The 73rd Annual Latke vs Hamantash Debate, presented by UChicago Hillel (2019)

The 73rd Annual Latke vs Hamantash Debate, presented by UChicago Hillel (2019)


[MUSIC PLAYING] MICHELLE BIESMAN:
Thank you, everyone, for joining us at this amazing
73rd Latke Hamantash debate. Tonight, we have
with us everyone from debate first
timers to faculty who have been part of
the debate for decades. I’m very excited that
my Yiddish professor Dr. Jessica [INAUDIBLE] will be
on the stage this evening. Thank you everyone for coming. I’m Michelle I’m a fourth year
from Nashville, Tennessee, and I’m a co-chair for the
Hillel Student Advisory Board and former Hillel
engagement intern with Leah. Tonight is one of the
most important days of the Jewish calendar,
the Latke Hamantash debate. The debate began in the great
room at Hillel in the 1940– in the 1940s, and
now we’re glad to be in Mandel Hall celebrating
this occasion with all of you. LEAH UMANSKIY: I’m Leah. I’m Leah, a fourth year
from Chicago and a co-chair also with Michelle of this
student advisory board. And I was also A Hillel
engagement intern. My dad actually was a debater
in 2017 for team Hamantash. So I’m really excited to
see whose argument will be more compelling tonight too. Over the years, we have
had around 350 debaters asking the big
important questions and concluding nothing. The Hillel community
is so glad that you could come to be a part
of this evening with us. We are especially
glad to welcome back Ben Callard, one of last year’s
participants back to the stage, this year in the
role of moderator. The debate is a classic
example of Jewish humor. It models how one
people celebrates balancing joy and
pride in our culture with the absurdity of
the modern tradition. While we can’t give
the full context of 4,000 years of
Jewish history tonight, Hillel’s executive director,
Rabbi Anna Levin Rosen, will try. She’ll try at least to help
contextualize what this debate this year will be all about. MICHELLE BIESMAN: We are very
excited to share this evening with all of you, Chicago,
Hyde Park, and you Chicago communities to continue
this longstanding tradition. – Let the debate began. [APPLAUSE] ANNA LEVIN ROSEN:
Actually, the idea of Jewish protection
of the environment goes back to some of
our most ancient text. Commentary on Ecclesiastes
shares the following story. When God created the
first human beings, God led them all around to all
the trees of the Garden of Eden and said look at my works. See how beautiful they
are, how excellent. For your sake, I
created them all. See to it that you do not
spoil and destroy my world. For if you do, there will
be no one else to repair it. The commitment to preservation
is part of our story. Even after the first
tablets were broken, we still carried them around. What if we ended
up needing them? Why waste? The commitment to preserve
is part of our story, and the Jewish people have
kept this for millennia. We have been reading the same
book for over 2,000 years. And when we find really
old versions of that book, like the Dead Sea Scrolls,
we get even more excited and we preserve them. We have been reusing, reducing,
and recycling old family jokes over and over again. So if you offer us
a New Testament, we’ll say thank
you for offering, but we already have a testament. Why go out and get a new one. So what does this say about the
Latke and the Hamantash anyway? Well, we start with
the story of Hanukkah. In many ways, Hanukkah
was about the rejection of Greco Roman culture– not that kind of Greek
culture, that Greek culture. In 168 BCE, the ruler of the
Syrian kingdom Anticochus Epiphanes IV stepped up his
campaign to quash Judaism so that all of the subjects
in his vast empire, which included the current
land of Israel, which share the same culture
and worshipped the same gods. And so we recognize
that decreeing that the crimes of
studying Torah, observing Sabbath, and circumcising Jewish
boys were punishable by death. He even sent Syrian
overseers and soldiers to villages throughout Judea
to enforce the edict and forced Jews to engage in idle worship. They insisted even the Jews
keep an extra part of the body that we had always thought we
hadn’t really needed anyway. We were a modest
people back then. The temple of the
Maccabees was not the one that we think of today. It may not have been quite
as modest as my first student pulpit, congregation Oben
Shalom in Sandusky, Ohio– now 110 years old– but it was a modest temple. And then we enter– then
entered the Maccabees. They resented
Hellenization, and they wanted to reject assimilation. The Maccabees, they
were in some ways the ultimate conservationists
to begin with. Like most Jewish rebels, they
dressed in simple clothing, they hid out in caves, and they
picked the most simple tool to represent
themselves, the hammer. So they did less– they did with less. The menorah, the six
branched candelabra burned olive oil, a natural,
non-petroleum, clean-burning oil. We read in the book of Zechariah
this idea of sustainable oil, that the olive trees
would put oil directly into the menorah itself. It says in Zechariah,
then the angel who talked with me returned
and woke me up like someone awakened from sleep. And he said to me
what do you see. And I answered I see a
solid gold lamp stand with a bowl at the top
and seven lamps on it with seven channels
to the lamps. Also there are two
olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl
and the other on the left. Zechariah’s prophecy was
followed by a phrase, not by might nor by power, but
by my spirit, which effectively should be the slogan of the
first fully renewable energy source. So what is this miracle of
Hanukkah that we celebrate? There was only enough purified
oil to last one night, but in the end it
lasted all eight nights. That was enough time to build– to create new
clean-burning burning oil, oil to be pressed and purified. We know that olive
oil is clean burning, but we might not believe that. It has a low smoke
point, so if you’ve tried to use olive
oil to fry latkes, you’ve discovered sometimes
it doesn’t work so well. And so when we celebrate the
miracle of the Maccabees, we celebrate that Hanukkah
is a holiday of moderation, and getting socks for
Hanukkah is essentially one of the core
traditions that represents the humility and
the preservation, the simplicity of the holiday. So what about Purim? The Purim story begins
with a political critique. The new King emptied the
coffers of his people on elaborate parties
on wine and women resulting in financial
problems for his country. In fact, the spread of the
Persian Empire from Turkey to Ethiopia is symbolic of the
environmental degradation that has resulted from colonialism,
but that’s a different story for another time. So we find that
in the ester story that there were all of
these exotic clothing and that Esther as
part of the harem she was deprived of all
of her basic human rights, but she was also given
perfume and nice clothes. Still not OK. The heroes of this story, Esther
and Mordecai lived simply. Esther herself was an orphan. Esther and Mordecai
were simple people, and it was their simplicity
that they should have continued because it was the
elaborate clothing that was put on Mordecai that
made Haman quite so angry. When it was Esther’s turn
to stand up for her people, what did she wear? Was it an evening gown? Was it a power suit? No, she put on
sackcloth and ashes. After all, she knew
from dust we came and to dust we will return. The three commandments
of Purim are actually quite short showing how
humble a holiday itself is. It says we listen
carefully to the story. We eat local meaning
gifts to our friends. We have food that we
give one to the other, and we give gifts to the poor. We really know that Purim
is a holiday of frugality when it comes to the costumes– the theme of recycling. We all know that Purim
costumes growing up were just Halloween costumes
revisited six months later. Even if the glass
slippers really don’t fit, you still have to wear it again. Or maybe your Purim costume is
something a little more DIY, which brings us to
the hamantaschen If you’ve ever tried to fill
a hamantash with too much jam, you know that the end result
is nothing short of disaster. So the environment is
linked to the holiday of Purim and Hanukkah. Now that you know
that, you’ll begin to see these signs everywhere. So much of Jewish
history and our tradition is, in fact, an
inconvenient truth too. But without further ado,
let’s do a little math. So the grand tradition of
the Latke Hamantash debate is to include a little
bit of Gematria. Each Hebrew letter is
attributed a number of value. And so we will discover
