Homage to Mahj
PROJECT MAH JONGG
Curated by Melissa Martens, Museum of Jewish Heritage
Skirball Cultural Center through September 2, 2012
Jewish Museum of Florida in Miami Beach,
October 16, 2012 until March 17, 2013
MAH JONGG: CRAK, BAM, DOT
(Exhibit Companion Guide)
edited by Abbot Miller, Patsy Tarr
2wiceBooks, 84 pp., $40
"Any Miami Jewess worth her salt has a poolside mah jongg game once a week," the designer Isaac Mizrahi declares in his contribution to Project Mah Jongg, which debuted at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. The show is now travelling the Jewish museum circuit introducing the rummy-like tile game to those who have never seen the craks, bams, and dots—the Chinese characters, bamboo sticks, and circles that decorate the game pieces.
After an appearance at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Cleveland, the show is now at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, with a planned engagement at the Jewish Museum of Florida running into 2013. The exhibit, which is underwritten by the National Mah Jongg League, lays out the game's Jewish yichus in a visually appealing display designed to attract a new generation of players in the current era of resurgent poker and retro-chic.
But mah jongg is not poker, and the Jewish enclaves that nurtured it—mid-century Jewish suburbs, Jewish country clubs, Catskill resorts—have either disappeared or changed. Most importantly, of course, Jewish women, like other American women, have entered the workforce, which leaves little time for long afternoons at the mahj table.
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