Allan Appel’s The Hebrew Tutor of Bel Air captures the voice of eccentric Hebrew scholar Norman Plummer, as he recounts the story of his seventeen-year-old self tutoring Bel Air princess Bayla Adler in the summer of 1963. The story goes beyond the “one crazy summer” narrative into a bigger exploration of Norman’s journey from rabbi’s geeky teenaged assistant at Junior Cong to adult applicant for the job of spiritual leader of the King Solomon Bikers Club. Bayla’s parents hire Norman to prepare their daughter for her upcoming bat mitzvah, but little Hebrew is addressed during the lessons. A friendship is formed based on both characters’ need to escape their home lives and see the world on the back of a motorcycle, and more specifically, fulfill Bayla’s desire for a reverse Jewish nose job. Appel is the author of several books, including The Rabbi of Casino Boulevard, a finalist for a National Jewish Book Award.
Jessica B. Horwitz lives in Minneapolis, MN and works in public media.