Naomi Ragen and the Plagiarism Case

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by Sarah Shapiro

In the Jerusalem Post of February 23, 2007, I read of a plagiarism charge against the author Naomi Ragen, and was prompted by that report to inform the plaintiff’s attorney of my own related experience. Two respected rabbinical authorities on shmiras halashon were consulted as to whether it was advisable and permissible to make this matter public, before doing so.

My first book, entitled “Growing With My Children: A Jewish Mother’s Diary,” was published in 1990 by Targum Press. A daily journal from the years 1986 to 1989, the book recorded virtually all the events in my life during that period but its main focus was my participation in an ongoing parenting workshop, and the ups and downs I experienced along the way to becoming a more skilled and patient parent. After its publication, the head of Targum at the time, Rabbi Moshe Dombey zt”l, called to say he had given a copy of the book to Naomi Ragen, of whom I hadn’t heard at that point. He said she had previously done some work as an editor for Targum, and he thought my book would be of interest to her.

I soon received a call from Ms. Ragen. She said that she had enjoyed my book and would like to meet, and — to my delight — invited me to her home in the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem. During that visit, she related to me warmly and encouraged me to continue writing.

In 1994, I received a call one day from someone in Maalei Adumim who said she had been reading Sotah, by Naomi Ragen, and had recognized some scenes she remembered from Growing With My Children. For some reason – probably because my interaction with Ms. Ragen had been such a friendly one – I didn’t feel concerned. Only when a second person called with the same comment did I bother to look into it.

Not long thereafter in a second-hand bookstore in downtown Jerusalem, I found a copy of Sotah in a rack of bestsellers right by the entrance, and started leafing through the pages. In just moments, to my shock, I started finding words that I recognized. There – in the mouths of two fictional characters, a haredi husband and wife – was the conversation I myself had had in the early 1980s with a certain Yerushalmi rabbi.

There were my questions, my thoughts, the rabbi’s surprising answers. The rabbi’s words and mine, they were there on the page, sometimes exactly the same, sometimes slightly changed.

In Growing With My Children, the scene begins with the rabbi asking what I would like to talk about, to which I reply, “My anger, Rav Simcha. I lose my temper lately at my children and my husband.” He asks,

“Often?”

I nodded. I was ashamed…“I want to change this about myself.”

“It is your nature.”

My nature? A weight of helplessness clamped down upon me. “You mean I won’t be able to change?”

“Can an apple become a pear?” His black eyes twinkled. “You will have this nature until you die.”

Until I die? That couldn’t be. It couldn’t be that as an old woman I would still just be the same person I am now!

“Your Creator gave you this nature so that you would always have to work to overcome it.” He pointed to Elisheva [my baby] “Can she forget you?” I didn’t understand what he meant to ask, and wondered if it was his stilted English. I pulled in my chin and looked down at Elisheva’s tranquil face off in some unknown baby dream. Her eyelids flickered.

“Can you forget her?” he asked again.

“Well, I…”

“She cannot forget you. Why can she not forget you? Because of her need for you. She is helpless. So in the same way did your Creator give you your nature, so that you would not be able to forget about Him. If you were always strong and perfect, you would feel that you are the creator of your own talent. It is only your weakness that brings you to an awareness of your Creator. It is your need that causes you to cry to Him. When you bump into a table, are you angry at the table?”

“No.”

“No, you don’t get angry at the table. So when someone hurts you or insults you or bothers you, or your little child does not obey you, shall you lash out? No. That human being is for you only the messenger. ‘My dear daughter,’ your Creator is saying, ‘you have forgotten Me.’ The rabbi’s face expanded with a smile as he awaited a reply, but I had none to offer. He was amused. Was I amusing him? Getting up abruptly from the table, the rabbi shuffled his feet lightheartedly and swung his arms. “How can I do this?” he asked. What in the world was he getting at? How could he do what? “How is it that I walk. I walk because G-d gives me the power to walk. How do you walk?” He paused. I sat there, blank. “Because you Father in Heaven gives you the strength to walk. He also gives you the strength to restrain your temper, to go beyond your nature. In the moment that you restrain yourself from lashing out, G-d takes the gr-r-r-reatest pleasure in you.”

I was skeptical that G-d would pay that much attention. Doesn’t He have more important things on His Mind? “G-d would actually take pleasure in me? Really? Or are you just saying that in order to motivate me?”

Rav Simcha nodded with a glint in his eye that said, “How much this child has yet to know,” and pointed again to my baby. “Do you get naches from her?” I nodded. “Your Creator is a father. He also wants naches from his children. He wants you to love Him and remember Him, for your sake, because in this way you reach out of yourself. When you transcend your nature, you give your Creator much joy, and you shall be the happiest person in the world.”

In Sotah, a character named Dvorah “buried her face in his [her husband Yaakov’s] shoulder,” and says:

“….I get angry and I yell at the baby. My own little baby! I love him so much, and yet today I yelled so loud, I frightened him! And I was so angry and resentful when I thought I was pregnant again. I’m so afraid G-d will punish me. I lose my temper all the time.”

“All the time?” he whispered gently…. “Is that your nature?”

“I don’t know….If it is, won’t I be able to change?”

