January 24, 2019

Richard Greene: How One or Two Words Can Change Your Life

One of the world’s leading experts on public speaking, Richard Greene, explains why people fear public speaking more than death, and discusses the abuse of language in the era of Trump. Visit his website.

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Words from the heart

The nerve-wracking morning of a bar or bat mitzvah will eventually be all that’s left standing between a student and his or her catered night of extravagant partying. The b’nai mitzvah coach already has helped detangle the Hebrew and trope, but the pressure of reading the Torah portion and haftarah, as well as delivering a speech in front of hundreds of family members, friends and congregants, might make even a usually unassuming bimah look terrifying.

That’s where Jane Jacobs of Speak the Speech comes in. An experienced communication coach, Jacobs provides performance training to public speakers—from corporate professionals to brides and grooms. She also works independently with b’nai mitzvah students across the San Fernando Valley. What she offers is quite different from the Hebrew-focused preparation of a b’nai mitzvah coach; it aims to create performances and speeches that leave remarkable impressions.

Whatever You’re Feeling Is What Your Listeners Get

Jacobs, a trained actor and singer, believes in the power of building any performance from the inside out. Of initial importance in this process is pinpointing the true motivations behind a young adult’s desire for a bar or bat mitzvah. If a teenager is acting only out of obligation or pressure, he or she may be unlikely to give a heartfelt speech or reading; personalized meaning and passion must be woven into every step of the performance.

“If you give a word meaning, the rest takes care of itself,” Jacobs said. “You’ve got to connect with your meaning first. If you connect with your meaning, you’ll connect with your listeners.”

A Little Fear Is Healthy

According to national surveys, the fear of public speaking tops fears of illness, flying, terrorism and even death itself.

“In other words, at a funeral, the average person would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy,” comedian Jerry Seinfeld has joked.

Jacobs points out that, although partially a self-fulfilling prophecy in our culture, the fear of public speaking stems from the fact that a speaker’s body, voice and presence is left completely vulnerable to judgment.

Genuine confidence during a speech or Torah reading may be a great line of defense, but fear doesn’t always have to play the role of the enemy. Jacobs emphasizes that, when channeled correctly, a little stage fright is actually good for a performance.

“Adrenaline expresses itself in many ways: One is fear, one is excitement,” she said. “Which do you want to choose? It’s the same chemical.”

The type of energy created by converting anxiety into excitement often works to keep speakers on their toes and fully present during a rare moment that begs to be savored.

Winging It Is for the Birds

Preparation fosters the very confidence vital to all the day’s feats: a meaningful speech, a smooth performance, a feel-good sense of excitement and a relative amount of relaxation in an otherwise stressful situation.

“If you’ve rehearsed this thing enough, you’ve rehearsed successes,” Jacobs reminds her students.

Aside from repetitive practice, Jacobs encourages young people to set themselves up for success in every way, from the clothes they wear (“Dress for the part”) to what they eat and drink before standing up in front of an entire congregation.

Success Is Not Going to Be Perfection

Even the most prepared, articulate and confident student is fair game for the occasional slip-up—but it doesn’t matter. As with any public performance, many elements are out of a performer’s control, and audiences are particularly quick to forgive mistakes after they’ve been successfully distracted by something truly moving.

“People don’t remember what you tell them; they remember how you made them feel,” Jacobs said. “If you make a mistake [but] you’ve got them in the palm of your hand, they won’t even remember it.”

Ruminating on insignificant performance details not only diminishes the much higher importance of meaningful emotion, it also tends to be a fairly certain way to instantly kill a speaker’s focus.

The Parents’ Speeches Are Just As Important

Jacobs tells the story of one bar mitzvah student whose parents’ performance on the big day was just as shaky as their child’s: “It was time for the parents’ speech. The son was looking for approval in the room, the mother was looking at her notes—looking up and dropping her eyes and reading off the piece of paper—and the father stuck his hands in his pockets and rambled for 15 minutes. I don’t know what he said!”

In Jacobs’ experience, problems like severe stage fright tend to become more deeply ingrained in adults over time. Parents could take a cue from their kids by using the same methods of practice—and even coaching—to bring their own speeches to a heightened standard. The entire event will come together beautifully when every speech moves the listener. Maybe more important, if a bar or bat mitzvah is looking for an example of an effective and confident performer to emulate, who better than Mom and Dad?

