The Rabbi Wore Bell-bottoms

Book Cover


1960s & '70s

Art Novak

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Drafted fresh out of grad school, Dan Berman feels ambivalent about organized religion, but at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri he finds himself assigned Jewish chaplain's assistant. Thanks to a kindhearted rabbi and the Lutheran daughter of the bigoted post chaplain, he finds himself.


Comedy,Historical Fiction,Memoir,Funny,Drama,Religious

Short Summary

After a series of humorous experiences trying to escape the Vietnam-era army and survive basic training, Dan is assigned as Jewish chaplain's assistant. When he falls in love with Harriet, daughter of the bigoted post chaplain, the wise and witty rabbi helps him navigate life, love, and lunacy.

While Dan faces his beloved Reform rabbi's replacement by a humorless Orthodox rabbi, Harriet has to deal with the revelation that her father is not who she thought he was. Disillusioned by organized religion, Dan and Harriet build a philosophy of life together.


Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri (primarily); Chicago-area (briefly)

Based on a True Story


Plot - Premise

Internal Journey/Rebirth

Plot - Other Elements

Coming of Age,Happy Ending,Meaningful Message,Philosophical Questions,Twist

Mature Audience Themes


Main Character Details

Name: Dan Berman

Age: 23

Gender: Male

Role: Protagonist

Key Traits: Engaging,Funny,Romantic,Educated

Additional Character Details

Name: Stephen Weisberg

Age: 27

Gender: Male

Role: Mentor

Key Traits: Blunt,Heroic,Engaging,Strong Moral Code,Leader,Educated,Honorable,Funny,Decisive,Empathetic

Additional Character Details

Name: Harriet Marshall

Age: 22

Gender: Female

Role: emotional

Key Traits: Charming,Complex,Confident,Engaging,Educated,Romantic,Sexy,Outspoken,Strong Moral Code

Additional Character Details

Name: Herbert Marshall

Age: 45

Gender: Male

Role: antagonist

Key Traits:

Development Pitch

The Rabbi Wore Bell-bottoms is about as easy to categorize as life itself. On one level, it's a laugh-out-loud memoir, with countless anecdotes based on my experiences as a Jewish chaplain's assistant in Vietnam-era America. On another level, it's a thinking-man's (or woman's) coming-of-age tale of star-crossed love in all its incarnations β€” romantic, platonic, spiritual. Finally, it's a serious critique of the ways organized religion colors our perceptions and provides insight into the mass exodus from organized religion over the past half century. The strength of the story is that it seamlessly weaves these three convergent strands into something that feels unmistakably like the fabric of life. The characters are witty, lovable, intelligent, and, above all, human. And they precipitate a series of surprising plot twists that are nonetheless perfectly in keeping with the personalities involved. Is there material here for a TV sitcom series like MASH? A satirical social commentary like Catch-22? A love story like ... Love Story? Yes, yes, and yes. If a novel can't be sold unless it's pigeonholed, The Rabbi Wore Bell-bottoms hasn't got a prayer.

About The Author

Art Novak has published two novels. The Rabbi Wore Bell-bottoms draws heavily on his experiences as a Jewish chaplain's assistant in the army, and he has also narrated an audiobook version. An earlier novel, Doglegs, focuses on the relative merits of humans and canines. In his prior lives, Art was an Emmy-winning advertising copywriter and a professor in the advertising department at Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD).

Target Audiences

Age: 18-34,35-54,55+

Target Gender: Universal

Group Specific

Information not completed

Publishing Details

Status: Yes: self-published

Publisher: Self-published

Year Published: 2018

Hard Copy Available