April 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

NJ Professor, With Ties to Central NJ, Wins on Jeopardy

Answer: Who is Melissa Klapper?

Currently a professor of history and director of Women’s & Gender Studies at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey, Klapper competed on the game show Jeopardy in March 2023. Her three-day streak brought her over $60,000 in winnings and quite a bit of fame.

A graduate of Bais Yaakov in Baltimore and Rutgers University, the self-described “trivia nerd” prepared for her performance by reading children’s books on various topics that she did not feel were her strongest. “I did know every question involving literature, but the reviews in science and geography were helpful.”

The highly competitive audition for the program included online tests of increasing difficulty as well as an audition. Participants pay their own way to the taping of the show in California. Five shows are taped per day, with contestants able to change their shirt and freshen up during the brief break between segments so they look a bit different.

Klapper’s sister, Jennie Fine of Highland Park, said, “It was really exciting to watch Melissa play and win. One of my daughter’s teachers showed an episode in class, and my son watched from yeshiva in Israel. We’ve been contacted by friends and family we haven’t heard from in decades, so that has been fun for us.”

As a professor, Klapper is accustomed to speaking in front of groups of people and did not suffer from stage fright. Her prime difficulty was operating the buzzer to be eligible to answer the question.

“It isn’t just what you know; you have to have the eye/hand coordination.”

Despite practicing her clicking skills with a pen, she was not at the level of the other contestants who described themselves as “gamers.”

Klapper was pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of her fellow contestants. Having expected the atmosphere to be highly competitive, it was nice to be surrounded by “such a nice group of people.”

Fine said that the family played many types of trivia-based games growing up. “My parents were big believers in general knowledge, and we were a house full of avid readers. It amazes me at times what little bits of trivia or fairly random facts I can remember, when I can’t always remember what I did last week!”

Klapper, who lives in Lower Merion with her husband, noted that only about 400 of the 200,000 people who take the online quizzes appear on the show and she is thrilled to have been able to fulfill her lifelong dream and participate in the experience.

Fine added, “I’ll never watch Jeopardy the same way again—every contestant has a story, and a family and community that must find it so exciting, just as we did!”

By Deborah Melman

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