“Can a fish become a lion?” He smiled sadly. “You will have this nature until you die.”

“It can’t be true! People change, they improve.”

“G-d gave you this nature so that you should constantly work to overcome it. If you were always perfect, always feeling correctly, acting piously, you might feel like the creator of yourself, your own boss. It’s weakness that reminds us of G-d, that makes us cry out to him in need. Listen, when you bump into the wall, are you angry at the wall?”

She smiled faintly, shaking her head no.

“No, you can’t get angry at the wall. Or the baby. Or me. We’re just the messengers. G-d’s sending you the message, reminding you of your weakness and also comforting you, telling you that you have the strength to overcome it, to go beyond your nature.”

“Doesn’t G-d have more important things on his mind than me and my temper?”

“Do you get naches from your baby? From every tiny flicker of his eye, every tiny step forward Do you have more important things to think about? G-d is also a father and mother. He’s our creator. He takes pleasure in us, in every tiny step we take to transcend what is base and shameful in our natures.”

Standing there in the middle of the bookstore, rooted to the spot, with my mouth hanging open in disbelief, I remember suddenly becoming self-conscious. With shaking hands, in a rush, I started turning pages to see if there was anything more and sure enough, the above scene with the husband and wife was preceded, as it had been in my diary (and my life) — with the young wife’s worries about the possibility that she was pregnant again just months after giving birth, even while still nursing; her hopes that her nausea and exhaustion were caused by a stomach virus; her feelings of guilt at not being grateful for such a gift, and her fear of punishment.

The lines that I recognized, from a few different chapters in Growing With My Children, were sometimes similar, sometimes identical. Some details were neatly reversed. Certain positive elements in my account were omitted. In Growing With My Children, for example, an entry dated July 13th, 1986 begins:

Today I was feeling the effects of a stomach virus and couldn’t stand the sight or smell of food….If I even thought about cooking, I’d throw up.

July 15, 1986

It’s hard for me to write, I’m so tired…

July 21, 1986
I think I may be pregnant.

July 22, 1986
I’m nauseated again this morning. It could be the stomach virus that’s going around. I cannot imagine that it cold be on account of pregnancy. The baby is just four months old! It couldn’t be. But why else would I have this tiredness, as if I were treading water? And why nausea together with the tiredness?

It could be a virus. One of the women in the neighborhood told me that she and her children had it. I do think it must be that I have the virus.

But if it’s not, and I’m pregnant….That tiredness! It’s as if you’re underwater.

In Sotah, Chapter 13 begins:

Dvorah lay in bed, listening to the baby’s insistent cries, unable to move. Her whole body felt like lead. She was so tired, so incredibly, achingly tired….

The baby’s cries became more insistent. With tremendous effort she raised her head. A strong wave of nausea enveloped her. She groped to the bathroom, heaving miserably….She had been too nauseated to eat for days now.

A virus, she told herself, giving herself hope. Mrs. Kornbluth upstairs had it. The grocery lady had it. It was going around….

“I can’t be pregnant. I just can’t,” she told herself. You couldn’t get pregnant when you were nursing! It was a virus, that’s all….

My diary tells how I resolved to go have a pregnancy test, and that I received a “positive” answer by phone that afternoon. In Sotah, the character Dinah resolves to get a pregnancy test, and receives a “negative” answer that afternoon.

I stuck the book clumsily back on the rack. I couldn’t do this any longer, searching for more (which the attorney later found), and certainly couldn’t bear to buy the book. With 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.

This stunned me almost as much as the discovery itself.

I persisted. She continued to deny any relationship between her story and mine.

This went back and forth for I know not how long. I refrained from using the word plagiarism to her face, but finally said that the similarity was so blatant that it simply couldn’t be denied; it was self-evident; it was right there on the page, in black and white.

“All right,” she told me, “I’ll say I was inspired by your story. But you should be happy.” She said that if I really wanted that rabbi’s message to reach people and help them, I should be glad that because of her book people all around the world would benefit from his words. She said that my audience was very small, while she had an international following.

I was dumbfounded. On the contrary, I told her, my reaction was not one of happiness.

In the end, she said she could do one of two things: she could either delete that scene from future printings, and from the soon-to-be published Hebrew translation, or she could give me credit on the acknowledgements page in future printings. I said that I would think about it and be in touch.

I consulted Rav Nachman Bulman, zt”l, one of the Roshei Yeshiva of Ohr Someach in Jerusalem. Upon comparing the passages in question, he told me that this was obviously a case of plagiarism. He advised me not to associate my book with hers in any way, but rather to take the option of deleting the scene from future printings of Sotah.

Thus began a correspondence with her publisher, Random House, which culminated in a letter from their legal department saying they had consulted with Naomi Ragen, that she had a very different version of our telephone conversation, that she had never agreed to delete any part of her novel, and that she denied any connection between her book and mine. She maintained that any similarity between the two books was due solely to the fact that Judaism is a compendium of many ideas, shared down through history by the Jewish People.

With the legal department’s acceptance of a transparent falsehood, I got a glimpse of how daunting a challenge it would be, and financially impossible, to go up against a powerful American corporation the size of Random House. Reading that letter, I gave up. I gradually resigned myself to the fact that the passages in question were not — and would not be — deleted from subsequent re-printings, nor from the new edition of Sotah which was issued a few years later by another publisher.

