Naomi Ragen

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Naomi Ragen (born July 10, 1949) is an American-Israeli Orthodox Jewish author, playwright and women’s rights activist. Ragen lives in Jerusalem and writes in English. A recurring theme in her fictional works is injustice against women in the Haredi Jewish community. She has been sued, and convicted in court,[1][2][3] of plagiarism by several Haredi writers, from whose works she had plagiarized and then transformed the material to be used for purposes the original authors found offensive (i.e. fictionalized criticism of Haredim).[4][5]


Naomi Ragen (née Terlinsky) was born in New York City. She received an Orthodox Jewish education before completing a degree in literature at Brooklyn College. In 1971, she moved to Israel with her husband. In 1978, she received a master’s degree in literature from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She has four children and lives in Jerusalem.

Literary career[edit]

Ragen’s first three novels describe the lives of Haredi Jewish women in Israel and the United States, dealing with themes that had not previously been addressed in that society's literature: wife-abuse (Jephte’s Daughter: 1989), adultery (Sotah: 1992) and rape (The Sacrifice of Tamar: 1995). Reaction to these novels in the Orthodox and Haredi communities was mixed. Some hailed her as a pioneer for exposing problems which the communities had pretended did not exist, while others criticized her for “hanging out the dirty laundry” for all to see and for obsessively seeking to portray Haredi life negatively.

Her next novel (The Ghost of Hannah Mendes: 1998) is the story of a Sephardic family brought back from assimilation by the spirit of their ancestor Gracia Mendes, a 16th-century Portuguese crypto-Jew.

Chains Around the Grass (2002) is a semi-autobiographical novel dealing with the failure of the American dream.

In The Covenant (2004) Ragen deals with an ordinary family confronted with Islamic terrorism.

The Saturday Wife (2007), the story of a rabbi's wayward wife, is loosely based on Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, and is a satire of modern Jewish Orthodoxy.

The Tenth Song (2010), is the story of a family whose life is shattered when a false accusation of terrorism is made against the father.[6]

The Sisters Weiss (2013), a novel about two sisters born into an Orthodox family in 1950's Brooklyn.

The Devil in Jerusalem (2015) is a mystery featuring Detective Bina Tzedek.


Women’s Minyan (2001) is a play about a Haredi woman fleeing from her adulterous and abusive husband. She finds that he has manipulated the rabbinical courts to deprive her of the right to see or speak to her twelve children. The story is based on a true incident.[7]Women’s Minyan ran for six years in Habima (Israel's National Theatre) and has been staged in the United States, Canada and Argentina.

Ragen is also a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.


In 2007, two American-Israeli writers accused Ragen of plagiarizing their work. Michal Tal filed a charge of plagiarism against Ragen′s novel The Ghost of Hannah Mendes,[8] and Sarah Shapiro claimed that Ragen used material from her first book Growing with My Children in her novel Sotah.[9] Ragen denied both accusations.[9][10] Shapiro felt that Regan had used her experiences, intentionally, to negatively portray Haredi life. Ragan had been introduced to Shapiro in 1990 and been given a copy of Shapiro's book. Ragen encouraged Shapiro to keep writing. Shapiro said in court that she heard that Sotah had passages from her book. “In downtown Jerusalem,” said Shapiro, "I found a copy of Sotah in a rack of best-sellers right by the entrance and started leafing through the pages. In just moments, to my shock, I started finding words that I recognized... With a pounding heart I rushed home and immediately dialed Ms. Ragen’s number. I told her what I had found and she said she didn’t know what I was talking about”.[11]

In 2010, Michal Tal died. That year, a third writer, Sudi Rosengarten, claimed that Ragen's book The Sacrifice of Tamar which deals with a black child born to a Haredi family as a result of a long-hidden rape of the grandmother, was based on her autobiographical short story A Marriage Made in Heaven. Ragen has denied this allegation as well.[citation needed]

