by Gail Mizrahi
As the immediate Past President of Congregation Shearith Israel in Dallas, I realized an opportunity for our multi-generational community to intermingle and enjoy each other’s company. By learning something challenging and unpredictable together, what better idea was there to reach across the generations than with the game of Mah Jongg…right? I kept hearing that people were interested in learning how to play with their friends, husbands, or significant others. So I began thinking about how many of us learned to play the game as a youngster by watching our mothers and grandmothers play in their weekly game? I had previously taught Mah Jongg at a Senior Community in Plano where my father had once resided…and 14 years later, that group of women still play in their Friday afternoon game. So I decided to try teaching here at my synagogue so the young and the young at heart could feel the same fun and excitement I still have after playing for 26 years. The response was phenomenal! I was hoping for 20 people to sign up…but after only several weeks of advertising among the community, I had to cut off enrollment at 52…plus we had a waiting list of 18 more!
It has been a thrill teaching such an outstanding group of women and men ranging in age from early 20’s to mid-80’s. We enjoyed three scheduled classes (with make up sessions) and three weeks of supervised Mahj play. I had outstanding volunteers, experienced Mah Jongg players lovingly known as Mahj Mavens, oversee each table available to answer any questions along the way. Ironically, tonight is the last supervised Mahj play for the class before they venture out on their own, playing in their own weekly game and enjoying the challenge of the tiles!
While the response from the class was extremely positive as they were learning, the biggest thrill for me continues to be watching “the light go on” for each individual as they align their tiles, process what they have, and form a hand on the card they choose to play. I received quite a surprise myself during the last class when the Program Director presented me with a certificate from Destination Mah Jongg. It acknowledged that I had successfully completed my Mah Jongg teaching class, making students into Mah Jongg Players! What a lovely surprise and what a special moment to be so appreciated by my community!
My intention is to teach another class in the spring after the new 2018 card comes out, starting with those very patient people on the waitlist. My hope is to have another class of energized learners and outstanding volunteers to help the students along as they become familiar with the rules of the game. But most importantly, I hope that everyone who takes the class enjoys the same challenge and passion for the game that I have.
May the JOKERS be with you,
The letter above was published in the January edition of Destination Mah Jongg,
Here is a note from the editor:
The other day I was blessed by a phone call from Katie Venetsky, Membership and Program Director of Congregation Shearith Israel in Dallas, Texas.
She explained to me she represented a group of Mah Jongg students from her synagogue that wanted to do something collectively for their Mah Jongg teacher. She went on to explain that when the teacher, Gail Mizrahi, was approached to teach classes, she was more than willing to help. Katie put up a registration sheet and was astonished by the amount of sign ups, a total of 50! Yes 50 eager students! (G-d I love these Texas women).
Katie knew Gail loved playing the game of Mah Jongg, she also knew she attended numerous tournaments. The group decided to give their amazing, kind and patient teacher a $100 gift certificate to attend any tournament of her choice.
The story touched me so… I know Gail and she is all those things Katie expressed about her and more. I felt honored that she called my company to give the gift, I was truly touched.
Mah Jongg to me is just this, community at its best. It’s not bickering, it’s fun, it’s something to learn and share with amazing people from around the country playing a game!
Shearith Israel clergy, staff and congregants share