" Rochelle Zell wasn’t just going to a part of me for four years but for the rest of my life."
By: Tim Moran (Deerfield Staff)
A small Jewish high school on Chicago’s North Shore made a big splash in the biggest of cities earlier this month.The Model UN team at Chicagoland Jewish High School in Deerfield was one of only three teams out of 230 at the International Model UN Conference in New York City to earn a First Place award.
The honor was a compilation of years of hard work. The Model UN program at CJHS has been around for seven years, competing in New York once a year. After gaining experience but not placing the first three years, CJHS finished with a Second Place award three years in a row before breaking through with the top honor in 2015.
“I couldn’t imagine a better, more cyclical way to end my Model UN career than hearing our team’s name announced by the dais in our final plenary session,” said senior Noa Gordon-Guterman. “Four years earlier, a very different, yet equally determined team sat in that very general assembly room and celebrated their first ever National High School Model United Nations award.”
According to the team’s first-year coach, Joseph Eskin, the students “put a lot of hard work to get as prepared as possible” for the conference.The school was assigned to play the role of South Korea, Eskin says, and students researched a different topic given to them such as South Korea’s stance on the situation in Ukraine, drone strikes or Ebola.
Cooperation, creativity and collaboration was also rewarded – which the CJHS showed in reaching out to people outside of school with different backgrounds. “Working together really made them successful,” Eskin said.
During the five-day Model UN conference in midtown Manhattan in early March, 26 CJHS students had the opportunity to attend committee meetings that consisted of anywhere from 15 to 300 people gathering to discuss a topic.“Students were making speeches about the topic, working with other delegates in conference to make resolutions,” Eskin said.
Gordon-Guterman’s partner in representing Portugal at the conference was David Steinberg, who says it has been “an incredible honor” to be on the CJHS team for four years. “Model UN really hones skills in public speaking and negotiating with peers,” he said. “One of the most important skills at the conference is gaining the respect and support of your fellow committee members through respectful and persuasive presentation and argument. I am proud of the dedication and teamwork that brought our small Jewish school this phenomenal success in a conference with thousands of participants.”
The experience of learning from like-minded peers across the globe wasn’t the only takeaway from the team’s experience, Eskin explains. At a Jewish school, he says the students learned first-hand about the challenges they face in being part of the world but remaining practical to Jewish ideals. “We wake up earlier than any other school to have prayers,” he said. “The Thursday of that week was also a holiday so we had to read early in the day to make it to the committee.”
Dr. Gary Auslander has been a coach for all seven years of the team’s existence and says the the past six years “set the stage for this year” because of how we conduct ourselves and our preparedness. “I have a strong suspicion that our success will continue beyond this year,” he said, noting 11 of the 26 on the team this year were rookie members. “Our players know how to play the game and they come equipped with the necessary skills.”
Earning that first place award was “a special moment for the kids, very emotional,” Eskin said. “I am so proud of every single member of the CJHS MUN team. The hard work and dedication of every single member made a once distant aspiration our school’s reality,” added Gordon-Guterman.
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