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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Latkes edge out Hamantaschen in second annual parody debate

Alex DePaoli ’25, second from left, attended the second annual Latke vs. Hamantaschen Debate on March 2, in Doyle Banquet Hall South. The parody debate features different faculty members each year. PHOTO: MAX KELLY’24/ THE HAWK

Salty and sweet came to a head again this year on Hawk Hill, and salty emerged the victor.

The university hosted its second annual Latke vs. Hamantaschen Debate March 2, a parody debate held between different faculty members each year. The Latke vs. Hamantaschen debate is a university tradition with origins at the University of Chicago, where the first event was said to have been held in 1946. It has since spread to other college campuses and was held at St. Joe’s for the first time in 2022.

Sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, this year’s event consisted of each side posing an argument for either latkes, a potato pancake, or hamantaschen, a triangular cookie traditionally filled with jam or poppy seeds. Both pastries trace their roots in traditional Hebrew culture and often appear as staples during Hanukkah, Purim or other Jewish celebrations. Drawing on historical, culinary and comedic elements, debaters try to gain the interest of the audience.

After the votes are in, attendees are provided samples of each dish to try for themselves.

Susan Liebell, Ph.D., professor of political science, represented hamantaschen in the 2023 debate, arguing that the story of hamantaschen is one of powerful women who defied the cookies’ anti-Semitic namesake, Haman, whose hat the pastries allegedly derive their shape from.

“The more ways we recognize different aspects of people’s diversity, the more comfortable they’ll feel, and the better they’ll do and the happier they’ll be,” Liebell said.

Paul H. Halpern, Ph.D., professor of physics, represented latkes in the debate. He provided a humorous argument in which he made the case for latkes as a cosmological foundation, shaped like the universe itself.

Halpern said an event helping to share and celebrate Jewish culture is important for how it can help boost St. Joe’s image for prospective students.

“I think St. Joe’s is a very welcoming university, a very welcoming campus, and there are students of many different backgrounds here,” Halpern said. “I think, increasingly, we’ll have a diverse student population.”

Alexandra DePaoli ’25 attended both the 2022 and 2023 debates.

“You’re learning, but you’re learning in a fun way,” DePaoli said. “You’re getting to participate instead of just watching a lecture, and, because it’s humorous, it’s a great way to remember the information and to not feel like you’re just attending another lecture outside of class.”

At St. Joe’s debate, latkes edged out hamantaschen by a vote of about 60% to 40% among the roughly two dozen people who attended the event.

DePaoli voted latkes, but for her, it was more about the food than the debate.

The latkes were homemade by students and the hamantaschen were store bought, providing an unfair advantage, she pointed out.

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Gavin Kuebler
Gavin Kuebler, Assistant Features Editor
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