Project Mah Jongg at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage
The Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage offers the first exhibition of its kind – Project Mah Jongg. The exhibition takes visitors on an exploration of the game’s cultural meaning through sight, text and play through April 24.
The game of mah jongg originated in 19th century China. According to Meredith Lewis of My Jewish Learning, “Around 1846, a servant of the Chinese emperor combined the rules of popular card games of the time, and replaced cards with tiles to create mah-jongg. The name itself means sparrows–an allusion to the pictures of birds often engraved on the tiles.”
The game became very popular, but constant rule changes and a lack of consistency turned players off and thus began the decline of mah jongg. Except, Lewis says, among Jewish women.
Mah jongg became an integral part of the Jewish culture. While husbands were at war or away, Jewish women shared their lives with each other through a game of mah jongg and in 1937, an attempt to keep the game alive resulted in the National Mah Jongg League, which still meets to this day.
The Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage now offers an in-depth and dynamic look at the phenomenon of mah jongg. Visitors experience the game through soundscapes featuring clacking tiles, exclamations from games, vintage music, large-scale graphics and a short film titled May the Tiles Be with You: Cleveland’s Love Affair with Mah Jongg. A game table at the core of the exhibition invites players to take part in a game and bring the exhibition to life.
For more information about the exhibition, the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage and to reserve your game table, visit www.maltzmuseum.org or call 216.593.0575.
– Corinne Allie, Social Networking Specialist