Naomi Ragen Drops Plagiarism Appeal, Claims Victory

Sarah Shapiro’s plagiarism suit against Naomi Ragen reached its denouement in the Israeli Supreme Court last week when Ms. Ragen withdrew her appeal of the judgment entered by the Jerusalem District Court in Shapiro’s favor. Withdrawal of the appeal left intact the District Court’s injunction barring Ragen from reprinting her novel Sotah in any language without removing material appropriated from Shapiro’s memoir Growing with My Children.

In return, Shapiro agreed to donate 97,000 shekels – her portion of the damages award against Ragen, after payment of attorney’s fees – to two charity organizations,Yad Eliezer and Yad Sarah.

As is her wont, Ragen claimed vindication by the three-judge panel, despite the fact that she remained without the 233,000 shekels awarded by the District Court to Shapiro and her attorneys, and is still subject to an injunction against reprinting Sotah. If that constitutes victory in Ragen’s view, one wonders what would be defeat.

In any event, Ms. Ragen will be back in court soon defending against another plagiarism action, this one brought by Mrs. Sudy Rosengarten. Rosengarten claims that Ragen interpolated her short story “A Match Made in Heaven” (which was published in the anthology Our Lives I edited by Shapiro) as chapter 24 of her novel The Rape of Tamar. Rather than comment on an action sub judice, we will leave it to readers to compare.

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15 Responses

  1. Daniel Rubin says:

    What in the holy hell makes you think anyone wants to read your schadenfreude about Naomi Ragen? What could possibly have been the point of this idiotic post?

    [YA – I haven’t heard from Jonathan, but I will take a guess. It wasn’t schadenfreude, but protecting the reputation of Sarah Shapiro, who is a friend of several of us. Last week, Naomi Ragen sent out word on her extensive list to the effect that she had just come from the Supreme Court, which finally vindicated her. I know that I understood this to mean that the Bagatz had overturned the judgment against her, and found her free of the taint of plagiarism – which, of course, would have reflected very poorly on Sarah. I didn’t understand it, but knew that these things happen on appeal. It turns out that there are very different ways of reading the verdict.

    Naomi Ragen does have a problem with haredim and haredi practice and hashkafa. That is a matter of record. It is a pity, given her immense popularity within parts of that same community (the US haredi-lite community) for her extraordinarily good work in Israel advocacy.]

  2. Baruch says:

    I’m no fan of Naomi Ragen, but I fail to see how this lawsuit is a matter of communal importance. If her books are still popular and thus pose a threat to use by portraying our beliefs and lifestyle in a negative light, then by all means let’s respond with substantive rebuttals. But whether she plagiarized parts of her book is a private affair between her and the plaintiffs, and has no bearing on the Torah community.

  3. Steve Brizel says:

    How an author is subject to a permanent injunction and drops an appeal can claim victory is mind boggling-to use the kindest possible adjectives. That is akin to a certain judge who was thrown off a case by an appellate court can claim that her drastic remedies and conclusions remain in place. What an example of Orwellian logic at work! Once again, a feminist ambulance chaser demonstrates her basic inability to discern between basic elements in the legal process, as well aqs a contempt for Halacha, let alone her unwillingness to admitthat her conduct constituted a blatant example of unrepentent Gnevas Daas.

  4. Joe Hill says:

    Thank you Jonathan Rosenblum for entering it as a matter of the public record that Naomi Ragen has lost her plagiary conviction appeal.

  5. Joshua says:

    I hope Ms. Rosengarten’s settlement will also include a public apology.

  6. cvmay says:

    “whether she plagiarized parts of her book is a private affair between her and the plaintiffs”
    DISAGREE VENOMENTLY, WHY is dishonesty a private affair, when the author is prominent throughout the Jewish world?

    “and has no bearing on the Torah community” – That is true and neither does the typhoon in the Philippines have much bearing on the Torah Community!!

  7. Daniel Rubin says:

    R’ Adlerstein, even if I were to grant that that was the intent here, the post doesn’t read that way at all. It’s just a quick stab in the dark with no help of background or context.

