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.

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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 - is a chilling tale of the paths that so easily lead us astray, and the darkness within us all. “שטן
Click the book’s cover to learn more.

Watch Valérie Abécasis' interview with Naomi on French Channel 24's Culture program. The interview (in French) begins at the 4:00 minute mark.

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.

Nic Nie MówMay 2017 – The Polish translation of Devil in Jerusalem is published as Nic Nie Mów.

April 2017 – Naomi speaks about her books at the Ivan M. Stettenham Library at the Streicker Centre in New York City.

March 2017 – Naomi tours the Paris region to speak about her new book Les Soeurs Weiss, the French translation of The Sisters Weiss.

January 2017 – Naomi is interviewed by Valérie Abécasis on French Channel 24‘s Culture program. The interview (in French) begins at the 4:00 minute mark.

“LesDecember 2016Les Soeurs Weiss, the French translation of The Sisters Weiss, is published.

October 2016The 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 Sarah 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.


A Shiv’a Call on Ruth

I paid a condolence call the other day. Ruth (not her real name) formerly one of the most respected rebbitzins in Meah Shearim, the wife of a prominent Rabbi and scholar from a distinguished rabbinical family, had lost her beloved father. When I finally found the address in Meah Shearim, I couldn’t believe my eyes: walking down to the basement of an apartment house on a busy shopping street, I found Ruth in a shabby cellar apartment without plumbing or hot water, in a dingy bedroom whose rusted window faces a noisy alleyway.

Ruth, who used to live in a large, elegant home with her twelve children, is a beautiful, distinguished woman, still every inch the dignified Rebbitzen she once was before her divorce. Sitting alone on the floor, Ruth’s only visitor is her friend Zehava – a Sephardic haredi mother of ten, who has stuck by Ruth through everything. Her loyalty has cost Zehava dearly: two years ago, she was attacked by the Modesty Patrol, who broke her arm and several ribs and put her into the hospital. Her husband recently left her as well.

The rest of Ruth’s family, her mother, brothers and sisters, were sitting shiv’a in the family home, a bus ride away. Ruth is not welcome there. In fact, ever since she left her husband, she has had no contact at all with her family. Indeed, her mother and sisters testified against her in court during her divorce proceedings. She also had no expectations that her own children would come to pay her their respects. Despite her legal right to do so, she hasn’t seen or spoken to her children ever since fleeing her home two years ago. At her husband’s request, the Rabbinical Court even issued an injunction preventing her from attending her daughter’s wedding. Her husband now claims that the children don’t want to see her. Ruth has been trying, without success, to convince the Rabbinical Courts otherwise.

At her father’s funeral, Ruth tells me, she saw her nine-year old son. “He tried to wave and smile at me, but they wouldn’t let him. Someone spread out their arms and hid him. I just wanted to smile back at him,” she murmurs. She speaks softly, without rancor, and without much hope. “They wouldn’t let me see my father in the hospital, either, even though he was dying. Father was always the peacemaker. “Don’t make them angry with you. Wait, wait, I’ll come to you, my daughter. No one can stop me from coming to you.’” For the first time her eyes fill with tears.” After he passed away, I waited for him. But he didn’t come. He didn’t come,”she weeps.

Ruth has not only been banished from her family, she is assiduously avoided by her former friends and neighbors, who cross the street when they see her coming, in a way reminiscent of the “shunning” described in Nathaniel Hawthorn’s SCARLET LETTER, except that in Ruth’s case, it was her husband who committed adultery.

Ruth’s unforgivable crime is that she went public, seeking and receiving a divorce from a physically and sexually abusive husband, who was also an adulterer, a thief, and a sexual pervert. But when Ruth finally found the courage to leave him, it was for a different reason altogether: Ruth, a deeply religious woman, left her husband because he forced her to have relations when religious law forbade it. She believes that the terrible ordeal of being forcibly separated from her children is a punishment from G-d for not fending her husband off more successfully. She hopes that when she has being duly punished, G-d will give her back her children. In the meantime, she haunts the courts, with petition after petition, trying desperately to get her case moved from Rabbinic Court to the newly created Civil Family Court, where she is convinced she will be treated with greater fairness concerning child custody and property settlement.

Two older women, relatives of her father, walk in. Their eyes betray how appalled they are with Ruth’s living conditions. Ruth, delighted they’ve come, tries to convince them her present condition is undeserved. Finally, when nothing works, she plays them a secretly-taped conversation with her former husband, in which he admits everything from adultery to wife-abuse.

“We can’t go against the family,” they murmur, hurrying out the door. Ruth thanks them for being the only ones with the courage to come visit her. I too get up and leave.

Out in the streets of Meah Shearim, I looked around me. Did they simply not know of the unjust suffering just beneath their feet? Would they reach out to Ruth with generosity, decency and courage – true piety, once informed? Or might they join Ruth’s friends and neighbors, creating and believing lies to exonerate their culpability? Or simply knife the storyteller?

I’m waiting to hear.

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