what this tells us about our debate this year. This year we’re
excited to celebrate our partner Hazon
and their efforts to have 5780 be the year
of environmental Teshuva. And we are proud that our Hillel
has received the national seal of sustainability for
Hazon for our composting and our green food efforts. So if you look at
the word Hazon, you can add up the
values of the letters and find that the total is 71. Add one latke and one
hamantash, and you end up with the number 73. The year of this debate is
the 73rd debate, and so– [APPLAUSE] When you ask yourself
how did we decide that this was the right year
to study environmentalism as part of our
debate, you’ll see it was in the cards
from the very beginning. We revisit recycling,
reduce, reuse, recycle. All begin with r,
which corresponds to the Hebrew letter resh. And so 200 plus 200
plus 200 equals 600. And now it gets a
little bit more complex. So the Hebrew word Hillel
representing the organization that puts on this debate,
the letters add up 30 plus 30 equals 60 plus 5
is 65, and we add that to reduce, reuse, recycle. And we conclude with none other
than this very same number 665. Hold on. So here’s where we begin. We add up the total number
for latke equals 210. Hamantaschen equals 455. We add those together. It equals 660, and then
we add in the letter heh representative of the eternal,
the sign of a God supreme. And then 660 plus
heh plus 5 equals 665, which means that the
latke and the hamantash debate is equivalent to Hillel,
reduce, reuse, recycle. So what is the message that
I hold for you tonight? Jewish tradition teaches that we
should watch out for our world. So go ahead, carry a metal
straw in your backpack. Make sure not to
throw away leftovers. And in fact, take
your Hillel ball jar out to restaurants with
you so you can pack them up in a sustainable container. And do your best
to honor our earth. In the interest of this,
I will apologize but not really for having recycled some
of the jokes from past years. Speaking of recycling, without
further ado many thanks to Ben Callard for coming
back and serving on our panel again tonight. Thank you, everybody. BENJAMIN CALLARD: Good evening. In 1966, Ronald Reagan speaking
for the Western Wood Products Association in San
Francisco said, quote, I think too that we’ve got
to recognize that where the preservation of a natural
resource like the redwoods is concerned that there’s
a commonsense limit. I mean, if you looked
at 100,000 acres or so of trees, you
know a tree is a tree. How many more do
you need to look at? Our topic tonight is
environmental protection, and in a moment we’ll be
hearing from our three debaters about how latke
and hamantash can fit into the environment
and our stewardship of it. But before they
approach the podium, let me say a quick
word about the answer to Reagan’s rhetorical question. I’ll enlist the help
of three philosophers. On the metaphysical
front, we can look to Berkeley who
anticipated Reagan’s question 256 years before it was asked. Berkeley never posed
the famous question if a tree falls in a forest
and no one’s there to hear it, does it make a sound? But he did think that the
sounds of trees and indeed trees themselves are mind dependent. He was an idealist. He thought their essence
consisted in being perceived. As he put it, it seems
at first that, quote, there is nothing easier than
to imagine trees in a park and nobody by to perceive them. But what is all this, I
beseech you, more than framing in your mind certain ideas,
which you call trees. And at the same time omitting
to frame the idea of anyone that may perceive them. But do not– do you not
yourself perceive or think about them all the while. This is, therefore,
nothing to the purpose. It only shows that you have the
power of imagining or forming ideas in your mind,
but it does not show that you can
conceive it possible that the objects of your thought
may exist outside the mind. To make out of this,
it is necessary that you can see them
existing unconceived, which is a manifest repugnancy. In short, Berkeley retorted to
Reagan preemptively from 1710 that someone needs to look
at every single tree on pain of them vanishing. Now you might think that
the vanishing of trees is precisely what
Reagan had in mind, and that Reagan would thank
Berkeley for inadvertently providing a much easier and
cheaper method of logging California redwoods. So it seems we must
look elsewhere for help. Perhaps, the
existentialist tradition can come to the rescue. So Sartre once looked at a tree. Here’s what he saw. This is one paragraph from
a very, very long passage. “The roots of the chestnut
tree sank into the ground just beneath my
bench, but I couldn’t remember it was a root anymore. Words had vanished and within
the meanings of things, the way things are to be used,
the feeble points of reference, which men have traced
on their surface. I was sitting
stooping over, head bowed alone in front of this
black knotty lump entirely raw frightening me. Then I had this vision. It took my breath away. Usually existence
conceals itself. It is there around us, in us. It is us you can’t say two
words without mentioning it, but you can never touch it. If anyone had asked
me what existence was, I would have answered
in good faith that it was nothing– simply
an empty form attached to things from the
outside without changing anything in their nature. And then all at once,
there it was clear as day. Existence had suddenly
unveiled itself. The chestnut tree pressed
itself against my eyes. My nostrils overflowed
with a green putrid odor. Obviously, I did
not know everything. I hadn’t seen the seed
sprout or the tree grow, but faced with this
great wrinkled pa, neither ignorance nor
knowledge was important. The world of
explanations and reasons is not the world of existence.” We might hear Sartre saying,
you’re wrong, Mr. Reagan. First of all, a
tree isn’t a tree. These categories are
mere feeble points of reference, which
we have traced on the surface of things. And second, it’s
nearly impossible to face up to the crushing
existential burden of looking at even one
tree, let alone a forest. But I think Reagan would
reply, John Paul, your example makes my point. First, this this
one chestnut tree seems to have completely
overwhelmed you. The last thing you
need is more trees. And second, your
whole point seems to be that one
tree is sufficient when properly encountered
for all possible insights into the universe
and its absurdity. Why not cut down the rest? So we must turn to our
third and final philosopher and turn from
metaphysics to ethics. So it’s safe to say
that Socrates was not a nature lover. When Phaedrus chastises him
for never leaving the city and going out and
communing with nature, Socrates replies forgive
me my, dear friend, you see I’m fond of learning
and the country places and the trees won’t
teach me anything. We can almost hear him
saying a tree is a tree. How many more do
you need to look at? And we might conclude
that Socrates was a staunch Reaganite
on the subject of the natural environment. But this I will
now suggest would be demiss in the Phaedrus,
a powerful pro-environment counter current. Perhaps, the most important
idea in the Phaedrus is the contention that we shouldn’t
write anything down on paper, because thought lives
in conversation, and one cannot have a
conversation with a piece of paper. Of course, Plato wrote
that thought down on a piece of paper, thank God,
but that’s not Socrates fault. So here’s how
Socrates put his idea. He said, he who
thinks then that he is left behind him
any art and writing and he who receives it in the
belief that anything in writing will be clear and certain would
be an utterly naive person. Writing Phaedrus has
this strange quality and is like painting. For the creatures of painting,
stand like living beings. But if one asks them a question,
they preserve a solemn silence and so it is with written words. You might think they spoke
as if they had intelligence. But if you question
them, wishing them to know about
their sayings, they always say one
and the same thing. Maybe you can see where
I’m going with this. So you need one tree for 10,000
sheets of paper so I just read. Over 100 million
metric tons of writing paper are produced each year. One quarter of all the
trees cut down in 2019 will be cut down
for writing paper. Therefore Socrates was,
I think, in effect, a tree hugging
environmentalists. He was– he was urging us contra
Reagan to drastically reduce our deforestation of the planet. All right, that’s it for me. So I now have the great pleasure
of introducing the first of our debaters, Marc Berman. So he is Associate
