Inspirational Mah Jongg

Author: Ann Israel

There are many heroes out there in our wonderful Mah Jongg community but I must say that the person who has inspired me to be the best player I can be is the woman who originally taught me how to play Mah Jongg, Linda Feinstein. Struck down by polio at 9 years old, and in a wheelchair ever since, Linda never complains. She is the greatest teacher, mentor, and friend and the way she lives her life has been a great inspiration to me. I think of her every time I pick up a Mah Jongg tile.

Linda has figured out how to use Mah Jongg to her best advantage. She is a teacher extraordinaire and, along with her classes, she offers something called the Manhattan Mah Jongg Club. This is where a group of up to 100 ladies (or 25 tables) meet every Monday at Sarabeth’s Restaurant for a delightful buffet lunch followed by hours of wonderful Mah Jongg game play. Linda knows how to seat people to accommodate their varying skill levels and she is ever present – zipping around the room in her motorized wheelchair – to help and advise.

Linda has been the inspiration propelling me to be a Mah Jongg teacher and to continue spreading the word about our beloved game. I recently had the privilege of visiting with her during one of her Manhattan Mah Jongg Club days – she was as beautiful, vivacious, warm, and caring as I remembered her to be even though it had been many years since I last had seen her.

As the players poured in to the private room in the back of the restaurant, Linda greeted each person warmly – she knew everyone by name and also by their skill level and at exactly what table they would be seated. As I am with everything she does, I was so impressed by her ability to make each person feel special and welcome.

Yes, Linda Feinstein is my Mah Jongg hero and I am very fortunate – and very proud – to call her my friend.

Who are the Mah Jongg heroes in your lives?

-Ann Israel is the co-author of the book, Mah Jongg: The Art of the Game – A Collector’s Guide to Mah Jongg Tiles and Sets. She teaches Mah Jongg and plays as often as possible. In between Mah Jongg games she writes a daily blog,, and also has a line of vintage-inspired Mah Jongg table covers, mugs, iPhone cases, and magnets, all available for sale on

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