by Claudia Sherman for Friedel Jewish Academy
Daniel Denenberg, 12, was the Nebraska state champion last year in the Modern Woodmen of America School Speech Contest and went on to place as one of the top nine contestants in the national contest. He has again won the state competition after participating in the Friedel Jewish Academy, county/district, and state/regional contests. Now it’s on to nationals once again.
Danny said, “I got interested because it was an assignment to participate last year in the speech contest. Winning last year may have increased my desire to participate again.” He also mentioned that there are many good speakers in his family, including his grandparents, Bernie and Carolyn Magid and Eunice and Norman Denenberg; his parents, Steven and Tippi Denenberg; and other relatives including his cousin Becca Denenberg who placed third at the district level in the speech contest. Like Danny, Becca is a recent sixth grade graduate of Friedel Jewish Academy. Danny added that Shabbat dinners at his house “are very talky.”
Modern Woodmen developed the speech contest in 1948 to offer students an opportunity to develop skills in clear thinking and public speaking. By preparing and giving a three-to-five-minute speech, according to Modern Woodmen, students learn skills that help with school projects, job interviews, and even careers.
This year, the topic for the speech contest is “An Interesting Landmark.” Students can consider a landmark of local, national, or worldwide prominence, though it does not have to be officially declared a landmark. National parks, capitol buildings, homes of famous people, museums, prominent buildings of business and industry, or important sports arenas could be considered. Danny chose the David Belasco Theater in New York City. A Broadway theatre that opened in 1907, the Belasco Theater was originally known as the Stuyvesant Theatre and was designed by architect George Keister for impresario David Belasco.
“I picked this subject because my Aunt Debbie (Denenberg), a New York City Broadway producer who relocated to Omaha, told me about it,” Danny said. “So I looked into it and got excited. This summer, I might see a show there.”
By participating in the speech contest, Danny noted, “I’ve learned all sorts of life skills and bonded deeply with my mom, aunt, teacher, and cousin Becca on our long trips to the state competition in Hebron, Nebraska. I’ve seen the payoff of hard work.” He admits that he takes part in the speech contest, “because it’s fun. I just do what I do without regard to the outcome. I liked learning from other speeches. I liked competing. I like working on the speeches with all of my peers at schools.”
Particularly supportive as he prepared for the speech contest were the fifth-sixth grade teacher at Friedel, “Denise Bennett, my Aunt Debbie Denenberg and my Dad,” said Danny. “My parents tell me that knowing how to speak publicly is a skill I will need no matter what I do,” he added. His favorite subject at school is math. He also likes to act, play piano, and play games with his brothers and sisters.
Danny’s mother, Tippi Denenberg, also credited those who helped Danny, including his teachers at Friedel, especially Denise Bennett, mentor Debbie Denenberg, Head of School Beth Cohen, and the students and parents who attended the competitions beyond the school level. “It’s quite a support system we have from Friedel.” Tippi pointed out.
Open to fifth through eighth graders, speeches are judged on material organization, delivery and presentation and overall effectiveness. Judging will be in July for the national competition. Each student receives a ribbon with an inscribed medallion. First, second and third place winners, as well as their schools, receive an engraved plaque. The first-place winner receives a $2,000 education savings plan from Modern Woodmen Bank. A $1,500 education savings plan is awarded to the second place winner, and third place gets a $1,000 education savings plan.