Edited by Morgan Bassichis, Jay Saper, and Rachel Valinsky
Illustrations by Nicole Eisenman
Design by Tiffany Malakooti
Edition of 3,000
About the book
Questions to Ask Before Your Bat Mitzvah invites 36 writers, artists, scholars, and activists to offer accessible reflections on 36 questions to help young Jews—and anyone else who picks up this book—feel grounded in the Jewish radical tradition, unlearn Zionism, and deepen their solidarity with Palestinians, offering the B’nai Mitzvah as an opportunity for political awakening open to all. Edited by comedic performance artist and activist Morgan Bassichis with artist and educator Jay Saper and writer Rachel Valinsky, with a foreword by seminal scholar-activist Angela Y. Davis, and illustrations by the artist Nicole Eisenman, this essential volume offers an accessible and challenging set of personal and collective responses to critical questions for our time.
Questions included range from “What even is a Bat Mitzvah?” and “I’m queer/nonbinary/secular/old/not even Jewish—are Bat Mitzvahs for me?” to “Why are there Israeli and American flags in my synagogue?” and “Why do people plant trees in Israel as a Bat Mitzvah gift?” and “What does the olive tree symbolize to Palestinians?” and “What does the watermelon symbolize to Palestinians?” and “What do Palestinian kids do when they turn thirteen?” and “How do I talk to my family about this stuff?”
Questions to Ask Before Your Bat Mitzvah is published with support from the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts at Harvard University, Cambridge, and the ICA at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, and coincides with Bassichis's traveling exhibition More Little Ditties in summer and fall 2023.
Ruanne Abou-Rahme and Basel Abbas, Imani Altemus-Williams, Sumaya Awad, Shirly Bahar, Kholoud Balata, Morgan Bassichis, Mariam Bazeed, Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo, Gregg Bordowitz, Ilise Cohen, Jonah Aline Daniel, Maya Edery, Esther Farmer, Dan Fishback, Aitan Groener, Rabbi Miriam Grossman, Noah Habeeb, Olivia Katbi, Aurora Levins Morales, Brooke Lober, Tariq Luthun, Collier Meyerson, Dori Midnight, Izzy Mustafa, Aidan Orly and Jonathan Brenneman, Una Aya Osato, Khury Petersen-Smith, Rabbi Brant Rosen, Dylan Saba, Mahdi Sabbagh, Jay Saper, Ita Segev, Dean Spade, Elena Stein, Sandra Tamari, Kendra Watkins, Satya Zamudio.
About the editors
Morgan Bassichis is a comedic performer who has been called “a tall child or, well, a big bird” by the Nation and “fiercely hilarious” by the New Yorker. Morgan’s book of to-do lists, The Odd Years, was published by Wendy’s Subway in 2020. Past shows include Questions to Ask Beforehand (Bridget Donahue, 2022), Don’t Rain on My Bat Mitzvah (co-created with Ira Khonen Temple, Creative Time, 2021), Nibbling the Hand that Feeds Me (Whitney Museum, NYC, 2019), Klezmer for Beginners (co-created with Ethan Philbrick, Abrons Arts Center, NYC, 2019), Damned If You Duet (The Kitchen, NYC, 2018), More Protest Songs! (Danspace Project, NYC, 2018), and The Faggots & Their Friends Between Revolutions: The Musical (co-created with TM Davy, DonChristian Jones, Michi Ilona Osato, and Una Aya Osato, New Museum, NYC, 2017). Morgan has released two albums: March is for Marches with Ethan Philbrick (2019) and More Protest Songs! Live From St. Mark’s Church (2018).
Jay Saper is an artist, translator, educator, and organizer who lives in Brooklyn, New York. They have taught Antifascist Yiddish for Beginners at Middlebury College and led walking tours on radical Jewish history for the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. Jay has served as artist-in-residence at the Jewish Museum Frankfurt. Their work has been supported by the Yiddish Book Center and featured on Democracy Now! Jay’s artist books and zines honoring the legacy of Yiddish print and activist culture, under the imprint Pashkevil Press, are held in the collection of the Watson Library at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Rachel Valinsky is a writer, editor, and translator based in New York. Rachel is co-founder and Artistic Director of Wendy's Subway. She is also an editor at Primary Information, and her translations have been published by Semiotext(e) and Éditions Lutanie, where she is a contributing editor. Rache’s criticism appears in publications including Artforum, Art in America, BOMB, e-flux Criticism, Frieze, and she has written for the Berlinale, Danspace Project, and Sternberg Press, among others. She teaches Art History, Art Writing, and Critical Thinking at New York University and The New School.