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. dj

    How stupid... do they think that really changes anything? Photoshop and it never happened? Ignore it and it doesn't exist. People like that, with their head in an anatomicaly impossible place are what wrong with the world today.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  2. Elmo Neighbors

    Just another reason to not believe in religion... and eat more bacon!

    May 9, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  3. GeorgeInFL

    Really folks? Name one news agency that does not slant the news to fit their agenda!! CNN maybe? FOX? ABC – NBC – CBS maybe? Get real. There is no such thing as unbiased news. All present facts as they fit, not as they are. Yes this is a bit extreme but it is no different from any other.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Jen


      May 9, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  4. Mike

    How do we know the White House's version wasn't doctored and Der Tzitung's is the original? Yeah, I know, shut up and go to your corner... 🙂

    May 9, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  5. Rachel

    I am Jewish and Orthodox and I find this totally pathetic. Some chasidim, though certainly not most, are really getting extreme. Some of them are starting to sound like the Taliban vis a vis women. Keep in mind there are crazies in every religion. Though I am not a chasid myself (not at all), most chasidim are way more modern and "normal" than you would think.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
  6. Bob

    I wish Obama could disappear like that.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Joanna

      That was a stupid comment since it was on Obama's watch that Bin Laden was killed – it definitely didn't happen on Bush's!

      May 9, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • god

      and we wish that you and your ridiculous right wing birther, deather, idiots would have your mouths permanently sown shut... Ah, but we continue to wish...

      May 9, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  7. Godless

    It's not that this Jewish paper wanted to censor the women out, it's just that they didn't want to pay for the extra ink it would've cost them to print the whole picture! 🙂

    May 9, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • ...


      wait... hilarious means funny right? Nevermind. Stupid is a better description.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  8. jean2009

    So we support people who are just another form of the Taliban.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • Ahmad

      actually way ahead of them.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • Rachel

      I'm just saying that there are extremist "taliban like" crazies in all religions. You're jumping at this one a bit.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  9. Mark

    Photo editing of this sort smacks of the revisionist history in textbooks here at home. Neither is acceptable.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  10. lucidanne

    This is so disappointing. Judging by the different races depicted as present in the room, I guess women are the only true second-class citizens left in the US...

    May 9, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • JB Cal

      How so?

      May 9, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • ...

      The only reason that the ultra's left an african american man in the picture is because he's the president of the damn country...

      May 9, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  11. CEL1

    that's the problem with fundamentalist religious groups, they don't EVER deal in facts......................they wouldn't know truth if it jumped up and bit them on the tukus..............

    May 9, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  12. EffortPA

    These religious fanatics have way too much control over the current Israeli government. No wonder why they don't want peace. They are complete idiots.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Lettuce Prey

      How much control can they possibly have over the Israeli government if they are in Brooklyn, NY? Read much, moron?

      May 9, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • Jen

      Let's remember that Brooklynites do not control the Israeli government.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  13. GunnerGAIt

    They do not represent the views of the Jewish community... only a very tiny fringe element that reads this rag. It is doubtful that their circulation exceeded a couple hundred at most. Most Chasidic Jews would object to such deceit as being against our faith. However, it makes news because it is shocking and excites people... but because it really has any circulation of news value. Just sensationalism. Should we also start caring about what is written in the Weekly World News? Certainly not. This rag is taken even less seriously and read by fewer people than live in my neighborhood!

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

      Thank you. I can't believe CNN would even post this on their main page. More proof of CNN being anti-semetic.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • YaThink

      Jen it's making national news not just CNN. When something makes national news CNN posts it. Try googling it......

      May 9, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  14. Matt

    Get real

    May 9, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  15. kasey

    Hmmm. So these "ultra-Orthodox" Jews are just the same as the Muslim extremists. Women need to stop associating with them and maybe they'll die out like the Shakers.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Alyssa

      Right, because women have an abundance of choices in ultra-conservative religions.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  16. taxpayer

    If the photo is manipulated, the the news in that paper could be compromised too. Reading this newspaper defies purpose, due to lack of it's credibility.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
  17. AZLib

    Not supprised one bit. We have seen a lot of censored "news" coming from Israel for years. News is not news from there its pure PR.. So a little tweek here and little tweek there "whats the problem?"...

    May 9, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • L. Rose

      You're just trying to use one incident to slander an entire country's press (which is often critical of it's own govt.). That's not much different than trying to rewrite history.

