The Bar Mitz­vah and The Beast: One Fam­i­ly’s Cross-Coun­try Ride of Pas­sage by Bike

  • From the Publisher
April 30, 2012
Yon­ah, the son of well-known Bay Area Jew­ish edu­ca­tor Matt Biers-Ariel, announced that as an athe­ist he would not have a Bar Mitz­vah. His par­ents accept­ed his deci­sion but insist­ed he under­go an alter­na­tive rite of pas­sage. In lieu of spend­ing a sin­gle Sat­ur­day morn­ing chant­i­ng twelve lines of Torah, recit­ing a few prayers, and danc­ing with his grand­moth­er at a par­ty in his hon­or, Yon­ah would attempt to ride a bicy­cle from San Fran­cis­co to Wash­ing­ton DC with his par­ents and lit­tle broth­er in tow. Armed with a sense of adven­ture, a peti­tion on glob­al warm­ing, and three bicy­cles, includ­ing a crotch­ety tan­dem (The Beast), this ordi­nary fam­i­ly failed to heed the advice of friends and col­leagues by under­tak­ing a seem­ing­ly impos­si­ble jour­ney across Amer­i­ca in the heat and humid­i­ty of the sum­mer. The Bar Mitz­vah and The Beast is Mat­t’s humor­ous and poignant mem­oir of this adven­ture that explores ener­gy sus­tain­abil­i­ty, small town Amer­i­ca, and fam­i­ly rela­tions under extreme con­di­tions. The heart of the book is Mat­t’s attempt to incul­cate a feel­ing of Judaism into Yon­ah while Yon­ah push­es back. In the end, it is Mat­t’s belief sys­tem that under­goes a major revision. 

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