By: Avi Strauss  | 

YUNMUN Celebrates Its 25th Year

From February 8-10th, high school students from across the world gathered in Stamford, Connecticut for Yeshiva University’s annual Model United Nations conference. This year’s the conference celebrated its 25th year by hosting its largest gathering ever, over 450 students from across the United States and Canada and as far as Brazil and South Africa. The event was coordinated by the Admissions Office and run by undergraduate student leaders, namely Aaron Portman (YC ’16), the Secretary General and Under-Secretary-Generals Hadassah Tirschwell (SCW ’15), Dovi Nadel (YC ’15) and Danielle Orenshein (SCW ’16).

As is standard practice, the event was kicked off with a formal gathering and introduction. After a brief welcome by Matt Schwartz from the YU Admissions Office, Secretary General Portman addressed the assembly of students, staff and advisors. He shared the story of Iqbal Masih, a 12 year old revolutionary from Pakistan, who fled enslavement and became a very vocal advocate for child and worker’s rights. His advocacy encouraged many others to flee like he did. but also earned the ire of the labor-business leaders as well.  Ultimately, Iqbal was gunned down in what was believed to have been an assassination on part of the labor mafia. However, as Portman reminded the room, his speech was not for naught. Iqbal’s bravery and advocacy—his powerful uses of his voice—were forces for change. At YUNMUN, the delegates would also have a chance to use their voice, and Portman encouraged them to speak passionately, to voice concern for the world’s problems, both at the conference and afterwards, before officially kicking off the event with the ceremonial gavel bang and declaration.

The event exhibited three days of rigorous debate, discussion and compromise. The students were tasked with representing the countries of the world, their economic and political stances, cultures and opinions. Assigned to various committees months in advance, such as the Security Council, Middle East Summit, World Health Organization, International Criminal Court amongst others, and prepared the designated topics relevant to their committees.

The students, or “delegates”, were expected to accurately represent their respective country’s views, as many did. “I learnt a lot about my country, Argentina, but also about all the other countries that were in my committee as well,” said Ariana Gewurz, a sophomore from Maimonides Yeshiva High School in Boston.

YU students are charged with running each committee, ensuring procedure and guidelines are followed. The chair people of each committee are also designated as the judges and the delegates are judged on their speaking, leadership, reasoning and ability to negotiate and compromise. Committee sessions can be tense, with rival countries vying to have their demands met. Caucusing and working together become vital as the students learn to compromise and cooperate.

Reflecting on her sixth and final year at YUNMUN, Under-Secretary Tirschwell remarked how happy she was to have had “the opportunity to be a part of an intellectual community and to share interests and passions with other students from around the country and the world.”

Her sentiment was certainly shared by the student delegates. Isaac Wolfe, a senior at Akiva Hebrew Day School in Detroit, shared: “Even though it was my third year at YUNMUN, the experience still felt fresh and unique. It was amazing to befriend and collaborate with students from across the country and around the world as we delved into global issues.”

YUNMUN concluded with a speech and Q & A session with President Joel, followed by the award ceremony. Each chair awarded two delegates “Honorable Mention” and a “Best Delegate” to the most impressive students in their committees. This was obviously a tall task given the vast pool of impressive delegates. The overall Best Delegation was awarded to S.A.R. Yeshiva High School in Riverdale, with second and third going to YULA and Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy in Maryland, respectively.

The students then gathered to say goodbye and head home. Acknowledging the tremendous amount he learned and gained over the course of YUNMUN, Wolfe enthused: “By the end of the weekend, I walked out of the convention center with three things: new friends, newfound knowledge, and a renewed perspective.” Furthermore he expressed his newfound desire “to create positive change,” a sentiment certainly shared by his peers, and one that echoed the message of YUNMUN that Portman had encouraged all the students to pursue.