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Jephte's Daughter

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  1,331 Ratings  ·  106 Reviews
The pampered daughter of a wealthy Hasidic businessman, Batsheva Ha-Levi grows up in the affluent suburbs of Los Angeles. But everything changes when she turns eighteen and finds that her loving father has made a secret vow which will shatter her life, forcing her to marry a man she hardly knows and sending her to the exotic, golden city of Jerusalem. On her wedding day, s ...more
Paperback, 464 pages
Published February 16th 2010 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 1988)
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Community Reviews

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Sally Wessely
May 20, 2010 Sally Wessely rated it it was amazing
I can't remember the last novel I read that I really could not put down. A friend I met on a recent vacation had just finished the book and did not want to pack it and bring it home. Her description of the story as being one about a young American woman who must marry a Hassidic Jew in Jerusalem to fulfill a vow her father made to carry on the dynasty that his family had prior to their deaths at the hands of the Nazis piqued my interest. The book did not disappoint. I found it very intriguing. O ...more
Mar 20, 2008 rivka rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one!
Shelves: avoid
It amazes and saddens me that such a libelous and inaccurate novelization is lauded. Ragen brings out every trope and negative claim about Chassidic Judaism and then some, completely ignoring such inconveniences as accuracy and authenticity.
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
Apr 17, 2010 Shannon (Giraffe Days) rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2013, cover-love
Batsheva Ha-Levi lives a life of luxury in America: eighteen and beautiful, sheltered and innocent and brought up to be naive in her ultra-orthodox Jewish family. Her father, Abraham Ha-Levi, is the sole surviving descendent of a leader within Jewish Hassidic circles after the rest of his family met their death in Poland during World War II. Abraham Ha-Levi is a self-made businessman and very wealthy, but it is the legacy he was born to that weighs on him: he is the heir to a dynasty founded in ...more
This book had potential, I really couldn't wait to read it. And I must admit, I don't dislike this book. I only believe that it could have been more, much more. The story starts out with Batsheva, a girl who loves God and follows his Law however she sometimes has problems with how those around her interpret the Law. I really liked the character of Batsheva. She always seemed to fall back on the Grace of God even when she was going through tough times. I really strive to be like that, but I'm so ...more
Agnes (BeaderBubbe)
Ms Ragen has done it again.. Another of her stories about religious women and the obstacles they climb to adjust or change their lives. Batsheva was a free spirit who thought she could take over the world. She had big dreams that also included marrying and starting a family. But she was not prepared for the arranged marriage her father made her; her overbearing husband who felt he possessed her and all her belongings; and when she could not take it anymore - well, read the book....she does the u ...more
Diane Ehrlich
Jan 08, 2008 Diane Ehrlich rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read many of Naomi Ragen's very interesting articles regarding Jewish life, which prompted me to read some of her books. She tells compelling stories about life in the ultra-orthodox community, but brings a modern, feminist perspective. I've learned so much from her books about Jewish history and about the many ways Jewish traditions can be interpreted. She shows how the very same aspects of a religion that can be used to denigrate a woman can also be used to uplift her, depending on how an ...more
Oct 20, 2010 Tanya rated it really liked it
I think the beauty of this book can only be appreciated by a truly religious person, because a huge part of the plot is the attachment to God. Naomi Ragen clearly has a great love for Judaism and for Yahweh, and she writes that eloquently into her characters. I could relate to the heroine's struggle between doing what she wanted and what she believed God wanted her to do. I was touched by another character's struggle with his Catholic faith, and the truths he found in Judaism. I found myself thi ...more
Rachel Crooks
I really enjoyed reading this book, so I can't figure out why my main feeling about it now is irritation. I think it's because of the way it ties up. The whole story is so real and so honest, like a detailed photograph, and it feels like Ragen tacked on an ending where the characters suddenly appeared in cartoon form - recognizable, but dumbed down, caricatured. While they seemed to breathe a life of their own all along, the ending is like catching a bit of Ragen's shadow in the picture, and I s ...more
Jan 01, 2013 Alida rated it really liked it
Shelves: borrowed
I normally avoid 400 page re-tellings of a 400 word Bible story; therefore, when a friend handed me this book to read I was reluctant. But it's not what I assumed. Instead it is the story of a modern young girl raised in a Hassidic Jewish family. I love reading novels which teach me about other cultures and this one certainly did.

