Becoming a Great Jewish Orator

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By Felicia Park-Rogers, Eisner Camp faculty from Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn, NY

Have you ever wondered what makes a great speech? What makes people sit up and listen? Who are the great Jewish orators of our time? Last week at Eisner Camp I taught a Kesher course, an elective for the Chaverim, Tzofim, and Olim campers. The class was called “Great Jewish Orators and How to Become One Too.” We watched some snippets of  inspiring speeches by Jews, including Rabbi Joachim Prinz preceding Martin Luther King, Jr at the 1963 March on Washington, Amy Schumer with her cousin Senator Charles Schumer giving a speech in favor of gun control following a movie theater shooting during a screening of her film “Trainwreck,” and part of Jon Stewart’s epic segment on Passover v. Easter and raising multi-faith kids in a world where the Easter Bunny is endlessly more appealing to small children than the lamb shank.

We talked about the elements of great speech writing, tips and tactics to improve your public speaking, and the differences between speaking to a live audience or filming something to post on-line. The campers brainstormed topics for persuasive speeches; they ranged from serious to funny, global topics to hot button issues at camp. They included topics like why Louis should change his name to “Hey Louie G,” why Snape really was a bad guy even though he was a double agent for Dumbledore, why ice cream is better than cake, why split shift breakfast should be reinstated so the Olimers can sleep later, and why you should not take any moment for granted.

The campers drafted their speeches, workshopped them in pairs, and then delivered them to the whole group. I was particularly impressed by the generous and helpful feedback they gave each speaker–offering genuine praise for what had gone well, and helpful and specific feedback for an area for improvement. The Eisner Camp values of supporting one another, while striving to be the “best you” you can be were clearly at work! The Olim campers then had a chance to record their speeches, with the help of the social media team. This created such a different experience from just standing up and delivering it to the group. Here is just one of the final products from our future great Jewish orators, presented by Ethan!