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  Naomi Ragen

Naomi Ragen
author of ...

The Ghost of Hannah Mendes Jephte's Daughter Sotah (A Woman Under Suspicion) The Sacrifice of Tamar

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The Sacrifice of Tamar Tamar Finegold is a happy young bride in one of Brooklyn's insulated ultra-Orthodox enclaves. As the wife of a rising young Rabbi and Talmud scholar, her status is assured. But this staid, predictable life crashes violently when Tamar is raped by a black intruder as she baby-sits for her baby nephew. Humiliated and confused, she refuses to risk the unbearable stigma of discovery. But in her attempt to hide her shame, she is sent plummeting into a moral crisis when she discovers she is pregnant and cannot be sure who the father is. Faced with impossible choices, she turns to her two best friends. Together, the three relive their childhood, exploring their past struggles to reconcile their faith with the haphazard tragedies that befall all human beings. In the end, heartbreaking sacrifices and impossible decisions lead to a surprising triumph of the human spirit.

Author's Comments

Several years ago, a small article appeared in the back pages of Israeli newspapers describing the birth of a black baby to an Ultra-Orthodox white couple in Israel. It said Rabbis were trying to get the young mother to admit she'd committed adultery, and she was stubbornly maintaining her innocence. In the end, the grandmother admitted she'd been raped by a black man in Brooklyn twenty years before… I read this story with horror and fascination.

How terrible it must have been for that woman, I thought, to have hidden such a secret all those years! Why did she feel she had to make that sacrifice? And what would happen to the innocent child, alone and unwanted in its cradle, its birth a source of destruction to his family and a bone in the throat of the community in which he lived? Would it too, need to be sacrificed to some ideal of communal perfection? The book is an exploration of all those ideas. I think the book is really about the surprising and endless ways the human spirit rises above the random tragedies that strike all human beings; and the possibility for boundless hatred to become transfiguring love.

Readers' Comments

My interest in stories in a Jewish setting began after reading Chaim Potok's books. After I had exhausted his books, I found your book "The Sacrifice of Tamar." Reading the beginning of the story, where Tamar is raped by a black man, I almost put the book down in anger, intending not to read any more. The reason was that, though I am not Jewish, I have been married to a black man for almost three decades, and thought, "Why would it have to be a black man, again?" However, my interest in Jewish culture stopped me from acting on my initial impulse and I continued. Well, I could hardly put the book down from then on. The end brought tears to my eyes. Great book. I have read your two other books as well. Anything new in the works?
 

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Last modified: February 04, 1999