Michael Moshkovitz Finds A Home Away From Home at Penn Basketball

Leaving behind friends, family, and familiarity in his hometown of Jerusalem, Israel, Michael Moshkovitz made a big leap to pursue his basketball and academic dreams overseas. Fortunately, the accomplished junior forward for the University of Pennsylvania’s men’s basketball team found that his transition was made easier with the help of his new Jewish community at Penn.

Moshkovitz began playing basketball at the age of six and continued to play in youth leagues throughout his childhood. He began to focus more seriously on the sport at age sixteen when he enrolled in an elite boarding school for basketball in Netanya, Israel called the Wingate Institute. He trained there for multiple years, which helped prepare him for multiple youth national team appearances.

Michael Moshkovitz – Photo Credit: FIBA

Moshkovitz played for Israel’s U20 team in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Men’s European Championship for two years, with one second place finish and one championship win. His first appearance was in 2017, where he played in every game for the team. Israel lost to the host country Greece in the final, earning a silver medal. However, Moshkovitz and his teammates were determined for redemption, and in 2018, they secured Israel’s first gold medal at a FIBA event. Moshkovitz started every game of Israel’s 2018 FIBA European Championship win in Germany. The tournament was special to him as he could see his individual growth as well as his team’s. “My favorite part was hearing our national anthem played in Germany after our U20 win, it was very symbolic,” Moshkovitz says.

In between the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Moshkovitz fulfilled his duty of joining the Israeli army at age 18, and was able to do a program for athletes that allowed him to serve in the army while continuing his basketball career. It was during this time that he started to think about his next steps. He decided to focus on studying as it was very important to him and his future goals. “Moving to the US was a good solution to playing and studying at the same time at a high level,” Moshkovitz said.

He began his college search later than most, as he wasn’t quite sure what path he wanted to take. He reached out to many schools but only heard back from a select few. “I only had one offer to go to a community college in Illinois, and I went for it,” he said. Moshkovitz packed his bags and began his overseas basketball journey at Kankakee Community College. The Kankakee team happened to include three Israelis, one of whom was a friend, Oren Amatz, who helped get Moshkovitz on the team’s radar. As it turns out, Moshkovitz’s extended Jewish community helped create the opportunity for him.

Michael Moshkovitz – Photo Credit: FIBA

During his 2019-2020 season with Kankakee, Moshkovitz was one of three All-American nominees from the region, averaging 15.5 points and 11.2 rebounds per game while playing in all 32 games of the season. The team finished the year with a 21-11 overall record, earning them third place in the NJCAA Region IV Division I standings.

Moshkovitz transferred to a bigger school at the end of the 2020 season, and found the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) to be his best fit. Unfortunately, all Ivy league sports were canceled for the 2020-2021 season due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, so transitioning to a new school and city for the native Israeli was even harder than planned. Although they couldn’t play games, the team continued to practice throughout the canceled season and were able to bond and grow together.

Transitioning to a new school is a challenge in itself, let alone all the way across the country and during a pandemic. Luckily, Moshkovitz was able to find a home with the Jewish community of Penn, including its Hillel. “The big Jewish community at Penn was very nice when I was just arriving. Just going and meeting people really helped me feel at home,” he said. “I get a lot of support from the Jewish community around here. I go to some events, have a place to celebrate holidays, and go to Shabbat dinners. I’ve created friendships within the community, “ he said, excitedly. He noted that the Jewish community made his transition significantly easier, as he knew he always had a place to go. He feels that his Israeli identity is more prevalent in his day-to-day life than his Jewish identity, but enjoys being able to connect with others and share traditions.

Michael Moshkovitz – Photo Credit: Courtesy

This season, the Penn men’s basketball team is on the hunt for their first league title since 2018. Coming off of a few close losses, the team is looking to bounce back in the second half of the season. Moshkovitz has been an important part of the team, playing in every game this season. His basketball IQ, passing, and court movement have been praised by many, and his coachability proves to be one of the main keys to his success.

Although the start to their 2021 season did not go as well as planned, Moshkovitz has been grateful for the opportunity to come to a new school and play the sport he loves. “The whole experience of Penn has been awesome for me. I’m meeting lots of new people, and living in a foreign country is a big experience that I’m enjoying,” he says. Even the little things like having class followed by basketball practice are exciting to Moshkovitz as he continues to embrace new ways of life overseas.

His favorite moments have been when he can see the support of students and fans as they fill the gym. He mentioned one of his most recent home games as a highlight of the season so far. “The gym was packed, there were tons of students. It was really awesome to see,” he said.

Michael Moshkovitz – Photo Credit: FIBA

Moshkovitz looks forward to continuing to compete this season, pushing himself to get better at every practice and game. He’s unsure of his future plans, but wants to focus on the present and what he can do to make himself and his teammates better. The excitement and competitive drive Moshkovitz brings each day has been celebrated by his teammates and coaches, and proves to be an integral part of the team’s chemistry this season.

Although it’s not always easy to find a home away from home, especially when you’re thousands of miles away in a different country, Michael Moshkovitz may have found his at Penn with the assistance of its supportive fans, hard-working players, and welcoming Jewish community.

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