JERUSALEM -- Team USA Tennis player Jennie Shulkin hasn’t played competitive tennis for a few years, a fact that belies the smooth footwork, the rhythm, and the powerful delivery of her forehand and backhand strokes, which she showcased as she practiced for her series of matches at the recent Maccabiah.
At The University of Pennsylvania, where she studies communications, public service and sociology, Shulkin has played varsity squash for one of the nation’s top programs. But she has missed tennis, the sport from which she took a hiatus after she suffered a shoulder injury a few years ago.
“I started tennis when I was three, when my mom signed me up for an open tennis clinic, and I’ve always felt comfortable on the court,” said Shulkin, who was once named the Philadelpha-area’s top under-18 player. “I love the overall feeling when I’m on the court, being able to break down someone’s game, figuring out the strategy and being myself on the court.”
For Shulkin, though, the Maccabiah, sponsored by The Jewish Agency for Israel, meant much more than a return to tennis. She is a true lover of Israel, calling it her “favorite place in the world.”
“Israel means everything to me,” said Shulkin. “I plan on studying at Tel Aviv University next spring. This is my fourth time in Israel. I clearly can’t get enough.”
Prior to beginning her training for the tennis competition, Shulkin spent a week with the entire delegation touring Israel and learning more about its history and present-day culture. She says the group-b’nai mitzvah was a highlight, even though it was not her first.
“It was actually my third bat mitzvah,” Shulkin said. “I had a bat mitzvah here four years ago, when I was in the juniors squash competition, and I had one at home when I was 13. But the ceremony here was so meaningful. I remember saying to my teammates, ‘Guys, this is the best bat mitzvah ever.’”