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.


A Kosher Megillah Reading

This past Purim I found myself in the vibrant Jewish community of Las Vegas. Amidst the man-made opulence, gambling casinos, and streets that stayed awake all night, I looked for a traditional megillah-reading with which to fulfill the religious obligation to hear every word of the Book of Esther read from beginning to end.

Arrangements were made for me to attend a local Conservative temple. My hostess was an admirable woman: active in the Jewish community, a stalwart of the local day school. I didn’t want to offend her, but as an Orthodox Jew I had to ask: Will it be a kosher reading – meaning, does it follow the tenets set down by tradition?

Yes, she assured me. Although her congregation was Conservative, they were very, very traditional.

I should have suspected something when I was greeted at the Temple door by Big Bird, and he turned out to be the Rabbi. But the megillah-reading started traditionally enough. I was following closely, my finger tracing each word, when suddenly Haman’s dreaded name was mentioned and all heck broke lose. Wait a second, I thought. Isn’t Haman about three pages away…? Could it be, no….! Were they … skipping pages!!!?

Well, before I could answer that question (yes, it turns out) the reading deteriorated into a general pandemonium of shouting down Haman until it was abandoned altogether. Instead — by decree of the Rabbi and the elders—the traditional megillah was replaced by (I kid you not) The Megillah By Way of Broadway, i.e., (to the tune of Makin’ Whoopie)

(Virgin #1)

Check out my main frame

Check out my screen

IBM the one

Should be your Queen

Sure I do Windows

See how the wind blows

I’m user friendly…

Will they go back to the reading, I asked my hostess in shock. She made inquiries. The answer was no. Sensing my dismay, she apologetically delivered me forthwith to Chabad. Luckily, the Hasidic habit of starting everything late worked in my favor and I arrived before they’d gotten to the part where the Conservative congregation had gone over to vaudeville.

At Chabad, instead of the noise of bored and restless children desperately being entertained, there was absolute silence. A large screen projected colorful slides depicting the Purim saga, which the Rabbi clicked forward so that everyone could understand and enjoy what was being recited. At intervals, the young Rebbitzen held up a “Boo Haman” sign which allowed those assembled to vent their spleen. The children were fascinated, amused, attentive. And the reading was lovely.

Unlike some in the Orthodox camp, I’m not afraid of change. It’s invigorating. Leaving behind the U.S., living in Israel, my husband and I chose an engagement with the world, with change, a dynamism we could allow ourselves because we lived in the security of a Jewish country. We had chosen to be Jewish with both hands, thus leaving both hands free to explore.

The fear, the need to cut off from the outside world, is only necessary, I believe, if one has no confidence that one has chosen wisely; if we are afraid that our children by investigating will actually discover superior alternatives out there. “They might get confused,” some tell themselves, banning reading, watching, understanding. But aren’t they really saying that they themselves are confused, conflicted about the choices they’ve made?

The idea that we can keep our children close to us by shutting all exits, sealing all windows is a foolish one. The doors are paper, the windows fragile glass. They can walk out, walk though, at any time. There is nothing we can do to stop them. And so we have no choice but to reexamine with a piercing, almost heartless honesty all we’ve chosen to do and be.

Will our life choices hold up? Do they have worth? Are they worth preserving and passing on? We can’t be afraid to face the answers. But neither do we need to present the face of absolute conviction when we feel none, to bluff our children into thinking we do.

Orthodoxy errs when it thinks forbidding this and forbidding that is going to impress young people or win their respect. And the Conservative and Reform movement err no less when they degrade and abandon traditional rituals in a misguided attempt to entertain bored fringe Jews into becoming committed members of the community.

Let’s face it, when you turn a megillah reading into an MTV video, why shouldn’t the kids just go home and watch the real thing? No amount of tap dancing and Broadway tunes is going to shore up a religious rite and make it meaningful if the adults involved are clueless, and it’s meaningless to them.

I applaud the Chabad rabbi and his slides. He managed to clarify the ritual reading, without destroying its value.

Like Helen Keller, whose salvation came from attaching meaning to words – the letters w-a-t-e-r to a wet, cold liquid – so must we in all branches of Judaism attach a meaningful substance to our activities: Torah learning must be connected to morality and kindness in deed. Our rituals and traditions explained and explored. Not discarded.

When we start a megillah reading, we need to finish it.

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