Naomi Ragen is an American-born novelist, playwright and journalist who has lived in Jerusalem since 1971. Naomi has written for the Jerusalem Post and other publications in Israel and abroad, as well as to her mailing list, about Israel and Jewish issues.

Naomi's tenth novel The Devil in Jerusalem has been chosen by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency as the number one Jewish book of the season.
The story - inspired by true events - begins with an ambulance screaming through Jerusalem’s quiet streets. Inside, a toddler fights for his life, his parents nowhere to be found. With profound shock, an emergency room doctor realizes that the child’s mother, a young American, is already at the hospital sitting at the bedside of yet another child with traumatic injuries, devoutly reciting Psalms and stubbornly refusing to answer any questions. “שטן
The Devil in Jerusalem is a chilling tale of the paths that so easily lead us astray, and the darkness within us all. Click the book’s cover to learn more.

Subscribe to Naomi's Blog

Enter your email address to subscribe to Naomi's blog.

Naomi has published ten internationally best-selling novels, and is the author of a hit play (Women's Minyan) that has been performed more than 500 times in Israel's National Theatre (Habimah) as well as in the United States and Argentina.
An Orthodox woman, feminist and iconoclast, Naomi is a tireless advocate for women's rights in Israel, waging a relentless campaign against domestic abuse and bias in rabbinical courts, as well as a successful Supreme Court case against gender segregation on Israeli buses.
With her tenth novel, The Devil in Jerusalem, Naomi continues her ground-breaking exploration of women in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish world she began in 1989 with Jephte's Daughter, followed by Sotah and The Sacrifice of Tamar.
Naomi is a sought-after lecturer all over the world. If your group is interested in hosting Naomi, please click here.

October 2016 - The Devil in Jerusalem is published in paperback.
November 2015 - The Jewish Telegraphic Agency puts The Devil in Jerusalem at the top of its list of the best Jewish books of the season.
November 2015 - Naomi lectured in Newton (MA), Boca Raton (FL), Miami (FL), St. Louis (MO), New York City, Atlanta (GA), Cherry Hill (NJ) and Santa Fe (NM).
“שטןAugust 2015 - Naomi’s new book, שטן בירושלים, a translation of The Devil in Jerusalem, is published.
Le Dixieme Chant8-19 March 2015 - Naomi toured France and Switzerland, speaking to her readers in Paris, Marseilles, Strasbourg and Geneva about her new French book, Le Dixieme Chant, a translation of The Tenth Song.
12-20 November 2014 - Naomi lectured at the Windsor Writer’s Conference in Windsor, ON as well as in Detroit, Toronto and Winnipeg.
The Sisters Weiss7 October 2014 - Naomi's ninth novel, The Sisters Weiss, was published in paperback. It's the story of two sisters from an ultra-Orthodox family in 1950s Brooklyn who take very different paths, and then find their lives unexpectedly intersecting again forty years later. To order the book from Amazon, click the book cover above.

8-17 August 2014 - Naomi was the scholar-in-residence on Kosherica's Kosher Baltic Cruise aboard the Norwegian Cruise Lines Star. The 9 night cruise visited Copenhagen, Rostock, Tallinn, Helsinki, St. Petersburg and Stockholm.

Salone Internazionale del Libro 8-9 May 2014 - Naomi took part in a panel discussion on women in Israel, together with Fiamma Nirenstein and Elena Loewenthal, at the Salone Internazionale del Libro 2014 in Turin, Italy.

December 2013 - Watch an interview (in French) with Naomi about her struggle against the haredi war on women in Israel.
Watch an interview (in French) with Naomi about Le Serment.

December 2013 - Naomi visited Île-de-France to promote her new book Le serment (the French translation of The Covenant).

Sotah 15 March 2012 - Sotah was published in Italian as L'amora proibito. Read a review (in Italian).

Jephte's Daughter March 2012 - Jephte's Daughter was published in an Italian paperback edition, as Una moglie a Gerusalemme.

Le Fantôme de Dona Gracia Mendes October 2011 - The Ghost of Hannah Mendes was published in French as Le Fantôme de Dona Gracia Mendes. Read a review (in French).

The Tenth Song October 2011 - The Tenth Song was published in paperback.

May 2011 - Four-time Tony nominee Tovah Feldshuh directed a staged reading of Women's Minyan at New York's Westside Theater. The reading was produced by One Circle Productions, in partnership with Safe Horizon.

