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South Orange teen competes on ‘Jeopardy!’
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South Orange teen competes on ‘Jeopardy!’

Teen contestant Danny Oxman with “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek
Teen contestant Danny Oxman with “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek

WHEN ASKED what it was like to compete on “Jeopardy!” Danny Oxman responds: It’s all about the buzzer.

Of course, there was also the excitement of beating out thousands of other teens across the United States to become one of 15 contestants to make it onto the popular CBS game show’s Teen Tournament. Danny participated in the semi-final round, appearing on the episode that aired Nov. 9.

The son of Alison and Michael Oxman of South Orange, Danny is a senior at Columbia High School; the family are members of Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel (TSTI) in South Orange.

“I like game shows and I started watching ‘Jeopardy!’ every day,” Danny said. “I told my dad it would be fun to be on the show and he encouraged me to look up how to audition.” Danny took the on-line quiz in May and in June went to a live audition in Washington, D.C., which included a mock game, a paper test, an interview with the production team — and a surprise visit from “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek. In late July Danny got the phone call telling him he was going to the Aug. 29 taping in Los Angeles.

“Getting that call was surreal,” he said. “Even though I had a strong audition and felt confident about my chances, I wasn’t 100 percent sure I’d actually get on the show.” Being on the set “felt pretty normal,” he said, “but then I’d look around and think, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I’m really here.’”

During the taping, he said, “my finger was twitching on that buzzer the whole time. I kept hoping that if I hit it, I’d give the right answer. I was also thinking of all the people back home who were rooting for me.”

After the tournament, the teens and their families attended a cast party in the studio commissary. Alison Oxman said the parents were touched when Trebek praised their children as the future of the country and told them how proud he was of them.

“This was such a wonderful experience for Danny,” she said. “We met families from all over the country of different backgrounds and cultures, and he has become friends with an incredible group of students.”

Danny attended TSTI’s Linda and Rudy Slucker Religious School, became bar mitzvah and was confirmed at the temple, and is a student at its Hebrew High School.

Danny also plays trombone in the Columbia High School band, tutors math, and competes on the school’s Ultimate Frisbee team.

“Danny believes in himself, and he’s not afraid to take risks,” said his mother. “But his real success was gaining such a distinguishing experience he’ll remember forever.”

Her son agreed. “It was a great experience and I’m so happy I did it. I’ll have the best dinner conversation of anyone for years to come.”

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