Professor of Psychology and is the director of the
Environmental Neuroscience Laboratory here at the
University of Chicago. In his research,
he applies novel statistical and
computational models to quantify brain networks
and apply those metrics to broader
psychological phenomena, such as self-control,
depression, anxiety, and cognitive effort. He and his lab are also
interested in quantifying the physical and
social environment to better understand brain
environment interactions and how those
interactions can be used to understand human behavior. In particular,
Berman and this team are trying to understand why
natural environments have beneficial effects
on body and mind. Berman received his PhD
in cognitive neuroscience and industrial
operations engineering from the University
of Chicago in 2010. He is the recipient of the 2018
Association for Psychological Sciences Early Career
Research Award, the Neubauer Faculty
Development Fellowship for Excellence in
Teaching and Mentorship, and the 2019 American
Psychological Association Early Career Award. His work has been featured in
many publications including The Atlantic Monthly, The
New York Times, The New Yorker, the Boston Globe,
Chicago Magazine, The Toronto Star, and The Wall
Street Journal. An avid latke,
Berman has decided to give up his love for the
delicious Hanukkah treat given the extensive research
that he has performed in preparation for this debate. He’s hopeful that his words
will also change your opinions about the latke, as this
may be one of the only ways that we can save our
planet and our brains. Please welcome professor Berman. [APPLAUSE] MARC BERMAN: So thank
you, Rabbi Rosen, for inviting me here to talk
about this very important topic that I take quite seriously. I’m actually on a year
long sabbatical right now in Toronto, which I’ve used
to prepare for this debate. And I flew in
specifically for this. So if you don’t find my
arguments compelling, it’s not for a lack of effort. So what is environmental
neuroscience? Well, let me explain with
this very complicated figure intended to give me
some academic authority. The gist that you need
to take out this figure is basically that we have
an intertwined relationship between our physical
environment, our social environment,
and our brains, OK. And that’s going to
be a theme that I’m going to use
throughout this debate to demonstrate the superiority
of the hamantaschen over the latke in terms
of environmental issues. As Ben mentioned, this
is quite difficult for me given my
family’s history. The Bermans have an affinity for
Keislach, which my grandparents used to refer to not latkes. They call them Keislach. They said the Polish
people call them latkes. We call them Keislach. And they came from a very
potato-loving part of the world near the Carpathian Mountains. My grandfather was from a
small town of [INAUDIBLE] that was Czechoslovakian. Now it’s part of Ukraine. My grandmother was from
Romania not far away in a town near Satu Mare. OK. They loved potatoes. They loved Keislach. And after World War II, they
emigrated to the United States. They had a family, and
one of my family members that they had in the United
States is my uncle Harvey. Now why am I showing you a
picture of my uncle Harvey? I’m not showing you a picture
of my uncle Harvey, because he’s a handsome guy. He’s got a cool mustache,
and he does wear a bow tie. So if you’re ever in Ann
Arbor, Michigan and you see a tall guy with a bow
tie and a mustache, say hi. He’s a really gregarious guy. OK, I’m not showing you this
for these esoteric reasons. I’m showing you this for
an important reason, OK. And that is this is the license
plate of my uncle Harvey’s car. I kid you not. I said uncle Harvey, I need a
picture of your vanity license plate for this debate, OK. So the potato and
the Keislach, this runs deep in my soul almost, OK. It gets worse, OK. I get a job at the
University of Chicago, OK. I’m meeting my
colleagues and friends at the University of Chicago. It turns out one
of my dear friends and colleagues at the
University of Chicago– you may know her– is Dr.
Susan Goldin Meadow, OK. She happens to have a dog. The dog’s name is latke, OK. And here is actually a picture
of Susan feeding latke a latke, OK. So you can imagine
my distress when I get an email from
Rabbi Rosen saying Marc we’d like
you to participate in the latke
hamantaschen debate, and we’d like you to argue
on the side of hamantaschen. This was very difficult
and personal for me. But I have to say after
doing the necessary research to prepare for this
debate, I came up with a new title
for this talk, which is how the lot is destroying
our planet, our society, and our brains and how the
hamantaschen can save us. It will come as
no surprise to you that I’ve organized the
talk in three parts. The first part of
the talk, I will talk from an
ecological perspective and how the human passion
is superior to the like from an ecological perspective. In the second
portion of the talk, I will talk from a
sociological perspective and how the hamantaschen is
superior to the latke in terms of our society and our
social environment. And lastly, I’ll close
with the third portion of the talk talking from
a more psychological and neuroscientific perspective
for how the hamantaschen is superior to the latke in
terms of our internal neural environment. First, the ecological
perspective. Now as Rabbi Rosen
talked about, we have to think historically about
why do we eat latkes, right? And we eat latkes,
because we’re celebrating the miracle of Hanukkah. The Maccabees have
defeated the Greeks who are desecrating the
temple, not allowing Jews the freedom to practice
their religion, right. So the Maccabees
defeat the Greeks. They go to this temple. The temple is desecrated. They see the menorah. There’s only one jar
of olive oil left, OK, to light the menorah, OK. And it takes eight days,
approximately eight days to press new oil, OK. They say let’s give it a try. All right, they light the– they light the menorah, and
miraculously, right, the oil lasts for eight
days, right, which is why we celebrate
Hanukkah for eight days. As you can see, I did pay
a little bit of attention in Hebrew school, right. So I’m so far so good. OK, so that’s why,
right, we eat– we eat latkes, right. We fry latkes in oil. In Israel and even a little
bit here in North America, we eat sufganiyot, right,
fried donuts, right. These are delicious treats. Nobody’s going to argue how
delicious latkes and sufganiyot are, right. But there’s a problem friends,
a very serious problem, right. And the serious problem has
to do with this celebration and glorifying oil, and that’s
had downstream consequences, right. So our love– our
love of oil, right, has transformed into a huge
love of crude oil, right, right, the Beverly Hillbillies,
black oil, Texas tea. We love this stuff,
right, and it doesn’t come without a price, right. I mean, I hope what
I’m about to present is not going to
be news to anyone, but crude oil and fossil fuels
are destroying our planet, right. The amount of air pollution,
the amount of resources necessary to extract oil and
fossil fuels in our environment is killing our planet, right. It pollutes our waters
and our tributaries, right, when there
are oil spills. I mean, this is extremely,
extremely damaging. I mean how can we
celebrate oil, right. It’s a problem. And we’re finding
out some things that we thought we
may have learned some lesson from Hanukkah,
but they’re not actually translating to modern times. So for example, crude oil
and other fossil fuels have proven not to be as energy
efficient as the oil used by the Israelites to light the
menorah at the temple, right. We’re not getting eight
times the efficiency out of crude oil, OK. Rabbi Rosen also alluded to
another important fact, which was that the oil used
to light the menorah was likely olive oil,
a renewable biofuel that is more clean burning and
yet we have ignored this fact, right. And I’m going to–
what I’m going to show you is that the
latke may be partially to blame for this, OK, which
I’m going to explain later in this talk. OK, so I’ve already
demonstrated that oil– crude oil is not having
the long-lasting menorah lighting effects that
it did in the past. One thing that does persist
from the latke is the smell. And if you’ve ever
cooked a latke before, you are not going to
argue with me, OK. The lack of smell persists
maybe more than eight days. And I think I need
to actually talk about something that happened
in last year’s debates. So I watched actually– I wasn’t able to
attend in person, but I watched the video
of last year’s debate. And I saw my colleague Dr.
