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The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate Paperback – December 1, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (December 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226100243
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226100241
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,094,747 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

What began in 1946 at the University of Chicago as a way to foster a sense of community among Jewish students and faculty members, these farcical debates about whether latkes or hamantashes are superior wrap absurdist pun-offs in academic trappings, but readers will find as many pits as cherries. In these snippets from an "academic 'carnival'" that "turns the usual academic posture upside-down," professors such as Marvin Mirsky observe "the roundness of the latke clearly suggests the circle of perfection (Plato's ideal form)" and "the flatness of the latke . . . emphasizes the general and the universal (Plato's ultimate truth beyond the illusion of the immediate and the particular)." Most participants use pun-dependent "examples" to illustrate the presence of this debate throughout history and literature: Lawrence Sherman reminds his audience that in Romeo and Juliet, "Juliet was a Capulatke, Romeo a Hamantashague," and William Meadow cites the influence of Jewish cooking on rock music, recalling such lyrics as "Come on, baby, latke good times roll" and "the Rolling Stones lament, 'I can't get no hamantashen.'" The schmaltz gets poured on thick, and, like both latkes and hamantashes, the book is best appreciated in moderate servings.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"As if we didn't have enough on our plates, here's something new to argue about. . . . To have to pick between sweet and savory, round and triangular, latke and hamantash. How to choose? . . . Thank goodness one of our great universities--Chicago, no less--is on the case. For more than 60 years, it has staged an annual latke-hamantash debate. . . . So, is this book funny? Of course it's funny, even laugh-out-loud funny. It's Mickey Katz in academic drag, Borscht Belt with a PhD." -- Davd Kaufmann "Forward" (11/17/2005)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Larry Mark MyJewishBooksDotCom on December 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Forget the bibles, zohar, and books of kabbalah; bypass Roth and Ozick; for this is the most important Jewish book in 2005, and I have waited over 25 years for its release. I first became an addict of the Great Latke-Hamantash debates in the 1970's. The debate is the sort of event that makes you want to become a Hillel Program Director. In 1946, a debate was started each November at the University of Chicago as a way to foster a sense of community among Jewish students and faculty members, as the December holidays approached. The debates were farces; they attracted the top Jewish professors and students, Nobel laureates, university presidents, and notable scholars together to debate whether the potato pancake or the triangular Purim pastry is the worthier food. They applied their fields of study to these symbolic Jewish foods.

Professor Marvin Mirsky observed that the roundness of the latke suggested Plato's circle of perfection and its flatness emphasized Plato's ultimate truth. Professor Lawrence Sherman reminded his audience that in Romeo and Juliet, "Juliet was a Capulatke, Romeo a Hamantashague" He also showed that the Merchant of Venice had hidden meanings, that Shakespeare was a kosher baker, and Juliet's moon was actually "mohn."

This book collects the best of the debates. It includes Martha Nussbaum's paean to both foods-in the style of Hecuba's Lament-to Nobel laureate Leon Lederman's proclamation on the union of the celebrated dyad. The latke and the hamantash are here revealed as playing a critical role in everything from Chinese history to the Renaissance, the works of Jane Austen to constitutional law. One law professor stunned the audience by breaking the rules, and defending the knish.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By ProfWombat on November 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
You'll find here mock-serious scholarly disquisitions, from world-renowned experts, on the question of whether a latke or a hamantash is the better. These are, delightfully, people making fun of themselves and their institutions as well. If you're Jewish, buy this book. If you aren't, but have any contact with university/intellectual disquisition, buy this book. But don't read it in a place where you'll cause a disturbance by laughing. The differentiation between the scientific approach and that of the humanities alone is worth the price of the book, as is the exploration of the career of Oliver Wendell Holmes as a Chasidic scholar. And, by all means, don't skip 'Latkes/Hamantashen: a Post-Structural Feminist Critique', quoting Emma Goldman on the subject...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Elaine Hilowitz on September 19, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the funniest and most entertaining books I've ever read. This started at the University of Chicago in 1946 as a unique fundraiser for the Hillel. They invited 2 (at first Jewish) professors to debate which is better/first/most important, using their discipline as the basis of the presentation. What started in a small room on campus is now presented in the largest autitroriam on campus, and non-Jewish professors have now also partitipcated in this. This book is a collection of the best of these presented debates. It is an easy read that can be picked up without loosing the "story". I laughed out loud with almost every entry. It is a favorite Chanukkah gift.
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By E. Ferrara on December 17, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a book of short essays written by a variety of intellectuals in a collage setting. This is a good book to read a few pages at a time, and skip around the book.
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By Michael Lewyn VINE VOICE on December 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
A bunch of academics at the University of Chicago debating the superiority of latkes vs. hamantashen, parodying whatever academic discipline they are in. Some of the debaters' points are quite funny.
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