Model Congress grabs 10 awards at Princeton

BP Photo by Deanna Grunfeld

Sigal Spitzer, Staff Writer

After four days of intense debating, Shalhevet’s debate team won four gavels and six honorable mentions for presenting, supporting and opposing student-authored legislation at the Princeton Model Congress competition Nov. 18 – 21 in Washington, D.C.
The delegation of 25 students, accompanied by team advisor Mr. Chris Buckley and chaperone Rabbi Ari Schwarzberg, competed against 38 other schools annual conference.  They were joined by various debate alumni who attend East Coast colleges, along with Rabbi Ari Leubitz who arrived in time for Shabbat.
The team arrived home as Shalhevet’s second most decorated Princeton delegation. Gavels were won by Senior Justin Brandt-Sarif in Judiciary; juniors Daniel Schwartz in Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs and Jacob Ellenhorn in Heath, Education, Labor and Pensions; and sophomore Sarah Soroudi in Foreign Relations.
Gavels are awarded to those selected best delegate in committee. In addition, six students won honorable mentions.
“It was a great feeling to know that out of the 20 people in my committee, the chair picked me,” said Sarah after receiving her gavel.
Committee sessions usually consist of about 20 people and meet at least once a day during the conference. In addition, they gather for “full session” meetings of House and Senate bodies, where some bills approved by their committees are presented to committees meeting together.
Shalhevet’s team sat out one full session and one committee meeting for Shabbat.
Before leaving Los Angeles, every participant had written a unique bill to present at the conference.  Among their topics were mandatory doctor-patient discussions before treatment for life-threatening illnesses, cleansing coal power plants, and ways to redistribute money for public schools.
Although the team received no full-session awards this time, many delegates actively participated in the larger assemblies, some of which topped 100 competing debaters. Seniors David Rokah and Ari Feuer both saw their bills passed to full session, as did juniors Jacob Ellenhorn, Erin Sharfman and Rose Bern.
“My favorite moment was presenting my bill to 100 people,” said David, a co-captain of the team. His bill would have mandated morning karate classes in public schools nationwide.
Debate team alumni who came to help out included David Soroudi from USC, Trevor Brandt-Sarif from Harvard, Penina Smith from George Washington University and Jenny Newman from American University in Washington, D.C.  Theo Brandt-Sarif, father of Justin and Trevor, also joined the group.
During free time, trips to the Capitol building and CVS were popular. Food was always available to nosh on in Mr. Buckley’s room, including fruit, cake, cereal and bagels. The hotel’s gym provided workouts for those who needed an extra boost between sessions.
The debate team now is preparing for the Penn Model Congress in March. Six people were selected for nine spots in tryouts held Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.  Nine students are still being considered for the remaining three.