The Mah-Jongg (mainly Jewish) Tradition in Atlantic Beach

During our summers growing up in Atlantic Beach, we used to watch with an odd fascination from afar as the ladies played the mysterious game of mah-jongg all day long. Now the next generation carries on the tradition and the Times takes note and even tries to explain.
At These Cabanas, ‘The Tiles That Bind’
Summer Rituals
A weekly series on what makes summer summer for people in and around New York.

ON a blazing afternoon, the Silver Point Beach Club was as indolent as molasses, with some sun worshipers stretched out coma-like on lounge chairs and others, slightly more upright in lawn chairs, dipping drowsily into the latest romance novel. The only sounds were the snap of flags in a muscular ocean breeze, a seagull’s haunting cry and the din of the surf.

But then came some more-exotic noises.

“Two bam!”

“Two crak!”

“Four dot!”

It was the sound of mah-jongg, a call that, for some New Yorkers, is as redolent of summers past as a mint julep on the veranda is for Mississippians. At Catskills bungalows and the Rockaway and Brighton Beach shore, the sharp but soothing clack of mah-jongg tiles has been heard since the 1920s, when this Chinese parlor game first began to fascinate Jewish women.

At Silver Point, an unpretentious collection of hundreds of cabanas and lockers set along the Atlantic shore, five women — Joyce Cohen, Cora Sue Kaufman, Lonnie Parker, Susan Mingelgreen and Laurie Sheinberg — play throughout the summer. The women, most of whom are retired teachers from the Five Towns area of Nassau County, clack their tiles during the rest of the year as well. But summertime lends a special flavor to mah-jongg, with the baking sun, the sweet smell of tanning lotion and the brine-seasoned air...more...

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