Seth Euster, David Nelwan, Eytan Palte, Frank Spiro, sophomores

The Weber School

Seth Euster, David Nelwan, Frank Spiro and Eytan Palte, left to right, celebrate their victory.

The competition was a bit nerve-wracking.

“We watched team after team, getting more and more nervous, and when we had done it, it was like phew!” David Nelwan said, miming a wipe of the brow for emphasis.

“It’s shaky being up there,” Frank Spiro chimed in.

There, in this case, was standing in front of a panel of rabbis in the national Moot Beit Din competition, a contest in which high school students argue a pretend case before a mock rabbinical court.

Teams from 22 Jewish high schools competed in the national Moot Beit Din this year. Teams from across the U.S. and Canada took part.

The team from The Weber School in Sandy Springs – Seth Euster, Eytan Palte, David and Frank –made up one of the younger teams in the competition. They are sophomores. Each is 16 years old.

Just to ratchet up the anxiety a notch, the Weber School’s team had won the national competition last year. The pressure was on this year’s team to repeat.

“We had kind of a tradition going,” Frank said.

They had been working on their presentation for months. The case this year involved torture: Was it legal under Jewish law to torture a terrorist to get information?

The Weber team decided that the torture was legal, as long as the torturers operated within specified limits and were acting to save lives. Each student took a specific part of the problem to research. “We divided it up,” Eytan said. “We each presented our little part.”

They prepared briefs laying out their position.

Then, in Washington, they had seven minutes to present their case and seven minutes to defend it as the judges questioned their conclusions and tried to pick apart their conclusions.

“Probably the biggest problem we had with our presentation,” Frank said, “was not to…”

“… not to interrupt one another,” David interrupted.

Once all was done, the sophomores from the Weber School team had won. The four had claimed another title.

“Winning this is a big deal,” Seth said. “We’re a small school.”

Now they’re thinking dynasty.

“We’d really like to go again. And win again,” David said.

“Once is enough,” Seth said. “But it would be nice to win twice.”

What’s Next:

The four sophomores hope to take part again next year in the national Moot Beit Din competition. They said they also are considering trying out for spots on a proposed Weber School Mock Trial team, which would compete with teams from other high schools in preparing, presenting and arguing an imaginary legal case in a pretend criminal or civil court.

–Joe Earle