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

Melting the Barriers

We live in a very practical world. People are cynical. They act, for the most part, out of self-interest, either hidden or blatantly obvious. We’ve all come to accept this and to feel that this is reality, the norm of life. And so, when faced with generosity and selflessness on a grand scale, we can only stand in awe, with tears in our eyes and a feeling of revelation in our hearts.

Life, it turns out, doesn’t always have to be lived in the small, mean way that self-interest dictates. Sometimes, it can be stupendously impractical, shocking us with its unexpected and unimagined beauty.

There was a dark time in Israel, not so long ago, when a mentally-challenged child was something to be whispered about, or shunted off quietly to some institution. Some parents, encouraged by social workers and medical personnel, never even bothered to take such children home from the hospital, abandoning them at birth. Be practical. Do you really need such a burden? they were often told.

For the past 18 years, Beit Issie Shapiro in Ra’anana, has brought all the powers of knowledge and all the forces of love to battle this terrible situation. Founded in 1981 in memory of the wonderful man who spent his life helping such children, Beit Issie Shapiro runs day care programs, clinics, and professional training programs which both nurture these children, and encourage their families and communities to embrace them.

This weekend I was lucky enough to be invited to join “Mission for a Lifetime,” a group of good-hearted and highly successful Americans who are spending some time in Israel learning about what else can be done to melt away those barriers standing between such children and a good, happy, productive life within their own communities. The group was organized and underwritten by Stephanie and Jules Trump of Williams Island in Florida (who are against any publicity, and don’t want their names mentioned, but I can’t help it, because I love them. So forgive me, will you?)

Beit Issie Shapiro, whose executive director is Naomi Stuchiner, the late Mr. Shapiro’s daughter, is truly a labor of love.

It was fitting, therefore, that on Shabbat afternoon all of us walked over to the Old City to see another labor of love, the transformation of the Tower of David by the spectacular beauty of world-renown glass artist Dale Chihuly’s sculptures.

Rising over the stark white Jerusalem stones like bubbles or sea creatures, the shimmering glass in brilliant colors are indescribably wondrous. But most wondrous of all is the animating spirit of the artist, Mr. Chihuly, widely hailed as one of the great glass artists of the twentieth century. The installation at The Tower of David cost the artist half a million dollars out of his own pocket over and above the support given by the municipality and the Clore and Jerusalem Foundations. It was worth every penny, he said, to see a quarter of a million people from all over Israel flooding through Jaffa Gate once again, a place most Israelis have avoided since the Intifada began. It is his homage to Jerusalem on the eve of the millennium, to bring “pleasure and happiness to people in one of the most historic, exotic and beautiful cities of the world.”

The crowning finale of the Chihuly exhibit was the sixty-four tons of special blue ice shipped from Alaska and sculpted into a symbolic wall where Jewish and Arab Jerusalem meet. Even the guards keeping the public back were rubbing their eyes at the sight. A mirage. Ice in the desert. Destined to melt in only a few days.

“We want it to melt. It’s supposed to melt,” Dale Chihuly told us. Barriers between Jew and Arab, divisions, conflicts. Like blue Alaskan ice in the summer sun.

The ice wall evoked all kinds of reactions: There was outright contempt in the words of the municipal worker beside me; a gleam of amusement in the eyes of police guards; shock and excitement rippling through a passing platoon of soldiers, who broke ranks and scurried over to touch the massive cold blocks. And for the rest of us, who just stared at it, mesmerized, an experience of awe, and a strange, secret joy in seeing so lovely and unexpected a thing happening before our eyes.

Bless you, Mr. Issie Shapiro, your wife, your kind children and grandchildren; the Trumps, and all the other wonderful people who stand shoulder to shoulder with your vision, helping to melt away all those barriers preventing children with disabilities from showing us who they are, what they can be, with a little help from their friends.

And bless you, Dale Chihuly, for your immense generosity – both spiritual and material – for your humility, and for sharing the madness and spectacular beauty of your unique artistic vision.

Bless you all, for helping the rest of us to see and feel a different kind of reality. For insisting we see not just the cynicism of what is, but the revelation of what can be.

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