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. Aaron

    Some of these idiotic people need to get more wholesome hobbies, like reading, bicycling, even playing board games. Removing women from pictures is one of the stupidest things I've ever heard. It's close to the Taliban's destruction of ancient monuments that depicted the human form.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  2. tom

    If a parent has 3 kids and calls one of them a "chosen child" that parent would be considered a bad parent - Why does Judism have to lower God to the level of a bad parent or real estate broker. God did not give any "Promised Land" to the Jews. The Jews got the "promised Land by raping, killing and stealing - and that is how they lost it to the Romans by Roman raping killing and stealing -- that is how the Egyptians got their land, that is how Alexander the Great and the Greeks got their land - that is how America got the Indian lands

    May 9, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  3. Dale

    Hmmmmm Brooklyn New York this is a perfect example that there are Muslim extremists in United States, how many extremist newspapers are in the United States and who reads them is my question.

    Women should not be seen nor heard Muslim sharia law extremists hate all infidels and they lived in the United States.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • LivingInVA

      This is Jewish extremeists, not Muslim ones. It helps to read the article before you comment on it.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • MrsFizzy

      Pretty funny, Dale – and I bet you're one of those who always thinks of the Jews as "the good guys"...

      May 9, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Tyrone, NY

      Dale, I know you feel bad you jumped on the muslims for this story when it is actually about jewish followers. It's ok to make mistakes, BUT it is not ok to bash without reading the article first. Wisen up fella.

      May 9, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  4. Tyrone, NY

    Well,Well,Well, is this not the same type of behavoir Islam is slammed for????? So I take it women are not equal in Judiasm either huh? If this was Aljazeera it would have been all over the news. Can't harm a group that basically runs the industry.....SMH

    May 9, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  5. JS

    Just goes to prove- the more religious people are – the more moronic they are. This is the 1st time I've been ashamed to be Jewish. What a bunch o' dumb as ses these people are.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • tom

      If a parent has 3 kids and calls one of them a "chosen child" that parent would be considered a bad parent - Why does Judism have to lower God to the level of a bad parent or real estate broker. God did not give any "Promised Land" to the Jews. The Jews got the "promised Land by raping, killing and stealing - and that is how they lost it to the Romans by Roman raping killing and stealing -- that is how the Egyptians got their land, that is how Alexander the Great and the Greeks got their land - that is how America got the Indian lands duplicate

      May 9, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  6. Name*mr james jenkins

    as a whole people are stupid period!

    May 9, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  7. Jorge

    Some folks in the world will call this religious. Others will call it misogynistic and backward, but a WHOLE LOT of other folks in the world will call it dogged, paranoid, perverse STUPIDITY, no matter how 'sacred' these folks think their ideas are.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  8. cjg

    Sounds more like radical muslins than Jews , so for that is makes me sad, but there are radicals in all faiths!

    May 9, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  9. TonyB

    Idiots and bigots- no surprise.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  10. Me

    God is very upset with this publication and the editors are going to have to explain themselves to her one day.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  11. Tracy

    This is so wrong! Addressing a "wardrobe" malfunction would be one thing but totally erasing someone is completely wrong. These women were there get over it! Given that I can not read the article I wonder if they even stated they doctored the photo. I'm guessing not since they made the photo look like they weren't there instead of blacked out.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • leciat

      trevor i have an education and my education enlightens me to the wisdom that subjugation is wrong EVEN in the name of your so called "god"

      May 10, 2011 at 7:16 am |
  12. Artist

    Hasidic (acidic) Jews appear as bad as muslims in their treatment of women...and wow in America. Almost have to consider this group a hate group.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • Trevor

      Next you will probably do the same with the Amish. Trying to categorize them as a "Hate group" it just show your lack of knowledge in regards to the different types of religions. Get an education, oh that's right..... you probably only use google.

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

    So I criticized that "newspaper" for faking photographs in their version of the news. And not you have edited my comment out of existence. Go to Hell CNN.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  14. Yinka

    Peace in Israel?,not with this nuts controlling its politics.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Lettuce Prey

      Another comment from someone with no reading comprehension skills. Israel has nothing to do with this; the errant newspaper is based in Brooklyn, NY.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  15. Justin Observation

    They did it because the three organized religions promote the degradation of women. They live in a two thousand year old belief system that was created by men who viewed women as obedient servants and mistresses. Since they can't stone the two women in the photo for committing a sin against their beliefs, they just erased them.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  16. Ergo Prince

    This certainly establishes how releasing UBL pictures would have been "photoshopped" too by those with an agenda.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  17. Matthew Posten

    They have also editied ABDULLAH THE BUTCHER out of several important photographs in the past.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Lettuce Prey

      Silence! I keel you! 🙂

      May 9, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  18. Sottovoce

    The caption provided by the White House clearly states "no manipulation." These people who did this are from the Stone Age!
    They are no better than the extremist muslims who forbid the education of women. And we pay Israel millions in taxpayer money to support these extremists.

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

      your millions going to israel don't go to support these weridos. they're a small population that most other jews don't follow. most of israel's aid goes to defense spending.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Ken in NYC

      Sottovoce-I sure hope we didn't use taxpayer money to pay for your literacy training. The newspaper is based in BROOKLYN-now while I won't argue that Brooklyn is stange, it is not foreign and it surely can't be confused with Israel-so what is your point about foreign aid to Israel?

      May 9, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • fran glass

      if jewish people were considered by the majority of americans as being "not white" the support of israel would dwindle. So much of the problem has to do with racism. Extremist christians and jews are somehow on a less dangerous level than extremist muslims and the only difference i see is this idea of what race people of certain religions are assumed to be. I think all fundalmentalism all equally disgusting.
      (full disclosure : i am a white atheist with a family consisting of christian and jewish folks... who are not extremists :D)

      May 9, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Jen

      Money to Israel has nothing to do with people in Brooklyn.

      Oh, and Fran Glass – Money to Israel also has nothing to do with racism – it just has to do with people defending off terrorists.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • Tyrone, NY

      Ken stop it regardless of the fact the paper is in Brooklyn. The core of the pratices used are from Isreal Orthodox Jews feel they practice the religion in it's purity. Don't act as if they are just out there with the practice of shunning women. That lady that actually attempted to justify it by saying " They let woman own shops and run organizations", but erase powerful American women out of papers! Sure they voted for Hillary but do they respect her it another story.

      May 9, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  19. Jamas

    It appears like the man's arm is now bionic. All copyright, ethical and moral issues aside, this PhotoShop work is a crime against artistry.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  20. Gary Davis

    maybe people should stop reading it and shut them down . bigots are bigots no matter were you go . we need to begin saying no to these male pigs . bet they have small wennies . to go along with the small mided ideals . . it is funny and sick at the same time . and actually who cares ./ stop promoting it and it will go away much like Palin Trump and many other nut jobs .

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

      they're insane, but actually not bigots. they overwhelmingly voted hillary clinton into office (look up villiage of new square voting hillary into sentate). they're just obsessed with keeping "impure thoughts" of women out of their community. the women there run organizations and stores. there is just total separation between the genders.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:39 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.