It was this past February, upon reading in The Jerusalem Post of Michal Tal’s lawsuit, that I consulted daas Torah to determine if I should share my experience with her attorney, Gilad Corinaldi. The response was affirmative. Last week, Mr. Corinaldi’s staff recognized another episode, from Chapter 15 of Growing With My Children, in Chapters 39, 40 and 41 of Sotah. As in the other portions, there are identical and similar words, phrases and lines, and an extremely similar plot line, as follows:

Having searched for some time for an au pair, a mother of several children (in the diary, I’m the mother; in Sotah, the mother is Joan, an assimilated Jew in New York City) finally hires a young woman (in my book, Sonia, and in Sotah, the character Dina) whose earnest diligence as a housecleaner is entirely satisfactory, but whose criticisms of her employer’s lifestyle and child-raising practices bring about a painful period of self-scrutiny on the part of both women. Ultimately, the mother and au pair in both the novel and the diary open each other’s eyes, learn important lessons from each other and from the experience, and then part as friends. In Growing With My Children, what the younger woman and I were compelled to learn about ourselves in the course of our rocky relationship serves – in my book as it did in life — as the crescendo and final turning point of the diary. In Ms. Ragen’s novel, what the mother and her au pair are compelled to learn about themselves in the course of their rocky relationship serves as the crescendo and final turning point of Sotah.

Here is one example of a parallel passage that they found in this section:

In Growing With My Children, I describe thinking in regard to my au pair: “You were probably raised in a straight jacket, but you’re too repressed to even realize it… You don’t understand Americans; we don’t make it our business to produce perfectly behaved angels…” (pg. 343)

In Sotah, the character Joan says to her au pair: “’You don’t understand Americans, Dina….American mothers are not in the business of producing perfectly behaved little angels… You sound like you were raised in a pressure cooker and you’re too repressed to even realize it…’” (pg. 348)

A table of more comparisons of the texts from Corinaldi’s office is available as a PDF document.

Intellectual property theft inflicts a particular kind of anguish — one to which any writer who experiences it can testify. For me, the experience was exacerbated not only by the fact that autobiographical accounts of my personal life were reproduced without permission in a work of fiction, but that they were used for purposes I find repugnant, differing radically in intention from mine. Events in my life as an Orthodox Jew were used in a work that degrades and condescends to Orthodox Jews. Some lines of my account were reproduced word for word, some were obviously modified to disguise the similarity, and some were embellished (for example, with words such as “base” and “shameful”) in such a way that the accounts would conform to the pejorative image of Orthodox Jews which Ms. Ragen’s writings promote. Experiences which were in fact life-giving and positive were given a spin whereby Orthodox observance of Judaism is made to look superstitious, narrow, confining, small-minded, backward, repressive, and whereby haredi adherents are often depicted as either hypocritical evildoers (usually male) or melodramatic, helpless victims (usually female) who must break free, valiantly and courageously, from patronizing religious coercion, rabbinical oppression and their own neurotic dependency.

From the outset of this case, including the initial decision as to whether or not to contact Michal Tal’s attorney, all major steps have been taken in accordance with daas Torah. The lawsuit was submitted to the av bais din of the bais din Yerushalayim, Rav Dov Levine, and the hearing is scheduled for this Wednesday.

A few weeks ago, the office of Attorney Gilad Corinaldi discovered plagiarism of a third author’s work in another novel by Ms. Ragen. The story and its haredi author will be identified shortly in a petition to the court.

[In case you missed the link above, a table of more comparisons of the texts from Corinaldi’s office is available as a PDF document.]

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83 Responses

  1. Steve Brizel says:

    Aside from this blog and the J Post, AFAIK, this case has received scarcely any coverage in the Anglo Jewish secular and Federation subsidized media ( “the media”). As others had pointed out, if a Charedi author had been the defendant, as opposed to the plaintiff, Haaretz, which purports to be the NY Times of Israel, would no doubt have had at least one story. IMO, that is the key-when a Charedi or RZ/MO is accused of some improper conduct and newsworthy in the media, it is a lead story. However, in covering anything positive or a wrong perpetrated against a member of the Torah world, it simply does not exist as news on the antenaee and radar of the media.

  2. lawrence kaplan. says:

    Dr. Hall: Re the halakhah regarding plagiarism, see the references in note 5 in the most recent post by Dan Rabinowitz in Seforim.

  3. Bob Miller says:

    Charles B. Hall asked in regard to copyright protection, “…but why would Israel be as bad as some of these true rogue states?”

    Possibly, there are rogues somewhere in the Israeli government.

  4. Charles B. Hall, PhD says:

    Israel is one of the 12 countries with the worst copyright protection according to this report from the US Special Trade Representative:

    http://www.ustr.gov/Document_Library/Press_Releases/2007/April/SPECIAL_301_Report.html

    This doesn’t necessarily have anything specific to do with this particular case, but why would Israel be as bad as some of these true rogue states?

    Also, what exactly is the halachah regarding copyright? Is there any halachic prohibition beyond the obligation to obey secular law?