Leslie Kay arguing here last year about how wonderful
the smell of latkes is and that more smell
equals more holy. The latke smell is greater
than the hamantaschen smell. Therefore, the latke is
superior to the hamantaschen. And I haven’t had a chance to
talk with Leslie about this, but I’m concerned, OK. If the latke smell is so
fantastic and so holy, why don’t we have latke
cologne or perfume, right? I think– right? Right? We should have that. Corporations would
be all over this, right, if we truly loved
latke smell so much. And I think we can resolve
this paradox by understanding that latke smell good
for an hour or two, but the latke smell being
so strong it lasts for weeks and it’s really impossible to
get out of your clothing, OK. You definitely have to wash
your clothes multiple times to get latke smell
out of your clothes and you may also need
to fumigate your house. Now that does not come
without a price, OK. This leads to increased
water and energy usage, OK. These are conservative
estimates I’m about to present. If we assume that during
Hanukkah people make latkes at least
twice, and we can assume that laundry
usage will likely quadruple during Hanukkah. So I’m assuming two
wash per latke cooking, OK, because one wash
will not do the job. This, of course, causes huge
water and energy demands across the globe, right. We’re using all this
water to wash our clothes, all the energy to dry
the clothes, right. And I did some back of the
envelope calculations actually, and this puts the energy usage
here of the latke cleaning is on par with Christmas
light displays, which can cause huge energy demands
in the month of December in North America. In combination with
latke smell removal, these traditions threaten
the US power grid in the month of December. And I’m not finished. It gets worse, because
all of these calculations are based on only making light
goes during Hanukkah, which I think is quite conservative. People eat latkes much more
often than just Hanukkah. So we know, for
example, that latkes are eaten all year round. And if the Berman
family is representative of other Jewish families,
you’ll know that you definitely eat latkes on Passover,
right, and use the matzo mean. You’re cooking
latkes on Passover. You might also be cooking
latkes on [INAUDIBLE],, and problematically these
are other eight day holidays at least in North
America, right. They get a little bit
shorter in Israel. Hamantaschen, on the other
hand, are a restricted delicacy of Purim, thereby limiting
their carbon footprint and being more environmentally
conscious, right. You definitely don’t
see people eating hamantaschen all year
round I would argue, OK. What about thinking about
the ingredients that are used to make latke, OK? And there’s a problem here
with potato monoculture. So the most popular
potato used to cook latke is usually the
russet potato, OK. It’s also the same potatoes
used McDonald’s french fries. And what happens is that
because it’s so delicious, this russet potato, in making
the latke and french fries, we can’t make a lot goes
out of any other potato. This has important
impacts on farming where it becomes monoculture, right. The farmers know I can only
grow the russet potato, and this causes
many, many problems. So if we think about
monoculture practices, it requires more
fertilizer, right, because bugs start adapting
to the russet potato, and farmers need to
use more fertilizer. And this gets into
our environment and hurts our environment. This also limit the
ability of potatoes to undergo natural
adaptation, right. We’re, sort of,
forcing the potato to stay in this monolithic
russet prototype that we require for our latkes. It also encourages
genetic modification, which may have huge
unintended consequences. So large corporation
like Monsanto invest millions or
billions of dollars in trying to genetically
modify the russet potato to fight against
these diseases, right. And let’s be honest. It’s boring, OK. Now if we think about
the hamantaschen, on the other hand, there are
many varieties of hamantaschen, right. You have the strawberry
hamantaschen. You have the apricot
hamantaschen. You have the prune or
lekvar hamantaschen. You have the raspberry
hamantaschen. You have the pomegranate
hamantaschen. And you have my kids’
favorite, the chocolate chip hamantaschen. So again, even in a cookie, my
children refuse to eat fruit. And you can take some creative
license with the hamantaschen. Has anybody here
ever tried the inside out hamantaschen, which is
dough on the inside, jam on the outside. Don’t try it, OK. Now there’s more
varieties of hamantaschen, I’m only talking about
the sweet hamantaschen, but there’s actually a large
amount of savory human torsion, which I learned from my
extensive Google searching for this debate. So there’s also the California
hamantaschen, which is avocado. There’s the caramelized onion
and tomato with goat cheese hamantaschen, and there’s
the spinach hamantaschen. Now the spinach hamantaschen,
this is interesting. This is like a
spanakopita hamantaschen. And I have to say
this might be a cheeky way of the hamantaschen to,
sort of, give it to the latke, right. So latke is all about the
Maccabees defeating the Greeks. Here we’re bringing the
Greek into the hamantaschen. OK, now you might say, Marc,
OK, you’re being biased here. There are potato
latke alternatives. I say OK. There’s the beet latke. I don’t know. The carrot latke. I think actually they
put some potato in there too for the picture. What about this? The zucchini feta latke. Looks interesting. I might give that a try. OK, and while we’re on the topic
of alternatives, what about– what about baked latkes? And you say, Marc, OK,
enough with the oil. We’ll bake the latke. Come on. Now I’ll grant you this, OK. Some of the latkes problems
are a matter of guilt by association. OK, so we all know you can’t–
you can’t eat a latke plain, right. You need sour cream, OK. But this also comes
with problems, right. So where does sour
cream come from? That’s right, cattle. And cattle make a lot of this. And that has problems,
because the effect of methane from cow manure actually
is 20 times worse for the environment
than carbon dioxide, OK. And the increase of
sour cream consumption during latke eating time
creates large increases in methane emissions. In addition, we know
that cattle grazing destroys many important
ecological things, the environment, vegetation. It takes up huge amounts
of land, damages wildlife habitats, and generally wreaks
havoc on global ecosystems, OK. That concludes my ecological
perspective of this talk. Now let’s get into this
sociological perspective for the advantage of
hamantaschen over latkes. And this brings up
another important point and other bad
accomplices or sidekicks of the latke that aren’t
necessarily the latkes fault, but there is some guilt
by association here. So as you may or
may not know, one of the games that
we play on Hanukkah is spinning the dreidel, right. And the dreidels
represent the letters of [HEBREW],, that a great
miracle happened there, or in Israel [HEBREW],, a
great miracle happened here. And as part of the game, you
play with these chocolate coins or Hanukkah gelt, right. And you spin the dreidel. And if it land– you put a
couple of gelt into the pot and you spend the dreidel. And if the dreidel
lands on gimel, you get the whole pot, OK. Now there are some
problems here, right, because playing dreidel
is gambling, OK. And obviously we know gambling
comes with huge consequences. OK, and you have
to think is this really what we want to
be teaching our children, right, OK. And it gets even a
little bit worse, which is that also we all
want to land on gimel. We want to take that whole pot
of gelt. It’s all mine, right. And this actually starts leading
to capitalistic values, OK. And it gets even worse, because
it creates a vicious cycle. So let’s step through
this vicious cycle, OK. So the latke glorifies
oil, OK, which leads to our love of crude oil. This in parallel
with our incessant need to play dreidel encourage
