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2008 JFMA


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Sen. Barack Obama and Gov. Bill Richardson embodied by seniors Noah Glyn and Levi Mulladzhanov were the winning ticket at the Barrack Hebrew Academy mock convention.

Will it be Clinton or Obama?
Delegates from Barrack Hebrew Academy have already decided.

-- Miriam Berger

The students of Barrack Hebrew Academy have already held their own Mock Democratic Convention months ahead of the party schedule. Barrack students devoted their school day to civic engagement as they explored the political process through engaging speakers and an exciting Convention simulation.

Barrack/Akiba has been holding Mock Conventions since 1988, when history teacher Sharon Levin brought the tradition she had begun with her from a previous school. As has been the case with the past six conventions, the school always represents the party out of Presidential power.

“The whole idea is to make students aware and active citizens, which at a school like Barrack is part of its mission statement,” explains Mrs. Levin. She sees this type of “experimental learning” as the perfect vehicle to involve the student body and, for some, to act as an initiation into futures of political activism.

The Mock Convention combines many different aspects of this active learning. Weeks before the actual convention, the Democratic contenders held a Mock Debate before the entire school. History classes were also assigned to represent different states, and the students spent time researching the important issues in those areas.

The morning of the Mock Convention began with a motivating speech by Senator Arlen Specter, who, while clearly not a Democrat, was gracious enough to speak to the students about the importance of public service and active youth involvement in politics. It was a memorable moment for the students to listen to their senior senator.

“I thought that it was really great that Senator Specter came,” senior Jeff Klein said. “He connected well with the student body and was very encouraging about youth activism.”

The rest of the morning was devoted to a student organized Politics Conference, where students from grades six to 12 attended two different talks from a selection of 18 speakers discussing aspects of our government and political system. Speakers included Mark Aronchick, who described his current work with the Hillary Clinton campaign; Dan Segal, who discussed his experiences clerking for Justice Thurgood Marshall; and State Representative Joshua Shapiro, a Barrack/Akiba alum. Other topics ranged from civic youth engagement to the problems of child abuse in our system to lessons from an A.I.P.A.C. lobbyist.

Following this stimulating morning, the students then moved into the Barrack gym which had been festively transformed into the floor of the National Democratic Convention. The school was privileged to hear from another politician, keynote speaker Representative Patrick Murphy, who discussed his experience serving as a soldier in Iraq, and the importance, in his opinion, of electing a Democratic President in 2008.

The convention continued with a school-wide review of a student-written Democratic Platform, with students from each grade delivering short speeches for and against the various planks followed by a vote to accept the entire platform.

The Convention would not have been a success without the dedicated cast of Democratic contenders. DNC Chair Howard Dean, also known as junior Zach Jutcovich, gave a motivating speech to the cheers of everyone. New York Senator Hillary Clinton and Illinois Senator Barack Obama, played by seniors Arianna Katz and Noah Glyn respectively, were each given a few minutes to discuss why they should be the Presidential nominee. Bill Clinton, or senior Matt Benedon, introduced his wife, the latter fashionably sporting a blond wig.

The true tension of the day came after the students were given time to caucus among their states in order to allocate their delegates. Michigan and Florida were barred from voting, mirroring their current punishment from the DNC for pushing forward their primary dates; they did, however, hold mild protests to the amusement of other students.

While the delegate count was extremely close, Texas tipped the scale and her 200 delegates allotted to Obama helped him to surpass the 2025 delegates needed to secure the nomination. Obama endorsed New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, and following short campaign speeches by other Vice President contenders such as General Wesley Clark (junior Marc Kornblueth), Senator John Edwards (senior Brandon Breslow), Representative Dennis Kucinich (senior Marty Langer) and Senator Evan Bayh (7th grader Joshua Horowitz), the school chose to add Richardson to the 2008 Presidential ticket.

The Democratic Mock Convention was not a feat easily coordinated; the day preceded months of planning by students and the dedication of History teachers Mrs. Levin and Leslie Pugach, as well as the support of the History department. Seniors Josh Belfer, Miriam Berger, Josh Dembowitz, Ben Horrow, Laura Michel, Sean Savett, and eighth grader Aaron Elkin as Convention Chairs spent many lunches and afternoons preparing for the day, as did many other students from every grade. Yet the preparations were worth it; one can only hope that the real Convention runs as smoothly.

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