Hundreds of High School Students from Around the World Gathered at Yeshiva University’s Annual Model UN Conference
Hundreds of high school students from around the world debated important issues as part of Yeshiva University’s 21st National Model U.N. (YUNMUN) from February 6-8. The students, from nearly 50 different high schools from four continents, represented nearly all of the United Nations’ member countries in 15 different committees, and debated topics ranging from the peaceful uses of outer space to the elimination of discrimination against women.
The annual event took place at the Stamford Plaza Hotel in Stamford, Conn. According to Michael Kranzler, director of undergraduate admissions at YU, the conference is the largest Jewish high school event of its kind.
The students, who were assigned their representative member countries months before the conference, spent all year preparing their position papers so they could debate about the issues and work together to draft resolutions. They also studied the procedures of the United Nations, as they were required to follow its methods of discussion and deliberation. The students had the opportunity to not only work on their public speaking and knowledge of politics and negotiating but also to meet and work with peers from Jewish high schools around the world.
On Sunday night, the students enjoyed Super Bowl XLV before UN Secretary General Steven Paletz officially opened the conference. “The conference will illustrate the inherent difficulties but uplifting possibilities of effecting true change,” said Paletz. The knowledge gained at YUNMUN can help the students increase their enthusiasm and “apply their passions, not just in their individual high schools and communities but across the globe.”
Eliora Katz, one of the participating students, said that she “realized that compromise is not just an exercise during a committee session…we must live and breathe to allow the wide spectrum of people’s opinions and lives to merge and succeed.” Her school, the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy from Rockville, Md. took home the Best Delegation Award, placing first of the 48 schools at the conference.
Michi Hayman, a Yeshiva College senior and chair of the International Law Commission, said, “The atmosphere of all these Jewish high schools coming together is amazing.”
Yeshiva University President Richard M. Joel, who delivered the keynote address, spoke of the challenges that the students’ generation will face and the lessons they can learn from YUNMUN: “Maps are not eternal. Boundaries shift, sympathies change—it’s all up for grabs. Some of it is healthy but most of it is scary. …The UN is a metaphor. It’s a metaphor of whether or not we believe in civilization, in civility. Do we believe as a people we can build something together? If we don’t, it’s back to rules of force. We need to know how to disagree agreeably.”
View slideshows from the conference here.