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Friday, February 12, 2016

Annual Meeting of the League

450 Seventh Avenue, NY, NY.  The site of the new League offices

On Monday, Feburary 8, 2016, I had the honor of attending the annual meeting of the National Mah Jongg League.  The meeting is open to all members of the League, although few take advantage of this opportunity.  It was my first look at the new offices - and they were most impressive.  Spacious and tidy, the layout provided room for a reception area, executive offices, conference room and a separate file room - or should I say tile room, as the League is known for the extensive tile matching collection.  

The walls were adorned with Asian art - including one of my favorites - The 8 Immortals Playing Mahjongg.  They looked on as the League conducted the business at hand.

It was a very poignant meeting, as it was the first annual meeting conducted without Mrs. Unger at the helm.  Her sons, Larry and David, presided over the meeting, aided by board members Adela and Che, who acted as recording secretary.  As acting president, it was up to Larry Unger to read the annual report, which he did, but not without emotion.  Needless to say, the memory of Mrs. Unger loomed large in the room, and I heard the phrase "big shoes to fill" more than once.

The reading of the report went by quickly, and contained much of the information found in the President's report on the newsletter, as well as a recap of the year's big events; the move and the passing of Mrs. Unger shortly after.  Visitors were encouraged to ask questions and during the discussion I learned the following:
  • The move gave the Unger family the opportunity to dig through a substantial archive of League materials.  There's a lot of history there that is of interest to us all!
  • Ruth Unger was active until the very end - coming into the office two or three days a week, and was as deeply involved in creating the new card as she was in the past.  
  • February 1 was the last day for collectors to submit their orders for the new card.  A collector is someone who places an order for new card for 35 people or more.  The League will donate $2 from each order to a charity of the collector's choice.  Collectors are individuals and organizations.  They are listed in the newsletter along with the charities they select, and there are close to 1000 of them. Check out how far they've come!

  • The League wants to hear from you!  If you have been playing in a longstanding group tell them your story.  You can write a letter or email to:
  • In relation to e-mails, I voiced the concern of my readers that they wanted the League to come out of the "dark ages" and use e-mail to communicate with members.  I was told by Adela, who worked side-by-side with Mrs. Unger for over 25 years, that the League will continue its policy of answering members' questions and concerns by phone, and it is this personal communication that allows an organization with hundreds of thousands of members to remain in touch with their constituency.  Their line is always open to the membership, which cannot be said of many organizations today.
The League is a small organization with a very long reach.  Their 79 years of donations have touched the lives of countless people; most of whom don't know what mahjongg is.  Their business model, if you can call it that, is unique.  We as members willingly buy the card and we get 365 days of pleasure out of an $8 purchase, plus the added benefit of contributing to worthy causes.  We get a family of players all over the world and a rules set challenging enough to last through these many years.  While there may be many tournaments, cards, sets and tchotchkes, the League is at the root of them all.  It's a beautiful thing.



  1. Let's not say "the League wants to hear from (us)" and "the League will continue its policy of answering members' questions and concerns by phone" in the same sentence! Ridiculous. Get With It, League, because truly large organizations might just be large, and growing, because they can change with the times (which, btw, changed quite a few years ago, but you didn't notice). Mahjongg players got with the times . . . you didn't. Is it a resistance to putting anything in print? Come on. And don't get me started on donating just $2 for every $280. At least now that donation amount is public. Years ago I asked just what percent was donated, and was told (on the phone, of course) that it was none of my business. Good grief.

    1. Sorry that you feel this way about the League. I didn't mean to say $2 per order of 35 cards, but $2 per individual order, or $2 per card is donated to the charity of choice. The remainder goes into the pool for further donation to League sanctioned causes.
      The League, like all charitable organizations in New York is governed by New York State law and financial statements must be filed and are a matter of public record. It is my understanding that audited financial statements are available upon written request.
      As for e-mails, well, I don't quite see how that makes such a difference. If you have a rules question, call the League during business hours; someone will pick up the phone and answer your question. If you e-mail a question, someone will respond during business hours, but there will be no discourse or clarification unless you write again.

  2. I read it that they give away 2 per card, referring to a card as an order. Which is it?

  3. Is there any chance that the National Mah Jongg league will ever get the new year card out in January instead of April?
    I am seriously considering having my group switch exclusively to the AMJA card because it comes out at the beginning of the new year rather than 3 months late.

    Also, shouldn't the League, if they really want to hear from us, listen to what we have to say? Why do we always seem to have the same hands recycled year after year with minor adjustments? Why are there no Wind dragon hands? Why can't we call a pair?

    Make the game as much fun as possible - get with the times.

    1. What difference does it make if the Mah Jongg year goes from April to April....or Jan to Jan?? It's a year with each card no matter how you cut it. I kind of like getting it in spring!