  5. Mark says:

    SM wrote:
    “THose die hard enemies of Torah Judaism make up a large part of the Israeli army. Would you really NEVER join hands with them?”

    Huh? You lost me on this one? I know many soldiers in the IDF – have worked with many of them, and spent plenty of times on IDF bases and I have rarely met a soldier who is a die-hard enemy of Torah Judaism. Many of them want no part of it but they’re anything but die hard enemies. Furthermore, their stated goal and focus in life has never been to undermine Torah Judaism. The same cannot be said for the Reform movement in Israel nor for Mrs. Ragen. Joining their petition against a Chareidi entity [even one that some Chareidim oppose] is a form of strengthening their hand. I imagine a competent judge should be capable of appreciating this distinction.

  6. dovid says:

    “Those die hard enemies of Torah Judaism make up a large part of the Israeli army.”

    A new trend actually is emerging within the leftist camp, (they certainly are highly hostile to Torah Judaism) to dodge army service.

  7. hp says:

    “THose die hard enemies of Torah Judaism make up a large part of the Israeli army.”

    I’m stunned to read this.

    Are secular Israeli’s in the IDF “die hard enemies” of Torah Judaism? They are young (or not so young) hard working soldiers who have not (yet) had the opportunity to learn Torah. How about the many Religious Zionists in the IDF? Are they too enemies of Torah Judaism?

  8. dovid says:

    “Those die hard enemies of Torah Judaism make up a large part of the Israeli army.”

    That’s ain’t so. Able-bodied young men and women are drafted, or least most of them. A minority of them are leftists. Most young Israelis are not enemies of Torah Judaism.

  9. Bob Miller says:

    Mark said,
    “After all I’ve read, I’m sorry to say that something just doesn’t add up here.”

    More broadly, this question pertains to evasive public statements by revolutionaries, past and present, who have found it necessary to conceal their true purposes until support increased enough to allow candid public disclosure.

    Today, evasive public statements often come from feminists who wish themselves and their views to be thought of as 100% Orthodox. We read these in connection with worship at the Kotel, legal actions against Chareidim as a class, education of women to “pasken” (render decisions in Jewish law) for women, etc. Their idea is to confuse and disarm their opposition. We should not take their protestations at face value.

  10. SM says:

    Mark,

    THose die hard enemies of Torah Judaism make up a large part of the Israeli army. Would you really NEVER join hands with them?

  11. Mark says:

    Mrs. Shear writes:

    “In fact, I cannot even take credit for the idea of sending it to Ms. Ragen. It was suggested by several CHAREIDI friends – that’s right DIE HARD CHAREIDIM suggested I send it to Ms. Ragen.”

    Does Mrs. Shear realize this sounds silly? I have no idea who these “DIE HARD CHAREIDIM” are, and how does it excuse joining hands with an avowed Chareidi basher [and I say this having read some of her books and being utterly repulsed by her portrayals of anything Chareidi]? It may have been an expedient means of disseminating the information, but surely a responsible woman like Mrs. Shear would be very careful before she gave a known Chareidi basher more fodder for her cannon. No?

    “It was ONLY the reform group that informed me of a plan that WAS ALREADY IN PROCESS prior to my incident to submit a petition the High Court. At no point was I ever informed of the identity of the other litigants”

    So not only did she decide that her cause warranted involving Mrs. Ragen, but she also joined hands with IRAC but DIDN’T know anything about their motives, either?

    So we have here two parties that feature the disembowelment of Hareidim prominently on their agendas and everyone but Mrs. Shear knew about that, or she never knew they were involved. She only bothered to look into the details later. Is it not possible that Mrs. Shear may have acted a bit recklessly here?

    “But really, what I don’t understand is why this is relevant to the discussion. If there is a situation in society that needs correcting as its existence DOES affect everyone, then what makes the difference who joins together in common cause on that particular issue? Do you patronize establishments owned by non-frum Jews? Do you associate with those who have different political views than your own? Do you still not try to find common ground where you can?”

    The answer is yes to all, but I’d never join hands with sworn enemies of Torah Judaism. IRAC in Israel is bent on undermining Torah in every manner possible. I’d never join hands with them and provide them ammunition for that. Whatever it took, I’d look elsewhere for a solution. To date, I haven’t seen any evidence that you did so. You went straight to Ragen and mass emailing. No evidence of nuance there at all. After all, neither of those two can be accused of separating the “wheat from the chaff”. Both are hellbent on destroying Chareidim any way they can.

    After all I’ve read, I’m sorry to say that something just doesn’t add up here.

  12. dovid says:

    April 28, 2007 @ 11:28 pm

    Bob,

    I trust KT understood. So did the rest of us.

  13. Bob Miller says:

    Joel Rich, you are a maivin so you know what I’m driving at in Comment by Bob Miller — April 27, 2007 @ 2:58 pm

    This quote has taken on a life of its own in conversation, writing, etc., and has well-known connotations. See, for example,
    http://www.goenglish.com/ProtestTooMuch.asp

    In any case, I’m not saying this to Ms. Shear, but about Ms. Shear.

