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Maltz Museum offers a different Christmas Day tradition

By Jim Mackinnon
Beacon Journal business writer

BEACHWOOD: Jim Tsang and family and friends — all Toronto, Canada, residents — are vacationing in Northeast Ohio this week.

Tsang, who emigrated decades ago from Hong Kong, has been to this area previously and wanted to come back.

And for Christmas Day, he and his 10-person entourage decided to visit the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage off Richmond Road in Beachwood. Not that there were a lot of other choices on Wednesday — most public places, stores, restaurants and the like are closed for the major Christian holiday.

“We always travel,” Tsang said. “We visit lots of places in the U.S. ... We wanted to have family fun together. We found that this place is open on Christmas Day. We never visited a Jewish museum before.”

The group picked the Maltz Museum for its annual Christmas program — Chinese Food & A Movie Day.

“It’s an unofficial tradition for Jewish people,” said Jill Rembrandt, the museum’s director of education and public programming.

“This is our fifth year of doing Chinese food and a movie. ... We kind of bill it as, ‘What else are you going to do?’ ”

The Maltz Museum offered a $12 kosher Chinese buffet: vegetarian egg rolls, rice, and chicken, vegetable and Mongolian beef stir fries.

There was a crafts table for young children.

Two films were shown in the museum’s 70-seat theater: the animated Little Prince of Egypt at 11 a.m. followed at 2 p.m. with a new documentary, When Comedy Went To School, about the birth of stand-up comedy in the Catskill Mountains.

The museum, which opened in 2005, sees itself as a community resource that is available to people of all faiths and backgrounds, Rembrandt said. For instance, being open on Christmas gives people the option of coming to the museum after exchanging and opening gifts at home, she said.

Last year, the museum had about 180 visitors on Christmas and expected to exceed that number this year, Rembrandt said.

“Today is all about having fun and being open for the community,” she said.

Beachwood resident Merna Wolfe, who has volunteered at the Maltz Museum for years, said she liked coming to the museum on Christmas.

“It’s not my holiday. It gives me something to do,” she said. “I love this place. I love what it stands for.”

The Christmas program has grown in popularity over the years and gives the museum good public exposure, Wolfe said.

“They come here. They have lunch. They see the museum,” she said. “Christmas Day, there’s not a lot to do outside of your home.”

Jennifer Rapoport, a Cleveland native who now lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., came to the museum with her two sons, Leo, 2, and Samuel, 5. She was back in Ohio visiting her parents.

“The Maltz Museum wasn’t here when I was growing up,” the 36-year-old Rapoport said. She said she found it offers crafts, food and more “on a day when we didn’t have much to do — all our needs in one place.”

Naomi Kaplan, a Mayfield Heights resident, was with her family in the museum.

“What brought us here today was, it’s different being the minority and more so on a religious holiday,” she said. “Chinese food is always a tradition on Christmas. And being together with family is always good.”

And for Tsang and his group, they said they enjoyed watching the morning movie and then walking through the museum.

“It was a very good choice, actually,” Tsang said.

Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or


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