us to gamble on our future, right. We say, no, we’re going to
take these short-term rewards and forget about what’s going
to happen in the future, right. This also leads to
promoting capitalism values of taking profits over
the environment, right. We say, oh, they’ll fix
it in the future, right. Let’s take our profits
now, which feeds back into the glorification of oil. And this vicious cycle
goes around and around and around, which is basically
destroying our planet. OK, what about the
hamantaschen, right? I can’t just beat
on the latke, right. The hamantaschen
must– has to provide some kind of alternative,
and I say it does. And Rabbi Rosen alluded
to this earlier, which the hamantaschen have
a good accomplice, right, mischloach manot, right. You give to your neighbor
a package of food– you know the hamantaschen
are prominent there– and we’re sharing–
we’re creating a better social
environment, giving presents to our neighbor. And this leads to my first of
three holiday recommendations, which is give hamantaschen
to strangers, OK. So Nick Epley, who’s
a professor at Booth, talks about the benefits
of talking to strangers, and I would encourage
you to give hamantaschen to strangers, which
will probably spur some beneficial conversation. Now I don’t know how many
minutes I’ve spoken to you, but you may have realized
that I’ve actually been talking to this
point about things that I don’t actually
know anything about, OK. I am not an ecologist
in the slightest. I’m a psychologist
and a neuroscientist. So I thought I would
leave my last point here on my actual field of study,
OK, to end on a high note. OK, so we go to the third point
on the hamantaschen triangle, let’s talk about the
psychological and neuroscientific benefits of
hamantaschen over latkes. Now as Ben talked about
in the introduction, I studied how different
environments have different impacts on our
brains and our behavior, and one of the environments
that we look at is the natural
environment, how people can interact with nature,
go for a walk in a park. And they show
these huge benefits on memory and attention. And one of the
reasons why we think we find these effects
and actually you can find these effects
even just by looking at pictures of nature– you don’t actually have
to go out in nature to get these benefits–
and one of the reasons why we believe that has to
do with the fractal structure of nature. Nature has fractal structure. Now what do I mean by that? Well here’s a
Sierpinski triangle, OK. And fractal structure
is scale free, meaning that it’s got
a particular shape. You zoom in, same shape. Zoom in again,
same shape, right. And fractals are very
prominent in nature. So here is like a tree. It branches out. That pattern goes
on and on and on. It’s recursive, OK. And let’s take a look at
this perspective in terms of the hamantaschen, OK. So here’s the hamantaschen,
triangle triangle. Now I’m going to need
everybody in the audience to squint their eyes. If you squint your eyes,
you’ll see there’s actually another triangle in here. If you squint your
eyes even more, there’s another
triangle in here, OK. If you take a
microscope and you take a section of a
hamantaschen, you’ll see it has triangles
all the way down. And I would encourage
you to do this after having a few
alcoholic beverages to get better results. Here comes my holiday
recommendation number two. Serve hamantaschen
in a triangle shape. Now let’s take for a
moment what happens if we zoom in on a latke? OK, latke, looks
delicious, circle. OK, here’s a zoom in. Let’s blow that up a little bit. I don’t see a circle. In fact, I see something
worse than a circle. I see chaos. Lots of broken edges everywhere. Now this is important,
and this is actually real research that about
the present, so don’t laugh. We’ve actually found
in a laboratory if you expose people to
disordered images like the zoom in of the latke,
that can actually increase people’s cheating. OK, people exposed
to this, kind of, disorderly stimulus will
increase their likelihood to cheat by 35% and cheat
by a larger magnitude, 87%. Here’s holiday
recommendation number three. I recommend playing dreidel
before eating latkes, OK. This should reduce cheating
during latke playing. And we know that false spins– I didn’t get a
shin there, right. This will reduce that
kind of behavior, OK. So I’m almost done. No worries here. So my kids love hamantaschen. As I said before, I flew–
and this is actually hurts me that my kids
love hamantaschen, because Bermans are potato latke
lovers, keislach lovers, right. And I said I flew in
here from Toronto, and actually found a note
from my eldest daughter and I want to read you a
little bit of this note that she wrote me. She left this in my suitcase. She says, dear daddy,
I love you so much. Remember hamantaschen
are better, smiley face. So Ellie, Kara, and Sasha,
my three daughters, they all wanted me to say to
you that hamantaschen are way better than latkes. And I will tell this
to you off the bat. They drew this conclusion
even before seeing my talk. Had they seen this
talk, maybe they might have changed their
mind, but this does give me hope for the next generation. So in conclusion from this
environmental neuroscience perspective, right, I think I’ve
demonstrated quite convincingly that the latke is
destroying the planet, our physical environment,
it’s destroying our social environment
quite clearly, and it’s destroying our brains. The hamantaschen,
on other hand, it’s showing quite a lot of
love for our planet, right– very environmentally
conscious, very socially conscious, and very
conscious to our brains. And with that, let’s
eat some hamantaschen this Hanukkah, right. Thank you very much. [APPLAUSE] BENJAMIN CALLARD: All right. Thank you, Mr. Berman. For a different
perspective, we will now hear from our second
debater, Raymond Lobato is assistant
instructional professor in the program on the global
environment in the college. He teaches courses on
environmental policy, law, and politics, as well
as urban sustainability. He’s given talks
addressing topics ranging from Pope Francis’s
encyclical Laudato Si to comparative
urban sustainability policy to money and politics. He’s the principal investigator
of the study of nonvoters in America, a study of why
eligible voters in swing states choose not to participate
in high profile elections. Professor Lodato received
his PhD and AM degrees in political science from
the University of Chicago. He came to Chicago for a one
year master’s 35 years ago, which means he notes either
that he’s really bad at math or that he hates putting
things in moving boxes. Professor Lodato has worked
at several positions outside of the Academy, but
regretfully none of them enabled him to sample
and comment on pastries. He lives in Hyde Park
with his wife and sons. I had the chance to meet
them before the debate, the latter of whom find
this biosketch particularly cringeworthy. Please welcome professor lobato. [APPLAUSE] RAYMOND LODATO: OK. Well, I want to thank you
for the kind introduction. I’m extremely flattered by the
invitation from Rabbi Rosen and Hillel. I am always up
for a good debate. One that takes on
the big questions is especially juicy for me. What’s our purpose in life? How do we make big
political changes? Are small political changes
building blocks or useless half measures? And of course, this one. [LAUGH] Also I’m happy to be
for once on what is likely to be the winning side. You see I’m a lifelong fan
of the New York Mets, which has steeled me to believe
that winning is only an occasional thing, not to
be expected and one to which there is an element of surprise. If it’s going to play– ah it’s not playing. Well, it’s a great video. I am by training a
political scientist, and one quite
interested and even active in the political process. At my minimum my vote, and while
the record of my candidates is better than that
of my baseball team even when they win they
don’t always take office. So being on the winning
side of anything, as latkes are likely to
be tonight or so I’m told, unlike every other Chicago
