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 Ultra-Orthodox’s PR Problem

The cultural divide in Israel between haredi and secular Jews has reached new extremes. In December, haredi men spat upon a terrified eight-year-old girl, Naama Margolese, as she made her way to a haredi-opposed national religious girls school in Beit Shemesh — a school the haredim claimed was purposely and provocatively zoned on land in their neighborhood. A few days later, a female soldier riding up front in a bus in Ramat Eshkol was verbally attacked by a haredi father of ten who called her a “whore.” She replied that she was protecting him. He responded that his Torah learning was protecting her. Police were eventually called in, and the man found himself behind bars.

More recently, a female employee of Israel’s lottery putting up posters in Beit Shemesh found herself stoned, her car windshield smashed, her tires slashed.

The national backlash against haredi extremists put haredim on the defensive, some even complaining of isolated physical attacks they attributed to “media incitement.” In response, they chose to pour gasoline on the fire. Haredi activists held a demonstration in which they dressed their children in striped Holocaust garb to symbolize being targeted by Israeli “anti-Semitism.”

Although some would like to view this chasm as unbridgeable, the truth is not so neat. This was brought home to me in the most personal way on a family hike in Ein Gedi, an outing that, as fate would have it, took place the week that the outraged responses to the Holocaust-inspired demonstration hit the newspapers.

My daughter Rachel, a university graduate and translator, has five children and wears a wig. Her husband, Ygael, who wears a black velvet skullcap — as do my grandsons — works hard in a family-run business. My granddaughters wear long-sleeved blouses and long skirts. Both of them expressed their revulsion against the use of Holocaust garb to protest so-called incitement against Haredim. For my part, I had expressed my views about that protest in an article that day in The Jerusalem Post, in which I had angrily written that if “it was only a small number of haredi extremists involved in the bullying and abuse of women,” then why didn’t the rest open their mouths?

As we were hiking the beautiful Nachal David trail, I suddenly noticed the distinct look of enmity from a nearby secular man as he viewed my daughter and her family.

The penny dropped. Oh no! I thought. He thinks that they’re extremists! And if he had read my article, then I was responsible for helping to inflame his distaste and disgust.

It was a shocking moment for me. Like it or not, I realized, we cannot rail in generalities against our fellow Jews, no matter how abhorrent their behavior, without harming our own families. I, and other journalists, by writing about haredim as if they were all one homogeneous group, do harm to our country and our religion, not to mention individuals like my daughter and her family who outwardly seem to fit the mold but in reality couldn’t be further away from it.

What then are we to do? Surprisingly, I saw my own quandary reflected on the cover of a popular English-language haredi publication called Mishpacha (family). On the background of haredi children dressed as camp inmates were the words: “Intolerant? Fanatic? Solve Our Image Problem.”

Inside the magazine, members of the haredi community openly discussed their dilemma with three PR experts. On the one hand, some said, to take issue publicly with their fellow haredim over these extremist incidents would be to break ranks within their community. But David Nordell, a journalist, PR expert and CEO of New Global Markets, expressed a different view: “The mainstream haredi community has to learn to break away from the attitude that the zealots seem to be ‘more holy,’ ‘closer to the source’ so we can’t criticize them because ‘they are better than us.’” The time has come, he wrote, for the community to “react with a greater degree of moral courage, both toward [their] own extremists and also toward the rest of the community. I don’t think the secular majority wants to hate haredim. They want to see them as brothers.”

Or daughters.

It’s a complex problem. But I think the answer lies in the words of Rabbi N. Daniel Korobkin, senior rabbi of the Orthodox Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto, who wrote in The Jewish Tribune that the “horrible distortion of misogyny and gender discrimination that is being justified under the pretense of religion” taking place in Israel must be met with a rabbinical message “loud enough…to drown out the extremists’ distorted message.” He was joined by Orthodox Rabbi Dov Linzer, dean of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, who wrote a similar condemnation of extremist behavior in a January op-ed in The New York Times, entitled “Lechery, Immodesty and the Talmud.”

With rabbinical leaders like these speaking up for me, my daughter and her family, all of us — secular and religious alike — just might have a chance of joining forces to reform the black sheep in our family, instead of letting them turn us against each other.


This article was first published in the March/April 2012 issue of Moment.

1 comment to The Ultra-Orthodox’s PR Problem

  • Rabbi Fleishig

    So the ultra-Orthodox don’t understand why the whole world isn’t on their side their jihad against women. Since they refuse to consider that they might be wrong (they are after all only doing G-d’s will) the only other possibility is that they need just more PR. How typical of the fanatic mindset, and how sad that the Jewish religion is in the hands of people like that.