The Boiling Point

Jubilant Model Congress team wins ‘Best Delegation’ at Penn

Michael Fallas

Jenny Newman, Outside News Editor

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Shalhevet’s Penn Model Congress team returned ecstatic to Los Angeles February 28th with their first-ever Best Delegation award and 23 individual awards in tow, beating out 36 other teams from public and private high schools around the country.

The closing ceremonies, which took place on Purim afternoon, were filled with the roars and applause of Shalhevet delegates for almost every committee announced.

“Buck-ley! Buck-ley! Buck-ley!” team members chanted after winning the prestigious Best Delegation award, as advisor Mr. Chris Buckley and team captain David Soroudi tried to make their way up the aisle through a crushing mass of hugs and cheers from the team.

The jubilant team emerged from the closing ceremonies shouting Purim songs at the top of their lungs, crying and laughing in equal measure.

Team members had won so many awards that they weren’t able to count them all until later, when they laid out all the gavels and certificates on the floor.

“I lost count halfway through,” said an emotional Mr. Buckley when David asked him at the ceremony what the total was.

It was 10 gavels and 13 honorable mentions, including awards to every senior and every junior on the 24-person team. That tied them with their nearest rival, St. Anne’s School of New York City.

What put Shalhevet over the top was having six bills pass in full session and two “signed into law” by the conference’s student president.

Junior Nathaniel Kukurudz and sophomore Justin Brandt-Sarif wrote the bills that passed full session – a meeting of all the committees in a House or Senate – and were approved by the Executive Committee before being signed. Nathaniel’s bill increased the gasoline tax by 15 cents a gallon to pay for public works projects, and Justin’s reformed the duties of the National Guard by forbidding the Guard’s use in overseas wars.

A third bill, by junior Jenny Newman, reached the Executive Committee but was vetoed by the president. The bill proposed forbidding prosecution of interrogators at Guantanamo Bay who used “enhanced interrogation techniques,” but the president thought it would have set a precedent for legalizing torture.

The delegation award seemed even more remarkable considering that the delegation did not participate on Friday night or Saturday. While observance has rarely interfered with the success of the team in the past, it did lead to a difficult decision.

On Friday night, delegates Trevor Brandt-Sarif and David Soroudi were summoned to a surprise “emergency” Security Council session, which is standard for that committee. After extensive contemplation, both delegates decided to forfeit the session.

St. Ann’s ended up winning a gavel and an honorable mention in that committee, but Shalhevet’s team had no regrets.

“They both chose to abstain in honor of Shabbat and team unity when the event was postponed to Friday night,” Mr. Buckley noted in an email to the delegates following the conference. “If this doesn’t say it all about who were are, I don’t know what does.”

This didn’t prevent the two from succeeding otherwise, however; Trevor received gavels in both the Judiciary Committee and the Supreme Court program, and David received an honorable mention in the Executive Committee.

Senior Meirav Cafri, who won her first award this year, dealt with a surprise of a different variety on the trip.

“I was so upset when my name wasn’t called for an award for committee because I worked so hard,” she said. “Then all of a sudden – and I was so shocked because they never called on me to make speeches – they called my name for a full session award. It felt great to contribute to our Best Delegation award.”

While Shalhevet traditionally sits out Friday night and Saturday of the Penn conference, this year, Purim also intruded. But the festive day did not turn out to be an added strain on the delegation.

“I think Purim was enjoyable,” said Zach Miller, who lained Megillat Esther for the Shalhevet delegation on Saturday night after committee sessions and Sunday morning before full sessions. “We all got to celebrate together, and it didn’t mean we had to miss any more committee. I don’t think we missed out on any aspects of the conference that we wouldn’t have anyway.”

Mr. Buckley attributes the team’s unprecedented success to the amount of previous experience the team members, particularly the seniors, brought with them to the conference.

“I felt going in that this was the best team we’d ever brought to Penn,” he said. “In terms of overall talent and wealth of experience that people brought. Many of the seniors have been in debate since freshman year and, out of the 23 awards we won, 16 were won by seniors.”

“There’s been a steady ascent of success,” he explained. “The reason we won is because we’ve been building toward this for four years. It doesn’t just happen overnight.”

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Meet the Writer
Jenny Newman, Outside News Columnist
Jenny Newman has been writing for the Boiling Point since her freshman year, her stories contributing to every section from Torah to Opinion. She has been editor of Outside News for a year, and has written many detailed stories for her section on topics like the Goldstone Report and the actions of the Israeli army. Jenny is also involved in a plethora of after-school activities, including Mock Trial, Model Congress, Model United Nations, Playwriting, and Choir.
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Jubilant Model Congress team wins ‘Best Delegation’ at Penn