Milken Debate Team triumphs against New Community Jewish HS

Debate Team winners from left to right: May Darmon ’11, Adi Zilbermintz ’11, Hannah Markovic ’11, and Leigh Jacobson ’12. Photo by Mr. Christopher McAdamis.

After months of preparing with Mr. Oliver Savage, debate coach and English teacher, the debate team won three out of their four events in the 2010 Milken Debate Tournament that took place on October 17 with New Community Jewish High School.

The debate included both individual events, as well as competitions that involved teams of two. Two members of the Milken delegation, Leigh Jacobson ’12 and May Darmon ’11, were individual winners, while partner team Adi Zilbermintz ’11 and Hannah Markovic ’11 were the winners of the public forum, which discussed the issue of the Ground Zero Mosque.

The competition was judged by the competitors’ public speaking ability, specifically, how they explained their topic and how they presented their arguments to the crowd.

For the Milken team, 14 students participated in the tournament.  Among the competitors were the three captains, Julian Ozen ’11, Julia Reifkind ’12, and Ariel Schnitzer ’11.  Captains held specific duties for the debate.

“As one of the captains, it was my job to communicate with the other schools involved and help coordinate the tournament,” Reifkind said.

The team would meet for practices with Savage twice a week leading up to the event, practicing different public speaking methods and researching their specific event topics.  The remaining students on the 25-member team who were not chosen to participate in this debate took the time to prepare for the experience they would have in the future.

During their practices, the team would play games to help members avoid using unnecessary words in their speeches.  The competitors would also look up different speech styles that are associated with their specific topics.

When the tournament was about a week away and practice time was waning, the competitors would come in after school to discuss their speeches and strategic approaches to the tournament with Savage.

“In addition to encouraging the team to practice a few minutes each day at home, we would hold trial rounds at our Tuesday lishma and Thursday lunch meetings all throughout last month,” Schnitzer said.

When the tournament finally arrived, many of the team members said that they felt prepared.

Most of the students were finalists in the competition, but regardless the members of the team were able to practice their public speaking skills, and learn the feel of competition during the tournament.

After working with each of the competitors for several weeks to prepare for the debate tournament, Savage says he developed a personal relationship with each member of the team while they honed their skills.


A Lincoln-Douglas event with Milken’s Julia Reifkind ’12 and New Jew’s Danny Hirsch on the issue of nuclear weapons. Video by Zach Brenner

Below is an excerpt from a winning opening arguments speech by Adi Zilbermintz ’11 and Hannah Markovic ’11:

“We are here today to debate the resolution that ‘it would be wrong to build an Islamic Centre two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center’ but if this is true, if it really is wrong to allow a peaceful religion to pray freely or promote a culture that in no way means to harm us, in country that supposedly promotes religious and cultural freedom, then America is clearly not what living up to its own standards. America is supposed to stand for religious freedom and furthermore it is a constitutional right that every American individual has the freedom to peacefully practice their religion whenever and wherever they wish to do so.”