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.

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 - 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.

October 2016 - The 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 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.


Our Italian Friends

Italy, while not the most anti-Semitic country in Europe, has certainly earned its place on the list. Anti-Jewish prejudice and anti-Semitic episodes almost doubled in Italy in 2012.

With a daughter and five grandchildren who live in Paris (long story, blame Sherut Leumi who sent her to teach Zionism in Toulouse and did nothing to protect her from handsome, charming, Orthodox Parisian men…) I don’t get to Italy very often. So it was with some surprise and I must admit delight that I accepted an invitation to be a guest speaker at Torino’s 2014 Salone Internazionale del Libro, the largest book fair in Europe outside of Frankfurt.

The invitation was issued by the founder of the fair himself, Italian bookseller Angelo Pezzana, a well-known human rights activist and perhaps Israel’s most devoted friend in Italy. Naturally, I assumed he must be Jewish, because who else would have the incentive and courage to stand up to the growing ugliness of anti-Semitism in Europe, which only this week took a bloody toll in Belgium’s Jewish Museum.

Italy, while not the most anti-Semitic country in Europe (Greece holds that honor), it has certainly earned its place on the list. Anti-Jewish prejudice and anti-Semitic episodes almost doubled in Italy in 2012. Only this past January a black swastika was found on a memorial plaque in Torino, while in February in Fiuggi, someone spray painted the statements:“Anne Frank is a liar” and “the Holocaust is a fraud,” along with swastikas. Elections held in February, 2013 saw Beppe Grillo’s anti-Israel Five Star Movement party receive 25 percent of the vote, making it the largest party in Italy. Grillo’s Facebook page is full of hate-filled rhetoric, calling Jews “God’s cursed people,” and “Zyklon B for you, peace and justice in Palestine.”

Mr. Pezzana is no stranger to the viciousness of Israel’s detractors. In fact, in 1988, following a week of demonstrations, his Luxembourg Bookshop was firebombed. Undeterred, Mr. Pezzana continued his pro-Israel activism, including his website,, a daily newsletter monitoring the Italian media’s prejudiced reporting about Israel and the Middle East. He is also a prolific author and journalist.

While he no longer owns the bookstore he founded, he arranged for me to speak there to readers of the Italian editions of my books. In a small room covered with photos of Amos Oz, David Grossman, and other Israeli writers, he translated my words to the crowd that had gathered, one of them a teacher who had traveled with her students from the other side of Italy.

The fair itself was a revelation. Three times the size of Binyanei Haumah, it was packed with thousands of people, and dozens of events. As we walked to the auditorium, I was shocked to see a line that stretched back several blocks. “What are they waiting for?” I asked him.

He smiled. “For our event.”

Heavily publicized in local papers, I had the honor to share the stage with Fiamma Nirenstein, perhaps the most famous and outspoken critic of Italian anti-Semitism in the guise of anti-Israel ism. Fiamma, born to a father in the Jewish Brigades and a mother who was an anti-Nazi partisan and journalist, began her youth as an avid supporter of left-wing parties. Sent by her parents to Kibbutz Naot Mordechai for a vacation just before the outbreak of the 1967 war, the experience, and the vicious way she was attacked by her leftist friends when she returned, eventually led her to rethink her political outlook, a process she recounts in her brilliant essay: “How I became an Unconscious Facist.” A well-known journalist, television and radio personality, as well as a prolific writer of books, she became a member of the Italian parliament in 2008, and did much to investigate anti-Semitism in Italy. And that is only the tip of the iceberg of her amazing pro-Israel activities.

Joined by Professor Elana Loewenthal, we spent an hour talking to a standing -room -only crowd of Italians about literature, Israel and the unique qualities of the Jewish people that should make them role models, instead of pariahs, in Europe.

Afterwards, we returned to Angelo Pezzana’s Jewish bookstand decorated proudly with the flags of the Jewish State he loves so much and has done so much to support.

Busy with running the fair, he arranged for me to be driven back to my hotel on Friday afternoon so that I could prepare for Shabbat. I turned to my driver, another active member of the Italian Israel Friendship Association, and said: “I can’t believe I found such warm Jewish supporters of Israeli in a place like Turin!” She turned to me, startled. “Oh Angelo isn’t Jewish. He’s a Catholic. And so am I.”
I was stunned. Later, at a lovely Shabbat diner hosted by Professor Raffaello Levi and his beautiful wife Silvie, in an apartment building on the same street as the late Primo Levi’s, who both Raffaello and Angelo knew well, I asked Mr. Pezzana about this.

“I became interested in Jews as a young boy when I read about the Inquisition. The injustice stunned me. I sent a letter to my Bishop telling him to take me off of his rolls. I didn’t want to be a Catholic. I’m still waiting to hear from him…” he chuckled.

In the 60’s, Italy was a Catholic country which forbade divorce and abortion, and made it impossible for homosexuals like himself to live openly. As a bookseller, involved in the world of new ideas, the freedom of thought and expression, he bridled against this, turning his struggle political with the founding of the FUORI party, and later joining the Radical Party, which wanted to overturn the influence of the Catholic Church. As a journalist in the 1980’s, he was stunned by the anti-Israel prejudice of the press. His party was the first to offer Israel a hand of friendship.

Fiamma Nirenstein now lives in Gilo. Angelo Pezzana tells me he is coming to spend July in his little apartment on Ben Yehuda Street. I look forward very much to seeing them both again soon, and to revisiting an Italy where our Italian friends’ brave battle to conquer the forces of evil has finally been victorious.


 This article was originally published in the Jerusalem Post on 30 May 2014.

4 comments to Our Italian Friends

  • Naomi R.

    Shavuah tov Naomi. Your posts are always a pleasure to read and this one is certainly no exception. Jews and Italians have generally had a good relationship in New York. It must be the similarities in upbringing. Antisemitism especially in Europe is not going away any time soon, but it is people like Angelo Ferrara who give us hope.

  • Mickey Oberman

    I grew up in Toronto in a neighbourhood that was close to 50/50 Jewish and Italian.
    The two groups always got along and, indeed, helped each other.
    We had and still have so much in common.

    I can not imagine what, other than the Catholic church, has turned Italy against Israel.

    Mickey Oberman

  • Ralph J. Hofmann

    I maintained an interesting correspondence with Mr. Giulio Sanmartini an Italian from Belluno (who spent most of his life in Rio de Janeiro and place in Brazil not even Brazilains go to.

    Giulio decided to end his days in Belluno (he died last year). Since he was interested in languages, and spoke better POrtuguese than Italian he came to realize that the language of the countryside around Belluno, Ferrara and Alessandria was very similar to old Spanish/POrtugueses and that the ” contadinos ” say their language is ” Ladino” . They do not associate their language with Juadaism.

  • Ellen Freyer

    Thank you for this story….it gives hope.