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 Woman with Many Names

My mother-in-law, Shirley Ragen, passed away yesterday in Jerusalem at age 85 after seven torturous years succumbing to a merciless illness which left her unable to speak, walk, or move her limbs. But the last period of her long life, was not her worst. The worst happened when she was eighteen and the Nazis came to her home in Uzhhorod (now in Ukraine), beating her little brother senseless, and carting away herself, her three sisters, two brothers, parents, and beloved grandmother.

The worst was the cattle car ride, and the platform in Auschwitz in which she and her sisters were separated from their mother, never to see her, or any other member of their family alive again. The worst was the year spent in a concentration camp starving, trying desperately with her older sister Zipporah to keep their youngest sister Malka alive. I remember the stories she told me those  Friday nights when my husband, her beloved only son, was away in the synagogue with his father.

How she cut her slice of bread into tiny portions instead of eating it all at once, to save some for the next day, the willpower that took. How she managed to take bits of cloth and form them into collars that she bartered to other prisoners for food and other essentials. Her sisters and camp “shvesters” called her by her Czech name, Magda.

And then there was the death march and the story of how she and her sisters and some friends took the life or death plunge to escape, hiding under hay in a hayloft, as the Germans stuck pitchforks in looking for them, until finally giving up.  On the road, finally free, they found a crate.

Starving, they pried it open. Inside was the finest French champagne, fallen off some German truck. They celebrated the end of their captivity by drinking it straight from the bottle still in the striped uniforms of Auschwitz. And then they found an empty house abandoned by the German family who lived there to escape the advancing Russians. Using the soap and towels left behind they heated water and bathed, seeing the color of their skin for the first time in many months.

Deciding to go to Israel, she and her two sisters waited for the Zionist organizers to bring them. But delay after delay made Magda lose hope. And so she decided to go home to see if anyone she knew had survived. Leaving her sisters behind, she traveled by train to her home town.  But, she said later, she couldn’t bring herself to look her neighbors in the face, remembering how they had lined up to watch her family being taken away, smirking with satisfaction. She boarded the next train out, taking it down the line to where the Sudenten Germans had been chased out, leaving behind houses the government was handing over to refugees like herself.

By chance, my father-in-law got off at this same stop.  He had also gone home to see if his wife or son and daughter had survived. Finding proof that Auschwitz had taken his entire family, and that his neighbors had helped themselves to all his belongings, he went from house to house gathering his possessions together, then left them in the wagon, handing them over to the wagon driver as he hopped the next train out.

Fate brought them together. And they brought each other love, comfort and the hope for a new beginning.

Eventually, they wound up in New York City, working as a tailor and a seamstress. There she was known as Shirley. They raised a son and a daughter. They achieved the American dream, owning a home. And when their son married  and moved to Israel, they decided to join him.

Those were, they always said, the best years of their lives. They owned a lovely apartment in Netanya near the sea, and spent their time being grandparents, enjoying their  many friends, or volunteering for good causes.

When we say Yizkor for her, we will use the name Shaindel, the name her parents gave her. But I always called her “Mom.”  And my kids called her “Bubbee.”  She was a wonderful , giving person as well as  a tough cookie.

Though not always easy to  accept, her criticism came from love and from wanting things to be better for those she loved, in the way she understood it. We loved her very much.  May her name and memory be blessed.

 

My mother- in- law passed away yesterday in Jerusalem at age 85 after seven torturous years succumbing to a merciless illness which left her unable to speak, walk, or move her limbs.But the last period of her long life, was not her worst.The worst happened when she was eighteen and the Nazis come to her home in Uzhhorod (now in Ukraine), beating her little brother senseless, and carting away herself, her three sisters, two brothers,

parents, and beloved grandmother.The worst was the cattle car ride, and

the platform in Auschwitz in which she and her sisters were separated from their mother, never to see her, or any other member of their family alive again.The worst was the year spent in concentration camp starving, trying desperately with her older sister Zipporah to keep their youngest sister

Malka alive.I remember the stories she told me thoseFriday nights when

my husband, her beloved only son, was away in the synagogue with his father.

