" I’ve learned so much about Judaism, and I’ve been able to experience so much."
By: Julie Kemp Pick
DEERFIELD – For the second year in a row, students at a small private high school in Deerfield came in First Place at the National High School Model United Nations Conference.
The team from Rochelle Zell Jewish High School received the “Award of Distinction” for first place at the conference, which was held in New York March 2-5.
“Being a smaller school has helped us with Model UN,” said Joseph Eskin, the school’s Model UN student adviser and history teacher. “At most high schools seniors wouldn’t be friends with freshmen. We’re a close knit community.”
Established in 2001 as Chicagoland Jewish High School, the school’s name changed in November 2015 when it received a naming gift from the Zell Family Foundation.
“Rochelle Zell is the grandmother of Matt Zell, parent of two of our former students,” said Tara Seymour, marketing and communications manager of Rochelle Zell Jewish High School. “In honor of their extraordinary support, we proudly renamed Chicagoland Jewish High School to Rochelle Zell Jewish High School.
The high school began with only 23 freshmen and three sophomore students. Today, Rochelle Zell Jewish High School has 160 students, 40 in each grade.
Only seven new students out of 30 attended the Model UN conference this year, and the “veteran leadership” made freshmen students comfortable throughout the competition: “What the conference rewards is being thoughtful and treating everyone with respect,” said Eskin.
Eskin explained that students from Rochelle Zell participated on 17 different committees.
“Each student did research ahead of time, but the work at the conference is the heart of the model UN program which involved working with different personalities and different individuals to find a compromise for everyone,” he said. “One of the keys is that the seniors have a wealth of experience. The seniors are the best experts and they help teach the younger students.” Freshmen through seniors attended the conference.
Over 3,800 students from 150 schools in the U.S. and other countries competed. “One of the coolest things is for students to meet people that they would never have had the chance to meet before,” said Eskin.
The students were placed on different committees for three days from seven or eight hours a day with anywhere between 20 and 350 students in each group. Their goal was to write a UN resolution to solve a world problem. For example, the Security Council was trying to resolve the crisis in Yemen, and another group focused on the Palestinian refugee crisis, Eskin said.
The student-led program had two student presidents; Jason Taitz and Melissa Levin that helped teach skills. “They’re the real leaders of the team,” said Eskin. “I helped teach them public speaking, and how to lead conversations about world politics and global issues, but it’s really the students themselves who led the team.”
“Skills like debating with their peers, and everything that the experience entailed really helped prepare the students for college,” he added.
First year Model UN participant and team leader Samson Hoffman, explained the Rochelle Zell strategy:
“You have to trust each other and listen to each other,” said Hoffman, a junior from Highland Park. “Nobody felt the need to be a superhero and do it all on their own. This then translates into a committee where we needed to form working blocks and work with others to be successful. The ability to be a team player and work with others is by far the most important key to success in Model UN.”
Hoffman enjoyed meeting people from all over the world. “Beyond the excitement for the actual conference, there is an excitement surrounding New York City as well,” he said.
Hoffman said the best part of his overall experience was when he was nominated with his partner, Arielle Small to speak at the Plenary Session in front of more than 1,000 people.
“Furthermore, when they called “Rochelle Zell Jewish High School” to receive the award of distinction, it was remarkable. It felt so good to see the spectacular end result after months of hard work and preparation. It was even better that we got to share it as a team,” said Hoffman.
In other North Shore news, the Highland Park High School Model UN team received the Award of Merit for third place, while Deerfield High School received an Honorable Mention.
The following information was obtained from a Rochelle Zell Jewish High School release
During the Model UN conference, students participated in simulations of United Nations sessions, debating, negotiating, caucusing, drafting and voting on resolutions that address world problems.
Rochelle Zell students represented France and students on specialized committees also represented Zambia on the Historical Security Council and the International Chamber of Shipping on the Crisis Committee.
Rochelle Zell students also had the opportunity to meet with diplomats at the French mission at the United Nations. After hearing a presentation from the mission’s expert on climate change, students asked about the French perspective on their committee issues to represent their country more accurately.
Individual, country and school awards were announced during the closing ceremonies on Saturday where Rochelle Zell Jewish High School took home one of four first place honors. In addition to the team award, four students won individual awards and fifteen students were given the distinct honor of speaking at the closing Plenary Session held in the General Assembly of the UN.
For more information visit rzjhs.org.
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