May 9th, 2011
12:17 PM ET

Religious paper apologizes for erasing Clinton from iconic photo

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) - Faith has outweighed fact at Di Tzeitung, a Hasidic newspaper based in Brooklyn, New York.

The ultra-Orthodox Jewish publication ran a doctored copy of the iconic “Situation Room Photo” last Friday – you know, the one taken of President Barack Obama and his national security team during the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound.

Scrubbed from the picture: the two women in the room.

It’s as if Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with her hand clasped over her mouth, and Audrey Tomason, director of counterterrorism, weren’t there and weren’t part of history.

The newspaper later apologized for violating White House instructions against altering photos.

"We should not have published the altered picture, and we have conveyed our regrets and apologies to the White House and to the State Department," the newspaper said in a statement Monday.

The original photo, taken by White House photographer Pete Souza, shows Clinton and Tomason.

The news of this broke Friday when Shmarya Rosenberg, 52, posted a quick piece on his blog Failed Messiah.

Rosenberg, of St. Paul, Minnesota, said he wasn't surprised by the photo doctoring and only posted something about it because "it was a slow news day."

A former ultra-Orthodox Jew, Rosenberg has been writing about the ultra-Orthodox community - mostly about crime and what he dubbed "strange media" - for seven years. He said the newspapers in that community have become "increasingly strange with their censorship of women's faces and women's bodies" over the past few years.

He said readers of the Yiddish-language paper used to see photos of rabbis with their wives and that there was then a time when the women were blurred. Now, they're just not there.

In the doctored photo published by Di Tzeitung, Clinton and Tomason are gone.

But in a written statement issued Monday afternoon by Di Tzeitung, the newspaper said that its decision to leave women out of photos is religiously mandated and that the right to do so is protected by the U.S. Constitution.

"The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. That has precedence even to our cherished freedom of the press," the statement said.  "Publishing a newspaper is a big responsibility, and our policies are guided by a Rabbinical Board.

"Because of laws of modesty, we are not allowed to publish pictures of women, and we regret if this gives an impression of disparaging women, which is certainly never our intention," it continued. "We apologize if this was seen as offensive."

But offensive it was to Robin Bodner, executive director of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance.

At JOFA, "we educate and advocate for increased ritual, spiritual and leadership opportunities for women within Jewish law. And sometimes we get the feeling that men wish women were not even in the room," Bodner told CNN in a written statement.

"This picture by [an ultra-Orthodox] newspaper goes a step further by revising history to remove important women leaders from the historic room in which they were present.  It reminds us of how much work is still to be done!"

Within Judaism, there are a number of denominations - Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and modern Orthodox, to name some - and ultra-Orthodox Judaism accounts for just one branch of the faith. And within all of these branches, matters of Jewish law and obligation are often debated.

It's worth noting that the White House included its standard instruction with the photo caption when the image was released:

This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

"We're not going to comment" on this matter, a White House senior official told CNN.

The leadership at Di Tzietung, though, apologized for breaking official White House photo rules.

"Our photo editor realized the significance of this historic moment, and published the picture, but in his haste he did not read the 'fine print' that accompanied the picture, forbidding any changes," the newspaper said in its Monday statement.

Furthermore, Di Tzeitung noted the Orthodox community's respect for Clinton, who served as a senator in New York for eight years.

"She won overwhelming majorities in the Orthodox Jewish communities ... because the religious community appreciated her unique capabilities and compassion to all communities," the statement said. "The allegations that religious Jews denigrate women or do not respect women in public office is a malicious slander and libel."

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: History • Judaism • Women

soundoff (1,711 Responses)
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    July 17, 2012 at 8:22 am |
  4. Bob

    Um there is this thing called equal rights right? So the women could sue the religious paper cause they are stomping on the equality thing?

    June 2, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • Fo REAL

      Erase OBAMA while your at it.

      A weak man that sold our rights, sustenance, and liberty to benefit RICH people that he barely knows.

      And we get a RETARD/palin to pick from next. RETARD or WIMP, take your pick!!!

      June 5, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
  5. David A Crosby

    Its too bad that all three monotheistic religions believe in the same god..who doesn't exist..ban Islam, Judahism and Christianity for the ponzi schemes they are and lets get the world fixed.

    May 16, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • Boocap

      That would be great except that people are generally weak minded and NEED something to believe in to feel like there is a point to being on this planet and whoring yourself out to the highest bidder for your talents. Religion will always succeed in the poor and the oppressed because it fills a mental void of self worth.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • pat

      Wow, can I get your study and examination of this issue to study your conclusions?

      May 28, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  6. AGuest9

    Religoins have been perpetrating lies for millenia. Why is this any different?

    May 16, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  7. muhammadrahmanraza

    On the Name of RELIGION FREEDOM Taliban and this sect of Jews are the same. They both regard woman as less than men, instead of looking at history and effect of these habits which has more harm to others. In the age of INTERNET, CELL PHONES, TWITER, FACEBOOKS, CNN, ALJAZEERA, WIKILEAKS and other social networks it is immpossible to fool others. ONE CHILD PER PERSON policy should be adopted for the whole world. Christians say that their story book say that "BE FRUITFULL AND MLTIPLY", Muslims and Jewish say that according to their storybooks GOD will provide. Yamen has 12 as average no. of kids as these hasidics. If Obamas, Bushs and Clintons have no of kids like these people they could not be presidents of USA. Reality is every one of this almost 7 billion community has to think about their responsibility, instead of being selfish they have to think how they can contribute to this 7 billions that can be helpfull in future. If the policy of ONE CHILD PER PERSON can be adopted by now almost 7 billion people of this world in 35-50 years most of the world's problem will be solved.

    May 15, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • DfromWink

      Would you prefer this one child to be male of female?

      May 31, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Reason

      Something you don't have – sense. 1 child per family, are you on crack? Only Communist China does that, and guess what? In a society that values men over women they are going to have many many more men than women, an obviously lopsided demographic that will only result in emigration because there aren't enough women to marry, enough women to sustain the birthrate and thus children and grandchildren to continue on. Your Malthusian view on population growth is sickening and unfounded. Enough with the anti-religion nonsense you atheists are trying to shove down our throats. Apparently you are not that different in spreading your God-less ideology than any other religion.

      September 13, 2011 at 2:16 am |
    • That's brilliant, Brainiac

      You just responded to a comment made three and a half months ago, and you think THEY don't have sense?

      September 13, 2011 at 2:19 am |
  8. Yan

    All in the name of God!! Unbelievable, amazing!!

    May 12, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  9. sarah

    You're free to practice your religion, but do it by not publishing the photo at all. You don't have the right to take other people's copyrighted work and make it suit your personal preferences.

    May 12, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  10. mr gus

    Wow, areligious publication distorting fact. That's gotta be a first.

    May 12, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  11. Number7Vick

    There not that bad at photoshoping the photo...

    May 12, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  12. Chris Barnes

    Orthodox in any religion means intolerant and not given to thinking outside a tiny little box in which they confine themselves out of irrational fears.

    May 11, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • Patricia Dold

      If the concern behind the rule is the protection of modesty, why does the community not protect the modesty of men also? No pictures of males or females should be published if you want to protect modesty. Otherwise, the double standard screams disrespect and worse toward women, whether consciously intended or not!

      May 12, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • pat

      I guess orthodox means your just an old horn dog and can't control your urges for women.

      May 28, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.