I did question how one character could shed his Christian faith like a snake shedding his skin; how quickly he questioned things that previously were clearly his maxims
Robin Cornelison
Feb 12, 2013 Robin Cornelison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading this book, her writing is very fluent although there was a lot of religious intonations, which can be a deterrent, I found most of it surprisingly interesting. I learned a few things about Orthodox Jews that I hadn't known before. Batsheva was a frustrating character, most of the book I wanted to slap her silly, she was so innocent and annoying! I was cheering for her when she finally told Isaac to go to hell! Yes, why if she is orthodox does she go around without her hair bein ...more
Jul 07, 2010 Mdavies rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book in 1 1/2 days. I found it riveting, almost pre-occupying. Part of that comes from my years in Israel and knowledge of Jerusalem and the rest of the country. But the story is so compelling and whether you are familiar with Hassadim or not, the plight of Batsheva has been replicated in other scenarios. I will read Ragen's other books!
Feb 24, 2007 Rebecca rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The main character in this book really pissed me off. I hate lead female characters who are weak and who take the entire book to stand up for themselves. I understand (I think) what the author was trying to accomplish here, but mostly I just wanted to scream. Maybe some empowered women feel OK reading about women who struggle with forming basic, declarative sentences. I am not one of them.
Nov 06, 2012 Dawn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A solid, engaging read about a young hassidic woman from a prominent family who moves to Jerusalem after an arranged marriage. My only criticism is that I felt the romance aspect of the novel was overdone.
Daniel Chaikin
May 11, 2015 Daniel Chaikin rated it did not like it
Originally posted at:

Naomi Ragen’s novel, Jephte’s daughter, is about a young Hassidic (Jewish ultra-orthodox) girl who is raised in the United States, and is arranged to marry a young Hassidic scholar in Jerusalem. She must leave everything she knows and loves to marry a man she has only just met. It sounds like a traditional set-up for—I don’t know—a romance novel or some such. (It’s an arranged marriage!!! But will it become true love?!? No.)

But this i
Jan 17, 2017 Monica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Jephte's Daughter was an extremely uplifting and moving novel about the battle between tradition and enlightenment; duty and following one's heart. Ragen sensitively delves into the dark enclaves of Judaism which are often not spoken about. Hasidic Judaism is not a world, which is fully explored or spoken about and is kept far removed from the modern world. The protagonist and heroine of Jephte's Daughter, is Batsheva Ha-Levi, a sheltered and naive young girl, daughter of
Lynne Goldberg
Feb 13, 2017 Lynne Goldberg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great book! Didn't want it to end.
Sep 08, 2013 Kathe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 11, 2013 Erin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was interesting in terms of learning more about Hasidic Judaism. The beginning chapters were so boring for me in terms of the repetitive descriptions of the main character's innocence and beauty and perfection, and the exposition was just far too drawn out. I enjoyed the section about the marriage in Jerusalem in terms of the information about the customs of Hasidic Judaism, and the conflicts that occurred made this section interesting. A lot of the vocabulary in Yiddish was spelled in ...more
May 04, 2011 Debbie rated it it was ok
I truly want to be brief with this one. I wanted to read books by this author and this book in particular for a good while. They've been on my to reads list and I was excited to read it but I felt it just fell short. The back cover synopsis sets you up to expect this great read but I had a really hard time getting through it. I often put it down and had to force myself skipping and skimming to get it done. I felt like the subject, the premise had the potential to be really good but maybe somethi ...more
Courtney Anthony
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This book infuriated me, and not in a good way.

I was disgusted by the husband's treatment of his wife, and the father's refusal to help. When the husband got rid of Batsheva's Leica (Jerk. Does he even know what it is worth?) somehow in the name of religion, I was done.

Hey, buddy, one of my good friends is both Jewish AND one of the best photographers I know,

Yeah, I've read that Batsheva eventually gets out of the relationship, but not before slogging through another 300 pages.

