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  • Writer's pictureBethPollak

Current Project: Klaberjass

Growing up, my father taught my brothers and me an amazing card game called Klaberjass, which we pronounced "Clubbius." With its old world language and suspenseful gameplay, we were addicted, and we'd stay up into the night playing it for hours. Our parents are from a South African Jewish (Ashkenazi) background, and it seemed that Klaberjass had a big following during their childhood in Johannesburg. Still, none of our friends in Chicago knew how to play.

In my whole life, I had only met one other non-relative who knew the game...until November 2020. During my dad's recent birthday celebration, we were reminiscing about Klaberjass and I decided to start doing some research. I spoke to friends and relatives near and far, and then I spoke to their friends and relatives. One interview led to another, each person recounting a fascinating tidbit of South African Jewish history, reawakening memories of special times with loved ones from long ago.

I also did a ton of research to learn more about the history of the game itself, which was popular in many parts of the world from at least the 1880s-1950s. Called Clobyosh, Klabiash, Klob, Klaverjas, Klawerjas, Bela, and other names, it was a favorite of everyone from gangsters and gamblers to rabbis and accountants. Stay tuned for my complete article, which will be published soon!

In the meantime, check out this 1970s Klaberjass Rules Book in the below slide show from a tournament in Cape Town, South Africa that was shared with me by Selwyn Furman (Cape Town) and Mark Furman (London). These are the standard rules for the game as played in the South African Jewish community at the time.

If you would like to be in touch with your own Klaberjass stories, please email me at or connect with me on Twitter.

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