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. cog in the wheel

    Those ultra-conservative Jewish wackos must have been REALLY been whacked out when Golda Meir was prime minister of Israel. It will be pretty hard to erase her image from Israel's history, heh.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  2. waterman

    Conservatives in all religions show consistent and equal stupidity.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  3. ABCDE

    May be because they are not NUDE, thats why they didn't print.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  4. tony

    Ha Ha, stick your head in the sand Muslim world. Women and their V jays do exist.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  5. gsjjs1

    This is why religion and politics should never mix....and churchs should pay taxes.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • clevercandi

      Amen 🙂

      May 9, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  6. terridiane

    Smacks me the same as muslim extremism is there actually a line between the two?

    May 9, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  7. Casan

    How do you define PATHETIC?!!

    May 9, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  8. canotbelievethis

    Wow, cannot believe this is allowed in America too.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  9. erich2112x

    Totally uncool.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  10. Meadow Lakes, Alaska

    "CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service."

    How curious! This is the nonsense posted right under the "Post a Comment" box. It states clearly that "Comments are not pre-screened before they post." And yet a comment I posted more than 45 minutes ago is marked "Your comment is awaiting moderation." So, CNN, do you pre-screen, or don't you? Pages of comments have been posted since mine, and mine was far more respectful than many of them. What gives, CNN? Are you just lying to us? And if you lie about this, what else do you lie about? No wonder so many of us get our news from other sources.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Helpful Hints

      Meadow Lakes,

      Your post will never appear. You need to go back and check it for words that are flagged by the moronic auto-filter.

      Once a week WARNING for new commentators:
      The moderators of this blog have set up a secret forbidden word filter which unfortunately not only will delete or put your comment in the dreaded "waiting for moderation" category but also will do the same to words having fragments of these words. For example, "t-it" is in the set but the filter will also pick up words like Hitt-ite, t-itle, beati-tude, practi-tioner and const-tution. Then there are words like "an-al" thereby flagging words like an-alysis and "c-um" flagging acc-umulate or doc-ument. And there is also "r-a-pe", “a-pe” and “gra-pe”, "s-ex", and "hom-ose-xual". You would think that the moderators would have corrected this by now considering the number of times this has been commented on but they have not. To be safe, I typically add hyphens in any word that said filter might judge "of-fensive".
      • More than one web address will also activate “waiting for moderation”. Make sure the web address does not have any forbidden word or fragment.
      Two of the most filtered words are those containing the fragments "t-it" and "c-um". To quickly check your comments for these fragments, click on "Edit" on the Tool Bar and then "Find" on the menu. Add a fragment (without hyphens) one at a time in the "Find" slot and the offending fragment will be highlighted in your comments before you hit the Post button. Hyphenate the fragment(s) and then hit Post. And remember more than one full web address will also gain a "Waiting for Moderation".
      And said moderators still have not solved the chronological placement of comments once the number of comments gets above about 100. They recently have taken to dividing the comments in batches of 50 or so, for some strange reason. Maybe they did this to solve the chronology problem only to make comment reviews beyond the tedious.
      “Raison's Filter Fiber© (joking about the copyright)
      1. Here's my latest list – this seems like a good spot to set this down, as nobody's posting much on this thread.....
      bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to post that wonderful argument:
      Many, if not most are buried within other words, but I am not shooting for the perfect list, so use your imagination and add any words I have missed as a comment (no one has done this yet)
      – I found some but forgot to write them down. (shrugs).
      c-um.........as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, etc.
      sp-ic........as in disp-icable (look out Sylvester the cat!)
      ho-mo...whether ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, etc.
      t-it.........const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, etc.
      tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, (an unexpected one)
      va-g....as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant
      ar-se....yet "ass" is not filtered!
      jacka-ss...but ass is fine lol
      p-is.....as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, etc.
      o ficti-tious, repeti-tion, competi-tion.
      There are more, so do not assume that this is complete.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • Artist

      Someone please explain to Meadow Lakes, Alaska, how things work so they don't go all Heavensent on us.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  11. Frank Brancato

    Oh those silly J3W5.. Always changing the facts!

    May 9, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  12. Nancy

    Within Judaism, there are a number of denominations – Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and modern Orthodox, to name some – Who cares? They are all f'ing nuts.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Lettuce Prey

      Within Christianity, there are a number of denominations. Catholic, Episcopalian, Methodist, Baptist . . . Who cares? They're all f'ing nuts.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Suz

      Within humanity, there are a number of denominations. Who cares? They're all fing nuts!

      (See how easy it is to generalize? Look, I can do it, too!)

      May 9, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  13. Arran Webb

    All evil must be edited out. That includes the N-word from tombstones and images of women in Hasidim newspapers. But lets keep advertising cigarettes and prescription mood stabilizers as that does not offend.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  14. Frank Brancato

    Oh, those silly Jews!! Alway trying to say something didn't really happen the way it really happened!!

    May 9, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Abdul

      It takes one to know one, moron.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  15. holdem

    The moment I saw the original picture I thought, 'gang bang waiting to happen'. Glad this newspaper was addressing the concerns of perverted minds like myself.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Lettuce Prey

      ROFLMAO! 🙂

      May 9, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  16. techie

    thats some good pshop; to make the photo work, a whole arm had to be constructed via assumption

    May 9, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  17. barkboy

    must be a slow news day. This does not suprise me. it is just another example of the stupidity and ignorance of the HOLY

    May 9, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Charles

      you spelled surprise wrong.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  18. Caleb

    Did anyone notice that both women were cut out of the picture? Not only Clinton but the lady at the back of the photo also.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Lettuce Prey

      Did anyone notice that Caleb didn't bother to actually read the article?

      May 9, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Dave

      Yo, Caleb. Read beyond headlines much?

      May 9, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • AthCliath

      yep, that was the tea lady at the back

      May 9, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  19. Suz

    I'm Jewish, and even *I* think this is nuts. I understand that the ultra-orthodox Jewish movements have rules pertaining to women, but this is just absurd. You can't change the truth, regardless of what your religion permits/does not permit. Old rules that make no sense should be jettisoned from faith practice. Anybody who practices their faith untempered by time, history and human experience is a fool and is missing the point.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • JLP

      The White House should issue a criminal indictment for doctoring a w/h photo.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Suz

      @JLP – at the very least, they could sue for copyright infringement. A photographer took that photo and was ostensibly paid by the White House for them to use it in an official press release, along with which was included legal language stating that the photograph may not be changed in any way by the publications that paid for the photograph.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • leciat

      the wh should issue a criminal indictment against the subjugation of women

      May 10, 2011 at 7:11 am |
  20. George

    This is absolutely outrageous. That is the worst photoshop job I have seen in newsprint, and I've seen a lot of them. This has got to stop. Someone needs to kick their doors in, press their faces up against the monitors, and teach them how to mask properly.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Arran Webb

      I agree. A simple checkerboard matter would have been fine.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • clevercandi

      Putting burqas over their faces would work, too

      May 9, 2011 at 2:30 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.