How she cut her slice of bread into tiny portions instead of eating it all at once, to save some for the next day, the willpower that took.How she managed to take bits of cloth and form them into collars that she bartered to other prisoners for food and other essentials.Her sisters and camp ‘shvesters’ called her by her Czech name, Magda.

And then there was the death march and the story of how she and her sisters and some friends took the life or death plunge to escape, hiding under hay in a hayloft, as the Germans stuck pitchforks in looking for them, until finally giving up.On the road, finally free, they found a crate.

Starving, they pried it open. Inside was the finest French champagne, fallen off some German truck.They celebrated the end of their captivity by drinking it straight from the bottle still in the striped uniforms of Auschwitz.And then they found an empty house abandoned by the German family who lived there to escape the advancing Russians.Using the soap and towels left behind they heated water and bathed, seeing the color of their skin for the first time in many months.

Deciding to go to Israel, she and her two sisters waited for the Zionist organizers to bring them.But delay after delay made Magda lose hope.And so she decided to go home to see if anyone she knew had survived. Leaving her sisters behind, she traveled by train to her home town.But, she said later, she couldn’t bring herself to look her neighbors in the face, remembering how they had lined up to watch her family being taken away, smirking with satisfaction.She boarded the next train out, taking it down the line to where the Sudenten Germans had been chased out, leaving behind

houses the government was handing over to refugees like herself.By

chance, my father- in- law got off at this same stop.He had also gone home to see if his wife or son and daughter had survived.Finding proof that Auschwitz had taken his entire family, and that his neighbors had helped themselves to all his belongings, he went house to house gathering his possessions together, then left them in the wagon, handing them over to the wagon driver as he hopped the next train out.

Fate brought them together.And they brought each other love, comfort and the hope for a new beginning.

Eventually, they wound up in New York City, working as a tailor and a seamstress. There she was known as Shirley. They raised a son and a daughter.They achieved the American dream, owning a home. And when their son marriedand moved to Israel, they decided to join him.

Those were, they always said, the best years of their lives.They owned a lovely apartment in Netanya near the sea, and spent their time being grandparents,enjoying theirmany friends, or volunteering for good causes.

When we say Yizkor for her, we will use the name Shaindel, the name her parents gave her.But I always called her “Mom.”And my kids called her “Bubbee.”She was a wonderful , giving person as well asa tough cookie.

Though not always easy toaccept, her criticism came from love and from wanting things to be better for those she loved, in the way she understood it.We loved her very much.May her name and memory be blessed.

6 comments to The Woman with Many Names

  • Elise Landesberg

    Just found your website and your beautiful tribute to your mother-in-law…may her name and memory be blessed…and may she find all the family she lost.

  • Liz levitt

    I am so sorry for your loss but couldn’t hospice care haved saved her much suffering. Just a thought that would help others.
    Have read all your books and columns and wish I could move to Israel. U do inspire many of us

  • Carol Suchlicki

    Dear Naomi,
    We were so sorry to hear that your mother-in-law passed away. She, as so many of our people, had a hard life, but hopefully she had happiness and nachas from you and her son and daughter and grandchildren. So sad that she suffered so much at the end. May she rest in peace.

    I want you to know that you bring so much joy and information into my life. Thank you. As soon as you come out with a new book, I’m right there ready to buy it. Hopefully there’s another one coming soon.

    Much love and peace to you and your family,

    Carol Suchlicki and family (from Miami)

  • Esther Schwartz

    What a beautiful story of your mother-in-law. I’m only sorry that her life had to end in a horrible illness.. At the end, though, the difference is that she was totally surrounded by love.

  • Alexandra Salomon

    Dear Naomi,
    I would have loved to meet your mother in law…
    She went through so many terrible, inimaginable hard
    moments in her life…I am really sad for you and your family..
    A very big hug, Alexandra

  • Dear Naomi,

    I had not realised that you had lost your Mother in Law in January. I would like to wish you and your family Peace and long Life on such a tragic Loss.

    What a brave lady she must have been and she had such a hard life…………. but muh happiness too, I hope

    sincerely

    laurie