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

Hiding Behind a Torah Scroll

It’s Sunday, September 3. Outside my window a great shout has gone up from loudspeakers and the line of cars traveling to Tel Aviv is completely still.

Aryeh Deri is on his way to jail. Finally.

When the Supreme Court rendered its recent final judgment on the former Minister of the Interior, convicting him of bribe-taking, corruption, and misuse of public office, many people, including Mrs. Deri, proclaimed that it wasn’t fair that poor Sephardi Aryeh had to go to the slammer while Ashkenazi former President Weizman (who allegedly also accepted money while in office) went scot free home to Caesaria.

Yaffa, dear, I’d like to point out that former President Weizman was never indicted, and never even had a trial, let alone a conviction and countless appeals. Aside from that niggling point, there is another important difference between the two: unlike our President, your husband Aryeh did what he did hiding behind a Torah scroll.

For myself, as a religious person, that makes it worse. Much worse.

The Talmud teaches us that a person is not allowed to ask any kind of material or other benefit from his Torah learning. That to derive this kind of benefit is a great sin, an evil. But the entire platform of the religious parties in Israel is based on doing just that: exploiting Torah learning, and its practice, in order to earn special monetary and social privileges denied to the rest of the population. The Ethics of the Fathers has a name for this: it’s called “making the Torah a shovel to dig with.”

Aryeh, from an early age, turned this kind of digging into an art-form. As a young yeshiva student, he reportedly organized his classmates into a money-making machine for saying kaddish at the kotel. When the time came to marry, he demanded, as is the custom these days among certain Talmud students, a marriage partner whose family would provide a “full arrangement” (siddur maleh), meaning a house, income,furniture, wedding expenses. Poor Yaffa almost didn’t get to meet him when he found out she was an orphan living in an institution. But when they explained that Yaffa had a rich American couple ready to “adopt” her and finance the shidduch, he changed his mind.

Those poor adoptive parents! American Holocaust survivors whose only wish was to help a young woman and perhaps have her name grandchildren after them, they found themselves caught up in the whole dirty business of Aryeh’s dark financial wheelings and dealings, pressured to provide him with an alibi for all his new-found wealth. They never did so, despite great pressure. And the adoptive mother was (suspiciously, the police thought) run over and killed by an Israeli driver in New York before she could testify.

Since his conviction and sentencing, the performance of Aryeh Deri and his wife, and now even his poor children — who have been disgracefully exploited by their father in public displays of tearfulness at enormous rallies — has made every sensible religious person in Israel cringe. Literally clutching a Torah scroll, which they thrust before our astonished faces, they tell us that this is the reason Aryeh is being sent to jail.

Excuse me? As I recall, excess love of Torah wasn’t on Reb Aryeh’s bill of indictment. And the money he took wasn’t given to Torah institutions (that’s the next case he’s being indicted for); it reportedly bought him a $400,000 apartment and a Landrover, among other things.

And when he finally exhausted all avenues of escape, and all that was left was to decide where to serve out his three-year sentence, Aryeh proclaimed, he “preferred the religious wing in Maasiyahu prison to Caesaria.”

As one who has had occasion to visit the “religious wing” in an Israeli prison, I can say with some certainty that here, at least, Mr. Deri and I agree. He will feel much more comfortable there than in Caesaria. For amid the Hasidic pedophiles, and ultra-Orthodox-garbed rapists, perverts, thieves and murderers, Aryeh will be among his own: people, who until their last breath, will clutch onto the Torah, demanding special privileges for themselves. People for whom making the Torah “a shovel to dig with” is an avocation.
Aryeh, whatever you were tried for and convicted of, your most heinous crime will always be the contemptible way you dragged our Torah and our religion through the mud to save yourself. The noted rabbis who stood beside you at the prison gates, blessing you and comparing you to Joseph, undermined any reason for women to continue honoring a patriarchy whose male leadership behaves so disgracefully.

As for the rabbis who stayed away, perhaps even shaking their heads privately at this sorry spectacle, their silence roared with cowardice in the face of this public besmirching of our Torah. To borrow the words of Aryeh’s well-oiled, publicly-financed media campaign: “We will not forget. We will not forgive.”

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