  14. Joel Rich says:

    Bob,

    From e-notes.com “Queen Gertrude speaks these famous words to her son, Prince Hamlet, while watching a play at court. Gertrude does not realize that Hamlet has staged this play to trap her ” So if you (taking the role of Queen Gertrude) are saying this to Ms. Shear (taking the role of Hamlet)…… Hameivin Yavin (he who understands will understand)

    Thanks to Rabbi L Dulitz for being both a great Rebbe and senior English teacher in MTA

    KT

  15. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding the comment by Miriam Shear — April 27, 2007 @ 2:11 pm:

    The lady doth protest too much…

    [Full disclosure: note that I just quoted Shakespeare or someone else thought to be Shakespeare]

  16. Miriam Shear says:

    Mark (#65) writes:

    Miriam Shear writes:

    “I do not have any “association” with Ms. Ragen; in fact, I had no idea she was even one of the petitioners until it was published in the press. The identities of the petitioners are totally irrelevant to the facts of the case.”

    I do not understand how Mrs. Shear can say this. I still have her original email, as distributed widely, right in front of me. The one where she spelled out the incident in all its gory detail. That email was addressed to Naomi Ragen [[email protected]], begins with the words “Dear Naomi” and concludes with the following:

    “P.S. I have sent an email to Egged filing a formal complaint. I am asking that the # 2 bus not be granted Mehadrin status as I feel that this privilege has been nullified by the actions and inactions of the # 2 passengers. And YES – you may print this, post it on your web site, forward it, do with it as you please. Covering up what we are afraid will be a Chillul Hashem will not rein in such evil – only exposure.”

    How can she honestly say that she had no idea Naomi Ragen would join the petitioners after she invited Ragen to join her fight with Egged? Because “all she did” was invite Ragen to post it on her web site and spread the word?

    Mrs. Shear enlisted Ragen as her ally, whether or not she knew every detail of what her ally was doing.”

    Mark, When I sent the original email – to approximately 50 people – I did indeed address it to Naomi Ragen. However, I had no idea that there was any plan of action by Ms. Ragen – or anyone else for that matter – to file a petition with the High Court on this issue. In fact, I cannot even take credit for the idea of sending it to Ms. Ragen. It was suggested by several CHAREIDI friends – that’s right DIE HARD CHAREIDIM suggested I send it to Ms. Ragen. I had no problem with Ms. Ragen – or anyone else – publicizing this atrocious event for the reasons you cite in my original email. Furthermore, I pretty much had resigned myself to the fact that pretty much nothing would ever come of it other than to raise people’s consciousness of the dangers of extremism. I was contacted by several groups – some orthodox, some feminist, and IRAC, a reform legal advocay group. I responded to each group but made it clear that I do not view this as a “feminist” issue but rather a societal one. It was ONLY the reform group that informed me of a plan that WAS ALREADY IN PROCESS prior to my incident to submit a petition the High Court. At no point was I ever informed of the identity of the other litigants. As I’ve already said here before, I didn’t ask either for the simple reason that it is irrelevant. Truth is truth and fact is fact whether the other litigants are Moshiach or Mickey Mouse. Would I be willing to file an affidavit adjoining the petition? I asked what cause of action was being sought. I agreed to file a notarized affidavit detailing the events which was being attached to the petition. It was only after I submitted my affidavit did I later become aware of whom the other litigants were (through the press). So, Mark, that is how I can honestly say that I had no idea Ms. Ragen was part of the petition. But really, what I don’t understand is why this is relevant to the discussion. If there is a situation in society that needs correcting as its existence DOES affect everyone, then what makes the difference who joins together in common cause on that particular issue? Do you patronize establishments owned by non-frum Jews? Do you associate with those who have different political views than your own? Do you still not try to find common ground where you can? If anything, a person should be applauded for separating the wheat from the chaff and not creating more division by taking the “all or nothing” approach.

  17. Mark says:

    Miriam Shear writes:

    “I do not have any “association” with Ms. Ragen; in fact, I had no idea she was even one of the petitioners until it was published in the press. The identities of the petitioners are totally irrelevant to the facts of the case.”

    I do not understand how Mrs. Shear can say this. I still have her original email, as distributed widely, right in front of me. The one where she spelled out the incident in all its gory detail. That email was addressed to Naomi Ragen [[email protected]], begins with the words “Dear Naomi” and concludes with the following:

    “P.S. I have sent an email to Egged filing a formal complaint. I am asking that the # 2 bus not be granted Mehadrin status as I feel that this privilege has been nullified by the actions and inactions of the # 2 passengers. And YES – you may print this, post it on your web site, forward it, do with it as you please. Covering up what we are afraid will be a Chillul Hashem will not rein in such evil – only exposure.”

    How can she honestly say that she had no idea Naomi Ragen would join the petitioners after she invited Ragen to join her fight with Egged? Because “all she did” was invite Ragen to post it on her web site and spread the word?

    Mrs. Shear enlisted Ragen as her ally, whether or not she knew every detail of what her ally was doing.

  18. Bob Miller says:

    Here’s a well known case from the world of music:
    http://ccnmtl.columbia.edu/projects/law/library/cases/case_brightharrisongs.html

    Note that the professor’s comments are somewhat bogus. Any normal listener would have agreed with the judge’s decision and analysis as excerpted there.

