The Sisterhood of the Poker Group

As baby boomers, we’ve worked hard to develop a sense of community, and a sense of acceptance. But it never comes easily, and it doesn’t last without a little work. Liz Kitchens has written a piece about how she has kept it going in her life. It’s the Sisterhood of the Poker Group.

Liz Kitchens

I like to say I was Jewish for eleven years. I was married in a synagogue and my children were named by a rabbi. Having a Jewish identity is a source of pride to them. Even though my husband got custody of — and excuse the double meaning — the Temple when we divorced, my history gave me the “street cred” to join a Jewish poker group. There are six of us in it and we have been meeting once a month for seventeen years to play what we loosely describe as “poker.”

Now just because two of the women are doctors, two are lawyers, one a stockbroker, and me (the market researcher, art director, clay writer), it doesn’t mean anyone has a clue about what beats what in this insipid game. The constant query is, “Does five of a kind beat a royal straight flush?” This speaks volumes about the kind of game we play— the more wild cards, the better.

Sometimes I grumble and threaten to whip things up a bit by saying I’m tired of playing what passes as poker. But the one thing I won’t ever propose changing is our gathering together. The original impetus for organizing the group was to form a kind of minyan, which in Hebrew is a gathering (which is ironic, since according to Jewish law, only men can be a part of the ten required to constitute a minyan for a prayer service.)

Our version of the minyan resembles more of a sisterhood. To say we achieved this goal would be an understatement. Since first getting together, we have shared one marriage, seven births, a conversion from Catholic to Jewish and straight to gay, five bar and bat mitzvahs, one 60th and five 50th birthdays. We kvetch and kvell (complain and brag) about our partners, children, and each other.

I spent the past weekend at a b’nai mitzvah (“b’nai” is for two) for twins of Maxine. As I watched them read their Torah portions and chant the Haftorah, I recalled a visit by the PGG (poker group girls) to the hospital where Maxine was confined for a month during her pregnancy. We came carrying the three Cs — Chinese food, Cards, and Chips (the poker variety).

The PGG were honored participants in the b’nai mitzvah service, supporting the canopy under which the service was held. The longevity of our group has made us somewhat notorious (fun at 57 to be considered notorious). I catch murmurings of “Oh, she’s in the poker group.” Other friends have commented, “Someone will have to die before anyone else can join the poker group.” That makes me feel special.

Our families will gather at the beach over Memorial Day weekend as we have for the past ten plus years. All the kids and grandchildren, ranging in age from 1 to 46, will belong to each of us. They, like us, have come to know that comfortable familiarity of belonging to a large extended family. Whatever you subscribe to any religion or not, what we all long for is that sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves. Jewish or not, my poker group provides that sense of community and acceptance for me.


  1. Dear Liz–Loved your boomer story–now I want to play sometime more than ever! Oh well–guess I’ll have to continue in my old group–and I’m not kidding either!
    I started in 1967–so you know what I mean by old!
    Love all of you “Girls”. Keep having FUN.Love, Fayge

  2. What a delightful article Liz. And what a great concept too – it sounds like a lot more fun than a book club!

    I’ve been part of a book club for about 22 years and we meet monthly at someone’s home for dinner. We do talk about the book we’re supposed to have read, but we talk about it for maybe 10 minutes max!

    What would we do without our friends Liz? You’ve captured their value beautifully.


  3. Great description both of your poker group and of the value of your female minyan.

    I agree it is fun to be considered notorious at 57. I belong to a reading group of women roughly in mid-life and we have such raucous fun at our monthly meetings that others look at us in what I choose to identify as envy (but of course it might just be irritation at the volume of our laughter!).

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