There were 28 tables of four playing on June 7 at the annual bridge event honouring Marjorie Groberman. (photos by Cynthia Ramsay)
More than 100 people gathered to play bridge at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver on June 7 at a special annual event in honour of Marjorie Groberman, who passed away in 2011.
Leah Deslauriers is the former coordinator of JCC Seniors, which is now called Adults 55+ and headed by Lisa Quay.
“Marjorie Groberman was a driving force behind the JCC Seniors department for many years,” Deslauriers told the Independent. “She, along with some other ladies, started a duplicate bridge club at the JCC in 1995. When Marjorie passed away, [her daughter] Hildy Barnett and I created this event in her memory. We named the bridge club after Marjorie, as well.”
Barnett sponsors the meal and door prizes for the annual lunchtime event, and covers extras the club might need, said Deslauriers. For the lunch, “many players baked or brought dessert items for everyone.”
“There were 28 tables of four, so there were 112 people in attendance,” she said. “The club generally has up to 20 tables during regular play, so this was a very large event.”
The bridge club at the centre started in 1995 with four tables, explained Deslauriers. “Some of the original ladies, who still play today, subsidized the club so it would continue. The original club director was Connie Delisle, who taught many people how to play the game. Then Cathy Miller became director in 2006, when Connie had to retire. Cathy retired at the end of last year and the current director is Bryan Maksymetz, who is a Canadian bridge champion.”
Anyone who knows how to play duplicate bridge may attend. “It is very special,” said Deslauriers, “as many of its regular players are over 80, and many are over 90. I believe Ethel Bellows is the oldest player at the moment. Many of the players come 30 minutes before game time, to socialize over coffee and cookies, and it’s a very warm and friendly game, as far as bridge goes.”
The Marjorie Groberman Open Duplicate Bridge Club currently has more than 350 members, Quay told the Independent. Play takes place on Tuesdays and Thursdays. “The JCC also offers an array of bridge lessons for beginners on up, as well as practise opportunities for skill-building,” she said.
For more information, contact Quay at 604-257-5111, ext. 208.
Melanie Samuels, left, and Pam Wolfman were the winners of this year’s mah jongg tournament at the JCC. (photo from JCC)
On any given day and evening across Vancouver, Jewish women are gathering in sets of four and playing mah jongg. But, until recently, only a small number considered the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver a place to play and learn the game. In December, however, the JCC began offering mah jongg tutorial classes – and more than two dozen women joined in. Friendships are being made around the table, and mah jongg is helping build a women’s social network.
This game has been passed from generation to generation, including renewed interest from younger players, some of whom remember their moms and grandmas playing the game but only now have the interest and time to learn it themselves. On Jan. 28, more than 50 women attended the first-ever mah jongg tournament at the JCC (at least the first in a very long time). The proceeds benefitted Orr Vancouver Israeli Dance School and Festival Ha’Rikud. Pam Wolfman and Melanie Samuels were the tournament winners.
So, how did this centuries-old Chinese game of tiles become such a fixture in the lives of Jewish women in North America? There is much speculation, but one fact is known: Jewish women created the National Mah Jongg League (NJML) in 1937 to create consistency in rules and hands. This stability helped the game survive and spread. Jewish organizations selling cards generate charitable donations to causes of their own choosing, a feature of the league that encourages the quest for new players. In Vancouver, local sales of the game cards generate needed funds for the food bank at Jewish Family Services.
Historically, Jewish women found mah jongg to be an inexpensive form of communal entertainment, particularly in the urban setting of New York, and the game’s popularity spread from friend to friend, mother to daughter, according to Anita Luu and Christi Cavellero’s book Mah Jongg: From Shanghai to Miami Beach. And now, younger women learning the game are getting a newfound understanding of why their mothers were so passionate about the game that they and their friends played for decades together.
Players of all levels are welcome to join Mah Jongg & Margaritas, on March 8, 7:30 p.m., at the centre. The no-admission event is underwritten by the Marion Seeklus Mah Jongg Fund, a newly established endowment for mah jongg programming at the JCC. To attend, contact Lisa Cohen Quay at 604-638-7283 or [email protected].