    When I first heard the copycat song years ago, I was immediately struck by its blatant use of a well-known tune, with altered lyrics. I didn’t need some judge to fill me in.

  19. Yaakov Menken says:

    My apologies to Prof. Kaplan. I did not mean to imply any disagreement on point; I only added that I believe he may be more forgiving than others when confronted by plagiarism in a student’s work.

    Similarly, I think Rabbi Goldberg and I are also in agreement on point, and only arguing procedure. The procedural question is whether, by going to print now, Mrs. Shapiro might bias (Hebrew-speaking, non-blog-reading) dayanim or the eventual jurors in a civil trial. According to the comment by Atty. Corinaldi, the dayanim themselves were unconcerned.

    But to reiterate what I said earlier, Mrs. Shapiro’s expressions of her own emotions are incidental. The force of her article is found in the examples given and the accompanying tables. Mrs. Shapiro’s only “weapons” are the texts themselves, side by side.

    So when Rabbi Goldberg says that some might call this article a “hatchet job,” he is saying that the comparison is damning all by itself. On that, he, Prof. Kaplan and I are in complete agreement.

  20. L.Oberstein says:

    Hooray for Cross-Currents for airing this and other important issues. Perhaps one of the wise people can explain to me if there is a relationship between “knee-jerk” and “jerk”.

    Some of the bloggers constantly find a way to divert attention from the issue by forbidding its discussion and equating the Jewish Religion with thought control and censorship. Such people always find a way to hide issues under the carpet by invoking their idea of what Judaism says. Instead of appreciating Mrs. Shear or Mrs. Shapiro, they implicitly demean their character over and over again like a broken record. As far as Naomi Ragen, there is also a distinction between legitimate criticism of a sub group e.g. chareidim and false stereotypes that reveal an animus. A lot of her criticism may stem from righteous indignation at what she views as a perversion of the religion she was taught. Unfortunately, when she uses fiction to create vile stereotypes she goes too far and hurts her cause. Instead of a concerned member of the orthodox community she becomes a bearer of false tales. There is plenty of “bathwater” to throw out but she causes others to throw out the ‘baby” also.

  21. Steve Brizel says:

    I am sure that any competent author could find fault with either the Charedi or RZ?MO sectors of Israel. However, as Dr Kaplan has indicated, one should not have to resort to plagiarism of anyone, let alone a writer with an opposing POV to express oneself. WADR, we seem to be forgetting that ethical conduct includes both the meat that a merchant sells us as kosher and the books that we purport are the product of our own creativity. WADR, selling products that are treife or your book which is cut and pasted from another’s work should be viewed as equally reprehensible.

    SM-thanks for the quote from Professor Gavison. Although it does not address how judges are selected, the selected passages ilustrate my point about how the High Court of Justice has overstepped its boundaries and eviscerated procedural doctrines such as standing, justiciability, etc in order to serve as a supreme legislature and promulgate what it deems appropriate in a manner that constitutional scholars in the US would call “substantive due process.”

  22. Sander Goldberg says:

    Yakov Menken wrote: An esteemed Rav called me to tell me how important it was that Cross-Currents had provided Mrs. Shapiro the opportunity to tell her story. I want to emphasize from the outset that while I may have agreed with everything he said, I am expressing herein the thoughts of a respected, outstanding Talmid Chacham…

    The Rav asked, whose neshama (soul) are we sacrificing to protect Ms. Ragen’s “livelihood”?…

    Plagiarism is a sign of a dishonest writer. As the Rav said, she stole material and lied about it afterwards. Does that not make the claim that her portrayals may also be false that much more believable? Is that not a positive end?

    We’re not talking about lying here. There are Halachos that must be followed here, and followed with extreme care. But it is anything but wrong to blunt her attacks upon Torah life.

    That was his opinion, and were I at liberty to share his name it would be one every observant reader would respect. In this instance, what we are showing, thoughtfully and honestly, is that her dishonest portrayal is coming from a place of dishonesty.

    Sander Goldberg responds: I wish you were at liberty to share his name so that I could discuss this with him. Although I probably respect him for his knowledge in other matters, I question whether his opinion is a correct expression of Torah justice in this matter, especially since it would appear from your words that he accepted as true the entire claim of one side to a dispute prior to any decision of an adjudicating body. I have no problem for you or anyone else to lambaste Ms. Ragen’s writings for their content, but the Torah doesn’t give anyone the right to decide a matter in dispute and air it to the public outside of a proper judicial venue. Once the case will be heard and decided by a Bais Din (or under the proper circumstances, a court) then it is perfectly legitimate to link the guilty party’s proven dishonesty with their hostile and distorted opinions as expressed in their writings. It is quite possible that Ms. Ragen’s loyal readership will take the CC expose’ as a hatchet job, and even if Ms. Ragen later loses in a judicial venue, they will blame it on the media castigation she received before she even had the opportunity to state her case. We all know how common it is nowadays that people who are tried in the press can no longer get a fair trial. I personally was involved in a case that once it went to press, destroyed the availability of equitable and just treatment for a particular person. However, had CC waited until a verdict was rendered, and only then exposed Ms. Ragen based on the outcome of an impartial trial, the linkage of dishonesty with the contents of her writing would make a much greater impression on her loyal readership, those who most need to be convinced that her portrayals of Torah Judaism are distorted.

