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 Unraveling Kippah

The symbol of the election campaign for the National Religious Party is the unraveling knitted skullcap. Vote for the Mafdal, the commercial says, or all our wonderful educational institutions, our youth groups, our synagogues will go under.

As I watched the commercial, I thought of an experience I had last summer.

Boiling beneath a corrugated tin roof and its one lone fan that sluggishly pushed the stale air in dusty circles, I sat beside an old school friend. We were waiting to visit her son. I studied the bars across the small opened window, the gray metal lockers, the old peeling wooden cubbyholes where visitors like us were meant to deposit our personal belongings before being led inside. It was visiting day at the “religious wing” of a prison somewhere in Israel. My friend’s son was serving out a term for murder. Like many others in the prison’s “religious wing,” he too wore a knitted skullcap.

This week I read about the indictment of Rabbi Zeev Kopolevitch, once head of the most prestigious yeshiva high school in Israel, Netiv Meir. In 23 pages, over nineteen former students describe a series of shocking sexual abuses at the hands of Kopolevitch. But most shocking of all, was the fact that the most respected Rabbis of the National Religious Party, leader of B’nai Akiva yeshiva movement and Knesset member Rabbi Druckman, and former chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Avraham Shapira, had both allegedly been informed about the abuse and had chosen to do nothing, thus allowing it to continue.

My school friend and her husband are gentle, educated, deeply religious people who abhor violence and extremism. When their son was thirteen years-old, he was invited by a Kahane party activist to use Kach’s workout room in the Old City. Unbeknownst to his parents, he became an avid Kach follower. When he was barely fifteen, he and two friends decided to avenge Meir Kahane’s death by exploding a grenade in the crowded Old City shuk. As a result, an elderly Arab man was killed.

My friend and I see each other in synagogue every Shabbat. It is a synagogue in which prayers for the government and the army are said with sincerity, where new recruits are blessed from the pulpit, and where more than one son has fallen in defense of our country. It is also a place where- despite the admirable but ignored protests of one or two members — someone regularly places Kach literature along with the study sheets about the weekly Torah portion.

Something has gone awry here.

When did messianic fervor to settle Yehuda and Shomron begin to erode reason and human values?

Was it inevitable that the hatred which Jewish settlers experienced in building their homes among Arab villagers, find an echo in their own hearts, shouting down the sincere idealism, the love of Eretz Yisrael which was their original motivation? And if so, is it possible to really serve G-d with a heart attune only to the worthiness of its own cause, deaf to the cries of pain coming from others?

I was taking a bus the other day and an elderly woman got on. She put her cane on the side and stretched her arms between both of the bus’s railings to help herself up. A woman wearing a wig, perhaps innocently in a hurry, rushed up the steps behind her, pushing her. The elderly woman turned around, furious: ” And you call yourself religious? ” She thundered. “You’re a fake, a fake!”

Like it or not, those who wear the knitted skullcap, or any other accouterment of religious observance, have a tremendous responsibility. We aren’t allowed what for others would be natural human frailties, feelings of revenge, because our Torah forbids us to hold a grudge, to take revenge, to spill human blood….Or to ignore the suffering of innocents because it embarrasses those in power.

We must ask ourselves if in our enthusiasm for one sacred idea, we have not trampled so many others. We must ask ourselves if the knitted skullcap still sits well, and firmly, and comfortably on our heads. As any B’nai Akiva girl– knitter–of- skullcaps– will tell you, when a skullcap starts to get crooked, or is too round or flat, all you can do is start from scratch, taking out all the wrong stitches that led you astray.

Stitch by painful stitch, we need to get back to where it was we started from, not so long ago.

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