July 25, 2024
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MTA Model UN Team Visits the UN

At MTA, the Model United Nations team is more than just learning how to debate, caucus and cooperate with delegates from other schools to pass resolutions. Each year MTA takes the opportunity to learn all they can about the UN and its committees and agencies, as well as the country MTA represents. As part of that effort, the team pays a visit to the UN, as well as arranges a briefing with the UN Mission of the country the yeshiva will be representing in Yeshiva University National Model United Nations (YUNMUN) in February.

The visit to the United Nations was particularly poignant this year, as the UN is playing an important role in trying to manage Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas. The talmidim were forced to deal with this fact, as well as the UN’s attitude toward Palestinians generally, in two interesting ways: First, the UN tour normally includes a visit to the Security Council’s chamber, but this time that visit was off the table, because the Security Council was in session, debating a resolution calling for a ceasefire. As the United States is a permanent member of the Security Council and therefore has veto power over its resolutions, it is important to the other member states to devise a text that the U.S. could accept.

The second way in which talmidim saw the role of the UN was in a special exhibit in the entry area of the General Assembly Building in honor of the 75th anniversary of “Nakba.” Nakba, which means catastrophe in Arabic, is the term the Palestinians use to describe the founding of Israel. The mere fact that delegates and visitors to the United Nations need to walk by this exhibit on their way in and out of the building makes it a lot easier to understand the UN’s anti-Israel bias. Additionally, the details of the exhibit itself, which shows an idyllic pre-1948 Palestine and compares it to the squalor and destruction they now experience, can only tug at the heartstrings of the uninformed observer. And finally, when the captions that accompany the photographs blame the plight of these people on Israel, it’s not hard to see how difficult Israel’s role at the UN is.

After the tour of the UN and a break for Mincha just across from the Nakba exhibit, the MTA team proceeded to the Permanent Mission of Germany, the country the yeshiva was assigned. This was the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic that the team had the opportunity for an in-person meeting, so the moment was truly special for the students. Under the leadership of team captain Amir Gross, the delegates-to-be had prepared questions for the Germans on the topics of the committees on which they are preparing to serve, on issues ranging from abortion rights to federalism to global warming. The two German officials who briefed us gave almost an hour of their time to provide detailed answers to each question, and also offered to be an ongoing resource for us as MTA continues to prepare for YUNMUN.

As it turned out, one of the Germans was actually a Jew from New York, a gentleman named Jordan Rothschild. Mr. Rothschild explained to the MTA group that his grandfather was a Holocaust survivor, and both he and his grandfather had taken advantage of an offer that Germany made to all German Holocaust survivors and their descendants. Any such person would be granted German citizenship upon request at no charge, so they are now dual citizens. As the group from MTA learned from their briefing, this is typical of Germany’s interest in demonstrating that it wishes to distance itself from the evil Nazi government that perpetrated the Holocaust. In many ways, both internally and in its foreign policy, Germany takes great pains to avoid offending people or acting in any way that might be reminiscent of the Nazi era. That is why, for example, it is interesting that as part of Germany’s role in NATO it has just begun stationing troops in Lithuania, something that Germany has been very reluctant to do.

Overall, the visit was an incredible learning opportunity for the students, both in terms of appreciating the way the United Nations operates as well as gaining a new understanding of modern Germany and its role in the UN, EU, and NATO. The MTA team wishes to thank Mr. Jordan Rothschild and the other German officials who helped arrange our visit, Ms. Jenny Vogelbacher and Ms. Sandra Leukemeier. While the team may or may not win awards at YUNMUN, the talmidim already feel like winners after this amazing experience.


Murray Sragow is a history instructor and head of College Guidance at MTA.

 

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