Dreidels from the author’s dreidel collection. Clockwise from the top left: a hand-painted dreidel with an open top; a hand-painted dreidel on a base; a felt dreidel; a hand-painted dreidel; and, in the centre, a tiny hand-painted glass dreidel. (photo by Barry Kaplan)
Dreidel is the most popular game for Chanukah. In Hanukkah: Eight Nights, Eight Lights, Malka Drucker writes that it evolved 2,000 years ago when the Chanukah story took place, at a time when Antiochus ruled over Judea in ancient Israel. “Groups of boys who had memorized the entire Torah would secretly study together until they heard the footsteps of the Syrian soldiers. Then they would quickly pull out spinning tops … and pretend to be playing games,” she writes.
Whether this is true or not, we do know that, by the Middle Ages, the game became more complicated, as rules were borrowed from a German gambling game. According to Encyclopedia Judaica, during the long nights of Chanukah, while the lights were burning, it became customary to pass the time by spinning tops and playing the ancient “put and take” game. This was in fulfilment of the commandment that the Chanukah lights should not be used for any utilitarian purpose – “they are only to be seen.”
While playing cards and other games has been prohibited by the rabbis over the years, as the games were considered frivolous because they took away from Torah study, the custom continued.
In medieval Germany, dice were used for the game, and they were inscribed with N, G, H and S. N stood for nichts, nothing; G stood for ganz, all; H was for halb, half; and S meant stell ein, put in. All players would hold an equal number of nuts, raisins or coins. Each player would put one in the middle, and the first player would spin the dice. Each letter stood for a move in the game – putting in or taking out nuts, raisins or coins, according to where the dice landed.
Later, boys carved tops or dreidels out of wood or poured hot lead into a form to make a spinning top. The letters were then changed to Hebrew and said to stand for the Hebrew letters nun, gimmel, hey and shin. The rabbis were less reluctant for boys to play with these tops because the letters were interpreted to stand for the phrase, “Nes gadol hayah sham,” “A great miracle happened there.”
In modern Israel, the Hebrew letter shin is replaced by a peh, standing for poh, meaning here – “A great miracle happened here.”
The rabbis felt even more comfortable about the game when it was also realized that, when the Hebrew letters, which have numerical value, are added together, they total 358, the same number of letters as the word for Messiah. (Nun is 50, gimmel is three, hey is five and shin is 300.) The letters of the word Messiah or Mashiach in Hebrew are mem, which is 40, shin which is 300, yud which is 10 and chet which is eight. Since the Jews are still waiting for the Messiah, this would show the way for a miracle.
Another mystical interpretation of the Hebrew letters is described by Philip Goodman in The Hanukkah Anthology. He writes that nun stood for nefesh (Hebrew for soul); gimmel stood for guf (body); shin stood for sechal (mind); and hey stood for hakol (all), implying all the characteristics of humankind.
Among the most-sung Chanukah songs are those about the spinning top – dreidel, in Yiddish, and s’vivon, in Hebrew.
The origin of the song “I Have a Little Dreidel” – “I have a little dreidel, I made it out of clay, and when it’s dry and ready, then dreidel I shall play!” – was the subject of an interesting article by Melanie Mitzman a few years ago in Hadassah Magazine. She wrote that Joshua Jacobson, a professor of music and Jewish studies at Northeastern University, explained that the song was originally in Yiddish and the opening line was “I made it out of lead.”
Samuel Goldfarb is said to have penned the English lyrics, and Goldfarb, a Jewish liturgical composer employed by the Bureau of Jewish Education of New York between 1925 and 1929, wrote the melody for the English version. Goldfarb’s granddaughter, Susan Wolfe, recalls telling her public school class that her grandfather had written “The Dreidel Song,” but they did not believe her.
The popular Hebrew song for this game is “S’vivon”: “S’vivon, sov, sov, sov.Chanukah hu chag tov,” “Spinning top, turn, turn, turn. Chanukah is a good holiday.”
As for dreidel games, here are the rules for three.
Put and take
On the sides of the dreidel are the four letters described above. To play the game, each player puts in one or more nuts or coins as agreed. A player spins the dreidel. If it falls on N, the player does nothing. If it falls on G, the player gets all. If it falls on H, the player takes half. If it falls on S, the player takes the whole pot. The next player takes their turn after each player once again contributes to the pot.
All players spin the dreidel at a given signal. The player whose dreidel spins the longest is the winner.
Play for score or time
This game uses the fact that each Hebrew letter of the dreidel has a numerical value: N = 50, G = 3, H = 5 and S = 300. Players agree on a specific score to reach or time in which to play. Each player spins the dreidel. The scorekeeper credits each player with the numerical value of the letter on which his or her dreidel falls. The game continues until a player reaches the agreed-upon score or until the allotted time has passed, in which case the player with the most points wins.
