Volume 20, Number 36 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | January 19 - 25, 2011

Downtown Express photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer

In connection with its exhibit, “Project Mah Jongg,” the Museum of Jewish Heritage is sponsoring a fund-raising Mah Jongg tournament on Feb. 6, with the proceeds to benefit the museum.

B.P.C. Beat
Covering Battery Park City

BY Terese Loeb Kreuzer
 
Mah Jongg Tournament:
After a run of 10 months, the Museum of Jewish Heritage’s wildly popular exhibit “Project Mah Jongg” will close on February 27, but not before the museum at 36 Battery Place stages a Mah Jongg Marathon. The event on February 6 from noon to 6 p.m. will be a fundraiser for the museum, with a registration fee of $25 per person. In addition to entrance fees, registrants are encouraged to sign up sponsors who will make a donation to the museum in the name of each player. There will be tables for people of all levels of Mah Jongg proficiency, from beginners to “lifers,” plus what the museum describes as “special theme hours, prizes and the chance to play a hand or two with some very special guests.”  For more about the tournament, go to www.projectmahjongg.com/programs.html.

The use of Mah Jongg to raise money for charitable purposes has a long-standing history. The game originated in 19th-century China and first became popular in the United States in the 1920’s, thanks to Harper Brothers and the Mah-Jongg Company of America. “It was marketed to all Americans,” said Melissa Martines, curator of the “Project Mah Jongg” exhibit, “but those who adopted it first were leisure-class ladies who had disposable time and income. One of the ways the game was used right away after its introduction into New York society was as entertainment for charitable events and for groups of women. In the Jewish community, some of the most likely constellations of players would have been synagogue sisterhoods that were raising money for a good cause, plus those who were in similar neighborhoods and those who vacationed together.”

Martines said that in the Jewish community, German-Jewish women were the first to adopt the game followed by Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, who took up Mah Jongg with great enthusiasm. “In the Catskills, it was the perfect game for bungalow life because those environments were all inclusive,” she observed. “A lot of the men came only for weekends, so the women and children were left there during the week. The women played Mah Jongg outdoors while they watched the kids.”

The Museum of Jewish Heritage’s Mah Jongg exhibit includes Mah Jongg sets and instructions, historic photographs of people playing Mah Jongg from the Library of Congress and from personal collections, art work, Mah Jongg memorabilia and “soundscapes” — oral histories of the game and recordings of people playing it, including some from a Senior Citizen center in Chinatown.

Though not large, the exhibit has attracted interest from people all over the country, Martines said. “They contacted us because the game of Mah Jongg means so much to them personally. Mah Jongg is a lot about memory, it’s a lot about personal experience, it’s a lot about connecting to your mother or to past generations, to the traditions of your family, it’s a lot about remembering the people you used to play with and it’s also about learning and sharing and socializing and gossiping. You feel the ivory or the bakelite tiles, you hear them clicking and you remember.”
 
StoryTime by Design:
1 Rector Park (formerly known as 333 Rector Place), a rental to condo conversion with 173 apartments, has a charming playroom that is mostly unused because no one has yet moved into the 16-story building. But on Sunday, January 23 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., StoryTime by Design will be in the playroom, entertaining children from 2 to 8 years with a dinosaur-themed storytelling hour, including real fossils. The free event is open to the public.  Refreshments will be provided.  RSVP by sending an email to: storytimebydesign@hwpr.com

According to a spokesman for the building, 30 percent of the building’s 173 apartments have been sold since the sales office opened in early August and move-ins should begin next month.
 
Valentine’s Day Cruise:
Don’t miss the boat! Sure, it’s still January, but it’s not too early to make Valentine’s Day plans. You can treat your sweetie to a Valentine’s Day cruise of New York harbor aboard Statue Cruises’ John J. Audubon. The two-hour cruise features a live jazz band and an assortment of gourmet desserts accompanied by beer, wine, soda, cordials and dessert martinis. The cost is $85 per person. The boat leaves at 8:30 p.m. from Liberty State Park and at 9 p.m. from Battery Park, gangway 3. Reserve by calling (877) LADY TIX. For more information, go to http://www.statuecruises.com/pd_valentines.html.

 

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