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

The Last Jews of Ethiopia

I’ve always had a special love for my brothers and sisters from Ethiopia. I suppose it began the day I saw a woman who had given birth en route get off the plane during Operation Solomon. This brought to mind the words of the prophet Jeremiah: “See I … gather them from the uttermost ends of the earth…her that travaileth with child … a great company shall return hither.”

And so, when a lovely young Ethiopian girl approached me with a handout during the Jewish Agency’s General Assembly, I took it gladly and read it with care.

The handout – prepared by a group calling itself “The South Wing to Zion”- was nothing less than shocking. Ethiopian Jews being left behind in Jewish Agency transit camps to die of disease and malnutrition and anti-Semitic attacks because of the racism of white Jewish officials who preferred white, half-Jewish Russians, to black Jews.

To say I was outraged would be an understatement. And so, I began to investigate.

My first step was a meeting with the director of The South Wing to Zion, Mr. Avraham Neguise. When I turned up at the address he gave me, there was no sign on the door. It seemed boarded up. I called Mr. Neguise, who apologized for being late, and asked me to wait. I waited, watching maruading cats eating leftovers amid a collection of old soda bottles.

He turned out to be a stocky, personable, middle-aged man wearing an English riding cap. As the door to the office creaked open, and we sat down inside, he again reiterated much of what I’d read. He handed me lists with thousands of names, allegedly of people left behind to rot in camps who were immediate relatives of Ethiopian immigrants in Israel. His theory about the refusal of Israeli immigration authorities and organizations like the Joint Distribution Committee to aid these suffering Ethiopian Jews was clear: racism. The Ministry of Absorption was in the hands of Russians, who looked out for their own. The Israeli government didn’t like blacks, and so it backed them up. The JDC was an arm of the Israeli establishment. Asked about his own background, he seemed uneasy. He’d made Aliyah from Ethiopia. He was a social worker, he said.

That same evening, I called the JDC in New York to confront them with their calumny. To my surprise, rather than being defensive and hostile, JDC officials were relieved, even anxious, to discuss this subject with me. I went on to read official Jewish Agency documents, protocols of government meetings. I followed up with a long session with Ms. R., a young, religious, Israeli-born woman who works for the Organization for Ethiopian Jewry and speaks Amharit, who spent a year in Ethiopia investigating the situation first-hand. From all of these things, quite a different picture emerged. In fact, the exact opposite of Mr. Neguise’s allegations.

Some background. In 1991, the Israeli government brought 14,700 Ethiopian Jews to Israel during Operation Solomon. At that time, 1,800 more were left behind because their families had converted to Christianity. They became known as Felas Mura.

The Israeli government appointed the Tzaban Committee to decide on the eligibility of these people. In the meantime, thousands of additional people flooded the refugee camps in Addis Abba. By 1997, 5,200 people from the Felas Mura were granted Alyiah permits by the Tzaban committee on the basis of family reunification, some of them practicing Christians. They too arrived in Israel.

In July 1997 Rabbi Menachem Waldman and representatives of The South Wing to Zion built a mikve in Addis Ababa, which the Rabbi used to perform conversion ceremonies on 500 women. Subsequently, these women and their families were included in a list of 3,623 people Rabbi Waldman submitted to Natan Sharansky. Rabbi Waldman agreed to close the complex when these people, and another 551 from the villages, would be allowed into Israel. Mr. Sharansky agreed, mostly on humanitarian grounds, since it was clear many of these people were not really Jewish in any sense, and thus not eligible for immigration under the Law of Return. It was agreed that humanitarian assistance groups like NAACOEJ and the JDC would close down their operations when the last of these people were brought over.

These immigrants reached Israel in July, 1998.

All of a sudden, in August, 1998, these camps and ones in Gondar suddenly filled up again. Numbers ran into the thousands. Suddenly, NACOEJ and The South Wing to Zion, were talking about new lists with thousands of new names.

Ms.R told me that there is very bad blood between the real Ethiopian Jewish community and the Felas Mura, who are considered dangerous and traitors to the Jewish community, despite close family ties. In fact, Ms. R refused to let me use her name for this article because “Neguise’s thugs might burn my house down.” The sudden desire of Felas Mura to convert and move to Israel must be looked at carefully. Ethiopians have a gross national income of $127 a year. It is a country whose health, education and employment opportunities suffer serious problems. Mr. Neguise himself, who was a Christian pastor not too long ago according to a number of sources, has been demanding huge sums of financial aide from the JDC for the people on his “lists” as a condition to stopping his worldwide propoganda campaign which depicts the JDC as abandoning suffering Jews to disease and starvation in Ethiopia.

Ms. R also met with Rabbi Waldman in Ethiopia, confronting him with evidence of people eating pork in local restaurants, who also wore a tallis to his Sabbath services. Rabbi Waldman didn’t seem troubled by this, insisting that they were all sincere Jews, longing to be in Israel. What broke her heart most, she said, was that the aliyah of the Jews of Quara, a nothern region in Ethiopia, with whom she spent much time and whose authentic Jewishness is not questioned by anyone, is being delayed because of the present battles to bring over the Felas Mura.

I was happy to learn that some of the Jews of Quara have already joined us. Let’s hope the truth comes to light, and the rest join us soon.

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