In some ways, this
Linda Pohl
Oct 14, 2012 Linda Pohl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Naomi Ragen's writing and her insight into other cultures. This book was powerful and well written. Young Batsheva, at only eighteen, was promised to a man across the world in Jerusalem. I really emjoyed reading about the chassidic community. Raised in the U.S. by a wealthy family who adored her, it seemed contradictory to me that they did nothing to help her when they learned of her plight. If she was their little princess, then why would they ever condone her being beaten and treated ab ...more
Sep 13, 2014 Amber rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Classic story style: Forbidden love and it ends beautifully. From the very beginning you wanted Batsheva to find true love and you wanted so badly for her to find it in Isaac. You even wanted Isaac to open up to love, to reach whole heartedly inside himself and give himself to Batsheva and you hopelessly felt sad when that did not happen. Then you, along with Batsie grew to hate Isaac and it felt so personal reading her despair and the longing she once had for him turn to pure hatred. I rarely g ...more
Nov 09, 2012 Bonnie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A first novel by Naomi Ragen that exposes the inner circle of Hasidic Jews living in Jerusalem. The plot begins with a beautiful, eighteen-year-old Batsheva living in Los Angeles and attending an elite school for Jewish girls. She is modern, spoiled and willful, when her father tells her she is to marry Isaac, a shining star of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish religion. She only consents when her father tells her she is the only living relative of a great Jewish family of Ha-Levis who were slaughtered ...more
Wow. I bet I'll be living with these characters and wondering how things turned out for them for weeks, which is always a good sign.

I'm not going to give you a plot summary, just say that this is a love story of the best kind, moving from Los Angeles to Jerusalem to London and back again to eternal Jerusalem. It's a first novel that reads beautifully (my only small quibble is that the author tells us how lovely Batsheva, the heroine, is every time she appears on the scene, which is often). What'
Oct 10, 2009 Ronda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book opened up a different world for me. It was interesting to learn about Hassidic Jewish people and their culture. This story tells of the life of the main character, Batsheva Ha-Levi, who is an only child and adored by her orthodox Jewish parents. Batsheva is sheltered from the "real" world, and spoiled with any and all things that money can buy, until her wedding day. Her life suddenly changes as she begins to try and live in Jerusalem as Hassidic Jewish wife.
Apr 08, 2010 Karynn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. It was recommended by a women at the book table at Costco...not something that I would have picked out on my own. But what a powerful book...I am still mulling over all the life lessons that this book addresses. It took me quite a few pages before I realized what a gem I was reading but once the book grabs you, it is hard to put down and even harder to get it out of your head!!
Leslie Asher
May 29, 2016 Leslie Asher rated it really liked it
Batsheva is the pampered daughter of a wealthy Hasidic businessman, who grows up in the affluent suburbs of Los Angeles. However, everything changes when she turns eighteen and finds out that her father has made a vow which will force her to marry a man she hardly knows. On her wedding day, she enters a strange and foreign world. She finally has no choice but to fight for freedom to live in a modern world. I highly recommend reading this book, it will change how you view the world.
Feb 17, 2014 Liz rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Jephte's Daughter" examines the practices of fundamentalist religion, in this case ultra-orthodox Judaism. The main character is trapped in a brutal and dysfunctional marriage, stripped of all freedom and identity. Pure desperation spurs her to recover her sense of self.

The author is well-informed and writes sympathetically about her characters. However, some characters and their motivations seem overly simplistic and the ending was too pat.

Nonetheless, an interesting read.
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Naomi Ragen is an American-born novelist and playwright who has lived in Jerusalem since 1971. She has published seven internationally best-selling novels, and is the author of a hit play. Naomi also publishes a regular column that deals with Jewish subjects, especially Israel.
More about Naomi Ragen...

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“So you see, we are not free to choose our fate. There is a yoke to be borne and freedom is only an illusion. I am not free. God has put me here on earth for a reason.” 4 likes
“He, the man, had seen her, touched her, and had not validated her beauty, her womanliness. He had turned away and gone to his own bed. Like Eve after the fall, her nakedness was obscene to her now.” 2 likes
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