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.

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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 - is a chilling tale of the paths that so easily lead us astray, and the darkness within us all. “שטן
Click the book’s cover to learn more.

Watch Valérie Abécasis' interview with Naomi on French Channel 24's Culture program. The interview (in French) begins at the 4:00 minute mark.

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.

Nic Nie MówMay 2017 – The Polish translation of Devil in Jerusalem is published as Nic Nie Mów.

April 2017 – Naomi speaks about her books at the Ivan M. Stettenham Library at the Streicker Centre in New York City.

March 2017 – Naomi tours the Paris region to speak about her new book Les Soeurs Weiss, the French translation of The Sisters Weiss.

January 2017 – Naomi is interviewed by Valérie Abécasis on French Channel 24‘s Culture program. The interview (in French) begins at the 4:00 minute mark.

“LesDecember 2016Les Soeurs Weiss, the French translation of The Sisters Weiss, is published.

October 2016The 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 Sarah 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.


The Incredible Shrinking Heart and Mind

I got a letter not long ago from a wonderful Christian minister involved in a lifetime of good works whose daughter had married a nonobservant Jew. The family had welcomed him with love. But at a certain point, this son-in-law found his way back to his religion. His wife converted, and the two of them moved to Israel. While at first the young couple were in touch with her parents, slowly, they received advice from their new mentors that such an association was undesirable. Children were born, and the couple was advised they shouldn’t be allowed to ride in the same car with grandpa when he came on a visit to the Holy Land.

Why should a return to traditional Judaism make people heartless, unforgiving, judgmental and basically selfish? Why should it turn child against father, father against child? How can it be that the religion of Abraham, whose purpose is to instill the highest level of morality and kindness and fairness and compassion, turn hearts to stone, and minds to mush?

The fact is, that not all baale teshuva institutions are the same. Some are truly wonderful places that enrich the lives of all who enter. And some are just the opposite, turning out supercilious know-it-alls convinced they alone have all the answers, instead of just a few of the questions; people who passionately support a brand of Judaism that was reactionary in the Middle Ages. And as much as I hate to admit it, I don’t think such people- or the world around them (the Jewish world in particular) benefit from this kind of religious awakening.

I never thought I’d be forced to say such a thing. When years ago a yeshiva education and the instruction of dozens of wonderful rabbis opened my own heart and mind to traditional Judaism, I sincerely believed that the world would be a better place if only all Jews would live in strict adherence to Torah law. The problem is “Torah law” as interpreted by whom? More and more baale teshuva institutions are being run by people with a shallow, fossilized view of Judaism. Their graduates reflect this.

More than a decade ago, when I was struggling to sell my first book, I answered a help-wanted ad in the Jerusalem Post for a cookbook editor. The person who interviewed me for the job turned out to be a graduate of Yale, a former editor of Architectural Digest. Seeking spiritual renewal, he’d wound up at a b’aal teshuva yeshiva in Jerusalem. Insisting he cut his ties with his past life, his new mentors had roped him into producing a cookbook out of a shoebox of mostly untested, handwritten recipes collected by a Jewish grandmother.

During the course of our work together, he told me about his experiences. According to him, when you went through the baale teshuva machine they taught you not to question anything, however cruel or evil it seemed. They taught you that everything in your former life was on a lower level, unrefined, uninformed (including your non-religious family and friends). They taught you self-hate. And so the next thing to go was your critical intelligence, and your humanity. Because your mentors always knew more than you did. (The Moonies have great success with this method. )

Long after my friend had opted out of the baale teshuva universe and become a successful (and happy) editor at the New York Times, I was witness to many other situations that bore out the truth of his analysis. Indeed, many of those leading the pack to block desperately needed reforms in Orthodox practice are products of the baale teshuvah movement. I see it in “ask the Rabbi” online columns. I see it in writings and lectures and radio programs. In charismatic born-again gurus who insist a return to religion means turning your back on your obligations to the State of Israel as a taxpayer and soldier.

I see it in the vicious attacks by certain spokesmen of the baale teshuva movement on those seeking to right the wrongs against religious women . The same people who never question how it can be that the rabbinical world has found a solution to override Divine precepts like not taking interest (pruzbal), or not having chametz in the house (we sell it to a gentile) but simply can’t figure out a humane way to change their own rabbinic rules to protect women from vindictive husbands.

The rabbinical head of a prestigious Orthodox institution here in Jerusalem once told me how he couldn’t even get his fellow Orthodox Rabbis to agree on a letter promoting traffic safety. So isn’t it odd that when it comes to the continued oppression of women, you can get the oft-quoted “ninety-nine percent rabbinical agreement”?

If one’s mind wasn’t mush, one would be able to see the problem here.

To paraphrase the author of Aruch Hashulchan: You don’t have to be a talmid chacham to say things are forbidden. But to come up with a proper heter, that’s the reason we learn.

What I don’t understand is why goodhearted Jews are indiscriminately writing checks to certain born again institutions. So they can kidnap young people at the Kotel and rob them of the benefits of their good educations and their basic humanity? So they can turn out more cheerleaders for their stagnant grasp of our revolutionary religion? The treatment of women is the litmus test for Orthodoxy in our generation. One should make sure every institution one supports passes muster.

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