  23. Miriam Shear says:

    To Dovid on your #43 post: I have no idea why the police have not caught the original and 4 subsequent attackers. Neither the witness or I have names of these people. When I spoke with the police, I was told that they had literally hundreds of complaints of being attacked in some form or another by these types of hooligans. In fact, the police were quite cooperative in that they have agreed to keep the file open until I get back to Israel to help them further in identifying the attackers. Don’t worry – I have not raised the white flag in trying to identify them. Quite frankly, I did not find the police’s response and time spent on this any different than I would find in any N. American city. I’m not happy with it but I do not share your paranoia that the police are deliberately putting this on the back burner because they hate Chareidim and want these attacks to continue so we can all look bad.

    Dovid, I share your disgust and disdain of many of the High Court’s decisions and what happened to your niece is abominal beyond words. Unfortunately, there is no other alternative to correct the abuses of the Mehadrin bus system. What motivated me more than anything to file this petition is the fact that the incident involving myself happened on a NON-mehadrin bus. Dovid, if you have a suggestion or alternative to correcting this without going through the High Court, I would like to hear it. But so far nobody has come up with anything.

    The important thing here, in the interest of intellectual honesty, is not to mix apples and oranges. Ragen’s petition to the High Court should not be used as “proof” that she plagiarized a Chareidi woman’s work because filing such a petition is another “proof” of an anti-Chareidi agenda. At least 2 other petitioners are also Orthodox. Our issue – shared by many – is to suspend the mehadrin buses because of the abuses that are taking place. These abuses were not occurring when Mehadrin status was confined to private bus lines.

  24. SM says:

    Interview with Ruth Gavison 1st Jan 2002:

    “Our Supreme Court is very impressive. All told, it has excellent people, it enjoys a very strong status at home and high professional prestige abroad. We can all take pride in it. At the same time, this is a court that has opened its doors to everyone and every matter and has shed almost every limitation. As such, it is very different from the old court, which was far more modest, which showed far more respect for authority and for the autonomy of the elected political authorities; it believed that justiciability has limitations and thought its role was to be a supreme professional judicial authority, not a tribunal of social reformers and moral tutors. I personally prefer the approach of the old court.

    “I think it is proper for the court to give expression to our common values, such as the basic human rights. But I do not think it is right for the court to make use of its power to give priority to the values of one group in society at the expense of the values held by other groups. I do not think it is right for the court to decide in favor of Westernism and against traditionalism; or in favor of modernity and individualism and against communitarianism. I find that very problematic.

    “I also do not think that it is the court’s role to be the supreme moral arbiter of society. That was not why it was appointed, and it also unclear that it has the necessary skills for that. Judges in Israel are not selected on the basis of their integrity or their ethical code or for the social leadership they have demonstrated. They are chosen on the basis of their professional ability as jurists. There is nothing in their training that affords them the right, the authority or the ability to determine moral norms, to be the teachers of the generation.

    “The paradox is that precisely when the court purports to be a supreme moral authority, it undercuts its legitimacy as a supreme judicial authority. So it is the court itself, with its attempts at role expansion, that endangers the legitimacy of the legal system. Because as a supreme moral authority it is far from clear that the court is better than [Shas spiritual leader Rabbi] Ovadia Yosef. And it is equally unclear that the supra-legal values of the enlightened public in whose name the court acts are worthier than the supra-legal values of the religious public, for example. There are many people in this country for whom Ovadia Yosef is the supreme moral authority and for whom the halacha [Jewish religious law] is the worthy supra-legal authority. The court should not ignore them. The court should not compete with Rabbi Yosef for their hearts. The court should make it clear that it functions in a different space, where it imbues and enforces the values of the common democratic framework.”

    The position is, as can be seen, a bit more complicated than Steve sets out in his post (again, no complaint. His was short, mine is long).

    She disclaims bias and unprofessionalism. She criticises overly thin skins leading to double standards, and a determination to be acitivist in areas that she believes the Court should not be active in.

    The double standards is obviously a problem. BUT you caanot simply assume that a double standard about criticism of Judges equates to a double standard when dealing with litigants and Prof Gavison EXPRESSLY disclaims that point. The dispute about activism is the main area of jurisprudential debate today – to what extent do courts enforce a coomon morality against a government/interest group that has the law on their side if one interprets the law as restrictively as possible?

    The truth is that there is no right answer. THe UK Courts have traditionally been non-activist but went through a period in the 1980’s when they were (esp Lord Denning). In the USA it depends on the political make up of the Supreme Court. In Australia – non-acitvist. In Canada – activist. In Israel, as Prof Gavison makes clear, the current Court is more activist than its predecessor.

    But none of this suggests that a deliberate stance is being chosen to get at Charedim and I do not believe that to be the case. Moreover, when people assert that it is the case they simply sound paranoid. Where is the evidence? There are a bunch of decisions people don;t like? Big deal – what has to be understood about litigation is that it is axiomatic that there will be a winner and a loser. And the loser ususally doesn’t like it.