election apparently I only get one vote here. It is quite unusual for me. But while I revel
in my good fortune, I am charged with exploring
the positive environmental qualities of this
delicious treat as well. You might think that
environmentalism and potato pancakes have nothing in common. But as Richard Nixon
said after remembering that the microphones were
on, that would be wrong. According to the most recent
report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change entitled we all screwed up the planet really
badly and things are going to get a lot worse– at least
I think that was the title– food waste is one of the major
contributors to climate change. Oh, Climate Change and Land,
that’s the actual title, so so close. Food waste alone
contributes 8% to 10% of global greenhouse
gas emissions. 25% to 30% of all
food produced goes uneaten adding up to one
billion tons of wasted food. Food waste would be
the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gas
emissions if it were a country. The panel recommends
cutting food waste in half by 2030 if we are to have
any chance of keeping global temperatures from rising
more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. To the rescue comes the latke. Now that may surprise
you, especially if you have a lot of experience
eating latkes or watching them be prepared. But sometimes, the
best conclusions are reached by those
who come to a question without knowing what the
heck they’re talking about, a role I have chosen
to fill tonight. At his base, of
course, the latke is based on the
often maligned potato of which I am keenly familiar. As the grandson of Patrick
Michael Casey at County Mayo, the potato and I have
a long acquaintance. What’s environmentally
better than a potato you ask? No, the question is
what could possibly be better for the
environment than a potato. The IPCC and climate
scientists worldwide acknowledge that our chances
of mitigating climate change are rapidly diminishing,
and we are living in the era of adaptation. When being flexible in dealing
with the effects of climate change is required,
what could be more flexible than the potato? Let me give you a
personal illustration. In a visit to my grandfather’s
town in the west of Ireland, I innocently ordered
a side of baked potato to go with my fish entree. The waiters puzzled expression
didn’t register with me until the meal was
served when I found no less than three
forms of potato on my plate, baked
au gratin and fries. The other two were standard– who knew? What is it that the
potato can’t do. It comes in a hardy
tube size, but it also comes in a tiny rounded
size sufficient for eating or tossing at politicians. It even comes in a sweet variety
for those whose taste buds have given up on life. Yes, my controversial
food opinion this week is that sweet potatoes
are overrated. Potatoes are so adaptable
that they even consent to live in Idaho of all places. They get along with everyone. They are actually the
Mr. Rogers of foodstuffs. Potatoes are a food
so adaptable that they are made tailor
made for an age that will require us to
literally head for the hills as sea levels rise. And no, I don’t have
a picture of the plate with the three kinds
of potatoes on it. I know it’s hard to believe
in 2019, but in the past we simply ate our meals rather
than asking them to pose. But it is not merely potatoes
that meet our environmentalists standard of adaptability. In fact, adaptability
is a characteristic of many of the
latkes ingredients. Now some have alleged
that cooking oil used to bring latkes
to peak crispiness is environmentally unsound. But like so many
predictions of this year I’ll finish writing my
book, that would be wrong. The use of oil in latkes
is not only practical, but calls to mind the oil
used after the liberation of the temple, which
was enough for one night but burned for eight. What better example
of doing more with less, a true necessity
in today’s climate, than stretching out the fuel
to last longer than it should. Or in today’s
parlance, using oil once even with the purpose of
making delicious latkes is– how shall we say it– definitely OK boomer territory. Cooking oil cannot only be used
again, but it can be recycled– a crucial part of creating
a sustainable economy. For example, used cooking
oil can provide fuel for biodiesel projects. What could be a better
example of adaptability than driving to work or school
using the oil that prepared our favorite Hannakah treat. Our colleagues at
Loyola University will accept tax deductible
donations of used cooking oil for a biodiesel
project of their own. No one said recycling
couldn’t be tasty as well, and whoever heard of
recycling a hamantash? What would that even consist of? The mind reels. I would be remiss
if I didn’t extol the environmental benefits
of eggs, an essential element to the preparation of latkes. The health benefits of eggs are
almost too numerous to mention. Recent research on the effect of
eggs and increasing cholesterol has modified the
original findings that made them a food
pariah in the 70s and 80s. With no disrespect
to the potato, if there is one food
that exemplifies sustainability its eggs. The fact that they
helped produce such a delicious
product as latkes only makes their case stronger. And there is science to this. A 2018 study found that a dozen
eggs has a carbon footprint of 2.7 kilograms of carbon
dioxide equivalent, which is much lower than that
of veal, pork, or lamb. Salt, which those of us
battalion heritage know is always preceded by
the words needs more, is not only an
essential ingredient in the production of latkes
but has its own element on the periodic table. Can hamantash say that? I think not. Wars have been fought over salt,
and not just in ancient times. The El Paso Salt War, which
occurred in the 1870s, was one such conflict. In the aftermath
of the Civil War, a dispute developed
in southern Texas as to who had the right to
mine salt from local lakes. Local residents
favored a continuation of the policy of
community ownership, but the arrival of a band of
early neoliberal consultants– I mean persons with an
entrepreneurial bent– I forgot where I
was for a second– insisted on
individual ownership. Prior to that, cutting off salt
production in supply routes was a major part of union
strategy during our civil war. Salt flavors our food, preserves
it, and even kills bacteria. The utility of salt for
which I do not unfortunately have a fancy economics graph to
illustrate is nearly endless. Who would go to
war over hamantash? The most bloodthirsty
general imaginable would look at a
proposal to cut off the supply science for hamantash
and say, meh, let them have it. It would be the first
war ever canceled on the basis of boredom. But maybe that’s a good thing. And speaking of flavor,
please let us consider the onion, another
key ingredient in the production of Latinos. The onion, like
the potato, comes in a multitude of varieties. Of course, its best
usage was as a name for our city and our beloved
university, the term shikaakwa meaning land of
the smelly onion. One can only imagine
the culinary tastes of Jean Batiste Point du
Sable, the modern founder of this locale as he told
his friends and family about the real estate
deal he had just made. Yeah, smells like onions,
but it’s a living. Given our winters,
one can only imagine what the other locations
that he might have considered smelled like. Our investigation of the
environmental superiority of the latke comes
not only in terms of how it is used, but how
its ingredients are produced as well. After all, the environmental
impact of food production is a major factor in plans
to address climate change. Here onions rise to
the top of the list. Not only are they a flavorful
additions to many dishes and come in several
varieties, but in a 2017 study of the environmental impact
of vegetables in the US Fairburn found that
production of onions appears to produce the least
carbon footprint as opposed to all the other vegetables
collected followed by potatoes and carrots using
