Project Mah Jongg Opening January 2012

Crak! Bam! Dot! It’s Project Mah Jongg
Hot New York Exhibition Will Open at the Maltz Museum January 2012


(November 08, 2011, Cleveland, OH) – Enter a room where mah jongg is being played and the first thing you’ll hear are the sounds of happiness – laughter and chatter, tiles clacking, “mah jongg!” cried out by an triumphant winner.   Whether in Asia, where the game has been their most popular for decades, or in libraries, bookstores, community centers, country clubs, bookstores, grocery stores or homes around Ohio, the game is fascinating and energizing.  People play anywhere four can fit around a card table.


Mah jongg was popularized in America in the 1920s when a Standard Oil executive began importing sets in bulk.  Companies such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Milton Bradley, and Parker Brothers further fueled interest by selling affordable sets across America, setting a craze in motion.   Later, when many Jewish families moved into the suburbs, the game became a cherished afternoon social activity among suburban women not yet in the workforce in great numbers.


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.  Now in Oregon, 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.


You’ll 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 will be offering lessons.  A tournament (February 13) will test the skills of new and experienced players.  Among other public activities being planned:

  • screening of the documentary short The Tiles That Bind;
  • reading of an original one-act play being written to accompany the exhibition by local playwright Faye Sholiton, A Brief History of Mah Jongg;
  • an evening with local celebrity chef Doug Katz and others.


Docent-led tours can be reserved daily for adult and student groups of ten or more, 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 (Store discounts, discounts on public programs).


The Museum Store, open whenever the Museum is, will carry mah jongg sets, jewelry, and related merchandise, in addition to the exhibition’s companion publication Mah Jongg: Crak, Bam, Dot, edited by Abbott Miller and Patsy Tarr.  The store offers free gift wrapping and free close-in parking with handicapped and alternative vehicle spaces; wheelchairs can be reserved in advance.  The Museum is a stunning venue for a range of private events with exclusive viewing of the exhibition; details and pricing on request.


Learn more about the Maltz Museum at, 216-593-0575, become a friend on Facebook, or tweet with us on Twitter.  To learn more about Project Mah Jongg, visit the official site at


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.


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.


About the Museum of Jewish Heritage

The Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust is located on the waterfront at 36 Battery Place in Manhattan’s Battery Park City. Through groundbreaking award-winning exhibitions, world class education, and public programs, the Museum honors those who died by celebrating their lives—cherishing the civilization that they built and the vibrant Jewish community that is their legacy today, and learning from their history.