Tag Archives: mah jongg


A friend recently sent me this article from The Jewish Journal. My only argument with the article is the suggestion that the game is ancient, perhaps dating back to Confucius. Alright, I’ll get into that pet peeve of mine on another day! Anyway, it’s a cute article. Enjoy…

How Mah-Jongg Became Jewish

December 12, 2014 | By

How Mah-Jongg Became JewishHow did a game that graced ancient Chinese tables (in the company, some posit, of Confucius) come to grace contemporary Jewish tables (in the company, perhaps, of babka and Slivovitz)?

While books, documentary films and traveling museum exhibits have puzzled over mah-jongg becoming such a Jewish craze, no one has reached a definitive answer. Could it be connected to the formation of the National Mah Jongg League (NMJL) by a group of Jewish women in 1937? Or to its popularity among Jewish wives during World War II while their men were away? Or the game’s prominence at Jewish bungalow colonies in the mid-20th century? Or else, as NMJL president Ruth Unger believes, that selling mah-jongg cards functioned as a fundraising source for synagogue sisterhoods and Hadassah chapters?

Whatever the reason, the game has remained a fixture in the Jewish world ever since it came to the U.S. in the 1920s. And even today, says Annelise Heinz, of Stanford University’s Department of History, the game is enjoying a Jewish renaissance. “Many of the Jewish daughters who once rejected mah-jongg are now returning to the game as a way to connect with their Jewish identities and rekindle memories of their mothers.”


So many of you were interested in this apron from yesterday’s blog – I spoke to Sandy and she told me that she bought it at a vendor at the Festival Market Place in Pompano Beach. However, they also have a website and a phone number. So, if you are interested in finding out more about this apron, go to www.pahandmahjongg.com or call 954.975.5838. 

My dear and very wonderful friend Sandy just returned from Florida. She invited me over for dinner this evening and greeted me with a package that she had brought back from her trip. She told me that she had seen this at a store and knew she had to buy it for me. How fabulous is this apron?!!!

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We are all buzzing about the new Facebook group, “Mah Jongg, That’s It.” On one of the first postings, Meredith told us the funniest story along with photos and she has generously given me permission to share it with all of you. Enjoy…

Meredith wrote, “I play with such a great group of ladies. We have started shaming ourselves in order to play better, complete with our “FEEBS” tiaras (which stands for feeble). And just to clarify the discarding feebs pictured below … They began by discarding a tile immediately after the Charleston. They were not East. When the true East discarded, the Feeb’s East was declared dead due to having only 12 tiles. If they had caught it before East discarded, they would have been fine. So far, our entire group has worn the FEEBS tiara at one time or another. (Some of us more than others!)”




As you probably know, I call Johni Levene the “Mah Jongg teacher extraordinaire”…and she is. Not only is she one of the top Mah Jongg teachers in the country – BTW, she is based in Los Angeles –  she is also extremely generous and giving with her thoughts on the game. Yesterday she posted something that I may have posted before but even if I did, I had to share it again with all of you – I love it! Thanks to my “sista” Johni:

ALSO…Johni has started a fantastic Facebook page called, “Mah Jongg, That’s It” and it is open to all Mah Jongg players. Knowing Johni as I do, I know this is going to be a fun place to “meet” and discuss everything Mah Jongg. You can join by going to https://www.facebook.com/groups/857265604318287/members/

I hope to see you there!!!


When I was in Boca Raton last month, on the last leg of my Florida book tour, a friend of Charlotte’s came to the Boca JCC to hear me speak. Unbeknownst to me, she took some photos and recently sent them to Charlotte to send to me. Thank you, Charlotte and Talia! I had no photos from that day and I so appreciate your thoughtfulness.

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Three of my “advisors” on sticky Mah Jongg issues:


When I am teaching “newbies” how to play Mah Jongg, one thing (among many!) that I stress is that a discarded tile may be called until the next player “racks” their tile. And by racking I mean putting the tile in the rack, not just touching it to the rack. This is a pet peeve of mine – it is important to RACK that tile. Now, I don’t mean that you should sweep in, grab the next tile, and quickly rack it. Let’s remember that in social games we play a friendly game and take a second or two to pick up our next tile, giving another player a chance to say, “um…” or “wait…” or “I’m calling that tile.”

Gladys Grad‘s newest Mah Jongg Madness newsletter reinforces my instructions:

Q. Here’s a question that has come up during our weekly play.  What is the “time limit” for calling a tile?  Quite often, someone will throw away a tile and almost before you have time to react, the next person has begun their turn.  If the next person has picked up the new tile and not looked at it, do they have to relinquish it to the claimer?  Or if they have picked it up and looked at it but not racked it?  What is the point where the tile cannot be called?  We’re pretty lenient when playing among ourselves but would like to know what applies for tournament play. Maddy

 A. You are able to claim a discard until the next player has actually racked their next tile.  Racking means that the tile picked from the wall is actually placed IN their rack…not in front of, on top of, or in back of the rack Sometimes a tile may be claimed at the same time as another player racks or discards their next tile.  This comes under the Mah Jongg Rule of “Simultaneous Occurrence.”  In this event, the claimant will receive the benefit of the doubt.