Sybil Kaplanis a journalist, foreign correspondent, lecturer, food writer and book reviewer who lives in Jerusalem. She also does the restaurant features for janglo.net and leads walks in English in Jerusalem’s market.
כוח גדול של משטרת ונקובר עצר ביום ראשון בלילה שני חשודים שבידם נמצאו חמישה רובים. השניים נסעו במונית בשכונת ייל טאון ונעצרו על ידי השוטרים בצומת הרחובות הומר ודיווי, לעיני אזרחים נדהמים. כחמש עשרה ניידות הגיעו למקום במהירות וחסמו את המונית. החשודים הוצאו במהירות ללא אלימות והועברו בנפרד לשתי ניידות עצירים והובלו למעצר. נהג המונית הועבר לאחת הניידות ונחקר וכן נחקרה בחורה צעירה שעדיין לא ברור כיצד כי קשורה לפרשה. לפי הערכת אזרחים שנכחו במקום משטרת ונקובר קיבלה מידע מוקדם על החשודים עם הרובים שישבו במונית צהובה שנסעה בייל טאון. זה מסביר את כוח המשטרה גדול שהוזעק למקום והכיל למעלה מעשרים שוטרים, חלקם בלבוש אזרחי.
טרנד חדש/ישן בקנדה: ציבור שלם של מבוגרים החליט שהגיע הזמן להתנתק מרשת האינטרנט לפחות למספר שעות בערבים. וזאת כדי להיפגש עם חברים למשחקי חברה בבתי קפה, ממש כמו בימים של פעם. מתברר שלרבים רבים נמאס כבר מההתחברות האינסופית למחשב ולסלולר, והם מבקשים לחזור קצת אחורה לימים יותר פשוטים וספונטניים בהם היו אנשים נפגשים לשיחות חולין או מתגודדים סביב שולחנות, ומשתתפים במשחקי לוח שונים. בין המשחקי הלוח: מונופול, מחשבת, דמקה, דיפלומטיה, הרמז, פוארטו ריקו, סיכון, שבץ נא, צוללות, קוורטו, שחמט ועוד רבים אחרים.
בעיר קלגרי שבמחוז השכן (אלבטרה) נפתחו כבר לפחות שלושה בתי קפה שמיועדים למי שמעוניין להיפגש עם חבריו למשחקי חברה באוף-ליין, בשעות הערב והלילה. המשחקים מתנהלים בליווי אוכל ושתייה קלה או חריפה שמתפרסמים בתפריטים מיוחדים. בכל בית קפה מוצבת ספרייה עשירה עם עשרות משחקי לוח שונים תוצרת צפון אמריקה או אירופה. תמורת כחמישה דולר האורחים יכולים לשחק במשחקי הלוח כמה זמן שהם רוצים. הצוות של בתי הקפה עוזר למשתתפים למצוא את המשחק המתאים להם ומסביר להם מה הוראותיו, פשוטות כמסובכות. בעלי בתי הקפה מציינים בסיפוק כי לקוחותיהם נראים מחויכים ורגועים לאחר סיימו לשחק ביחד עם חבריהם סביב השולחנות. ובקיצור: משחקי הלוח אין – והאינטרנט אאוט.
דניאל פרירה (31) מטורונטו היה רעב מאוד ונתון להשפעת סמים קשים כך מתברר. אז מה הוא עשה? פשוט מאוד. פרירה חטף אוטובוס ציבורי, שלח מייד את כל הנוסעים החוצה ואילץ את הנהג המפוחד להסיעו הישר לבית קפה. שם פרירה עצר לאכול משהו קל, שתה קפה ולא שכח להתקשר למשטרה ולספר לשוטרים הנדהמים מה שעולל לאוטובוס ולנהג המסכן.”אני נמצא תחת השפעת סמים קשים. חטפתי אוטובוס שנמצא כרגע בחניון של טים הורטונס”, הודה פרירה בשיחת הטלפון שלו עם המשטרה.
