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

Hidden Saints

When people buttonhole me in the street, write me letters and e-mail asking me to “write something nice” about the ultra-Orthodox world, I usually tell them that I find it curious they aren’t instead banging down my door asking me how they can help alleviate the suffering I describe. Why is it that all they can think about is lobbying for “feel good” stories to assuage their consciences? Nevertheless, I see no reason why out of spite I shouldn’t write about some of the wonderful ultra-Orthodox Jews that have crossed my path.

Just remember, lobbyists. This column is definitely not for you.You don’t need me to pat you on the back. You do very well with that all by yourself.

There is a tradition among religious Jews which says that G-d keeps the world going for the sake of thirty-six hidden saints who make it all worthwhile.

I’d like to tell you about four of them.

The first two are Rabbi Kalman Samuels and his wife Malky. Twenty years ago, when the Samuels were ultra-Orthodox immigrants from the United States, they took their beautiful, healthy three month all baby, Yossi, to get a routine DPT shot at the local Well Baby Clinic. After he received the shot, his temperature shot up. Then he began having seizures. Yossi had received one of the deadly toxic DPT vaccines tragically imported into Israel in the 1970’s, causing a wave of infant deaths.

Yossi survived. But his tiny body was ravaged by it. He was left blind, deaf, and crippled. Being devout Jews, the Kalmans never cursed their fate or G-d. On the contrary. They drew from their faith the enormous spiritual strength they needed to care for Yossi, to whom their devotion was boundless. But having 5 other children, they came to the point of total exhaustion. Isn’t there a place, they wondered, which will take care of special needs children like Yossi a few hours a week, giving the parents some time off? They looked around. There wasn’t.

And so they started one in their own home, bringing in mentally and physically disabled children from around the city. They called their program Shalva, meaning respite. When the number of children grew, they asked the City of Jerusalem to give them a building. A clerk offered them a dark bomb shelter. “What does it matter?” he said cynically.“These children won’t know the difference.” Kalman and Malky disagreed. These children, they insisted, deserve the most beautiful facility in the world.

After ten years of superhuman efforts, Rabbi Kalman Samuels raised the funding necessary to build it. It is called “Beit Nachshon, ” after the Israeli soldier Nachshon Wachsman murdered by Hamas terrorists. Nachshon’s beloved little brother Rafael, who has Downe’s Syndrome, is a regular at Shalva.

Come to Har Nof to visit Shalva one day, if you can. You’ll see ninety physically and mentally challenged children resting in beautiful painted bedrooms, playing in a private Disneyland in a three story villa with magnificent views. And despite their terrible handicaps, you’ll hear the laughter of happy kids, cared for with endless love all because two deeply religious parents decided that to love G-d, was to love every soul he created, no matter the state of the body which housed it.

Every year, the Samuels struggle to pay their enormous ongoing expenses. They have to. These children have no place else to go.

Candidate number three is Rabbi Noah Corman, a haredi advocate in the Rabbinical Court. Representing an abused haredi woman, he was shocked to find his client had no place to live, and was bunking down in the lobby of the Central Hotel in Jerusalem. Unable to go home, she found that the usual women’s shelters had no facilities for her special religious needs. So, Rabbi Corman raised the funds to open just such a shelter. He called it: Bat Melech.

Although he can house very few women, and the demand is enormous, he has ushered a good number of haredi women and their small children past the dangers, providing lawyers, social workers, and job training to help them start new lives.

Finally, there is a haredi rabbi who doesn’t want his name mentioned, the founder of two homes for haredi teenagers fleeing abusive homes. My “little lost girl” found a haven under his benevolent, fatherly wing. Recently, the same rabbi helped convict an abusive father living near him in Geula, when all the other neighbors listened to the children’s screams and did nothing. Rabbi H. reported him to the police, testified in court, and found himself physically attacked by the man. Now the man is behind bars, his children safe. And Rabbi H., whose wounds are healing, is busy expanding his children’s shelters, continuing his saintly work.

As singer Tom Lehrer once said about the table of elements: “ And these are all of them of whom the news has come to Harvard. There may be many others, but they haven’t been discovered.” Whenever I come across the other thirty-two, I’ll be happy to let you know.


In response to numerous inquiries from Jerusalem Post readers wishing to contact or contribute to organizations described in this article, the following are their addresses and bank account numbers:

SHALVA, Beit Nachshon, POB 35199, Jerusalem 91351, Bank Mizrachi (20); Branch 458, Account Number: 193553

BAT MELECH (religious women’s shelter) POB 41247, Jerusalem 91412, Bank Mizrachi, Branch 403, Account Number: 403327

KEREN OHEL MEIR (children’s shelter) POB 16372, Jerusalem, Bank Leumi. Branch 766 Account Number: 10227/64.

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