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 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.



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 - 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.


Join Naomi in New York at the Skirball Center's Meet the Author Evening on April 25, 2017 at 6:30PM.





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.


October 2016 - The 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 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.

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Where Shall I Find You in the Year to Come?

Do Hindus and Buddhists also have that knot in their stomachs, a mixture of dread and holiday food excesses?

Whenever the Jewish New Year approaches, I have to admit, I get really nervous.

Yes, there is the groaning table, the honey-dipped apples, the lovely delicacies to look forward to, fare we will spend the next few months getting rid of in the gym, until Passover does us Jews in all over again. But unlike the secular New Year which goes out with a bang, confetti, and large goblets of champagne, the Jewish New Year finds us spending hours in the synagogue reflecting on our shortcomings and failures, piercing our hearts with the knowledge that we will be held accountable in the year to come. Were it not for the gift of the 10 days of penitence culminating in Yom Kippur, which allows us to really repent and start the year with a clean slate, I doubt I’d get through it at all without a nervous breakdown.

The shofar blasts, for one thing, cut right through all my buttery sloth and excuses, touching my heart with the clear call that I can and must do better. And then the liturgy, all those prayers that remind us that all that the world is being judged, and that everyone has his fate inscribed in the big book of heavenly accounts, which only repentance, charity and good deeds can change for the better.

Can we ever give enough charity, do enough good deeds, reform ourselves to the point of being worthy of another chance at living a better year? The question only gets answered on Yom Kippur. Usually the answer is yes, we can. Only then will we really be able to face another whole year with all its pressures, uncertainties and opportunities for joy.

I was wondering this year how other faiths face the beginning of their years. Do Hindus and Buddhists also have that knot in their stomachs, a mixture of dread and holiday food excesses? What about Christians and Muslims? Interestingly enough, I found not only the obvious great differences in New Year’s celebrations as we Jews know them, but also some surprising similarities.

For example, Hindus (who celebrate New Year’s Day at different times of the year depending on the sect) spend it involved in mass worship, new dresses, embracing and kissing. For the Chinese, pre-New Year activities include resolving differences with family members, friends and neighbors and business associates, including paying all debts.

The Chinese believe that what occurs on New Year’s Day may impact your life for the rest of the year. Most of all, they believe that to ensure a prosperous and healthy year, one should create a positive energy flow at home and at work. A Chinese proverb states that all creations are reborn on New Year’s Day, and that it is a holiday that celebrates change: out with the old and in with the new.

Buddhist temples all over Japan ring their bells 108 times on the eve of the New Year to symbolize the 108 sins in the Buddhist belief, and to get rid of the 108 worldly desires involving sense and feeling. The Japanese believe that the ringing bells can dispose of last year’s sins as well.

Likewise, Koreans usher in the New Year with a ritual called Jishin Balpgi in which loud drums and gongs are played to scare off evil spirits left over from the old year.

I can’t help thinking of the shofar blasts.

Interestingly, Muslims have no holiday at all that marks the beginning of their New Year, and discourage all Muslims from participating in secular New Year celebrations.

Surprisingly, a number of Christians agree with this idea, finding the secular New Year an unworthy throwback to paganism. Preacher David C. Park of the Restored Church of God, for example, warns all Christians to avoid the “violent, chaotic” customs of the traditional New Year’s festivities, condemning the drinking and drunken hook-ups as remnants of pagan debauchery, and citing statistics for drunk driving deaths which traditionally double during the period from Christmas to New Year.

Russian Orthodox Christians say that New Year’s celebrations should consist of a simple dinner of thanksgiving.

Railing against the traditional New Year’s Eve party, they explain that ever since Adam, man has been bored. He tries to fill the emptiness inside him “with alcohol, narcotics or some other sin – even the most despicable ones – and the more he fills it, the more dreadfully it yawns.”

Indeed, another website explains that even the venerable tradition of the champagne toast at midnight is traceable back to the ancient Romans and Greeks.

Apparently the host would give all his guests wine from the same vessel, but would be the first to drink, to ensure it wasn’t poisoned, apparently a commonplace concern among such guests, as the practice was a widespread technique in disposing of one’s enemies.

And why call it a “toast”? Well it seems that the taste of ancient wine could be improved by floating a piece of burnt bread on top which absorbed the excess acid. The last one to drain the pitcher got to eat it! Hence, the “toast.”

On the other hand, many Christians have drawn from Jewish tradition in defining the way they wish to celebrate the beginning of a New Year. Some suggest that New Year’s Eve is a perfect time to join with family and friends to rejoice at the gift of having completed another year of life, as well as to welcome in the coming year with prayer and rejoicing.

New Year resolutions are also an echo of Jewish tradition, an opportunity to prayerfully set goals for the year ahead. Pastor Billy Graham, in his New Year prayer, put it this way: “In the midst of our daily occupations and pursuits, open our eyes to the sorrows and injustices of our hurting world, and help us to respond with compassion and sacrifice to those who are friendless and in need. May our constant prayer be that of the ancient Psalmist: ‘Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end’” (Psalm 119:33).

While there is so much that is universally shared at the beginning of a New Year by all peoples, nowhere did I find quite the same emphasis on being judged as in the Jewish tradition. The Mishna has the first known reference to Rosh Hashana as the “day of judgment.”

The image of the Holy One, Blessed be He, sitting on a throne of judgment as all mankind pass before Him for evaluation of their deeds, is uniquely Jewish. Also unique is the concept of Rosh Hashana as the beginning of the process of last-chance repentance which only ends 10 days later on Yom Kippur. In a way, this time is the most fraught, and the most rewarding of the Jewish cycle of life, a time to recognize the ebbing of time and opportunities to be the best we can be, to strive upwards. This idea is beautifully stated in a poem by Rabbi Yehuda Halevi:

“Lord, where shall I find you? High and hidden is Your place.

And where shall I not find You? Your glory fills infinities of space…

I have sought Your presence, Called You with all my heart, And going out to meet You I found you coming toward me.”

 

May all of us, wherever we live and from whatever tradition we come from, find our way to God, and may our year to come be full of His blessings: peace, prosperity, happiness, filled with good deeds, good health, good fortune, and good news.

 
This article was published in the Jerusalem Post on 21 September 2012.

3 comments to Where Shall I Find You in the Year to Come?

  • ginny soronow

    Shanah Tova U’Metikah, v’G’mar Chatima Tova to you Naomi and your family and all Yisrael, Ginny, Vancouver, Canada

  • Naomi R

    Very poignantly stated. G’mar Chatima Tova to you, your loved ones and Jews everywhere.

  • The front lines are not the same for you as they are for me. I know that the front lines for active duty are coming here in Canada, I will need to fight them and it will not be with words. So much has been said and written for making peace and exposing lies but to no avail. The brick wall has been fortified and nothing will be heard through it. The world is mute.