Rochelle Zell Model UN earns top team honors for 8th year at national conference

The streak wasn't going to end on his watch.

A senior at Deerfield's Rochelle Zell Jewish High School, Matan Lieberman had been part of three straight Model United Nations teams that had earned the highest honors accorded at the annual conference in New York City.

The Rochelle Zell program had earned a Team Award of Distinction four years in a row before Lieberman had even arrived.

Lieberman, fellow Model UN President Avital Strauss, faculty advisers Josh Aaronson and June Kramer, and the rest of Rochelle Zell's team took the pressure of a seven-year streak to the New York Hilton Midtown for the National High School Model United Nations Conference from March 22-26.

“There was a little bit of uncertainty,” Lieberman said. “I wouldn't say doubt, but maybe nervousness.”

It was unfounded.

Rochelle Zell won its eighth consecutive Team Award of Distinction and added a Research and Preparation Award of Distinction. Lieberman said the team also earned its highest number of individual awards.

“Every president thinks that they're going to be the one to end this streak. But it's definitely a great feeling to win this year — capping off my Model UN career with a win,” he said.

“As a team, we spend the majority of the year learning about our topics, practicing our speaking skills and our writing skills. Everyone on the team worked extremely hard toward the goal of winning, so to win this year was an amazing culmination of all our hard work.”

In its 49th year in 2022, Model UN is a student simulation of the real thing. Delegates are assigned a country to represent in committees with preset topics to debate, as explained on

The student-delegates research their country's background and its position on the topic, then contemplate solutions to problems the topic presents. The delegates convene in conferences to debate their position with other “states” and arrive at solutions by negotiation and consensus.

The ultimate goal is to write and pass a resolution detailing actions to arrive at their solutions.

Rochelle Zell Dean of Faculty Stu Jacobs, a Jewish studies teacher who oversees the school's Model UN program, said the national conference assembled some 2,000 students from more than 20 actual countries worldwide.

“The team aspect is huge,” he said of Rochelle Zell's Model United Nations, actually a class, not a club, taught by the student presidents themselves.

“They take it very seriously and are highly motivated, and that really comes from the tradition, and it also comes from the student presidents and the seriousness with which they take it and the preparation they put in,” Jacobs said.

For example, Lieberman joined the program as a social vehicle. He'll leave it heading to the University of Wisconsin with an intended major of international studies.

“There's the factor of really having the years of experience and, kind of, the know-how in terms of the best ways to prepare. They spend a segment of every class period on current events, news, and everyone needs to be able to present at least one piece of news that they've read about,” Jacobs said.

Judged by college students, teams and individuals may be awarded on three tiers of accomplishment: Distinction, Excellence and Merit.

Representing the Philippines, in addition to the two team awards of Distinction, numerous Rochelle Zell delegates brought home individual awards:

• Mira Robinson and Avital Strauss, Award of Distinction, International Organization for Migration

• Adi Chazan and Nitai Gorlin, Award of Merit, United Nations Human Rights Council

• Ryan Jankelowitz and Olivia Roman, Award of Excellence, Commission on the Status of Women

• Janie Levitan and Jordyn Yoskowitz, Award of Excellence, Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee

• Lilly Cope and Daniel Weisskopf, Award of Excellence, Disarmament and International Security Committee

• Caleb Yoskowitz, Award of Merit, Disarmament and International Security Committee

• Matan Lieberman and Arieh Robinson, Award of Merit, United Nations Security Council A

• Ben Barrish and Eitan Noy, Award of Distinction, United Nations Security Council B

• Elan Lerner, Award of Excellence, Crisis: Community of Latin American and Caribbean States

• Gabe Hirsch, Award of Excellence, Crisis: Parliament of Catalonia

• Eliana Halivni, Award of Excellence, Crisis: Prime Minister Eden's Cabinet

Jankelowitz and Roman, and Hirsch each addressed the conference as plenary speakers on their topics.

They all will be saluted in person by Deerfield Mayor Dan Shapiro and village trustees at the board's May 2 meeting.

Next year's Rochelle Zell Model UN presidents already have been selected; Eliana Halivni and Elan Lerner earned the positions in a vote by faculty advisers and team members.

Lieberman called both juniors amazing delegates who exhaustively research their topics.

“They're very hard workers,” Lieberman said, “and we know that this team is definitely going to be in good hands next year.”

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