A long-running international debate originating at the University of Chicago examines which Jewish food is more perfect – latke or hamantash.
A The 75-year-old debate that began in 1946 is the subject of a new documentary produced by a native of West Bloomfield. Filmmaker and producer Amy Krause, now based in Solana Beach, California, is making Latke vs. Hamantash, movies.
A long-running international debate originating at the University of Chicago examines which Jewish food is more perfect – latke or hamantash. It enlisted the help of the world’s greatest minds, from political scientists to astrophysicists, to support a diet that best encompasses the Jewish story.
It’s not about taste, but perfection, says Krause. The famous Chanukah potato pancakes and the fully-pocketed Purim cookies each represent Jewish life in a different way.
“There are some really serious questions as you dig into them,” he explains about the debate, “such as ‘Why is this funny?’ or ‘Why do Jews argue about everything, including food?’ “
Latke vs. Hamantash aims to answer these questions, among other things, by exploring the history of the debate, its worldwide heritage, and which specialty food is actually a more perfect Jewish diet.
The internationally renowned “Latke-Hamantash Debate” is held annually at the University of Chicago and attracts thousands of attendees. Last year on December 17, it was held online for the first time because of COVID-19 but continues to be the university’s longest-running tradition.
Krause found out about the debate through his eldest daughter, Sophie Needelman Bloch, and was blown away by the story. He needs to know more. “I’m Jewish, but I don’t have a deep religious background,” said Krause, who attended the Birmingham Temple while growing up. “We are Humanistic Jews, so I feel that I am Jewish enough to tackle this topic.”
He is also interested in the humor behind the subject, which includes a clever tale of whether latke or hamantash is a more perfect Jewish food. “That’s funny,” said Krause. “I didn’t see many funny films at the Jewish film festival, so the idea made me curious.”
Krause began researching the debate, which was academic in nature, and connected with fellow debate fan Benjamin Lorch, who is now an advisor and producer on the documentary. The two partners on the idea and officially began work on the film in the summer of 2018 after Krause attended the Jewish Cultural Festival in Krakow.
During the next two years, Krause flew around the world to gather information. From Philadelphia to Israel, he interviews people about debate and what lies at the heart of Jewish culture. He talks with rabbis, moderators, foodies and debaters – including the oldest surviving debate, 98-year-old Bernie Weisberger – about the legacy of the “Latke-Hamantash Debate”.
Throughout his travels, Krause also found himself growing closer to Judaism, a personal achievement he is proud of. While Krause personally sided with hamantash as the more perfect Jewish food, he heard heated arguments on both ends in favor of the winning dish.
Even though the pandemic has slowed film production, Krause continues to conduct interviews regarding Zoom and aims to finish filming by the end of this year, along with releasing the film soon after.
He also filmed a trailer in West Bloomfield in 2019 that featured the documentary and teased “the biggest Jewish debate in history.” It demonstrates the intense academic rigor behind the subject, which has been dissected from every imaginable point of view.
After the film was finished, Krause planned to show it off at a Jewish film festival and then introduce him to the rest of the world. “It will add a little bit of light and memory to the joy of our culture,” he said of Latke vs. Hamantash. “It’s not just our cultural struggle.”
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