On 11 December 2011, the Jerusalem District Court in a 92-page opinion by Judge Yosef Shapira upheld Shapiro′s plagiarism claim, ruling that Ragen′s “plagiarism was tantamount to a premeditated act”, stating that Ragen knowingly copied from Shapiro's work in her novel Sotah which shows “a resemblance in the subjects and motifs, resemblances in language and terminology, similarity and resemblance in dialogue, at times word for word, and cumulative violations.”[12][13] Shapiro had asked for NIS 1 million in damages. The court gave the parties a month to negotiate compensation, and indicated it would decide at a later date if copyright infringement had taken place.[9]

On 3 January 2012, Israel's Supreme Court accepted author Naomi Ragen’s appeal in the case brought against her by Michal Tal. The decision, by Chief Justice Dorit Beinish and Justices Gronis and Arbel, stated that “There is not and never was any basis whatsoever for any claim of plagiarism or copyright infringement brought against Naomi Ragen in the Jerusalem District Court.” “Tal’s claims were delusional,” Ragen said, “but the travesties and suffering I endured for five years over this frivolous case were very real. It has been a truly horrifying experience for me and my family. I am immensely pleased that justice has been finally been served and that the truth has come out."[14]

On 27 March 2012, Naomi Ragen and Sarah Shapiro reached a settlement. Ragen was ordered to pay Shapiro 233,000 NIS (over $62,500) for copyright infringement, an unprecedented amount in a plagiarism case in Israel.[15] In June 2012, Ragen appealed the District Court's decision, claiming that it set a precedent that would deny Israeli writers freedom of expression.[16]

On 6 November 2013, the Supreme Court accepted a settlement between Ragen and Shapiro which overturned the District Court's decision. Both sides claimed victory,[17] although it was Ragen who lost 233,000 shekels to Shapiro and her attorneys, and is she is still subject to an injunction against reprinting her book Sotah.[2]

Shapiro donated the 97,000 shekels damages awarded her, after payment of attorney’s fees, to Yad Eliezer and Yad Sarah, two charity organizations.[2]

Ragen was required to remove some 25 words and phrases from future editions of Sotah.[18]

In November 2014, the District court of Jerusalem ruled that Naomi Ragen knowingly copied from Sudi Rozengarten's story in her novel. She was ordered to compensate her.[clarification needed]

Ragen claims that the lawsuits against her are an attempt to silence her criticism of the Haredi community’s treatment of women.[12]

Women's rights activism[edit]

In 2006, Ragen joined several other women in petitioning the courts to force the Israeli government and public bus companies to discontinue gender separated bus lines, in which men and women sit apart. Ragen claims that she was once herself harassed after riding in the "wrong" section.[19]


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  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^
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  5. ^
  6. ^ The Tenth Song
  7. ^ Esther Solomon (2006-11-06). "Sins of the husbands". Haaretz. Retrieved 2011-12-13. 
  8. ^ Dan Izenberg (2007-02-23). "Naomi Ragen denies plagiarism". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2011-12-13. 
  9. ^ a b c Maya Sela (2011-12-12). "Jerusalem court finds author Naomi Ragen guilty of plagiarism". Haaretz. Retrieved 2011-12-13. 
  10. ^ Dan Izenberg (2007-03-08). "Second writer accuses Naomi Ragen, popular novelist, of plagiarism". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2011-12-13. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b Ben Hartman (201-12-13). "Court rules Naomi Ragen plagiarized in best-seller". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2011-12-13.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  13. ^ Akiva Novick (2011-12-13). "Naomi Ragen found guilty of plagiarism". Ynetnews. Retrieved 2011-12-13. 
  14. ^ YNet. "Court rules Naomi Ragen did not plagiarize". YNet. 
  15. ^ Cross-Currents Blog, March 28, 2012
  16. ^ Haaretz, July 5, 2012
  17. ^ Walla, November 6, 2013
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Israel bus rule sparks religious row". One News (New Zealand). 2008-01-15. Retrieved 2008-02-11. 

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