While their debating skills were in the spotlight, for eight students from the Jewish Educational Center’s Rav Teitz Mesivta Academy, it was a matter of character that brought their teachers the most naches, or pride.
The boys, all 11th- and 12th-graders at the boys’ high school in Elizabeth, competed in late February with students from Jewish schools around the country at Yeshiva University’s 20th Annual National Model United Nations at a hotel in Manhattan.
As their supervisor, Avi Strulson, explained, back in September the team was assigned Japan as the country they would represent in all debates. Each student was allocated a UN committee to research, and — at the three-day gathering a few weeks back — that boy debated against others in a model version of his committee’s negotiations.
For example, they mirrored the Security Council, the International Court of Justice, and groups dealing with terrorism prevention, environmental protection, science and technology, worldwide events, and world food.
Strulson said the JEC has taken part in the Jewish Model UN for many years, and the students love it. There was also some glory this year: Undergraduate students from Yeshiva University rate the participants’ performances, and they declared Shmuel Lesher, a 17-year-old JEC senior, the best delegate on the International Court of Justice.
But what most delighted Strulson and school principal Chanie Moskowitz was something that emerged from an otherwise difficult situation. Strulson, who was chaperoning the boys through their three days at the hotel venue in Manhattan, had to leave suddenly because his son fell ill. He arranged for a teacher from another school to take over his role, Gordon Hurst, the chaperone for the team from Yeshiva University High School for Girls in Queens.
With eight teenagers in the Big Apple in addition to his own 15, that could have been a tough experience, but Hurst was so impressed by their behavior, he wrote to the school. Moskowitz asked his permission to quote from the letter and shared it with NJ Jewish News. He described their conduct as “superior to any other all-boys’ school. Their manners were excellent and their attitude was second to none.”
Hurst was particularly moved by the boys’ concern about Strulson’s son — who is doing well now — and the fact that the team captain, Shaul Elson, helped get the entire gathering to pray for the boy.
Hurst wrote: “In a time of chaos, Shaul never forgot his faith. That is a sign of a true and genuine human being. I am not of the Jewish faith, but what I saw in your boys confirmed that no matter what faith we are, religion is the key component to human decency.”
Moskowitz was not about to differ. She said of the boys, “They are truly exemplars of the values we strive to instill” and thanked Hurst “for looking out for our boys and for being a real ‘mensch.’”