What happens when East meets West?
When they meet on the Lower East Side, they play mah jong. Or mah jongg.
About 700 participants in the second annual Egg Rolls & Egg Creams Block Party, sponsored by the Eldridge Street Project, learned on Sunday that the game has two spellings. And two sets of rules.
"The Western version has one ‘g.’ The Chinese spell it with two," says Rebecca Faulkner, a staff member at the project, whose aunt, Sheila Solomon, right, came from upstate Suffern to try her hand at the tiles game.
A crowd of Chinese visitors, on the same street that was heavily Jewish a century ago but now is home to immigrants from China, watched fascinated as the Americans played. At another table, some Chinese were engaged in the game. But the two groups didn’t play each other, Faulkner says, "because the games are completely different."
Other activities at the block party included tours of the renovated Eldridge Street Synagogue, Yiddish storytelling and Chinese opera, a Torah scribe demonstration and paper lantern artist: and kosher egg rolls and egg creams.
"Neither have egg in them; both are Americanized" ethnic staples, Faulkner says, listing similarities between Jewish and Chinese culture. "We have lots in common. We share a neighborhood. We share tradition. Food is incredibly important in both cultures."
So is mah jong. No matter how you spell it.