Welcome to my website about the amazing game of American Mah Jongg!
I am a happy, mah jongg-playing thirtysomething. Many people are surprised that at my age, I play and teach this game. The truth is, I have loved mah jongg since I was a little girl. I have fond memories of the clicking tiles and the happy conversations between my mother and grandmother and their friends. I learned to play at the community pool when I was very young, although I didn’t play again for many years.
A few years ago, my grandparents decided to leave their retirement community in southern New Jersey and move closer to my parents. The move meant they would receive more help from my parents to get them through their every day, but it also meant they were leaving their friends and social lives behind. For my grandmother, it meant she was leaving her mah jongg game. I decided to relearn mah jongg so that my mother and I could play with her. I figured that would make grandma happy.
I bought an inexpensive mah jongg set that came with a beginners guide to mah jongg. I convinced three of my friends to join me, and we learned to play from reading the step-by-step instructions. We had a great time. As we discussed our venture with others, I learned that many people of my generation wanted to learn to play. Many of them also had fond memories of their mothers an grandmothers playing the game. Many had inherited mah jongg sets that were sitting unused in their closets. I began to teach a few others to play, and soon I was inundated with requests.
At around the same time, I was trying to raise money to participate in a charity bike ride. I decided to pitch a mah jongg class to an organization on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, where I was living, that focused on programming for people in their 20s through 40s. It was called Makor. I figured I could then teach more people at a time if I taught a class, and I could earn a little money for my bike ride.
My class sold out. We offered it again, and it sold out again. The Makor folks hadn’t told me when they first agreed to hold the class that although they were willing to give the class a try, they did not think anyone would want to take it. They underestimated the affinity for this game that exists in their core population. My classes usually had waiting lists. I was then approached by the 92d. St. Y on the Upper East Side of Manhattan to teach a mah jongg class there. My class at the Y has been so successful that I was asked to increase the number of students I will accept per class, and I often add additional classes after the seasonal 92d St. Y’s hard copy class brochure is printed. Even classes that are advertised only on the web tend to sell out and generate wait lists. As a bonus, I fund my charity bike rides through the money I make teaching.
I have really enjoyed teaching mah jongg. People from their 20s through their 60s, men and women take my classes. I encourage the students to get to know each other and form groups who will continue to play together after the class ends. I love hearing from my old students about their games that have been meeting for years as an outgrowth of my class.
I have decided to create this website as a resource for my students and others who love this game. Feel free to comment on my posts with you own ideas, and the send me story ideas and questions. You can email me at: elissa at bamcrak.com.