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.

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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.

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.


Women’s Voices From Out There

Since I can write about anything I want in this column, this week I’ve chosen to tell a tale of two sisters-in-law, Jere and Shifra Finer of Baltimore and Monsey. Why should an Israeli columnist in an Israeli paper be writing about two Americans? Simple. To show that the abusive and immoral treatment of religious women at the hands of the religious establishment and community isn’t an Israeli original. It’s as American as frozen gefilte fish.

Jere Finer, a religious woman from Baltimore, writes me the following: “My sister–in-law Shifra and I divorced two abusive brothers. Our treatment at the hands of the rabbis and the community has been horrendous. For example, her husband has not yet given her a ‘get’ (religious divorce) yet is openly living with another supposedly ‘religious’ woman and her six children, who now wear his own children’s clothing and play with their toys. Since this woman’s children and his own go to the same school, his little eight-year old is constantly taunted by this other child. No one in the religious community does anything about it.”

When the alleged abuse began, Shifra asked the rabbi of the local yeshiva what to do, and he told her to move out with her children, but not to take any money. At the beginning of the separation, a rabbi decided child support payments that were so inadequate it left her dependent on charity to feed her children. Also, as both women only found out later, a woman who leaves her husband forfeits her marriage settlement, about $10,000 – $15,000. This is the kind of information rabbis know, and women don’t.

Shifra’s apartment building is full of such abused haredi women who followed this rabbinical advice.

Despite charges of paternal child abuse, a rabbi decided on joint custody, forcing children ages 2-8 to spend every two nights in a different bed. While the Beit Din ordered her husband to give her a ‘get’, her husband refused. No sanctions were imposed on him. Fed up, penniless, abandoned by the community and the Rabbinic courts, Shifra went to civil court.

There she finally received some semblance of justice, including increased temporary child support, child custody, and supervised visitation for her husband. Incensed at her chutzpah, the Beit Din is now circulating a letter to the effect that Shifra is a traitor for going to civil court, and her poor husband should be helped in any way possible.

Jere has been an agunah for four years. Despite her husband’s considerable financial resources, she and her three children were dependent on charity for food. She too finally went to the civil court to force some kind of financial settlement. The Beit Din in Baltimore put her in cherem (a form of shunning) for it.

As Jere writes: “All I know is that I have to live in this world and that takes money. Tuition for day schools is $30,000 a year alone. Thankfully, these schools, run by open-minded Orthodox Jews, have been very kind to me. One is taking very little tuition and the other gave me a job — the highest form of tzeddakah. I want to gather all the stories of women and write a book. I keep hearing about what a desecration of G-d’s name it will be, but isn’t all the abuse that’s going on a greater desecration? I went to rabbis for years for help but none was given. The religious world hides behind Halacha to avoid taking care of its problems. Believe me, I would have rather done this from within the community, but it can’t be done. I will take my chances with Hashem since my motives are pure — to help other women in this situation.

I became observant when I was 12 and I am now 39. What I have seen over the years is a great decline within the Orthodox world. Not in numbers , but rather the essence of what Torah is. I don’t think being arrogant about cholov yisroel (cow milk processed by Jews — a kashrut stringency) or putting a baby girl in tights in the summer for modesty is what it’s all about. How we behave towards each other is.”

A thousand years ago, Rabbenu Gershon decided that the divine law permitting polygamy would hold Jews up to disgrace in the world, which no longer permitted it. He changed the biblical law to prevent that. Isn’t there another great Rabbi who can rise to the challenge of our age, changing the biblical law that permits Jewish men to hold their wives hostage, to oppress and extort and abuse them by withholding their “get?” Is there no one to sanctify the name of G-d and his Torah by ridding the Jewish community of this foul disgrace, this crime that goes against every moral law our Torah stands for, and exhorts us to fulfill? Is there no one to make the concept of the agunah a terrible crime of the past? No one to stop the civil courts becoming a refuge of oppressed women fleeing the disgraceful injustices of the rabbinical courts? Out of all the great gedolim, admorim, and Torah scholars, all the men and boys who are learning, and learning, and learning…

Is there no one to stand up and be a man where there are no men? As we light our Chanukah candles, can we all not pray for yet another Jewish victory of the weak over the strong, the oppressed over their oppressors?

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