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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)
  1. The Gorilla Atheist

    Sometimes a picture does say a thousand words.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  2. mkaipo

    So is this Jewish sect moving towards full face veils of women?

    May 9, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  3. Peter

    I don't care about their foolish religion, they are trying to alter history. What do they say when someone asks them who is Secretary Of State? More nonsense from another fundamentalist wing. Christians, Jews, Muslims all have whack-job offshoots. Remember that loving Christian organization Bob Jones University forbid students to date anyone who was not of the same race!

    May 9, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  4. Jimmy W. Pasey

    lol,... how come we accused only the muslims and arabs of doing such and ugly thing.... I guess there is a lot of blame to go around

    May 9, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  5. Paul R.

    How exactly are these people any different from other religious extremists, who cover their women from head to toe? Religious fanatics of any stripe are ridiculous – and dangerous.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  6. AthCliath

    If the two females had been bringing in the coffee & snacks on a tray they would have made the cut. Hard luck girls.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  7. Tom

    I don't get what some of you people's logic is, saying this isn't the doing of religion. Of course it is. Don't be ridiculous.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  8. fred

    I don't need them either.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  9. Kat

    Paul...you clearly didn't read the article Cut and pasted from the article above:

    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.

    Read the article before you make comments. Also, the director of counterterrorism seems like a pretty powerful position to me.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  10. JJ in CT

    Hahahahah! Religion is just plain, old funny! This is a joke, right?

    May 9, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  11. john

    More nut cases.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  12. RichardSRussell

    More evidence that it takes loose screws to believe in religion.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
  13. onart

    We're not going to comment.... of course the disclaimer doesn't matter when it's against the part of the population that owns america...

    May 9, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • sara

      that is anti-semitic propaganda at its worst. what a sick thing to write.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • LG

      He also proclaimed that people don.t have a soul, in an apologetic poor dear kind of tone-
      I believe the subject of a soul is still debatable in the USA - that is, if we still really have freedom of speech-

      if people haven.t been intimidated into the "fear of offending" someone -

      May 10, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  14. jojo

    What a dirtbag rag. How would they like it if we took out all of the pictures of the Holocaust, and pretend that it never happened?
    If they have the right, than so do we......Adios,,,,,,,

    May 9, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
  15. Magic

    Religious paper cuts hurt like a son-of-a-gun.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  16. lostmind

    Nothing like a group that has no social stigma is attached it. They can do what they want, break the law with no consequences. But light up a joint downtown with all the social stigmatism attached to it and bang you do not even get to finished the joint before they arrest you. Persecution at its finest. I think it is time prohibition came back. Let us get rid of that evil drug alcohol. 🙂

    May 9, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  17. Acd

    These men need a lesson in how to keep their minds out of the gutter.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  18. Cathy W

    I think this just goes to show that the Abrahamic religions – especially the orthodox versions of them – are more alike than they are different. Jews, Christians, and Muslims all have rules governing the covering of women. Or in this extreme case, the denial of their very existence and importance.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • Lettuce Prey

      I'm with you, sister. Jews, Christians, Muslims, it's all the same patriarchal nonsense. God did not create man in his own image; it's the other way around.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  19. TJ

    I knew there was something I didn't like about that picture.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  20. Terra Talks

    I wonder what they will publish when the first woman becomes President LOL!

    May 9, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • Just.Me

      It will never happen.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Phil

      Way to discount over 50% of the population.
      It will happen.
      It's just a matter of time.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • Mackenzie Owens

      "U.S., including Hawaii & Alaska collapse into freak sinkhole!"

      May 9, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
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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.