The Menschie Mahjong set
Photo: Carissa Byers Photography 
The Menschie Mahjong set box includes the wording L’dor V’dor, a nod to the generational connections of the game, along with “Shalom Y’all” and Dallas, Texas.

Dallasite Vivien Judson’s take on game of the generations

By Deb Silverthorn

For generations, women have been passing mah jongg tiles through family lines and friendship circles. Seemingly, everything old is new again. For Vivien Eliasoph Judson, the family she married into and the community of friends she’s made since moving back to Dallas has provided her a respect for the game and a step into the world of entrepreneurship.

“I always knew I wanted to marry Scott,” said Vivien, who went to Akiba Yavneh Academy with Scott Judson in preschool and first grade. They reconnected later on, got married and ultimately moved back to Dallas.

“Mah jongg has become a big part of my life and I love how the game brings friends together,” she added. “The more familiar I became with the game and the Jewish culture’s embrace of it, I wanted to celebrate our love of the game while honoring its Chinese origins.”

The tile game was first developed in China during the 19th century. In 1937, at the Essex House Hotel, the first meeting of the National Mah Jongg League was held with nearly 400 women, the majority of them Jewish. Eighty-plus years later many of the descendants of those present are still playing and with each generation born, another realm of devotees has evolved.

Through her newly-founded company GoldieLox, a nod to Golda Meir and the smoked salmon commonly near and dear to many Jews, Vivien has fashioned The Menschie Mahjong Set, a mah jongg tile set that depicts the cracks as cracked matzo and bams that are olive branches. The 1 bam is a dove holding an olive branch. The winds are dreidels. The one dots is a hamsa. Flowers are ones that hold Judaic significance and the jokers reflect “Bubbie” holding a bowl of matzo ball soup.

Vivien Judson (left) with her mother-in-law, Laurie Judson.

“Throughout the design process, it was critical to me that I honor the Chinese roots of the game while also pulling in symbols of Judaism for each suit in the set,” said Judson.

Judson is the Dallas-born daughter of Jeff Eliasoph and Elisa Malinovitz and the sister of Hannah Eliasoph. Her father says she’s having and building the best time of her life. “She’s taken the Jewish woman in her and is running with that, making it a part of everything she does. I’m proud of her.

“Vivien’s always been a contemplative person,” said her father. He is the evening anchor at KXII CBS 12 in Sherman and is grateful to have her and her family in closer proximity to him. “Through GoldieLox, she’s bringing out the artistic side of herself, exploring the creative in touch with her spirituality and enjoying love and blessings.”

Judson attended AYA through first grade and moved first to Austin, then Cleveland, Ohio, where she graduated from Orange High School before leaving for Tulane University in New Orleans.

The classmate she remembers “always having the best Hebrew penmanship in Libe Newman’s first grade” is Scott Judson, the son of Laurie and David and brother of Julie (David Galstyan). The former Akiba Yavneh Academy and Ann & Nate Levine Academy student’s family has long been a part of Congregation Shearith Israel. After graduating from Greenhill School and then Tufts University, he remained in Boston.

In 2017, after little to no contact for nearly 20 years, Scott sent a note through social media to Vivien, then living in Birmingham, Alabama. She replied and shortly afterward, the two became a couple and Vivien moved to Boston. During the pandemic, able to work remotely, the couple resided in Dallas. In 2021, the two married at Dallas’ Temple Emanu-El and made the relocation to their mutual hometown permanent.

Vivien’s mother-in-law, Laurie Judson, introduced her to “mahj.” Vivien noted how Laurie and her friends gathered on Mondays, as they have for nearly 10 years.

“There was a class at Temple (Emanu-El) and a bunch of us went. We learned the game, we had mentors and now almost every Monday at 2 we rotate homes with snacks, the game and catching up,” said Laurie, whose weekly game with Susan Kottwitz, Terry Levinger and Annfay Milkas is rarely compromised.

“Vivien watched us, learned what it was and has now created this really very special set,” she continued. “I just brought it to my group last week and it’s perfect.”

Vivien had wanted to start a Judaica business for some time and when she discovered the Jewish love of mah jongg, it felt like the perfect launchpad to create something that was fun and contemporary yet could also become an heirloom.

“One of the things I love most about the game is how it’s passed from generation to generation,” she said. “I’ve even included the wording L’dor V’dor on the back of the box because I want to highlight that element of how deeply loved this game is within our culture.”

The mahj set is just the beginning. GoldieLox also sells sweatshirts with the Bubbie and matzo ball soup joker from her mah jongg set; matches for Shabbat and holidays; and more. Each of GoldieLox’s offerings is stamped “Shalom Y’all” and Dallas, Texas, on the labels. Vivien wants all her customers to have a piece of her home, the one where she was born and where she and her husband have returned.

“Our memories of Akiba, the JCC, Shearith Israel, Temple Emanu-El and so many other experiences in our community are so strong and that’s really why we’re back,” she said. “We are growing our family and have become reengaged in so many of these special places. Tradition is really important to us.

“Through GoldieLox I hope I am providing items that will encourage tradition-building in others’ homes,” Vivien added.

“It’s surreal to again be at the synagogue where I was as a child, to have rekindled friendships of even 30 years ago and yes, to be married to the guy who’d write the best ‘aleph’ on the chalkboard. With a generation now younger than us I am excited to hand forward so much that’s been given to me.”

The mah jongg set retails online for $275 at GoldieLox.com. TJP readers can receive $50 off with the discount code: TJP50. The game is also available at Temple Emanu-El’s Judaic Treasures gift shop.

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