"This is what I live for," said Mrs. Cohen, 63, of Valley Stream. "I love mah-jongg and I love the beach and I play with a great group of friends. What could be bad?" [...]
“It’s so shvakh,” groaned Ms. Mingelgreen, 52, using the Yiddish word for weak, as she surveyed the tiles she drew.
“This is horrible,” Mrs. Cohen echoed, lamenting hers. “What should I do?”
“I can’t tell you what to do,” Mrs. Mingelgreen replied, tartly. “I can tell you what I would do.”
They quibble over the bets, which tend to be for trifling sums — $10 is the limit for the day. But the winnings accumulate — Mrs. Cohen used two years of winnings to buy a flat-screen TV — and arguing is part of the fun. They even argue about arguing. “We argue a lot,” said Ms. Mingelgreen.
“No, we don’t,” retorted Mrs. Cohen. “We discuss.”Translate into the sharp tones of Shanghaihua and you've got a perfect match.... Fantasies of a World Cup of Mahjong aside (or at least annual Pajama and Cabana Mahjong Invitationals), it's fascinating to see that China's favorite game has a history among Jewish-Americans. It's another of many links connecting two of the world's oldest and most continuous cultures--consider, for instance, the Jews of Kaifeng (whose story is documented at the Kaifeng Museum), the legacy of the Sassoons of Shanghai, or the fascinating Jewish heritage sites still standing in Shanghai as testament to the sanctuary the city provided for fugitives from the Nazis (the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum is a great place to start for more on this). Finally, if you do make it to China and want to explore Jewish heritage in the Middle Kingdom, consider starting out in Shanghai: You can stay at the newly renovated Peace Hotel (once the Sassoon House, named after Jewish business kingpin Victor Sassoon) and take a Shanghai Jewish heritage tour. From Shanghai, it's an easy flight to Zhengzhou with overland connections to nearby Kaifeng.