For more information about Jane Jacobs and Speak the Speech, visit speak-speech.com

The Nation and The World


Palestinian Prisoners Freed

Israel released 159 Palestinians from its jails. The prisoners, most of them jailed for links to terrorist groups and the rest in detention for working in Israel without permits, were freed Monday in a gesture of gratitude toward Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who this month granted early release to an Israeli businessman accused of spying. Monday�(tm)s releases also were intended to foster goodwill in the Palestinian Authority ahead of its Jan. 9 presidential elections. The frontrunner in the race, Mahmoud Abbas, called for Israel to grant general amnesty to some 7,000 Palestinians in its jails, among them hardened terrorists, but Israel says it won�(tm)t release Palestinians convicted of killing Israeli citizens.

Meanwhile, Hamas won nine of 26 municipal elections in the West Bank on Dec. 23, suggesting stronger support for the terrorist group than was anticipated.

Labor Selects Seven Ministers

Israel�(tm)s Labor Party selected seven members to serve in a unity Cabinet. Party whip Ofir Pines-Paz and former Cabinet secretary Yitzhak Herzog, both in their 40s, won first and second spots in last week�(tm)s voting. Labor has agreed in principle to join Prime Minister Ariel Sharon�(tm)s Likud-led government. One Cabinet spot already has been guaranteed to Labor Party Chairman Shimon Peres.

Disengagement Vote Looms

The Israeli Cabinet will vote on Ariel Sharon�(tm)s plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank as early as January. The chairman of the Knesset�(tm)s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Yuval Steinitz, said Monday that the prime minister�(tm)s withdrawal plan, under which 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip and four in the West Bank will be evacuated by fall 2005, had to receive Cabinet approval no later than February.

Meanwhile Israeli lawmakers held up a bill to compensate settlers evacuated under Sharon�(tm)s withdrawal plan. The Knesset Law Committee, which is considering the Evacuation Compensation Bill, deadlocked Tuesday in an 8-8 vote after Israeli Arab lawmaker Azmi Bishara decided to abstain. Sharon wants to offer settlers who leave voluntarily as much as $300,000 per family, and to penalize those who resist with a loss of financial perks and possible prison time – terms that angered right-wing members of the panel. The next vote is not expected for several weeks.

Harvard Prez Backs Israel

Anti-Israel efforts on campus have receded, but there is still cause for concern, Harvard University�(tm)s president Lawrence Summers said. Anti-Semitism persists particularly in leftist circles in Europe and among U.S. academics he said Wednesday at a discussion on anti-Semitism sponsored by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Anti-Zionism and anti-Israel attitudes are used as a springboard for anti-Semitism, Summers said.

Summers drew widespread attention two years ago when he used a Harvard speech to criticize calls for divestment from companies doing business in Israel, warning that anti-Israel activities tended toward anti-Semitism.

Orthodox Web Surfers

Ultra-Orthodox Israeli Jews are avid Internet users, according to a new study. Despite a ban on recreational Internet use by many ultra-Orthodox rabbis, nearly one-third of the community surfs the Web, according to a University of Washington study based on online habits of 14,000 ultra-Orthodox Israelis on an Israeli Internet service called Hevre.

The community is only half as likely as secular Israelis to send e-mails, but they are more likely than other Israelis to join online forums with members of their own community, the study found. The full study will be published in next month�(tm)s edition of the Information Society.

Actor Jerry Orbach Dies at 69

Tony-winning actor Jerry Orbach, who played a sarcastic cop on NBC�(tm)s”Law & Order,” died Tuesday night in Manhattan at 69 after several weeks of treatment for prostate cancer.

Orbach, born Jerome Bernard Orbach in Bronx, N.Y., recently left the show after playing Det. Lennie Briscoe for 12 years. On stage he originated the roles of El Gallo in the off-Broadway “Fantasticks,” Billy Flynn in the original mid-�(tm)70s Broadway run of “Chicago” and Julian Marsh in the revival of “42nd Street.” He�(tm)s also known on film as the voice of Lumiere the candlestick in “Beauty and the Beast” and Jennifer Grey�(tm)s overprotective father in “Dirty Dancing.”

Lights on Broadway marquees were expected to be dimmed for one minute at curtain time Wednesday night in Orbach�(tm)s memory. – Staff Report

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency