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.


“The
Naomi's just-published 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.

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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.


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.

Categories

A Love Letter to Marilyn

This isn’t a column. It’s a love letter. The object of my affections is Marilyn (she wants me to keep her last name our little secret), a grandmother from a small New England town.

Last Chanukah, like all good grandmothers, Marilyn went to Toys R Us to scout out the goodies, when her eye fell upon an impressive collection of encyclopedias for children published by a British firm called Dempsey-Parr. As she flipped through the slick pages, she came upon the section on the Middle East. To her surprise, one flag was missing.

The Israeli flag.

On checking the map, she noted that the country of Israel was missing as well. Well, thought Marilyn. Let’s see. She  looked up Jerusalem in the book and was told “it was a holy city for Muslims, the followers of Islam, as well as for Jews and Christians. The Dome of the Rock is the city’s most holy Muslim temple.”

In The Children’s First Encyclopedia, under Crisis in the Middle East, the Six Day War is described in one line: “Israel invaded the Sinai Peninsula.”

Of Golda Meir, the book tells its young readers: “She always hoped to solve the problems of Israel and Palestine through peaceful means, but under her leadership Israel was involved in the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War.”

Well, well, thought Marilyn. There’s a pattern here. She checked on the children’s book section in Best Buy stores and came across some more “educational” books from Demsey-Parr: Pocket Atlas didn’t list the Israeli flag. First Atlas didn’t list the country of Israel, nor did The Illustrated Encyclopedia. The Children’s Illustrated Dictionary lists all world languages, except Hebrew. Question and Answer Encyclopedia lists page 59 as having information on Jerusalem, but doesn’t actually have any. Children’s First Book of People and Places has more of the same.

Marilyn was appalled, like anyone would be who thinks children deserve books that inculcate knowledge, not misinformation and hate. (Now, this is the point in my story where it veers from information to the adulation that is the mainstay of all good love letters.) But unlike most of us, Marilyn decided it wasn’t enough for her not to purchase Dempsey-Parr Poison for Children’s Minds. She decided to get these dangerous books out of the stores.

Her first set of letters were sent out to apprise Toys R Us and Levy Home Entertainment, Best Buys’ book distributor, that there was a problem. Toys R Us’s Ronda Senior wrote her back a carefully worded letter disclaiming responsibility. They weren’t, she said, “actively” buying Dempsey-Parr books. She helpfully suggested that perhaps the problem was the “lack of adequate information on Jerusalem,” available to the authors.

This, of course, made Marilyn mad. She wrote back, politely suggesting that this was offensive and that “there are many hazards that can befall a child, not the least of which are those that poison the mind. These books are dismally edited and at their worst they are instruments of bigotry. They should be removed from your shelves. You state that Toys R Us is a company who believes in children and their education. Your ultimate actions will prove or disprove the seriousness with which you take that responsibility.”

The reaction of Levy Home Entertainment, on the other hand, was wonderful. Barbara Levy Kipper, its head, notified Paragon Publishers in England, (parent company of Dempsey-Parr and packagers of these notorious mind-poisoners) that they were pulling the books in question from Levy-supplied stores nationwide. Paragon Publishers was summoned to explain itself to Levy’s Board of Directors.

Barbara Levy and Howard Reese, CEO, both called Marilyn to offer apologies and to thank her for uncovering the insidious pattern of Dempsey-Parr books. They were also instrumental in getting Paragon – Dempsey-Parr to notify Toys R Us of problems with the books. Marilyn received a letter from Toys R Us saying that all Dempsey-Parr books would be recalled from their stores as well.

Marilyn’s battle was a lonely one. Although she contacted B’nai Brith, the American Jewish Community Council, and different branches of rabbinical associations, their silence left her hanging alone in the wind. No doubt their time was taken up with much more important things, like fundraising to cover enormous salaries.

The Anti-Defamation League wrote a long letter to Paragon Publishing full of helpful suggestions on editing the books, but failed to call for their immediate removal from the stores.

No. Only Marilyn thought to do that. And many private individuals from nearby synagogues and on the internet helped spread the word. Which is why she is my hero. And which is why I am writing her this love letter.

Dearest Marilyn, the people of Israel, who have been wiped off the map, and maligned, thank you for noticing and for feeling outrage, and most of all, for taking the time and trouble to do something about it.

Why did she persist? In her own words:

“It is not only CNN and their ilk that spread misinformation, apparently the world’s publishers (particularly the British) seem to feel that when it comes to hate, one can never start too young. Perhaps Dempsey-Parr thought that if they ignored our existence and/or disseminated lies early enough in a child’s education, they could recruit more innocents into their veil of hate. Maybe they thought that no one would notice or care. They were wrong on both counts.”

Marilyn, I love you! I’m inspired by what you’ve taught us: One person can make a difference. And the next time we are tempted to let a shoddy piece of propaganda in the guise of children’s tales or news reports or editorial commentary pass us by without picking up a pen (or mouse) to protest, I hope your example will not let us rest. As another little Jew taught us, a well placed rock from a single slingshot can bring down giants.

Our sages taught us that we don’t need to finish the task, just to begin it. Please, everyone, do your little part in helping us part the seas of hatred that are engulfing our people. I know it doesn’t seem like much, to write a letter, or annoy one of CNN’s sponsors. But little drops on a stone carve out mountains in the end.

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