    Maybe I’m supposed to care so much about this affair that I can immediately jump into the fray when summoned by Jonathan. But in case I’m entitled to my own life to live, I can assure you this post came off as nothing but petty and useless.

  8. Yaakov Menken says:

    I’ll disagree with cvmay. Shapiro was careful to point out that Ragen did not merely plagiarize her work. Rather, stories that were beautiful and uplifting were twisted into tales of oppression of women that cast the Torah community in a negative light. This was borne out by testimony of expert witnesses, including one who classed himself as more a part of Ragen’s community than Shapiro’s.

    Thus, the fact that Ragen’s stories were plagiarized from Shapiro’s proves that in writing her fiction, Ragen deliberately gave a negative cast to stories about the Torah community. That is precisely the substantive rebuttal that Baruch claims to have been looking for, and is relevant to us as a community.

    I have heard from Jonathan, and I know for a fact that this was written in response to multiple news articles falsely stating, based upon Ragen’s own report, that her conviction had been reversed on appeal.

    It is also of special interest to us at Cross-Currents, as Ragen is thus far the only person to threaten to sue us for libel. We were on safe ground then and even better ground today.

  9. David F says:

    I, for one, am very happy to read this post and I appreciate that JR took the time to update us on the progress of this lawsuit. Naomi Ragen has done enormous damage to Torah and it’s adherents with her rants against Orthodox Jews, and it is heartening to know that she has been proven to be dishonest and untrustworthy. Hopefully that will lessen the damage she’s done to a cause near and dear to the hearts of all Torah observant Jews.

  10. Chochom b'mah nishtanah says:

    Mr. Rubin,

    Did I miss part of the post? You know, the part that it was addressed just to you? I fail to understand what it was about this post that generated such a violent response.

    To others, such as me certainly, it is a post of interest, considering past history.

    And certainly considering how it seems to have been reported in the media. Which itself should be a lesson to all those who seem to base arguments on what is reported in the secular media.


  11. cvmay says:

    Sorry, Rabbi Menken, you misunderstood my comment……I DISAGREE VENOMENTLY that this is NOT a private affair and yes, should be covered. Dishonesty is never a private affair especially when the author (Ragan) is prominent throughout the Jewish world.

    “whether she plagiarized parts of her book is a private affair between her and the plaintiffs”
    DISAGREE VENOMENTLY, WHY is dishonesty a private affair, when the author is prominent throughout the Jewish world?

  12. Toby Katz says:

    Thank you for including the information about Sudy Rosengarten.

    I know people who believe that Naomi Ragen was falsely accused of plagiarism just because charedim don’t like her. Nothing will convince them that Ragen is a plagiarist — except a side-by-side chapter of Ragen’s plagiarized chapter with the chapter in Sarah Shapiro’s book *Growing with My Children* that Ragen stole. Is there anywhere on-line we can see this? Or can you at least tell us which chapter in Shapiro’s book it was and which chapter in Ragen’s book?

    It was many years ago that Sarah Shapiro first discovered her words had been plagiarized. Naomi Ragen never expected that there would be any overlap between readers of her novels and readers of charedi-leaning books published by Targum. She thought she could get away with it, but it turned out there were such readers and they immediately saw that Ragen had stolen from other people’s books. (There were more victims than just these two writers, Sarah Shapiro and Sudy Rosengarten).

    When, many years ago, Sarah Shapiro asked my father, R’ Nachman Bulman zt’l, what to do about Ragen’s plagiarism, he advised her to do nothing. He told her that when you wrestle with a mud-slinger you get covered in mud, which is what ultimately happened to Sarah. Naomi Ragen is ruthless and deeply dishonest, and the secular media totally covered for her, believed her and acted as her echo chamber. Sarah only got involved in her case when others sued Ragen for plagiarism and were themselves slandered in the media. It was then that she felt morally obliged to go public.