בתחנת המשטרה המקומית קיבלו מידע מוקדם שצעיר חטף אוטובוס באיומי סכין חדה בשעות הלילה המאוחרות. הוא אילץ את הנהג לסטות ממסלולו הרגיל ולנהוג מהר מאוד לאחד מסניפי רשת טים הורנטוס. זאת תוך התעלמות מאורות הרמזורים האדומים ושלטי העצור שבדרך. השוטרים שהגיעו במהירות לקפה מצאו בחנייה את האוטובוס והנהג שלו שרעד מפחד. מתברר שהנהג לא נפגע וכן שלום לכל עובדי ולקוחות בית הקפה. כולם נשלחו החוצה עד שפרירה שישב בשקט ושתה קפה נעצר במהירות וללא התנגדות, והובל אחר כבוד למעצר. החוטף הרעב יואשם בחמישה סעיפים פליליים חמורים ובקרוב יעמוד למשפט.
Shlomo and Hagar Yekutieli’s tablecloths feature many different designs, including Chanukah and other holiday motifs. (photo from shlomohagar.com)
As Chanukah appears on the horizon, our thoughts inevitably turn to two things: gifts, and fatty foods. If you’ve distributed all the socks, dreidels and menorahs in years past and are all out of ideas, rest assured, there’s more out there. Lots more.
Light it up
Most families are going to need Chanukah candles as the festival approaches, so a gift of decorative candles never has time to get stale. If your pet peeve is Chanukah candles that drip hard-to-remove wax all over your countertops, you’re not alone. A good alternative is Safed Candles’ dripless Chanukah candles at $9.95 for a box of 45 (traditionsjewishgifts.com). Another option: Rite Lite Judaica sells eco-friendly, hand-dipped multicolored beeswax Chanukah candles ($17.99) or regular hand-dipped candles at $15.04 without the eco-friendly label.
Decorate with it
Vancouver couple Shlomo and Hagar Yekutieli manufacture beautiful tablecloths decorated with Jewish motifs, among them menorah designs. Using 100 percent cotton fabric and a combination of vegetable and regular dye, the pair has been crafting cloths from their home for the past 26 years. They have designs for all the Jewish holidays, as well as waterproof sukkah hangings. Prices start at $35 and go up to $180 depending on the size of the table. For information, visit shlomohagar.com or call 604-603-4629.
Just for laughs
Cafepress.com is a website with a variety of cute gift ideas for Chanukah, some of them bordering on ridiculous. There are T-shirts that say “I Wanna be a Maccabee ($22+), baby clothes that ask “Got gelt?” and $23 baseball jerseys with the words “Blowing the shofar can get you only so far.”
Who needs Monopoly on Chanukah when you can play the Maccabee Adventure Game? (amazon.com, $29) In this board game, players must lead a band of Maccabees to find enough oil to light the menorah, trying to avoid the roaming remnants of the Seleucid Empire on the way. The game comes with instructions in Hebrew and English and offers around 45 minutes of entertainment for up to four players age 8 and older.
Chanukah is all about kids, so if you’re stuck for a gift for the special children in your circle, look no further than Eric Kimmel’s Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins (Scholastic, 1990, scholastic.com, $3.71 paperback). In this story, Hershel of Ostropol gives a Jewish village the gift of celebrating Chanukah by taking care of a series of nasty goblins that haunt the old synagogue, blow out Chanukah candles, throw potato latkes on the floor and break dreidels.
Illustrated by the careful hand of Trina Shart Hyman, the goblins are mesmerizingly hideous and the story of their defeat is at once scary, defiant, courageous and humorous as they are shown to be cowards, easily fooled by Hershel’s tricks. This book is a must for any Jewish kids’ bookshelf, a text that gets pulled out year after year and captivates kids as young as 3 and as old as 8.
A great resource for Chanukah crafts for kids is Crafting Jewish by Rivky Koenig (Mesorah Publications, 2008, artscroll.com, $26.99). Featuring a chapter for each of the Jewish holidays, the Chanukah section has seven crafts and two recipes, as well as ideas for a doughnut and ice cream party where everyone makes his/her own dessert combinations. The crafts are varied and include creating a glowing glass menorah, making dreidel-stamped gift wrap, crafting clay dreidel charm jewelry and building a Chanukah tray made from a large picture frame. The activities are beautifully explained, with a list of needed items, an estimated duration for the craft and a picture on the opposite page showing the finished product as inspiration. If there’s a crafty kid in your house, this book will be well used.
Lauren Kramer, an award-winning writer and editor, lives in Richmond, B.C. To read her work online, visit laurenkramer.net.