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Latke vs. Hamentashen, The Great Debate

Posted Mar 02 2011 9:29am
There's serious work that goes on at MIT. And then, thankfully, there is not.

A debate was held to determine which is superior among two traditional Jewish foods: The latke (a potato pancake served during Hanukah) or the hamentashen (a prune-, poppy seed-, or apricot-filled triangular pastry).

(Wow, you should have seen what the Blogger spell-check suggested for some of the words in that sentence! Latte, larked, Hank, lamentation, fomentation, emendation, among others.)

Back to the debate. Six of the world's greatest scientists joined Rabbi Michelle Fisher, executive director of the MIT Hillel, to offer their "proofs" that their assigned food was superior to the other. It was heartening to see the degree to which academic credentials and principles of scientific discovery were applied to this high purpose. One participant was Robert Weinberg (Course 7*), a Founding Member of the Whitehead Institute, and a pioneer in cancer research most widely known for his discoveries of the first human oncogene — a gene that causes normal cells to form tumors — and the first tumor suppressor gene. "Trust me, I am an expert," he noted. When facts faltered, character assassination was brought to bear. Said Weinberg of the other side: "Remember, in debates like this your opponents' motives are ultimately vastly more important than the arguments they make."

The other participants on Team Latke were Sanjay Sarma (Course 2) and Allan Adams (8). Team Hamentashen comprised Steve Wasserman (20), Shaoul Ezekial (16), and M. Fatih Yaniak (20).

A secret ballot was held at the end. Not a paper ballot. Audience members promised to bend their heads down and look at the floor as Rabbi Fisher asked people to yell, first, if they liked latkes, and, then, if they liked hamentashen. You can see the result in the video below.

A reception followed the debate, with samples of both treats.

If you cannot see the video, click here .



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* Unlike other colleges, MIT departments are called "Courses." Courses are called "classes." All Courses have an English name, of course, but are usually known by their number. To make it trickier, the designations have changed over the decades .
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