Smaller, closer Model Congress team wins 11 awards in D.C.

SUSPENSE: Shalhevet debaters wait to see who has won awards at Princeton Model Congress.

Bp photo by Noah Rothman

SUSPENSE: Shalhevet debaters wait to see who has won awards at Princeton Model Congress.

By Mati Davis, Staff Writer

The team was 25 percent smaller than last year and had lost its longtime coach and most of its seniors — but Firehawk debaters still managed to win four gavels and seven honorable mention certificates at last weekend’s Princeton Model Congress meet in Washington, D.C.

Only 18 students made the trip this year, which started Nov. 19 and returned Nov. 23. So that’s 11 awards for 18 people.

“It has always been 24 — this is the smallest team we have ever had,” said team captain Avishai Rabin, the only senior who went, who himself won Honorable Mention in the Judiciary Committee.

“We did well, but if we’d had the seniors we would have gotten a Best Delegation award,” Avishai said. “We did well, but we just would’ve done even better.”

Junior Micah Gill, sophomores Alec Fields and Maayan Waldman, and freshman Ilan Bouskila all won gavels, meaning they were chosen Best Delegate in their respective committees – and as usual, without competing on Shabbat, when several judged sessions take place.

Eight students who started the year with the team dropped out.  Reasons ranged from stress and last-minute family events to the price, which topped $1000 for the first time in team history, and the loss of longtime coach Mr. Christopher Buckley, who resigned from Shalhevet Oct. 29.

Some cancellations were last-minute and others were not.  The family of co-captain Sigal Spitzer unexpectedly decided to visit Israel this week as terrorist attacks increased there, while for senior Anna Gordon it was the price.

“I dropped out at the beginning of the year, because it was too expensive,” said Anna.

Avishai said the price has been rising steadily due primarily to hotel costs and the price of airline tickets.  He said the price of registration had gone up too.

“I just felt like I couldn’t do it this semester, with college applications and a full class load,” said senior Daniel Steinberg. “The increased price of the trip and a bunch of other people’s departures didn’t help either.”

But those who went continued the Firehawk tradition of success. In addition to the 11 awards won, four Shalhevet bills were voted out of committee and

taken up by Model Congress full sessions.

One was Maayan Waldman’s, which would have forced dietary supplements to meet the same requirements as prescription drugs before they could be

marketed, and which passed in full

session. Another was sophomore Kian Marghzar’s, which would have banned smoking in public.  That bill was debated on Shabbat, so Kian was not able to argue in its support.

Freshman Rami Gruman’s bill also was taken up in full session and was approved there. It would have stopped the federal government from giving funds to states to support capital punishment.

And junior Noah Rothman’s bill would have gotten the federal government involved in prosecuting sexual assault on college campuses, by cancelling perpetrators’ education loans and scholarship grants and raising their interest rates.

Other bills, like junior Micah Gill’s, passed in committee but were not taken up by full session.  Micah’s bill would have reinstated the separation between commercial and investment banks, which was removed in 1999 – the idea being to protect consumers and prevent another Great Recession.

Maya Golan, Boaz Willis, Jonah Gill, Alec Fields, Henry Wineburgh, Layla Galeck and Rosie Wolkind also won honorable mentions.

The smaller size of the group made different things possible, Micah said.

“The boys really came together, we hung out all of us until late in the night and formed friendships that we couldn’t have if the team was that big,” Micah said. “I personally had a great time.”

Avishai said the price rise was not a sudden change, but had been accumulating ever since he was a freshman. Mr. Buckley told The Boiling Point that the price nine years ago, when he first started as coach, was around $650.

But the price did jump after Mr. Buckley left. Student Activities Director Mrs. Raizie Weissman, a faculty advisor chaperoning and arranging the trip, said there was also a change in how the budget was calculated.

“In the past the chaperone fee was not included in the budget,” Raizie said.

All three chaperones went as planned on last week’s trip – Raizie, new coach Mr. Jason Feld, and Rabbi David Stein.

Avishai thinks the price will keep rising. He predicted the spring trip to Penn Model Congress would be over $1,000 as well — particularly if the team stops in New York to visit Yeshiva University, as it did last year for the first time.

Senior Miriam Bern, one of the debaters who decided to skip Princeton, thought skipping New York might keep more people on the team.

“Even though the New York part was a lot of fun, it’s not the reason people go,” said Miriam.  “It was really expensive ….so if they cut it out I think people would be more willing.”