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.


Are Jews Historical Artifacts in Europe?

It is Friday night in Venice’s Ghetto Vecchio. I am seated in the women’s section of the Scola Spagnola, one of the most beautiful synagogues of Europe. It is packed. The women, hair covered in everything from traditional head scarves to trendy turbans wound around their heads with breathtaking panache, hug and kiss each other, sure signs of a family simcha. Young boys climb to the area in front of the Ark, undertaking various ritual roles reserved for the cute and inexperienced. The women beam.

The next day, at the end of the service, the star of the show shyly mounts the platform before the Ark. To my surprise, it is a young girl, accompanied by her father and the rabbi. It is her bat mitzvah. The rabbi delivers an elaborate sermon in Italian and Hebrew explaining why, according to traditional sources, a bat mitzvah is halachically permissible, citing such modern luminaries as Rav Moshe Feinstein, who argued that the educational value of the bat mitzvah outweighs its Reform origins. There is a Kiddush afterwards in a spacious, art-filled community center nearby.

A mere week after terrorists rocked Europe by blowing up children at a concert in Manchester, the Jews of Venice—under the ever-watchful eye of a permanent army outpost set right inside the historic Ghetto—are relaxed and celebratory. “We are not worried at all,” a woman at the Kiddush says in answer to my question. “We don’t have these kinds of problems in Venice. Here we all get along.”

I see her point. The ghetto, once the involuntary bastion of a barely tolerated Jewish community in a hostile Catholic environment, is now the destination for a steady stream of European tourists who patiently wait on long lines to enter the Jewish Museum and to catch a glimpse inside several local synagogues. Guards, who carefully questioned us when we arrived for Sabbath services before allowing us inside, will allow them their glimpse after reading them the riot act about no picture-taking and respecting the sanctity of the place.

It would all be idyllic, except that there are barely 500 Jews left in Venice and far fewer in the vicinity of the Old Ghetto. Reminders of the 8,000 Italian Jews deported (most of them murdered), among them more than 250 from the Ghetto itself, are everywhere. In a house directly across from the Kiddush venue, bronze plaques set in the cobblestone street state, “Salomone Aboaf, arrested 17.8.1944. Deported to Auschwitz. Assassinated 7.9.1944.” There is an Aboaf who now resides in one of the apartments, and an Aboaf whose name marks a seat in the synagogue. One wall of the main square features an iron sculpture depicting a cattle car being emptied and its inmates machine-gunned.

It’s not all for show. The synagogue that bustles with visitors and guests on the weekend also has a regular minyan during the week. Chabad has set up shop in a storefront nearby, catering to tourists and the newly observant, as well as running the popular local kosher restaurant, Gam Gam—packed not only with Jews but also with adventurous tourists eager to sample Jewish Venetian cuisine. These visitors also flock to the Venice Jewish Museum, with its priceless treasure of 16th- and 17th-century Jewish ritual objects, hand-embroidered ark covers, megillot and haggadot carefully preserved behind glass. But except for the handful of Chabad children wearing kippot and earlocks playing in the square, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence of an actual Jewish presence. As the man who sells me my museum ticket says, “The ghetto was dissolved in 1797. Now everybody lives here, not specifically Jews.”

The effect intensified as we moved south on a cruise that touched several points along the Adriatic coast. In the ancient city of Dubrovnik, once called Ragusa, now part of Croatia—which served as a refuge to Jews fleeing the Inquisition—the synagogue no longer holds services, even on the Sabbath. The 50 remaining members of the Jewish community use the synagogue only for high holiday services, though a company called Milk and Honey offers a tour for $300 of where Jews once lived. (We passed.)

Yet further south, in Athens, the Jewish community of about 3,000 has nearly abandoned the inner-city synagogue, a beautiful modern building with stained glass windows, as they move to the northern suburbs of the city. Our guide, a Greek Jew who speaks impeccable Hebrew, mourns the assimilation of the Jews who drive in on the Sabbath for the occasional bar or bat mitzvah.

Rebbetzin Nechamah Hendel, the young wife of Athens’ Chabad rabbi Mendel Hendel, thinks there is not much economic future for the Jewish community in Greece and notes that a neo-Nazi party has won 7 percent of the seats in the Greek parliament. Hendel, an immigrant from Paris, thinks the Jews of both Greece and France would make aliyah if they could, but “it’s not so easy to move to Israel. It’s expensive to find housing.”

My daughter, who lives in Paris, the mother of six Parisians who speak Hebrew and wear kippot and go to Jewish schools, might agree. Her husband’s family business makes aliyah impossible at this time, but incidents like those in Manchester and almost daily confrontations with anti-Semitism make aliyah—or immigration to the United States or French-speaking Quebec—a frequent topic. The recent murder of a beloved Jewish doctor, allegedly by a Muslim neighbor who threw her out the window, has led French Jews to consider the difficult options for their future, questions shared with more or less urgency by all European Jews.

More and more, Jewish life in Europe seems to be lived behind protective barriers: soldiers, police and finally actual glass cases. Sadly, the tide of history seems to point to the inevitable transition of European Jewish communities toward the status of historical artifacts, drained of a living Jewish presence, footnotes in guidebooks for curious visitors.


7 comments to Are Jews Historical Artifacts in Europe?

  • Sarie Taljaard

    WOW! You lift me up spiritually, mentally and physically. You helped me make my life as an Afrikaans South African so much more bearable in this past nine months since my two boys and I made aliyah. GOD bless.

  • Lonnie

    Well Naomi Ragen?

  • David Barrett

    Come on Naomi. Who will they have to blame if there are no Jews living there?
    You have touched on a couple of communities but go to Germany which has – and I don’t know why – the fastest growing communities in Europe outside possibly Manchester UK. We are not historical artifacts but still a necessity in any society that requires spiritual guidance.

  • Naomi Romm

    A beautiful post, but to a great extent I see the lives that Jews in Europe live as a facade. Islam has all but taken over every major city. Living in isolated communities is truly not a life.

  • Rostislav

    “More and more, Jewish life in Europe seems to be lived behind protective barriers: soldiers, police and finally actual glass cases” – so true, so tragic. But even more tragic is the ever-worsening situation with protective barriers within Israel! Both tragedies are constantly enhanced not by some loathsome anti-Semites, but by the ever-present leftie mobs, all kinds of the Jewish “progressives” (or, rather, “aggressives”) including…

  • Stanley Nattel

    After the widespread collaboration with the Nazis in WWII, Europe deserves to be Jude’s-Frei. They worked hard enough for it. May they enjoy the many many tens of millions of Arabs they will have instead, in the not too distant future.

  • Raquel Grunwald. Ph.d

    I totally appreciate you and reading your books always is so fun.
    I made aliya recently but remember you well.
    I was on book comitee of Lawrence family Jewish center in la jolla .CA when you were one of the book presenters..