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
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.”
My Mah Jongg-playing friend from the Upper Westside – Linda G – sent this to me. I have tried to find the author but, no luck. And so, without any attribution, here it is – enjoy!
‘Twas the night before Christmas and down here in Boca,
I was sitting at Starbucks, drinking my mocha.
I know we’re all Jewish, but was wondering still,
if Santa would come here and give us a thrill.
On my way home, no Christmas lights did I see,
on the houses, the windows, not even the trees.
What a strange feeling. Not a decoration in sight.
Was it really December or a warm summer’s night?
I drove past Toojay’s, there were lines out the door.
People were waiting for kishka and more.
The restaurants were busy, Christmas dinners not planned.
Never, not here we’re in Boca Land.
At home all was quiet. I left out Kosher wine,
In case Santa came to Boca for the very first time.
Snoozing came easy to me Christmas Eve.
I wasn’t waiting for presents to be left under a tree.
I could hope all I want. I could fuss and then see,
if Santa would make time for little old me.
Then all of a sudden he pulled up in his Jag,
with a sack full of presents each sporting a tag.
Oh Bloomies, oh Saks, Oh Neiman’s, and more.
He knows where to shop, he frequents my stores!
He looked for the lox, the bagels and deli.
He came to Boca first to fill up his belly!
“I have a long night ahead, I want you to know.
From Boca I leave for New York and the snow.”
He stayed for a while, he chatted and ate.
Then he left in a flash before it got late.
What a great night I thought with a sigh
That jolly old Santa is a really nice guy.
As I cleared off the table I heard with delight
“Shalom to you all, and OY, what a night!
I won’t be playing Mah Jongg with the OMs tomorrow as I will be getting ready for the New Year’s holiday. I am going to a dear friend’s home and volunteered to make cookies, among other things. I did a little research and found two recipes that are specifically for Rosh Hashanah cookies and I thought I would share them with you.
The first recipe is a rugelach type cookie called Sfratti. What follows is the fascinating story behind these cookies…
From an article written in 2007:
All Shook Up About Mah-jongg
By Lenore Skenazy
Mah-jongg maybe can cause a little heartburn, if you hit the Sara Lee between games, or, God forbid, some palpitations if the game is taking so long you’re worried you’ll be late for the podiatrist. But seizures? Continue reading
Left 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.
Mah Jongg enthusiast Sara Linden teaching the game of Mahjong to several beginners at her