Tag Archives: Ruth Unger


Friday was an incredibly sad and frightening day as news came in of the horrible attack on Paris. And then, later in the evening, an email arrived from Gladys Grad, the Grand Master of American-Style Mah Jongg, bringing more sad news but this time specifically to the Mah Jongg community: Ruth Unger, the long-serving president of the National Mah Jongg League has passed away. Our thoughts and prayers are with the citizens of France while at the same time we send our condolences to the family of Ruth Unger.

Here is Gladys’ message:Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 10.54.37 PMScreen Shot 2015-11-13 at 10.56.24 PMScreen Shot 2015-11-13 at 10.56.52 PMScreen Shot 2015-11-13 at 10.57.27 PM


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!




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.”



Although this article is long, I think you will love every word of it. It is from the July 1st, 2010 edition of Lilith Magazine (the wonderful feminist magazine). The first part of the article, Mah Jongg in the Lives of Jewish Women was written by Sarah Blustain and the second part, Tiles & Tribulations was written by Blustain and Dorothy Stern.

I will be interested to hear your comments, especially about Arthur Schwartz‘s remarks (actually, his mother’s theory) about why we play Mah Jongg and gaming in general.

Sit back and enjoy! Continue reading


Here’s a special message sent from our friends at Mah Jongg Madness and definitely worth putting up on this site:


Congratulations to RUTH UNGER, President of the National Mah Jongg Leagueas she begins her 50th YEAR with the NMJL in 2014.

As a reminder to the hundreds of thousands of players playing our favorite game – the NMJL contributes directly to charitable organizations across the country benefiting victims of Alzheimers, Cancer, AIDS, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Cystic Fibrosis, Epilepsy, Muscular Dystrophy;…and contributing to hospitals, universities, religious, educational and rehabilitation organizations, and so much more.

Thanks to Gladys and Phil for this nice message.