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Bubbe's Blackjack

Charting the history of old Jewish ladies' obsession with the Chinese tile game.

Mah jongg on vacation

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Mah jongg tiles

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Whimsical aprons are a must

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What's a board game without snackfood?

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Because nothing says "mah jongg time" like Latin club music.

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What is it with Jewish ladies and mah jongg? That’s the unlikely question at the heart of Project Mah Jongg, opening July 13 at the Contemporary Jewish Museum and charting the history of the Chinese tile game in the Jewish community through everyday household objects and artifacts. The curatorial hypothesis? “Mah jongg was their version of girls’ night out,” curatorial associate Jeanne Gerrity says. Here, everything a gal needs to have friends over for an evening of tile slapping and chitchatting. July 13–Oct. 28,

The Attire
As hostess, you’ve got to have a whimsical apron. “It wasn’t just the game, but creating the sense of a lively evening with friends,” says Gerrity.

The Snacks
The appetizers are more Betty Crocker than kosher—think Jell-O, canned pineapple, and chop suey.

The Music
Cha Cha Cha: Live at Grossinger’s by Tito Puente is the essential soundtrack for neighborhood matches—because nothing says “mah jongg time” quite like Latin club music.

The Travel Edition
Don’t feel confined to the living room: “mah jongg was something to take on vacation and play at resorts,” Gerrity says. so take it in the pool! But be prepared to dive after a tile or two.


Originally published in the July issue of San Francisco.

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