Maltz Museum Sets Up Project Mah Jongg

Community Preview and Tournament Are Just a Few of the Events Planned


(January 12, 2012, Cleveland, OH) – Clever marketers claimed mah jongg dated back to Confuciusm and other regal origins – though the game we know actually took shape in the nineteenth century. More than 100 years later, the game made its trek to America where it has been part of the country’s culture since 1922. Now in 2012, the game will be featured at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage as it presents Project Mah Jongg.


Project Mah Jongg, an exhibition exploring the traditions, history, and meaning of the game, was created by the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City. The exhibition was wildly popular and a traveling version was developed. Its only scheduled Midwest appearance will be January 24 to April 22, 2012 at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Cleveland, Ohio, then it will go to the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.


The colorful and entertaining exhibition includes original artwork by Christoph Niemann, Isaac Mizrahi, Maira Kalman and Bruce McCall; beautiful early game sets made of bone, Bakelite, and bamboo; vintage advertisements and household items; Chinoiserie; and instruction materials.


The Maltz Museum has added vintage mah jongg sets and rule cards from area Clevelanders, period costumes on loan from the Kent State University Museum, and a short film by area filmmakers Amy Wasserstrom Cummings and John Cummings. Titled May the Tiles Be with You: Cleveland’s Love Affair with Mah Jongg, the documentary records the mah jongg memories of Clevelanders. Visitors to the Museum’s website can submit their own stories about the game. Music for the exhibition has been provided by the Cleveland Chinese Music Ensemble.


The exhibition kicks off on Sunday, January 22 with the “Mad for Mah Jongg” Private Opening and Chinese New Year’s Eve Celebration.  The following day, the Museum holds a Community Preview before Project Mah Jongg opens to the public on Tuesday, January 24. Not only will people get a sneak peek at the exhibition and enjoy fabulous Chinese food, but games such as checkers and hopscotch will be played throughout the Museum!


February brings the first Maltz Museum Mah Jongg Tournament (Feb 13) and the first of three cross-cultural events with Li Wah restaurant in Cleveland’s Asia Plaza.  Visitors will tour the Museum and eat Jewish delicacies while eastsiders spend the afternoon at Li Wah playing mahj and enjoying a light lunch (Feb 15, Mar 14, Apr 17).


Throughout the exhibition’s run, visitors will hear the sound of tiles clacking and people laughing as the Maltz Museum has added several game tables that can be reserved for play, and the Museum will be offering lessons every Friday afternoon in February. Among the other public programs:

  • screenings of Mah-Jongg: The Tiles That Bind (Jan 25) and Shanghai Ghetto (Apr 4)
  • a reading of A Brief History of Mah Jongg – an original one-act play written by local playwright Faye Sholiton to accompany the exhibition (Mar 7 & 18)
  • an afternoon of games and art at the Museum’s Family Fun Day (Feb 26)
  • an evening of moonlight, music, mahj munchies and the ever famous mahj-tini (late March/early April)

Full details on the exhibition, programs, and events can be found on the “Happenings” calendar. Tickets for all events and programs can be purchased by calling the Museum at 216.593.0575.


Docent-led tours can be reserved daily for adult and student groups, with discounts for groups of 15+ (reservations required). Packs of 35 or more tickets are available at a discounted price. Players Passes will be available for $20 for those who want to visit the Museum several times through the run of the exhibition. Pass holders will have the same benefits as Museum Members (discounts on public programs and in the Museum Store) during the run of the exhibition, January 24 – April 22, 2012.


To learn more about Project Mah Jongg, visit the official site





Local sponsors include BNY Mellon Wealth Management, Margaret Wong & Associates, Pearl of the Orient, Dollar Bank, and Li Wah. Media sponsorship from Cleveland Jewish News.


This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of the National Mah Jongg League. Additional support provided by Sylvia Hassenfeld and the 2wice Arts Foundation. Exhibit design by Abbott Miller, Pentagram.


Maltz Museum is generously funded by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture.