed by a reception at which latkes and hamentashen will be served. The free symposium will be held in Mandel Hall, 5706 S. University Ave. The fee for the post-debate feast is $3. For more information, call the Newberger Hillel Center at (773) 752-1127.