Judgment Rendered

For the second time in less than three years, a Jerusalem District Court has found novelist Naomi Ragen guilty of plagiarizing a chareidi authoress. In a decision issued last Wednesday, Judge Oded Shacham wrote that the similarities between Chapter 24 in Ragen’s book The Sacrifice of Tamar and the story “A Shidduch from Heaven,” by Sudy Rosengarten, an octogenarian, Bnei Brak great-grandmother, were of such a magnitude that they could not possibly have resulted from unconscious borrowings or have been a matter of coincidence.

Only deliberate copying could possibly explain the identity of structure and the central plot device between the two works, particularly as Ragen admitted that she had read Mrs. Rosengarten’s work, Judge Shacham found. Such details as differed between the two works, he concluded, were either designed to camouflage the copying or necessitated by Ragen’s need to integrate the chapter into a larger work of fiction.

Particularly egregious, in Judge’s Shacham’s opinion, was Ragen’s transplanting of Sudy Rosengarten’s story, drawing on the story of her own son’s shidduch, into “a book that is foreign to views of Mrs. Rosengarten as a charedi woman.”

In an interview of Israel’s Channel Two nightly news, Rosengarten expressed her pain and shock that someone could have taken “that which is most dear to me, most kadosh to me, and completely distorted its meaning in such a flagrant and unfeeling manner.

In sum, wrote Judge Shacham, Naomi Ragen knew, or should have known, she was making improper use of the creative work of Mrs. Rosengarten without seeking her permission.

I WOULD LEAVE RAGEN to her private humiliation, but for the fact that she has waged such malicious campaigns over the years against those who sued her for plagiarism by misrepresenting legal judgments and impugning the motives of her accusers.

Thus she charged Sarah Shapiro of suing her for plagiarism “out of a desire to silence [her] criticism of the Hareidi community’s treatment of women.” But Shapiro won the largest judgment for plagiarism in Israel’s history, for damages and attorneys fees. The Jerusalem District Court found that Ragen had “stolen” scenes from Shapiro’s brave and path-breaking account of her own self-doubts as an overwhelmed young mother, Growing With My Children, for diametrically opposite purposes in her work Sotah.

Later, in return for Ragen’s agreement to drop her appeal in the Israeli Supreme Court, Shapiro agreed to donate her damage award to two charities of her own choice. But Ragen was still out of pocket 233,000 shekels, including Shapiro’s attorneys’ fees, and required to make 25 excisions to Sotah prior to any republication.

Judge Shacham wrote that his award of damages to Mrs. Rosengarten was meant to deter Ragen and others from the temptation to plagiarize in the future. Let’s hope it works this time.

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7 Responses

  1. Chana Siegel says:

    What is most striking about Ragen’s plagiarism is how little effort she made to attempt to disguise her theft. She might just as well have used the COPY and PASTE functions on her computer.

  2. Moby Glick says:

    When Judge Shapira Ruled that Ragen had in fact plagiarized Sarah Shapiro, Ragen attacked Judge shapira. Being that Mrs. Shapiro is an orthodox woman she must have summoned Ragen to a rabbinic bet-din fist. Naomi- why did you refuse to go to bet-din, you could have been served real justice?

  3. nancy hutchinson erdmann says:

    1 December 2014 Why does any author wish to copy someone else’s work? It is stealing, and, not only that, the author is putting, in this case, herself in harm’s way. (I don’t know the work of the the woman who has received judgements against her, but one might think that she could tell a different story if she could write ANY PART of her works and only some parts were plagiarized. (I’m not aware of what percentage of her work she plagiarized.) Then, also, after stealing, putting herself in harm’s way, she goes on to harm the authors she has stolen from? Did she think the community these authors come from was too sheltered to notice? Is
    she harboring ill will toward the community itself as well as these two authors? Is this a rational person?

  4. Evely Bublik says:

    I’m not surprised that Ragen thought to herself that it’s okay to plagiarize those wretched charedi women. But, am surprised that she was able to admit to herself that they are more talented than she.

  5. Jacob Suslovich says:

    Why exactly are the misdeeds of Naomi Ragen supposed to be of particular interest to the readers of this blog? The crusade against Ms. Ragen is, frankly, becoming distasteful.

  6. Chana Siegel says:

    Sarah Shapiro is a regular contributor to Cross-Currents, therefore, this is of interest.

    Personally, I’m not a crusader against Naomi Ragen. My political-sociological stances are a lot closer to hers than to Jonathan Rosenblum, Sudy Rosengarten, and even the ever-sensitive Sarah Shapiro. Nevertheless, I stand foursquare against plagiarism, and Ragen has plagiarized from Shapiro, Rosengarten, and others. Moreover, in attempting to wriggle out of the charges, she has made unjust ad hominem attacks against Shapiro and Rosengarten on the basis of their belonging to the Haredi community. This is offensive and dishonest, whatever other beliefs, stances, and causes Ragen may hold.

    I was educated in the North Carolina public schools, and at least in the early 70’s, they still put the fear of G-d into us regarding plagiarism in particular and theft and dishonesty in general. Some of us are still “old school” in this respect, wherever we may have been raised, and stealing someone’s writing in order to use it in the service of causes they oppose is deeply offensive to us. Here we stand, we can do no other.

  7. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    I’m really sorry to hear that such a phenomenon exists. I think that Naomi Ragen has some talent, so it’s not the lack of talent which causes her to plagiarize. It may be something similar to kleptomania, I don’t know. I just wish she would stop. She probably needs professional help.

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