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'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 - is a chilling tale of the paths that so easily lead us astray, and the darkness within us all. “שטן
Click the book’s cover to learn more.

Watch Valérie Abécasis' interview with Naomi on French Channel 24's Culture program. The interview (in French) begins at the 4:00 minute mark.

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.

Nic Nie MówMay 2017 – The Polish translation of Devil in Jerusalem is published as Nic Nie Mów.

April 2017 – Naomi speaks about her books at the Ivan M. Stettenham Library at the Streicker Centre in New York City.

March 2017 – Naomi tours the Paris region to speak about her new book Les Soeurs Weiss, the French translation of The Sisters Weiss.

January 2017 – Naomi is interviewed by Valérie Abécasis on French Channel 24‘s Culture program. The interview (in French) begins at the 4:00 minute mark.

“LesDecember 2016Les Soeurs Weiss, the French translation of The Sisters Weiss, is published.

October 2016The 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 Sarah 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.


Who Has the Keys to the Kingdom?

Years ago, straight out of a haredi women’s seminary in Borough Park, Brooklyn, I used to think that only those who wore the right outfits, and had the proper wigs and beards, had the keys to the kingdom of Heaven. And why not? That’s basically what we were taught.

That, and that all the other kinds of Jews out there were mistaken, misguided, even dangerous. Not to mention the non-Jews.

Now I read the very polite, seemingly reasonable column of a haredi apologist and the dark head of prejudice and narrow-mindedness pokes through the educated prose, revealing that heart of darkness I put behind me so many years ago.

Western WallYes, the writer nods, it’s so wrong for haredim to throw things at other Jews praying at the Kotel. It gives all of us good-natured, well-meaning haredim a bad name. And it’s against Halacha, too! In fact, it might even prevent some misguided Jews from joining the fold of us true believers.

However – and here the head comes rearing up, as ugly as the sin it is – don’t those who visit the Kotel dressing and behaving in a way unacceptable to us, the “over 99% of those present,” have their guilt to bear for provoking the violence?

I have come a long way from Borough Park. Not only physically, but mentally as well. And so this argument spurs me to ask the following questions:

Why should a woman in a prayer shawl and kippa on her way to pray be considered any more provocative than a Jew who chooses to pray in the black medieval garb of a Polish aristocrat?

If anyone would suggest our black-garbed brethren’s equally distinctive attire was “scoffing street theater” and thus an invitation to physical abuse, would we not all be absolutely appalled?

Why is such a woman any less worthy of respect than those who insist their deceased rebbe is the Messiah who will soon rise from the dead, and who go on celebrating his birthday instead of his yahrzeit?

Why is she any more dangerous to Jewish continuity than those who have institutionalized the oppression of women by ignoring the halachic obligations in the ketuba – in which a man undertakes to support his wife? Any more awful than those who ignore the Talmud’s admonition that a man should teach his son a profession so that he will not become a burden on the community? Any more in error than those who ignore the Torah’s clear designations of who is to get an army exemption, adding their own dubious category of full-time yeshiva student to shirk their God-given obligations?

This same apologist once revealed that as a college student at a prestigious university, he so hated the Habad missionary who had stationed himself at the dorm entrance to encourage students to don tefillin, that he climbed out over a back fence, nearly impaling himself. As a result, he decided to embrace that which he was fleeing.

He studied; he became part of the most right-wing religious establishment. And now, he rejects and vilifies and excoriates everything that doesn’t fit perfectly into his new – equally narrow-minded – little world, with the same fanaticism that had once sent him climbing over fences in the opposite direction.

Is this progress? I don’t think so.

I reject the notion that only a few bad apples in the haredi world are embarrassingly violent, abusive to women, or sexually deviant. The haredi world has exactly the same share of such people as everybody else. Not a percentage less, for all their high-blown self-congratulations.

What sometimes makes them worse, in my opinion, is that their leadership denies it, hides it, or uses apologists to write soothing prose to encourage their members to feel they don’t have a problem that needs solving.

There is a problem. A serious one.

It is not the handful of bottle-throwers: It is the hundreds of onlookers giving tacit approval.

It is the rabbis and leaders, who watch this – and other shameful spectacles – repeat themselves, year after year, in incident after incident, and say nothing.

What we need are rabbis with the courage to take a firm, public stand against the violence, and against the insularity that is turning what was supposed to be a little corner of holy light into a vale of darkness.

What we need is an overhaul of the antiquated system that forces every son to learn Talmud full-time for reasons of prestige, even though he may be neither interested nor intellectually capable.

What we need is a new system in which all boys and girls are taught a profession in addition to Torah, so that learning will once again be “for the sake of Heaven alone,” without stipends from the government, without a bride’s parents killing themselves to supply all the groom’s financial needs and desires.

In those changes lie some of the true keys to the kingdom.

And anyone who tries to avoid facing this truth by climbing over fences in the opposite direction is likely to be impaled.

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