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Women Meet, Laugh and Play at Yorktown Starbucks

In the quiet corner of the Starbucks on Commerce Avenue in Yorktown sit four ladies who add talk, laughter and the sounds of tiles clinking in the busy coffee shop.

Sherry Fischman, Joan Rosenbaum, Amy Benjamin and Roberta Lorio meet about once a week at this Starbucks to play the game Mah Jongg.

“It’s a challenge, but it’s fun,” said Rosenbaum, a Mamaroneck resident. “I usually go for the hardest hands.”

The four sit at the square table with their cards in front of them, which tell them what hands and patterns they can play, and on brightly colored racks sit the tiles they swap and drop.

Each woman had different ways of how she got into playing the game. Some were taught by family and some were introduced by people at work or in their apartment, but the one thing they had in common was they said they just couldn’t get enough.

“I’m addicted to it,” Fischman said. “I play just as much as I possibly can and love to play it, and it’s great to meet people who play—we all have this one commonality in that we love to play this game.”

Benjamin, a Fishkill resident, whose mother used to play when she was growing up, said she never played the game, but had started to play with some other teachers when she worked. Other members, such as Fischman and Lorio, have played for decades.

“I could play every single day,” Lorio said. “I wake up in the morning and I just wish I could play Mah Jongg all day.”

Lorio met Fischman where they work at Houlihan Lawrence in East Fishkill and often network and meet people while playing. They met Rosenbaum through the internet, and added in with Benjamin the four continue to play in Yorktown since it’s the center-most point between the four women. Lorio explained she took a “hiatus” from playing for quite some time and became reacquainted with it when she took a class on it at Westchester Community College.

Rosenbaum said she’s meeting more and more people who are playing the game.

“There’s been such a surge in people who play and want to play,” said Rosenbaum. “It lets you relax but you’re also thinking constantly while playing.”

The members are part of the National Mah Jongg League, where they pay a small fee to get a small tri-folded card which explains the rules and hands in the game. The players use the tiles they each take at the beginning of the game to complete what’s called hands, which are listed in the card and change every year. The women described the game which originated in Chian as the same idea as playing rummy, just with tiles.

“It’s just a great way to make friends and have fun,” Benjamin said. “We’ve all become great friends and have become a part of each others lives.”

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