Tag Archives: Jewniverse

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!

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 HOW MAH JONGG BECAME JEWISH

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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.”