Ruth Fredman Cernea Great Latke Hamantash Debate

Now in its fifth year in Kansas City, this Great Debate features two teams debating the relative virtues of these two traditional Jewish delicacies, the potato latke – associated with Hanukkah, and the hamantashen – a delicious cookie served during the Purim holiday.


The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate was born at the University of Chicago’s Hillel House in the winter of 1946 when Jewish professors tapped into their cultural identity in a light-hearted and humorous way to counter the isolation and fear the Jewish academic world experienced after World War II. The debate provided their Jewish students with an opportunity to view their professors in a relaxed environment.

The Great Debate has become a tradition on college campuses, synagogues, Jewish Community Centers/Campuses and Jewish Federations throughout the country bringing together debaters of diverse backgrounds.

Event Chair Melanie Allmayer was inspired to bring The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate to Kansas City to honor the memory of her beloved aunt, Dr. Ruth Fredman Cernea, who edited the book, The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate, a collection some of the best materials from debates over the years.

Great Debate 2017

Learn more

Sunday, December 10th, 2017
3:30 p.m.
White Theatre, Jewish Community Campus


From its inaugural event at the University of Chicago in 1946, the Latke Hamantash Debate has been an entertaining afternoon of witty repartee and laughter about the relative merits of Latkes and Hamantashen, staples of Jewish cuisine. We will be serving latkes and hamantashen, of course. For more information, contact our office.

Event Information & History

The Great Debate began as an informal Hillel gathering and has grown to include numerous college campuses, synagogues and Jewish centers nationwide. Once a year, debaters and their audiences gather to good-naturedly argue the greatness of either the latke or Hamantash.


This event is held in honor of Ruth Fredman Cernea, beloved aunt of Ohev Sholom member, Melanie Allmayer.  Cernea edited the book, The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate, a collection some of the best materials from debates over the years. Universtiy of Chicago Press writes: “…anthropologist Ruth Fredman Cernea provides historical and social context as well as an overview of the Jewish holidays, latke and hamantash recipes, and a glossary of Yiddish and Hebrew terms, making the book accessible even to the uninitiated.”

Work by Cernea includes:
The Passover Seder: An Anthropological Perspective on Jewish Culture by Ruth Fredman Cernea
Almost Englishmen: Baghdadi Jews in British Burma by Ruth Fredman Cernea
The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate by Ruth Fredman Cernea (Editor), Ted Cohen (Foreword)
Hillel Guide to Jewish Life on Campus Ruth Fredman Cernea (Editor)


About Latkes and Hamantashen:
Latkes are shallow-fried pancakes of grated or ground potato, flour, and egg. They are traditionally eaten during the festival of Hanukkah. The oil for cooking the latkes is symbolic of the oil from the Hanukkah story that kept the menorah in the Second Temple of ancient Israel lit with a long-lasting flame that is celebrated as a miracle.


Hamantashen are filled, triangular-shaped cookies or pastries. The shape is achieved by folding in the sides of a circular piece of dough, with a filling placed in the center. It is traditionally eaten during the holiday of Purim. Hamantashen are made with many different fillings, including the traditional poppy seeds, prunes, nuts, dates, apricots, apples, fruit preserves, cherries, and chocolate.