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.


Rabbi Joseph Kafach (1917-2000) — One of Jerusalem’s True Treasures

Jerusalem is a treasure house. We have no diamond mines, no great, successful industries, no spectacular natural wonders. Our riches lie in a rarer commodity, more precious than all those things. For Jerusalem is home to quiet, modest giants who hide in the shadows of her rambling old streets, studying in the corners of whitewashed rooms, quietly achieving wonders of scholarship.

Last week, Jerusalem lost one of its most precious treasures: Rav Joseph Kafach.

Born in the city of San’a, Yemen eighty-three years ago, he was the grandson of Yihye Kafach, a noted and respected Torah scholar and rabbi. Isolated from their Jewish brethren in Europe, the Jews of Yemen studied the works of such famous Jewish scholars as Maimonidies and Sa’adiah Gaon in the original Arabic. These works only became accessible to European Jewry in the twelfth century with the translation of the texts into Hebrew by the Ibn Tibon family of Montpellier, France

About the turn of the last century, the Ibn Tibon translations found their way to Yemen. The Jews of Yemen found the translations difficult, clumsy and inaccurate. Yihye Kafach decided to collect all the old original Arabic texts from which Yemenite Jews had studied these works, beginning the process which would allow for their restoration. When Rav Yihye’s son died at a tragically young age, it was left to his grandson, Joseph, to carry on the work.

The Yemenite take on Jewish learning and scholarship is very different from the European yeshiva world’s. Following the strict dictates of Maimonidies, every rabbi and Torah scholar in Yemen supported himself at some trade or profession – even the Chief Rabbi of the City! – and Torah study was accomplished at odd hours of the day and night, giving rise to the rumor that Yemenites never slept.

Married at the unbelievably young age of twelve in order to avoid the fate of Jewish orphans – who were routinely given over to the state to be brought up as Moslems — Rav Kafach emigrated to Israel in 1943 with his young wife and growing family. Working as a gold and silversmith to support his family, he nevertheless found time to begin his monumental life’s work: retranslating major works of Arabic Jewish scholars into correct Hebrew and providing commentaries.

With the encouragement of his little treasure of a wife (a Jerusalem personality in her own right, famous for her deeds of charity) who ran a successful Yemenite embroidery factory, Rav Kafach began to devote himself full-time to scholarship, translation and publication.

His commentaries on and translations of such works as Maimonidies’ Commentary on the Mishnah, Sefer HaMitzvot, and Guide to the Perplexed, took these works out of the exclusive domain of academics and into the hands of the average person. His translations of Sa’adiah Gaon’s works, and the work of many other important Jewish-Arabic scholars could have occupied a team of scholars several lifetimes. It is hard to even describe his immeasurable contribution, the beauty and accuracy of his translations. Perhaps the only fair comparison is to that of art restorers who take paintings covered in the grime of the ages and restore them to their original splendor.

His own work: Halichot Teiman, about Yemenite religious practices, has rescued the interesting and most important traditions of this unique community from obscurity.

Appointed Judge to the Rabbinical Courts in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in the 1950’s, Rav Kafach won the Israel Prize in 1969. In 1970, he was appointed to the Rabbinical High Court in Jerusalem.

And yet, despite all his world-class accomplishments, which would have given a lesser person an ego the size of Montana, Rav Kafach lived a simple, modest life in the working class area of Jerusalem’s Nachlaot quarter. His weekly shiurim – in the tiny Yemenite synagogue of his neighborhood – were free and open to all. They were attended by an eclectic crowd dominated mostly by hardworking Yemenites who looked as if most of them spent their days working in the nearby open air Machane Yehuda market.

But as one of the few Ashkenazim who attended the shiur told me: these simple men often made comments or offered corrections that made it clear that every, single one of them knew the entire Tanach by heart.

Unlike his counterparts who traveled with entourages of respectful “fans”, Rav Kafach walked alone from his shiur to his modest home nearby, unless one of his students wished to ask him a question. He gave of his time generously, and never made those around him feel small. Quite the opposite. Sitting in the same room with Rav Kafach one was infused with his greatness of mind, as well as the enormous modesty, simplicity and honesty of his character.

His light has gone out of Jerusalem, and we are all shaded by it. But the light of scholarship that he ignited shines on, and each one of us who seeks to understand the greatest Jewish scholars of the Middle Ages have Rav Kafach to thank that it is now, and for all future generations, not only possible, but pleasurable.

May his memory be blessed.

1 comment to Rabbi Joseph Kafach (1917-2000) — One of Jerusalem’s True Treasures

  • Loreva Norton

    I’m searching for a free Reading Group Guide for The Ghost of Hannah Mendes. My DAR reading group is reading the novel and I am the discussion leader next month. Thank you.
    Loreva Norton