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

Rachel’s Story

On Sunday, I went to Israel’s Supreme Court to listen to the wisdom of the highest judges in Israel concerning the case of Rachel S. (there’s a partial gag order, thus the initial), the woman on whom I based my play, Women’s Minyan.

Rachel, who was married to an admitted adulterer in Chasidic Rabbi’s clothing, a man who not only cheated on her but abused her, has been shunned, harassed, physically threatened, intimidated, and made miserable ever since she walked out on him twelve years ago. But the worst punishment she received — which by the way is standard in the haredi community for wives who won’t put up with such husbands — is losing her children.

Rachel has twelve children.

At the time she left, one was a three month-old baby. She had three year-old twin girls. A bunch of little boys under Bar Mitzvah age, and a fewer older ones, some even married.

Fearing for her life after a violent attack, she fled her home, even though her husband was legally supposed to vacate the premises. Instead, he forced her out.

She has not been allowed to see her children since.

She went to the Rabbinical Court. To the highest Rabbis in Meah Shearim (including Rav Eliyashiv, who knows her well, and used to send her women to counsel.) Everyone knew her story. The social workers involved, mostly haredim who live in that world, everyone was afraid to stick up for her because her ex’s father in -law was the head of a well-known kollel and a member of the Torah Council of Sages (which should give you some idea of what passes for a sage these days…)

The Rabbinical Court issued a ruling that her ex should bring the children to see her. That was six years ago.

She’s still waiting.

I came into this picture rather late, when I saw her on television because the woman who was helping her, someone who’d been counseled by her, and felt she owed Rachel her life, took her in. This woman was beaten by thugs calling themselves the Modesty Patrol. They put her into the hospital because she refused to send Rachel back to her husband.

I tried to help Rachel because I was outraged that a beautiful, righteous Rebbitzen, who had given birth to twelve children and cared for them, should have them ripped out of her life because she dared divorce her philandering husband.

That was seven years ago. I’ve come to know this woman well. She was full of energy when we started, and so was I.

We couldn’t imagine that there would be people venal enough to prevent her from seeing her children, a basic human right.

I was in touch with her social worker, Ruth , who told me in no uncertain terms that Rachel was a wonderful mother, and that her husband was brainwashing her children against her with the help of the Rabbinical Court, who refused to enforce their own edicts by calling in the police.

I wrote a play about her. I went on television shows and had them interview her. The dailies all did stories. We took the Rabbinical Court to the Supreme Court for not enforcing its own judgements, hoping to finally get some judicial relief and have her case removed from the Rabbis and put into civil court.

That was two years ago. The Supreme Court brought in Ruth for another social worker’s report. And this time she wrote that the children were curious about their mother but their father didn’t allow any discussion about her in the house.

Some of the children said they didn’t want to meet their mother. So Ruth suggested that Rachel write them letters (!) and have the father give them to the children (!) and that the father report on the children to the social workers every once in a while. (!)

I’d say I couldn’t believe it if I hadn’t been involved in meeting these social workers, one of them a haredi woman who lives in Meah Shearim who thought Rachel should apologize to her mother (who worked against Rachel all these years). It was disgusting to witness. Guess what? The Rabbinical Court thought even that was too much.

So there I was in the Supreme Court of Israel, hoping for a miracle. After all, in the place where judges have endless sympathy for Palestinian terrorists one would think there would be a little compassion left over for Jewish women.

Sending Rachel’s case back to the Rabbinical Court is like sending IDF soldiers to be tried by the Palestinian Authority. But that’s what they did. After all, one of the judges said, a woman no less: “The situation that existed years ago when the Rabbinical Court ordered the father to bring the children to see their mother isn’t relevant anymore, since they don’t want to see her.”

Well, isn’t that brilliant? The father gets away with brainwashing them, kidnapping them, ignoring court orders.

All that isn’t “relevant.” Final decision: Send it back to the Rabbinic Court for yet another decision. Meet back in Supreme Court in January. These children will be grandparents by the time this is over.

Rachel has stopped coming to these hearings. She can hardly walk up the steps of her hovel anymore.

And as I passed her well-fed, immaculately dressed, bearded, black-coated ex, I couldn’t help but turn to him and say:

The Ten Days of Repentance. I saw the steam come out of his head. He hates me. As well he should.

I went to see Rachel the other day. All this time, she has been living in sub-human conditions. I hold my nose when I go into that apartment: the air is so thick and foul it’s unbreathable. It was never meant to be lived in. Years ago, it was her clothing store, until her ex embezzled all her funds. An apartment on the bottom floor on the main street of Meah Shearim near an open sewer and piles of garbage.

All these years she’s been reluctant to move because it’s a “key money” apartment, a legal arrangement in which if she doesn’t live there, she’ll lose her investment.

Her husband lives in a penthouse a few blocks away. Her health is gone, as she takes higher and higher doses of cortisone to breathe. I have seen her in the hospital on oxygen only last year. She is very fragile. The possibility she may never see her children again is crushing her. She wouldn’t recognize them now even if she passed them in the street. It only takes some stupid remark (like the idiot she met the other day who knew a little about her case, who was “kind” enough to tell her she would never win because some Rabbi didn’t believe she was telling the truth) to devastate her.

Finally, finally, I think I’ve convinced her she has to move. She says in a year she expects that the court-ordered property settlement (that’s taken ten years…) will finally be executed (if her ex doesn’t find some way to sneak out of that), and her ex will sell the penthouse and give her half.

Then she’ll have the money to move.

God bless you all. I hope the New Year will bring us all blessings.

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