Project Mah Jongg

Jul 13, 2014–Oct 28, 2014

Since the 1920s, the game of mah jongg has ignited the popular imagination with its beautiful tiles, mythical origins, and communal spirit. It is a game more widely known than played or understood, and it is a true cultural hybrid. With roots in China, it made a lasting impression on American audiences and became closely linked with Jewish women beginning in the 1930s.

The exhibition explores the fascinating history of the game and its impact on cultural identity, fashion and style. The exhibition provides insight into the history and imagery of the game and explores connections between Chinese and Jewish cultures and includes dozens of artifacts—scorecards, aprons, packages, tiles—chronicling both the commercial legacy and social history of the game.

Project Mah Jongg was curated and is circulated by the Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, New York.

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PLAY ALONG

One of our most popular events is when Mahj Club comes to The Museum, teaching American-style Mah Jongg to anyone who wants to learn. Since we're currently hosting an exhibition on the game, we asked its members (and teacher) how they became interested in the game.

Jews for Dim Sum

The creative duo Jews for Dim Sum (artist Imin Yeh and artist/pastry chef Leah Rosenberg) unveiled limited-edition screenprinted Mah Jongg Noshes, inspired by the 1950s snacks that women across America nibbled while playing the game. Surprises like coins, temporary tattoos, and more were also included. A different treat and box design was offered each month.

Paper Mahjong

Artist Imin Yeh created Paper Mahjong for the 2014 exhibition Project Mah Jongg as a way to celebrate "the shared friendship between Chinese and Jewish culture, particularly here in America, exploring how both games and craft foster community, collaboration, relaxation, and companionship." In this video she demonstrates how to assemble the 153 detailed tiles, each of which blends the iconography of both cultures. Download your own Paper Mahjong here → iminyeh.info/paper-mahjong

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Supporters

Project Mah Jongg was curated and is circulated by the Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, New York. The exhibition is made possible through the generosity of the National Mah Jongg League. Additional support is provided by Sylvia Hassenfeld and 2wice Arts Foundation. Exhibition design by Abbott Miller, Pentagram.

Supporting sponsorship for The CJM’s presentation has been provided by Ascent Private Capital Management of U.S. Bank, Gloria and Jack Clumeck, and Fred M. Levin and Nancy Livingston, The Shenson Foundation, in memory of Ben and A. Jess Shenson.

Image Credit

Many mah jongg sets were designed for easy travel, 1970s. Photograph by James Shanks Photography, courtesy the Family of Charlotte Leavitt Spilka.