    As for an amicus curiae – in the UK such a person is appointed by the Court itself to assist with an objective view on a complicated issue. I have no experience of their role in other jurisdictions.

    Sorry to be so lengthy.

  25. Joel Rich says:

    The plagiarism charge cannot be seperated from the bias charge.

    Comment by Rafael Araujo
    =================================================

    I think this clarifies the original post and many of the comments. The readership will likely draw the conclusion that the daas Torah that allowed the original post was based not solely on the plagarism charge but the bias charge and that the laws of lashon hara being applied are based on a similar analysis. Many may draw the conclusion that if someone is biased against their subgroup, then the laws of lashon hara will allow for them to publicize other charges against the perceived attacker.

    KT

  26. LAWRENCE KAPLAN says:

    Reb Yid: I don’t think that Yaakov Menken and Steve Brizel mean to say that ALL critical accounts of Haredi life and society should be discounted on account of the rather clearcut case of plagiarism on NR’s part, just HER critical account. This is so particularly if it turns out to be true (I have not examined the material carefully enough to determine for myself if it is indeed so) that NR, when she copied from SS, deliberately changed things to reflect more negatively on Haredi society.

    Yaakov Menken: It could appear from your response to me that we are not on the same side. Reread my comment. On the issue of plagiarism, we are.

  27. Rafael Araujo says:

    SM – you shouldn’t discount the anti-religious, anti-right-wing bias of the Israeli judicial system, Aharon Barak’s influence on the system and the choices of High Court Justices and his politicization of that system, and the fact that, as Jonathan Rosenblum has pointed out many times in his columns, that the High Court’s parametres for granting standing is the most liberal. I am sorry, but Aharon Barak has single-handedly changed the Israel judicial system for the worst.

  28. Rafael Araujo says:

    In his last comment above, Rabbi Menken hit the nail on the head.

    So to Reb Yid – the plagiarism charge and Naomi Ragen’s anti-Chareidi biases are bound together. Naomi Ragen has allegedly taken a Chareidi author’s work, plagiarized it for one of her novels and twisted the original intent and thought behind those words and sentences and paragraphs she has employed, to express positive views of Chareidi lifestyle, and twisted them to portray Chareidim, and Orthodox Judaism in general, in a negative light. The plagiarism charge cannot be seperated from the bias charge.

  29. Steve Brizel says:

    SM-Professor Ruth Gavison of Hebrew U has criticized the Israeli judiciary as essentially a self-perpetuating elite of secular Ashkenazim that have an equal amount of disdain for Torah observant Jews-whether Charedi or RZ and for acting as if it knows better what is in the best interests of the Charedi world than its leaders. In some ways, the Israeli court system and in particular the High Court of Justice has a POV towards Torah observant Jews that IMO is comparable to a court in the American Deep South’s Jim Crow era. The Israeli judiciary may be “independent, well educated and thoughtful” but it can be fairly accused of an anti Torah bias in its decisions and of impeding Israel’s security interests.

  30. Jacob Haller says:

    Reb Yid wrote.

    “Let’s assume that’s the case and that plagiarism is indeed a shanda.
    That is no excuse for dismissing all issues regarding elements of the Orthodox or Chareidi world that NR that raises.”

    On one hand each case should be individually. However, if the accusations hold we find someone who not only lifted copyrighted text but someone who grabbed portrayals of the assets of the Charedi world and cynically morphed and twisted them into liabilities. It will show someone not utilizing original thought, observation or analysis.

    Are we obligated to assume it was an isolated incident?’

    “Is this yet another case on this blog where the onus of the responsibility (and indeed the guilt) is being placed on the victim?”

    Proceedings in a recognized legal forum will (hopefully) determine who was the victim but from my vantage point I would like to answer in the negative regarding any possibilities that the onus of guilt has been heaped upon Mrs Shapiro but other blogs may not act in kind.

    Question for the legal experts regarding Mrs Shear. Can a plaintiff reject someone who presents themselves as an Amicus Curiae (friend of the court)?

  31. Miriam says:

    I think we do a great disservice to frum jews around the world when we insist they cannot stand up for their rights. Many communities outside of Eretz Yisrael also have issues that end up pitting Jew against Jew. Too often one side will shout “chillul Hashem” when they are opposed by other Jews, but theyhave no problem trampling on concerns of other Jews and even non jews.

    This part of Dovid’s first post should make one suspect of his claim that it’s not the issue that’s the problem, it’s the company:

    “Nothing good will come out of it. If you wanted to strike at the Charedi community in Jerusalem, whom IMO you repeatedly insulted, then the Israeli Supreme Court is the right address.”

    When Jews do bad things to other Jews, why must we automatically just swallow it, and allow them to run roughshod over other Jews?

  1. April 27, 2007

    […] The case against the Egged Bus Company’s “Mehadrin Lines” is moving forward and in the news. I think it deserves its own comment thread, independent of the plagiarism complaints against one of the parties. […]

  2. December 11, 2011

    […] December 11th, 2011: A Jerusalem Court has ruled in favor of Sarah Shapiro, who wrote four years ago about her plagiarism suit against Naomi Ragen. Ragen is the well-known author of Sotah, […]