Watch the reading. Watch an interview with Naomi and Tovah Feldshuh.

Le serment November 2013 - The Covenant was published in French as Le serment.

November 2013 - Watch an interview with Naomi by Sharon Mor of Shaulina Productions about Naomi's new book The Sisters Weiss in Hebrew or in English.

6 November 2013 - Israel's Supreme Court reversed the District Court's decision against Naomi in the Shapiro case and ordered Shapiro to return the money she was awarded. Naomi agreed that the money be donated to charity.
October-November 2013 - Naomi toured the US, visiting twelve US cities and speaking about her new book, The Sisters Weiss.
The Sisters Weiss October 2013 - Naomi's ninth novel, The Sisters Weiss, was published. Read an article about it in the San Diego Jewish World.
Chains Around the Grass August 2013 - Chains Around the Grass was published in an Amazon Kindle edition.
July 2013 - An interview with Naomi about her trips to Spain to research her best-selling The Ghost of Hannah Mendes was featured in Jewish Travel.
December 2012 - Naomi's play Women's Minyan was performed by the West Boca Theatre Company at the Levis JCC in Boca Raton, Florida.
November 2012 - Naomi visited Île-de-France speaking about her books.
5 November 2012 - Naomi spoke at the Cockfosters and North Southgate Synagogue in London, England.


Chains Around the Grass

Chains Around the Grass

Set in the 1950’s in New York City, Chains Around the Grass is a portrait of a Jewish-American family that glows with affection, tenderness, and courage when tragedy changes the lives of all who are left behind. A passionately personal and heartfelt book, based heavily on autobiographical material, this is the book Ms. Ragen says that she became an author to write.

Based on novelist Ragen’s own experiences growing up in an ethnically mixed low-income housing project in the Rockaways, this novel opens a window into the bittersweet world of the Markowitz family as they struggle to make ends meet in 1950s New York City. A first-generation Jewish immigrant with incredible reserves of optimism and ambition, David Markowitz trades in his religious identity for the promised gold of America, believing that “if you really wanted to, if you worked your can off, you could not only get out of Brooklyn, but get Brooklyn out of you.” After being conned into making a bad investment that leaves him and his family financially and emotionally bankrupt, David dies suddenly. For the first time in her life, his wife, Ruth, must take sole responsibility for her three children, something that seems overwhelmingly difficult.
Publisher’s Weekly

In August 2013, Chains Around the Grass was re-issued as an Amazon Kindle book. You can see it on Amazon’s site by clicking the picture below.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why do you think the author chose to call this book Chains Around the Grass?  To what does the title refer?  Does it have a deeper, symbolic significance?
  2. The author has said that this is a book about “the dark side of the American Dream.”  How would you describe the American Dream? In what way does this book look at its more sinister aspects?  Do you agree or disagree with the author’s perspective, and why?
  3. All of the characters in this book go through life-changing experiences.  In what way do these experiences change them, build them, destroy them?  Are they better or worse human beings for having gone through these experiences?
  4. George Orwell once wrote: “A tragic situation exists when virtue does not triumph  but when it is still felt that man is nobler than the forces that destroy him.”  Does a tragic situation exist in Chains Around the Grass?
  5. If Ruth Markowitz had grown up in the Sixties instead of the Forties, how would her life have been different?
  6. Who do you think is the main character of this book and why?
  7. How would you describe Sara’s religious experience?  What does it have to say about growing up Jewish in America?
  8. This is a book about families and the American-Jewish immigrant experience.  What does this book have to say about the clash of  American values and culture with Jewish values and culture and its effect on the family bonds of Jewish-American immigrants?  In what ways are American values similar to Jewish values, and in what way are they in opposed?
  9. Describe Jesse Markowitz’s behavior in light of his relationship to his father.  In starting a business, what were some of the things he was trying to prove, to himself and to the world?
  10. The book says of Ruth:  “All her knowledge, so new and painfully won, all her experience, would not be able to help her son, as it had not been able to help her husband.”  To what knowledge does this refer?  How could this knowledge have helped her husband, her son?
  11. At the end of the book, the author concludes:  “As long as life rolls forward, no story ever ends, and no tale is ever really a tragedy.”  Do agree or disagree with this statement and why.
  12. Would you describe Sara’s two experiences by the sea as religious experiences?  In what way?  How else could you describe them? Have you ever experienced something similar? Describe.