Mah Jongg Madness

A light hum of chatter mixed with the clatter of tiles as nearly 30 people sat around six square tables at LifeTown on a recent Wednesday night playing mah jongg. While experienced players at two tables couldn’t wait to mix the tiles, assign East, and open the Charleston, the rest were learning to distinguish bams and cracks from winds and dots, and considering for the first time how they might combine dragons and flowers to get to mah jongg.

Debbie Minsky, a self-identified “aggressive player,” took on the role of teacher at one table of four, patiently managing the opening blind trading of tiles known as the Charleston; offering tips and strategies for selecting and pursuing the right combination to get to a win (or at least to hobble through the first round of the game). 

The group assembled that night offered a cross-section of LifeTown, including families, volunteers, staff, and supporters, with ages ranging from those in their twenties to those better than eighty. Some, like Sylvia Ferreira, just wanted to learn, to be able to play with family members more seasoned in the game, she said. She already had a passing familiarity with the tiles and the rhythm of play, and she was lucky enough to get to mah jongg in the second round of play.

Minsky surprised herself as an instructor, even found that she could have fun playing and tutoring beginners. Of course, she was the first to mah jongg at her table.

June Schechner, ever present as a volunteer at LifeTown, is a one-time mah jongg maven and dove right back into a game she hadn’t played in a while.

Ruth Cash, who volunteers in the LifeTown Shoppes, took the opportunity to do something fun and “get out of the house.” She left with a smile on her face, though she wasn’t entirely sure she had picked up the game.

Mah Jongg at LifeTown is being organized by Cheryl Greenwald, an enthusiastic mah jongg maven, LifeTown supporter, and volunteer staff member who has played for years. She could barely contain her enthusiasm as she described the appeal she knew the evening would have across the LifeTown community and beyond.

“We can reach so many people who just want to have some fun for an evening,” Greenwald said. “Families can come and relax and play across generations. Supporters and volunteers will just engage, knowing this is a perfect space to play the game we love! It’s my passion and I’m so excited to share it with everyone!”

The event marked the first in a series of monthly/biweekly mah jongg evenings this summer, which will continue with sessions beginning again on Wednesday, October 11, from 6:30-8:30 pm. Beginners and experienced players welcome. A $5 donation is suggested. For more information and dates or to RSVP, visit

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