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We Hereby Claim the Sandwich For the Jews

Hillel’s invention predates that English earl by centuries!

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A demolished Hillel Sandwich.(Lisa G/Flickr)

Lapham’s Quarterly has litigated four “Who invented it first?” food disputes. And it turns out that the sandwich—defined, if you like, as the method of preparation by which the substance is placed between two slices of starch—was not invented by its namesake, John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, but rather (and really, we should have known this) by Rabbi Hillel, the eating of whose eponymous sandwich, in which bitter herbs (usually horseradish) are placed between two pieces of matzah, is a requisite part of the Passover Seder.

But why call it a “Hillel Sandwich”? It’s a bit anachronistic to allow the latter-day English earl’s nomenclature to prevail over the ancient Babylonian rabbi’s invention, no? (I mean, there’s Orientalism for you!) Please leave suggestions for what the humble, brilliant sandwich should be called instead in the comments. And please, try to be more creative than just “the Hillel,” which as everyone knows is already a special kind of sandwich that involves corned beef, pastrami, and cole slaw, served with a side of guilt and traditionally consumed while standing on one foot.

Food Fight! [Lapham's Quarterly]
Related: Hillel [Nextbook Press]

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Steve Stein says:

“special kind of sandwich that involves corned beef, pastrami, and cole slaw, served with a side of guilt”

You forgot the pickle! How could you? :-)

I think that Lapham’s gets if wrong as well. Their description says “Hillel puts lamb and bitter herbs between two pieces of matzoh”. Of course, now it is charoset and maror between two pieces of matzoh. I doubt it was originally lamb – but would love to hear from some Hillelians out there.
And, I beg to disagree. I think “Hillel” is just fine as a word to replace “sandwich”. Just imagine: A peanut butter and jelly hillel. A toasted cheese hillel. And even, the Hillel hillel.

The sendevitch.

Things are seldom named for their actual creators (, and so it is both a logical and Jewish solution to keep the name “the sandwich.”

As long as the name remains, the sandwich will continue allowing us to combine our two favorite pastimes: eating and complaining about past wrongs against our people.

Ian Wilson says:

The 1ST Earl of Matzowich

Alternatively, the Beaconsfield, after the first Earl of Beaconsfield–probably the closest relative of the original inventor among British earls.

avishai gebler says:

Not to burst the “Jews did it First!” bubble, but to be historically accurate, Hillel’s sandwich wasn’t a sandwich. If we saw it, we’d probably call it a wrap. The hebrew word “korech” means wrapping (from the root “likhroch”, “to wrap), which is fitting as matzahs historically were soft and wrappable, much like the modern day lafah.

Korech as sandwich only became possible in the Middle Ages, when, in Europe, matzahs evolved into the thin, crispy “digestion enhancers” which we now all know and love. One can still find so-called soft matzahs among the Yemenite and other non-Ashkenazi communities. (A great article on the history of matzah is

However, this still means we invented the sandwich. Just a bit later than Hillel, that’s all.

Wendy says:

Let’s call it “The Liberator” since it not only symbolizes the liberation from slavery, it means we’re gonna eat now!

Richard Banville says:

We can’t call it the Hillel. You can’t very well have a ham-and-cheese Hillel, can you? The venerable Rabbi would surely object to have his name attached to anything so treyf.

lil LA Jew says:

I feel in good company. My absolutel fav sandwich is some bri between two matzoh planks. Long Live Motzah!

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We Hereby Claim the Sandwich For the Jews

Hillel’s invention predates that English earl by centuries!

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