Op-Ed: A Letter to My Friends on the Plagiarism Charges

Naomi Ragen has been a severe critic of aspects of hareidi society in her writings. The plagiarism suit against her by a hareidi woman author was decided in favor of the plaintiff this week. Naomi shares her side of the story. She will appeal.
Published: Wednesday, December 14, 2011 1:20 AM

Dear Friends,

I wanted you to hear this from me. As some of you may have heard, for the last few years I have been hounded by two hareidi women authors who have sued me in Israeli courts for copyright infringement based on several sentence and word fragments. I have been fighting these ridiculous allegations as best I can.

Earlier this week, to my absolute horror, the judge involved decided to find in favor of one of them, a woman named Sarah Shapiro who wrote a book in 1992 called "Growing with my Children" in which she detailed her physical abuse of her small children and her attempts to gain control of her temper. This book was given to me by her editor who asked me to encourage her in her writings. I did the best I could, hoping that it would help her and her family.

A year or two after Sotah was published, she wrote my editor in New York saying that she felt a few sentences in Sotah bore a similarity to those in her book.

A woman afraid of being pregnant - in her book she is pregnant, in mine she is not, and the discussion leads to a talk about birth control. A talk with a Rabbi about controlling one's temper. In my book, one of my characters has a similar conversation with her husband. Certain phrases "perfect little angels" etc. were similar.

But there was such little material my editor and the legal department told her this was not copyright infringement, and at the time she agreed.

I am aghast and wounded by the injustice of this...decision in this case, which, according to Ms. Shapiro's own testimony, stems from her desire to silence my criticism of the ultra-Orthodox world.
Fourteen years later, when a case was brought against me by a self-published author, Michal Tal, seeking to link her name with mine about The Ghost of Hannah Mendes, Shapiro contacted the same lawyer, who convinced her to sue.

The Tal case was decided completely in my favor after Tal passed away.

Unbelievably, the Israeli judge, whose decision I can only surmise might have be adversely affected by the language barrier, this week decided in her favo 

I am aghast and wounded by the injustice of this unfathomable decision in this case, which, according to Ms. Shapiro's own testimony, stems from her desire to silence my criticism of the ultra-Orthodox world.

Unfortunately, this decision only serves to encourage those who, like her, feel that I deserve to be punished and what better to come at me than through that which is most important and precious to me, my good name and my creative work?

It hurts me deeply that extremist elements will gain encouragement from this court decision against me. It is a sad day for Israeli culture and society, and an even sadder one for Israeli writers who will now be forced to contend with a tsunami of frivolous lawsuits from parties interested in the suppression of freedom of thought and expression.

The court in this case refused to consider how similar cases all over the world have been handled (and, indeed, have been handled in Israel) until now. This can only have a chilling effect on Israeli culture, hindering the freedom in which we writers must work.

My lawyers and I are presently studying this decision and weighing our options. We will appeal.

I will post much more explicit and detailed information on my website in the near future.

I thank you for your continued love and support. Please inform those nourished by incorrect and sensational news reports. We will get through this.

Every blessing,

Naomi Ragen