Tag Archives: Confucius

MAH JONGG AND THE JEWISH COMMUNITY

Last week I received the following article three times from different people. The article is from an online daily inspirational newsletter, Jewniverse. The author, Temim Fruchter, according to Wikipedia, “is the drummer in The Shondes, an indie punk band from Brooklyn, NY.  Fruchter is outspoken about being an Orthodox-raised Jewish musician and opposing the occupation of Palestine. In 2007, Heeb Magazine listed Fruchter as one of the Heeb 100. Fruchter’s writing has also been published in a number of venues. She is a regular contributor to Tom Tom Magazine, a magazine about female drummers and is a former blogger for AfterEllen, the online magazine.”

It’s a brief article that should elicit many conversations and further interest in how our beloved game became known as a Jewish game. What’s your opinion on why the game became so popular among Jewish women? However, please note that Mah Jongg does NOT date back to Confucius!

header5

 HOW MAH JONGG BECAME JEWISH

pastedGraphic_1

By Temim Fruchter

How 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.”

THE GEN Xers DISCOVER MAH JONGG

Here is a fun article from 2011 published in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Our good friend, Toby Salk, is included in this piece.
MAH JONGG CATCHING ON WITH THE YOUNGER SET
Kellie Ell, Special to The Chronicle – Published, Monday, October 24, 2011
Robin Handwerker (left), and Seth Linden (right) partner up while learning to play the game of Mahjong  in a building at Dogpatch in San Francisco, California, on Tuesday, September 27, 2011.  Seth just started playing about a week ago. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle
Robin Handwerker (left) and Seth Linden (right) partner up while learning to play the game of Mah Jongg in a building at Dogpatch in San Francisco, California, on Tuesday, September 27, 2011. Seth just started playing about a week ago.

628x471Left to right–Evan Kaplan from Sunnyvale, player for 6 months, pairing up with Melissa Cowen, player for 1 week, and Jason Menayan, player for 2 weeks, pairing up with Elizabeth Bachrad, player for 2 years, as they practice playing Mah Jong in a building at Dogpatch in San Francisco, California, on Tuesday, September 27, 2011.

628x471
Mah Jongg enthusiast Sara Linden teaching the game of Mahjong to several beginners at her
friend’s photo studio in a building at Dogpatch in San Francisco, California, on Tuesday,
September 27, 2011.
All Photos by Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle

Continue reading

MAH JONGG HISTORY…OR MYTHOLOGY?

Next up in our series of Yahoo Contributor Network articles is one written in 2007 on the history of the game of Mah Jongg. Although I have heard many people say that this game dates back to the time of Confucius (551–479 BC), there is much evidence showing that the game only dates back to a little over 100 years. No matter how old this game may be, I think you will find the following article to be of interest. In fact, anything about our beloved game always seems to be of interest to me!

Continue reading