The Ruth Fredman Cernea Great Latke Hamantash Debate
Sunday, December 10th, 2017
3:30 p.m.
White Theatre, Jewish Community Campus

Team Hamantash Wins the 2017 Debate!

Ruth Fredman Cernea Great Latke Hamantash Debate - Team Hamantash Wins

Our 2017 Debaters

Jill Maidhof

Team Latke

Ben Mathis

Team Latke

Debbe Trachtman

Team Latke

Neil Herman

Team Hamantash

Howard Rosenthal

Team Hamantash

Marissa Wolf

Team Hamantash

Our Esteemed Rabbinical Court

Hazzan Tahl Ben-Yehuda

Congregation Beth Shalom

Rabbi Daniel Kirzane

Congregation B’nai Jehudah

Rabbi Monica Kleinman

Congregation Beth Torah

Rabbi Jonathan Rudnick

Jewish Family Services

Rabbi Scott White

Congregation Ohev Sholom

Why Have a Debate About Latkes & Hamantashen?

Because it’s fun! It’s entertaining! And, quite simply, there may be no more important topic to confront society in our time. Yes, for two hours, you will watch six funny, smart people, divided into two teams, argue for what is better: the latke or the hamantash. But, really, that’s just a springboard to exploring a wide range of substantial topics: art, music, politics, war, peace, design, fashion, national identity, even the meaning of life itself (it’s happened before, and it will happen again—just you watch).

And after the rebuttals, and after the ultimate winners are determined by a panel of judges and a vote by you, the audience, we eat! (Of course, we eat.) Latkes and hamantashen for all. Let the applesauce flow! Let the pastry melt in your mouth! No matter how the debate turns out, everybody wins.

“Highly absurd yet deeply serious, the annual debate is an opportunity for both ethnic celebration and academic farce. In poetry, essays, jokes, and revisionist histories, members of elite American academies attack the latke-versus-hamantash question with intellectual panache and an unerring sense of humor, if not chutzpah.”

— Ruth Fredman Cernea,
The Great Latke Hamantash Debate

Our Distinguished Professor of Ceremonies

Dr. Christopher Kelts, Director of Orchestral Studies & Conducting at Missouri State University, continues as honorable moderator of The Great Latke Hamantash Debate.

Through his thorough studies in Mozart’s triangulated key signatures during the Classical Era of music, Dr. Kelts continues his research on the longevity and inspiration of the Hamantash to western art music of the 18th and 19th centuries. Not swayed by his research in this most academic research, Dr. Kelts has embarked on the connections between the Latke – its shape – and the music of the great PDQ Bach, who, by all accounts, loves commas in sentences in which his name is used.

Joined today in keeping time of, what promises to be some long winded debaters, is his spouse and partner in crime, Maureen Kelts.

Drawing from his other esteemed colleagues, NOT represented here today, Dr. Kelts makes it a point to interject a sense of levity and dignity to this long standing debate – filled with tradition and hardcore facts! Ready? Get Set? Let’s Get It On!

Dr. Christopher Kelts

Our Eminent Mistress of Ceremonies. And Timekeeper.

Maureen Kelts

Maureen Kelts, The Keeper of #AllTheTime, is currently teaching English for the Ozark School District and adjunct faculty for the Department of Theatre & Dance at Missouri State University.

Maureen spends her summers as a touring agent for EF Educational Tours …. anything to get some time away from her husband’s bad jokes. Maureen has had years of experience judging, training and motivating regional and state Speech and Debate tournaments, stage directing countless plays and musicals, and still maintains style, poise, and is very, very humble and most of all – diplomatic.

“When I say go, you go – when I say stop, you stop!” Did we mention she’s very diplomatic? This is the motto that Maureen lives by in keeping debates honest and efficient.

History of the Debate

The Latke Hamantash Debate has been a University of Chicago tradition since 1946. It started with two professors and a Hillel director who worried that their Jewish students felt alienated in the midst of the American celebration of Christmas. Every year since then, dedicated Hillel directors, with the support of the University, have held the debate. And every year, distinguished participants hold forth on the merits and significance of latkes and hamantashen. Past participants have included Nobel Prize winners and University presidents. Each year, over 1,000 people attend at the University of Chicago.

Though the Debate began in Chicago, it has grown to include numerous college campuses, synagogues and Jewish centers nationwide. Sponsored by Congregation Ohev Sholom and underwritten by the Ruth Fredman Cernea Memorial Fund, this is our 5th annual debate in Kansas City.

In Honor of Ruth Cernea Fredman

  • 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 of some of the best material from debates over the years. [Read more about the book.]

    Cernea was a former director of publications and resources at the Hillel International Center. She began work on the book with the intention of preserving the most memorable, and earliest, debates into one book. The book discusses the historical and social context of the debate’s founding. The book also provides an overview of the Jewish holidays, latke and hamantash recipes, and a glossary of Yiddish and Hebrew terms, so that Jewish and non-Jewish reader alike can enjoy the debaters’ erudition and humor.

  • ruth-book

What is a Latke or a Hamantash Anyway?

latke-s Latkes are traditionally eaten during the festival of Hanukkah. They are shallow-fried pancakes of grated or ground potato, flour, and egg. 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.
hamantash-sHamantashen are usually eaten during the holiday of Purim, and 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.  They are made with various fillings, including poppy seeds, prunes, dates, apricots, apples, and cherries.

Video of the 2016 Debate

Images from Debate 2015

The cost to attend is $10.00 per person plus a canned good(s) that will be donated to the Jewish Family Services community food pantry.

Children 12 and under are admitted for free. Questions? Please contact us online or call 913-642-6460.

Media Resources

For media inquiries, contact Victor Wishna at 646.526.4172 or by email at

We have news releases and images available for download.

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