    My mother Rebetzen Shaindel Bulman A”H was a close friend of Sarah Shapiro’s lehavdil bein chaim lechaim and was outraged by the ugly way Naomi Ragen treated Sarah. As if plagiarizing — and doing so with intent to twist and distort Shapiro’s positive message — were not bad enough, Ragen proceeded to vilify Shapiro and blacken her reputation, accusing her of making false claims of plagiarism! And the media adore Ragen, so she was certainly in a position to do Sarah Shapiro a great deal of damage. Devious, Orwellian, Kafaesque, one hardly knows what adjective to use for Ragen’s machinations.

    The reason the media adore Ragen is that she paints Orthodox Judaism, especially the charedi community, in the blackest light, while pretending to be “one of us” — a voice speaking truth from within the community. What she has attempted to do to Sarah Shapiro’s reputation is nothing compared to what she has succeeded in doing to our reputation. The whole world now “knows” that we women who live in charedi or charedi-leaning communities are routinely beaten, raped by our husbands, oppressed, imprisoned in our own homes, forced into loveless marriages, forced into pregnancy, deliberately kept ignorant and isolated, and brutalized by misogynistic rabbis and rabbinical courts.

    The strangest thing about Naomi Ragen is that when she writes non-fiction, when she writes about Israel and defends Israel in the media, she is eloquent, passionate and effective. If you put all her vile fiction on one side and all her pro-Israel non-fiction columns on another side, you would never believe that the same person could have written these and those. But note well, her novels do get respectful reviews in the NYT and do get assigned in Feminism 101 college classes, but her pro-Israel analytical columns do not get so much as the breath of a mention in the secular media or academia. So she is betraying “her” community in her novels for no tachlis. The respect she garners does not translate into respect for Israel.

  13. S. says:

    >So she is betraying “her” community in her novels for no tachlis.

    No tachlis? She believes what she writes, period. You agree with one genre of her writing but not the other, but they are opinions from the same person.

    As for the plagiarism itself, not only do I believe it was blatant, but I found her arrogance in denying it appalling. I think, however, to tie it in with her attitude toward Chareidim is a mistake. One thing has nothing to do with the other, and one would hope that if the shoe were on the other foot, Cross Currents would take up the cudgel for intellectual property rights per se rather than against the political, social or religious opinions of the one accused or guilty of plagiarism.

  14. lawrence kaplan says:

    S. I cannot agree with you. It was Naomi Ragen who claimed that the plagiarism charges against her were launched by Haredim on account of her criticisms of Haredi society in her novels. So it was she who first linked the plagiarism issue with her attitude to Haredim.

  15. shaul shapira says:

    I just checked wikipedia which ‘confirms’ Ragen’s victory.

    “On 6 November 2013, the Supreme Court vindicated Ragen by overturning the District Court’s decision in the Shapiro case,[13] and ordered Shapiro to return the money she had received (except for the money paid to her lawyer), which Ragen agreed would be donated to charity. Ragen also agreed to remove some 25 words and phrases from future editions of Sotah.[14]”

    Any wiki editors out there who care to get involved?

    P.S. The hebrew version of her wiki page is much less sure of itself:

    בהמשך נפסק שרגן תשלם לשפירו פיצויים והוצאות משפט בסכום כולל של 233 אלף ש”ח.‏[7] כמו כן נאסר על רגן להדפיס מהדורה חדשה של הספר “ואל אישך תשוקתך” אלא רק לאחר שיושמטו ממנו משפטים וביטויים שלגביהם נפסק בפסק הדין שהם מפרים את זכויות היוצרים של שפירו. רגן ערערה לבית המשפט העליון על החלטת בית המשפט המחוזי.‏[8] בנובמבר 2013 הגיעו רגן ושפירו לפשרה, שקיבלה תוקף של פסק דין בבית המשפט העליון, לפיה רגן תשמיט ממהדורות עתידיות של הספר 29 משפטים שלגביהם קבע בית המשפט המחוזי כי הייתה הפרת זכויות יוצרים. מנגד, שפירו תעביר לצדקה (לעמותת “יד שרה” או “יד אליעזר”) את 97 אלף ש”ח שקיבלה כפיצוי מרגן‏[9]‏.

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