the coefficients determined in a study by the University
of Naples, Federico II. You’ll note our friend the
potato makes another appearance here. Even accounting for
the transportation of these vegetables,
Fairburn found that, yes, air quality will be
affected, but it is likely that this effect is minimal
compared to pollution generated from cars and automobiles
or businesses and factories. Finally, there’s water. Water is not only
essential for life, but it is likely to be the
key factor in determining the effects of climate change. Some areas will
suffer from its lack in the form of desertification. Others will be inundated
by sea level rise. It’s been nice to know
you south Florida. In order to deal with
the latter situation, it is our responsibility,
no our actual duty to make latkes in great
quantity and use as much water as is called for. I could go on. After all, what is a
latke without toppings? OK, delicious
nonetheless but still. I understand that applesauce
and sour cream are two of the most common
toppings for latkes and both have their
strong points. Their tastes are
radically different, and I’m sure there are
environmental benefits for each. The fact that the
latke can accommodate either topping cements
superiority to the hamantash, which is actually a fine treat
if you like overcast skies and watching your
laptop load files. But let me conclude by stepping
out of my professorial role here and declare that
the environmental impact of applesauce is only positive,
because it’s delicious and one of my favorite treats. There will be no discussion
of this assertion, and points will be
deducted for any attempt to offer a different opinion. So in conclusion,
we end where we began with the
latke in ascendance for all kinds of good
environmental reasons. Thank you very much. [APPLAUSE] BENJAMIN CALLARD:
All right, and now for our evening’s third
and final debater. Jessica Kirzane is assistant
instructional professor in Yiddish and the Department
of Germanic studies where she teaches all
levels of Yiddish language, as well as courses in Yiddish
culture and literature. She’s the Editor-in-Chief
of In geveb, A Journal of Yiddish
Studies and has held several positions at
the Yiddish Book Center, translation fellow in 2017,
2018, pedagogy fellow in 2018, 19, and as an editor
and contributor to the Teach Great Jewish
Books site of the Yiddish Book Center. Her research interests
include race, sex, gender, and regionalism in American
Jewish and Yiddish literature, and she’s published articles
on the idea of rural America in Yiddish literature,
interethnic romance in Yiddish periodicals,
and lynching in American Yiddish literature. She’s made many
translations from Yiddish, including works by– I’m going to– I’ve already– I’m going to
mangle these names, Yente Serdatsly, Leon Korbin, Rosa
Palatnik, Joseph Opatoshu, and Hava Shapiro. And her translation of
Miriam Karpilov’s, The Diary of A Lonely Girl or The
Battle Against Free Love is due to be
published next month. Is that right? Further from her
professional work but closer to tonight’s
topic, she also co-authored a teaching
guide to the matzo ball in American Jewish
history and culture. She received her PhD
in Yiddish studies from Columbia
University in 2017. She has two children,
Jeremiah and Esther, and is married to a rabbi
who is here tonight. Please welcome
Professor Kirzane. [APPLAUSE] JESSICA KIRZANE: I appear
today as a swing debater, and I have to admit that this
also marks my very first time even attending an
official Latke Hamantash at the University of Chicago. But as a Yiddish
studies scholar, I am no stranger to the nuances,
the ethnographic concerns, the historical
contingencies, the questions of labor and gender, rabbinic
and lay authority, the language politics, the tensions that
cut to the heart of the history and the present day
experience of Jewish life and that are central to this
very significant question of latke versus hamantash. And of course, as most
scholars of Jewish literature and history know,
latkes and hamantaschen have long been central to Jewish
debates about the relationship between living beings and
the world in which they live. As a swing debater, I will
remain a neutral party to the debate, but
I want to offer you some words of caution about
the latke with relationship to its role in the biosphere. The first thing that you
need to know, as is I did a little digging
in the archive to verify that lockers are not
exactly good for the biosphere. In this poem, which
I’m sure you all can read published in
[INAUDIBLE] Express in 1929, we read [YIDDISH]. I probably don’t
need to translate. This is, after all, an educated
crowd at the University of Chicago. But just in case you
didn’t catch that– and if you didn’t, can I
recommend taking a Yiddish language class with me– what I said was there is only
one disadvantage to latkes and it’s that no matter
how far away you are, you can detect their disgusting
smell for a very long time. So I know that poetry
needs to be interpreted, and that, of course,
translations sometimes offer different shades of meaning
than the original text. But let me offer
you a close reading of this particular
moment in the poem. Latkes are damaging
to the biosphere. Latkes cause air pollution. Latkes are gross. I’m sure you’re all familiar
with this relatively obscure pamphlet
titled [INAUDIBLE],, a publication of
children’s stories in Yiddish from
the Soviet Union. So there’s no need to
explain the stories in it in any detail. But in case you
need a refresher, in it there’s a poem
about a girl named Sandke, who was punished at
school for her messiness and general lack of hygiene. We learn that there
is a reason she is deficient in
personal cleanliness, and that is that earlier in
the morning she was too busy trying to defend her
freshly made latkes from her most devious cat who
was trying to eat the latkes and so she didn’t
have time to wash up. What’s more. As her time started to run short
desperate to keep the cat away from the sweet fresh
oily fried potatoes, she took the cat out back and
beat it with a stick thereby upsetting her little sister who
inexplicably seems to care more about the cat than the latkes. What we see here
is clear evidence that the latkes are the
cause of a disruption in the relationships
between human beings and the natural environment. Latkes tempt the cat
to eat a food that would not be of interest
to the cat in the wild. Latkes provide an instance
of excessive animal abuse. Latkes forced Sandke to
come to school smelly and gross and disrupt the
school environment as well. But to be more serious
and more damning, we come to a story in the
[INAUDIBLE] in December 1934. In the story two men enjoy
plate fulls of latkes, though complaining that
they aren’t the same as the good old days
when latkes were made with rendered goose fat. They explain it used to be that
latkes were simple and easy. You ate latkes. You dipped them in rendered
fat and flour and sugar, but now latkes are
something else. We have latkes [INAUDIBLE],,
beggars latkes, nothing but poppers. Now every one of us is a
[INAUDIBLE],, a tramp, a beggar, or thief that gets
dipped in pain and woe. In short, life is
full of latkes. The whole world and its
Hitlers are nothing but latkes. So I won’t tell you which
side of the debate I’m on. I’ll just leave you
with that thought. Hitler is a latke. Latkes are like Hitler. I would like to spend
a few minutes talking about the delicious cookie
we know as the hamantash. This is one of my
favorite Yiddish songs, and though my
Yiddish students will attest that I say that about
every Yiddish song– do I have any Yiddish
students in the audience? Yeah, small but mighty. Yiddish students
please sing along. The chorus goes [YIDDISH] In a song, a girl sets
out to make hamantaschen, and they turn out terribly,
half raw and half burnt. And she goes ahead and
gives them to her aunt anyway, because even
when they are awful, everyone loves hamantaschen. More to the point, I am here
to tell you that hamantaschen are good for the biosphere. Even though of course, latkes
