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  Home > Books > Women > Women's Fiction >

The Women's Minyan
The Women's Minyan
 
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Naomi Ragen

Publisher: Toby Press


Her many fans will welcome the publication of Naomi Ragen's first play, which premiered in July 2002 at Habima National Theater in Tel Aviv. It is based on a true story: a Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) woman, wife of a rabbi, mother of 12, leaves her home and stays with a friend. The community's "modesty squad" tries in vain to force her to go back. Her friend is physically attacked, her arm and leg broken. The rabbi's wife is punished: she is cut off from her children, against her will.

Novelist Ragen learned of this tragic story several years ago from a newspaper article. "We've been together ever since then," she says. "They simply crushed this wonderful woman who never committed any crime. It's not a melodrama. It's a story of social truth, like Ibsen's A Doll's House. "I tried to write a play about the status of the Jewish woman in the strictly Orthodox world," continues Ragen. "The religious woman does not have any public place in which she can express her opinions in a natural fashion. Conversely, every man can say whatever he wants from the platform of the synagogue, on any subject, including current events; religious women have never had access to it. In synagogue, we pray upstairs in the women's section, while the men get up and say what they want to the entire congregation. Why shouldn't the woman have the same right? Is she less intelligent? Does she have fewer interesting things to say?"

"The Haredi world makes cynical use of religion, with excuses constantly being offered, purporting that something is written in the Torah, when in fact the opposite is true. Take, for instance, the norm of women having to have babies without end on the grounds that this is God's will, whereas the mitzvah of "Be fruitful and multiply,' is meant for Adam, not Eve. Jewish law explicitly says that the birth of two children is by all means sufficient, and that there is no need for more than that to fulfill the commandment.

"What can they do to me? If they haven't yet lynched me for writing Jephte's Daughter and Sotah, I'm not going to start being afraid now. There are a lot of people in religious society who understand and agree with me." From an interview with Haaretz

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