Naomi Ragen

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Naomi Ragen

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.

Ragen has been sued in Israel for plagiarism three times, resulting in two judgements against her.[1][2][3] Ragen maintained that she was being persecuted for her criticism of Haredi Judaism.[4]


Naomi Ragen (née Terlinsky) was born in New York City. She received an Orthodox Jewish education before completing a bachelor's 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.[5]

The Sisters Weiss (2013) is a novel about two sisters born into an Orthodox family in 1950s 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.[6] 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, Michal Tal, an American-Israeli writer, claimed that lines and sentences contained in Tal's novel The Lion and the Cross were plagiarized in Naomi Ragen′s novel The Ghost of Hannah Mendes.[7] Tal died mid-trial, before a verdict was reached. The court set aside the unfinished trial with a provision that it could be reopened by Tal's descendants if they so desired in future. Ragen successfully brought Tal's children to the Supreme Court,[8] to require that they agree in writing that the case was "without basis".

On 11 December 2011, the Jerusalem District Court in a 92-page opinion by Judge Yosef Shapira upheld Sarah Shapiro′s plagiarism claim, ruling that Ragen′s "plagiarism was tantamount to a premeditated act;" that Ragen had 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."[4] 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 re. copyright infringement.[9]

On 27 March 2012, Ragen and Shapiro reached a settlement. Ragen was ordered to pay Shapiro 233,000 NIS (over $62,500) for copyright infringement. [10]

In June 2012, Ragen appealed the District Court's decision in the Supreme Court, claiming that it set a precedent that would deny Israeli writers freedom of expression.[11]

On 6 November 2013, the Israeli Supreme Court accepted a compromise settlement between Ragen and Shapiro which did not overturn the original verdict of the District Court's decision, but which sought nonetheless a "softening" of the financial aspect of the settlement. Shapiro was asked by the Supreme Court, "for the sake of peace and good feeling between the parties" to donate her personal winnings to one or two charities of her choice, as the condition for Naomi Ragen's dropping of the Supreme Court appeal.Ragen is still subject to an injunction against reprinting her book Sotah without removing all plagiarized text, a total of 25 phases.[12] As requested by the Supreme Court, Shapiro donated the 97,000 shekels awarded her for personal damages, not including Ragen's payment of Shapiro's legal costs, to Yad Eliezer and Yad Sarah, two charity organizations.[13]


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