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 New Year’s Prayer

The start of a New Year. The house sparkles. The smell of freshly-baked challah and sweet kugels waft through the kitchen. The shelves hold honey, the fruit bowls scarlet pomegranates and yellow-green star fruits. All my family is gathered around me, children and grandchildren. I feel rich with blessing, and unutterably grateful to G-d for His endless bounty.

And yet, along with the brightness and joy, there will be some dark shadows, cast by people facing quite a different kind of New Year.

There is the Rebbitzen “Ruth” whose adulterous husband is living in a penthouse with her twelve children, while she lives in a dungeon of an apartment in the basement of a decrepit building in Meah Shearim. It will be three whole years she hasn’t seen her children. Since I wrote of her, a second daughter got married. She, like her sister, never invited her mother. She never even called to say she regretted the situation. “Ruth” has developed breathing problems and is taking cortisone. Her doctor says it’s her living conditions. Her teeth are in bad shape too, and her glasses recently broke, but all those things will have to wait. All her money has gone to pay her lawyer. She’s deeply in debt, and doesn’t know how she’s going to be able to afford to continue her fight to get the rabbinical courts to give her back her children. For the second time, I saw her cry. The first was during a shiva call for her father, where she sat alone, unwelcome to join her family. And now she wept again, realizing for the first time, she says, that no court can bring her children back to her. They have been so brainwashed with lies, only a miracle could convince them to seek her out.

In the midst of all my personal happiness, I can’t forget Ruth.

Then there is M. A., mother of five, whose mentally-ill husband from a prominent Rabbinical family, abused her for years with the silent acquiescence of rabbis, to whom she went for help, and of neighbors, who heard her screams. When M.A. finally went to the police and the newspapers, her husband fled, leaving her an agunah. He also left her with a 25,000 NIS bill for pornographic phone calls. Her religious-Zionist community has shunned her, unwilling to believe she is telling the truth (a pattern that keeps repeating itself shamefully in religious circles concerning abused women). But after all she’s been through, M.A. has grown used to living without her neighbors’ help. This New Year, however, she risks losing the only way she has of feeding her children: The principals of both State religious schools where M.A. has taught English for the last six years are doing everything in their power to have her fired.

They are her neighbors, both religious men, pillars of the community. I wonder if they’ll think of her, at their festive New Year’s tables?

And what about “Devorah”, my little lost girl? After her family abused and starved her to convince her and her sister to go to an ultra-Orthodox girls’ school, the two girls finally ran away from home. They wound up in a shelter full of prostitutes and drug addicts. Finally overcoming their fears, they contacted a social worker, who found them immediate housing in a shelter run by kind , religious people. She is not used to eating so much, Devorah tells me. And they are good about giving her clothes. But she’d like to go to a regular school, not the small class in the shelter. And she’d like to take guitar lessons, and invite her friends over….She’d like a real home.

As I sit in the synagogue praying, I know the following words of a haredi reader from Square Town, New York will also shadow my thoughts: “I am just wondering why in an unperfected world, you choose to attack one group of people for their failures?” he asks.

It’s a good question, and this is my answer: “Seek justice. Relieve the oppressed,” the prophet Isaiah says. That was the true goal of Judaism, I remember being taught as a yeshiva girl so many years ago. But where does one start? I think everyone has to begin in that tiny corner of the world they call home. The silent shadows at my New Year’s table are my friends, my neighbors, part of the religious world I call home. And although there are those in my world who persist in calling “evil good and good evil,” I still have faith that the religious Jews among whom I live are the most likely candidates to take G-d and Isaiah seriously.

It is my New Year’s prayer that I will merit seeing that faith rewarded. That I will see “Ruth” reunited with her children, living in the home she deserves, her family repentant for all the suffering they’ve caused her. That I will see M.A. supported by loving neighbors and a caring community. That I will see the Rabbis who failed her — and so many other women — begging her forgiveness and promising to do better in the future.

That I will see Devorah growing and happy, preparing to embrace life and all its possibilities with joy. That I will see her and her sister reconciled with their parents, who will ask their daughters’ forgiveness for caring too much about cold, abstract ideas, and too little about the needs of warm, living girls.

Oh, what a beautiful sight that will be! It’s Isaiah’s vision. The same one that keeps me going.

A happy, healthy New Year to all of you.

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