A family with local ties apparently will make history next month in a place where history often comes alive.
That would be at the 20th Maccabiah Games when three generations — father, son-in-law and grandson — compete at their respective levels in the sport of tennis.
For 77-year-old Philadelphia resident Avram Woidislawsky, who was born in Russia, lived briefly in Poland, then grew up in Israel; his 49-year-old son-in-law, Michael Jurick, who once faced such notables as Jim Courier, Michael Chang and Aaron Krickstein; and 17-year-old grandson, Jonah, this is rarefied air.
The fact that no one can verify if it’s ever been done before doesn’t diminish its magnitude. Michael Jurick can already picture the moment they will march into Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem together for the July 6 opening ceremonies.
“I probably literally already feel that moment,” said Michael Jurick, who’ll vie in the 45-to-50 open field. “My face is going to be stretched off my head from smiling.
“It will be beaming beyond any other pride, feeling the Jewish pride. All my life, I played tennis with my father. Now I’m playing tennis with my wife’s father and with my son, and the three of us will be together playing tennis in Israel for the United States. It’s truly one of life’s epic moments.”
The moment came about sort of by accident.
Jonah Jurick, a senior at The Bronx High School of Science, is ranked among the top 200 junior players in the country, but his dad said he’s kind of selling himself short.
“I’m a professional photographer who spent an entire month doing photo shoots in Israel and Bar Mitzvahs at the Wall in Jerusalem,” explained Michael Jurick, who met his wife, Gal, when playing for Tulane University. “Jonah was there at the same time for Tzofim Chetz v’Keshet, the Israeli youth program.
“When that was over he was introduced to a tennis coach, who granted him a wild card entry into the Israeli national championship. Jonah gets the wild card and wins his way into the main draw, goes to the finals and wins the Israeli boys national championship.
“Every day I’m warming him up. Someone sees us and says, ‘You guys should come back and play next year in the Maccabiah Games.’”
Upon hearing their story, Woidislawsky decided to join them.
“I said to myself, ‘Wow, I have my grandson and my son-in-law playing,” said Woidislawsky, who came to this country in 1966 after serving in the Israeli army. “Let’s see what happens. I’m in good shape, so I should be pretty competitive. I’m proud to be part of three generations.”
The only problem is logistics.
The masters’ competition, where Woidislawsky is playing, is on the clay in Ramat HaSharon. The hard court open level, where Michael Jurick will be in action, is in Ramat Gan, while Jonah Jurick is playing 90 minutes away in Haifa.
Fortunately, there should be enough family present for everyone to have a cheering section. The three players just don’t know yet if the schedule will permit them to watch each other.
“This is an amazing way to show our strength as a family,” said Jonah Jurick, who’s spending three hours a day training and will be making his ninth trip to Israel. “I want to come home with a gold medal.
“Four of the six kids going from the U.S. are from New York City. We’re all good. I’m a little older. I’m a baseliner. My coach says I have [Novak] Djokovic’s game — quick and nimble. But I expect there to be some really good players from Spain and Australia.”
His dad doesn’t know what to expect. But he wants to bring home some hardware, too.
“I’m playing singles and mixed doubles,” said Michael Jurick, who was ranked No. 16 in Florida during his junior days.
“I know it’s supposed to be about bringing awareness to Jews in Israel and not about the competition, but I want to win a gold medal.
“I’m not training so hard and making the trip for nothing.”
Regardless of how it plays out, the family knows it will be a memorable experience.
“We’re very fortunate to one, be good athletes, two, have the means to take off, and three, have the funds to afford it,” Michael Jurick said. “You can’t make this stuff up. Three cross-generational athletes. It’s all you can ask for.”
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