aren’t particularly spherical. Like a diligent researcher
in Yiddish studies, I turn to this Purim
encyclopedia published in 1960 to give me a better sense of
what I should be considering with regard to the
hamantash There I found this delightful
poem, A Hamantash [YIDDISH],, which means a hamantash
stuffed with poppy seeds. It begins [YIDDISH] Should I translate? No matter how poor
I am, I put what I have into the circle
because it’s Purim and I want a poppy
seed hamantash. OK, so already if we’re
talking about the biosphere we’re on solid ground
here with circles and also with the equality of everyone
having something to eat. It continues. Let others here eat a steak
with horseradish or fat chickens with kosher dressing. Their teeth will have to work at
it, and I don’t care for that. Let others enjoy their
turkey or fat hen. That doesn’t appeal
to me, because what I want is a poppy seed hamantash. OK, now we’re getting somewhere. I just told you
that a good latke is made with rendered
goose fat, but here we have a poem advocating
vegetarianism through the eating of hamantash. The poem continues,
these days there are thousands of
anti-Semites, everyone with his own bloody flag. These criminals, these enemies
are as numerous as poppy seeds in a homemade trash,
but I come with triumph into the shul with my friends. And I am glad and
I enter with pride. I am happy today,
and everyone looks at my joyous face that
shines as bright as the sun while I eat my poppy
seed hamantash. The housewife is
ready to do anything to fight the onslaught
of today’s Hamans, but she doesn’t prepare a
victory wreath made of flowers. What she makes is
hamantaschen with poppy seeds. What we see here clearly
is not only the hamantash as the symbol of Jewish
pride– that would be too easy an argument to make– but the human touch as a symbol
of preservation of nature, protecting those
flowers that might be made into a wreath
instead of making a delicious environmentally
friendly treat for the kids to enjoy. But the strongest
argument that I have to make that hamantash
is good for the biosphere is one that gets
into the nitty-gritty or, perhaps, the hanky
panky of linguistics. You may know that
the word hamantash comes from montash meaning– mon meaning poppy seed
and tash meaning pockets describing the cookies
people eat for the holiday. Because of the similarity
between the word mon poppy seed and Haman, the name of the
villain of the Purim story, there was a name
change that later led to all those
silly explanations that the triangular cookie
represents Haman’s ears or hat or what have you. But did you know that
the hamantash together with other triangular foods
like the knish or the perogi are also Yiddish slang
terms for the human vulva. Hamantash is a,
kind of, cute way of referring to a
woman’s genitalia, and the many poppy seeds
stuffed inside the cookie may evoke an idea of fertility. What I’m trying to do
here is not scandalize this esteemed audience
with a Yiddish vulgarism depicting the female anatomy– OK, maybe I am trying to
do that a little bit– but also to place the hamantash
in an eco-feminist context. Eco-feminist is in short an
activist and academic movement that sees critical connections
between the domination of nature and the
exploitation of women. By lifting up a symbol of female
fertility like the hamantash as good for the
biosphere, I am suggesting that we celebrate female
anatomy and the power of women as a way of resisting the
exploitative dominance between men and nature and
restoring fertile ground, so. [APPLAUSE] So to summarize
latkes are like Hitler and hamantash for all that
they are associated with Haman are really about saving the
beautiful and fruitful Mother Earth. In my great respect for the
long history of this debate, I have attempted to be
extremely evenhanded and to offer valid points
from both perspectives. I assume it may be
impossible for you to know where I stand on the
issue of latke versus hamantash or what I think your bubbe would
have to say about the question. I leave it to you to decide. ANNA LEVIN ROSEN: I
wanted to thank everyone so much for coming
this evening, and it is a pleasure and a
privilege to share the stage with two
alumni who have shared this stage in years past. RACHEL SCHEINFELD: Hi everyone. Thank you so much again
for coming tonight. We really appreciate everyone
making their way out here right before Thanksgiving. My name is Rachel Scheinfeld. I graduated from
the college in 2016. MAX GRAD: And my
name’s Max Grad, also an alum of the college
from the class of 2017. It’s really exciting to be
back on the stage with Rachel. Back in 2015, together
we were on the same stage as co-presidents of the
Student Leadership Initiative at Hillel, and it’s amazing to
see how much Hillel has grown over the past couple of years. RACHEL SCHEINFELD:
Tonight both Max and I are board members
at UChicago Hillel, and having the
opportunity to continue to serve this community
has truly been an honor. While we were students,
Hillel was not only a place that allowed us
to build lifelong friendships but provided us the space to
really learn and grow together. MAX GRAD: Hillel’s mission
is to provide opportunities for students to connect with
Jewish life, culture, rituals, ideas, and most of
all friendships. Our goal is to provide
students with a home away from home not
only during their time here at UChicago on campus,
but also post graduation. We do this by making sure
that every voice that walks through Hillel’s
is recognized and valued. Just as the Maccabees were part
of the miracle of providing plenty of light with very little
oil, Hillel here at UChicago manages to serve
hundreds of students as well as graduate students,
alumni, and faculty every year on the budget of
a small nonprofit. We can’t do this meaningful
work without the support from parents,
alumni, and faculty to achieve our ambitious goals. RACHEL SCHEINFELD: We
would like to thank all of those who purchased
a ticket for tonight’s event that helped to make it
possible, as well as Arthur L. Stein, Jeff and
Catherine Wolfe, Manny and Marcy Brown for
sponsoring this year’s debate. If you are interested in
sponsoring the Latke Hamantash debate in the future, please
feel free to reach out anytime. Whichever side you favor,
latke or hamantash, we know that the real conclusion
of tonight’s debate is that our campus
is lucky to have such a thriving Hillel that
makes these events possible. Contributing to
Hillel is an easy way to ensure events like this
debate continue to happen. If you have enjoyed
tonight’s program and want this room full
of amazing students to have access to
impactful Jewish events, internships, and opportunities
throughout the year, please make a meaningful
contribution tonight. Pledge cards will be
available on your way out, and there’s a donation
tab on our website, UChicagohillel.org. MAX GRAD: Thank you to all
of tonight’s participants. Very well debated. Carl [? Fogle ?] who is
celebrating his 22nd year on the piano for his
accompaniment this evening. He told us in confidence
earlier tonight that he’s hoping to
make it to 50 years and then might hang
up the hat after that. Also thanks to UChicago Creative
for recording tonight’s debate. Thank you to the staff here
at Reynolds Club and all the Hillel staff and
the student volunteers who made tonight come together. Thank you to Joel
[INAUDIBLE],, who is the real secret
to tonight’s success, even though she won’t admit it. And last but not least,
many thanks to all of you the audience tonight for making
the 73rd annual Latke Hamantash debate a huge success. Before you get up
to leave tonight, as I’m sure you are
eager to do, please remain seated until
we escort the esteemed debaters out of the hall. Thank you all for coming. And on behalf of Rachel,
myself, and UChicago Hillel, we want to thank
you all for coming and wish you all a very
Happy Thanksgiving. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] [MUSIC PLAYING]

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