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

      It's not from Israel its from Brooklyn. Take your racism elsewhere.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • sara

      wow, what an idiot. this is a brooklyn, ny religious paper. this is not israel's leftist secular press, which is known to be plenty critical of its own leaders. you don't know what the heck you're talking about.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Greg Ohio

      Read Haaretz, and you'll find plenty of criticism of the ultra's as well as the Israeli government:

      May 9, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • nepawoods

      This is from Brooklyn, not Israel.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • Jen

      Are you kidding me? This article has absolutely nothing to do with Israel. This is a paper from America – where we have a right to free press and they can do what they want (whether we agree with it or not). Bringing up another country, whose press is known for being critical of his government and the religious sectors, is honestly ridiculous and just proves the Anti-Semitism being masked as Anti-Zionism. Let's keep in mind every religion has it's small (or sometimes large) groups of radicals. Overall, the Jewish population of the world, and even the Orthodox Jewish Population of the world, does not agree with this kind of paper or the treatment of women – you can not take one small example and use it against an entire population. Haredis make up less than 10% of Jews worldwide and are completely disconnected from the other 90%.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  18. ted

    This is George Bush's fault. Had he gotten Bin Laden in 2001, we would not have this silliness going on. Bush failed at this and everything else he touched.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • ted.2

      Ted sir, you are an idiot

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

      Ted – It was Clinton's fault back in the 90s – not Bush's!

      May 9, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Mike

      Just as you failed to produce a comprehensible thought with your post.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Michelle

      Considering George W Bush was elected in 2000.... I shouldn't have to tell you why your statement is wrong. I think it would be Clinton's fault using your theory...especially if you are like this Administration and blame everything for 2 years on the previous Admin.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Nevis

      George Bush was not interested in getting Bin Laden. We was interested in keeping him around to give Americans a new theater war to be afraid of and justify occupation of oil-rich states. Anyone who believes otherwise is ill-informed.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Yeah...it's Bush's fault that we got information...

      about Bin Laden through water boarding. That darn George Bush - how dare he interrogate the terrorists! We might actually get valuable information from those bad people. OH SNAP! We DID get valuable info from those terrorists which led to the SEALS killing Obama bin Laden. Well.....er, that's Bush's "fault". LOL!!!!!!

      May 9, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • Russell

      Wow... your statement just totally floored me, ted... Do you honestly believe this or were you simply hoping to get a rise out of the readers of this article?

      May 9, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  19. NMP

    Not cool. I'm all for embracing differences and beliefs, but I totally agree with everyone who has said that changing/ignoring history crosses the line. Its ridiculous for them to even suggest that the Secretary of State and Director of Counterterrorism wouldn't have been in the room at that moment. I do, however, agree with the White House for not even commenting on this matter.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • kansascav24

      I have to agree with you about changing history. I'm not too sure they would agree if we erased any rememberance of the holocaust...

      May 9, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  20. Justin Observation

    Because women are supposed to be at home, barefoot and pregnant, affirming and obeying their husbands, or remaining a virgin until a man chooses them. At least that's what they brainwashed.... I mean taught me... in Catholic school.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Michelle

      Really? I went to St. Thomas Aquinas & they taught me to think for myself and not expect a handout. I ended up with a Masters in Finance and run a fixed income trading desk. Where the heck did you go to school? Yemen?

      May 9, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • JB Cal

      You must have gone to the wrong school. I don't recall anything like that in my nine years of catholic schooling.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • eyesopen

      You did notice that the article is referring to Judaism and not Catholosim right? The better comparison would be to ask how this branch of Judaism is different in it's perspective on women than Islamic Fundamentalists. Please, no stupid comments as to all terroists being Muslims since the total number of terroists is unbelievably small compared to the number of Muslims.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • amy

      Oh shut up. just laugh like the rest of us!


      May 9, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • myles

      i don't understand your comment? "that's what you were thought in catholic school"? this is a story about a Jewish news paper, nothing to do with catholics?

      May 9, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • TheMovieFan

      My sister went to parochial school for grades 1-8. She has a PhD from MIT.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • No Big Deal.....women just take jobs that should go to men....

      Women should be at home in the kitchen where they belong. Just taking up a position in the workplace that belongs to a man. It's a shame, but that's the world we live in today.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • James

      Closely listen to an Inception dvd made before the January 8th Tucson shooting, especially during the dialogue, "Do It."

      May 9, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • Reality Check

      Justin the Observer - should read "Justin the Liar". There's not a chance that you spent any quality time attending a Catholic school. You're just spewing nonsense and misinformation that anyone even remotely familiar with Catholic education would recognize straight away - even if they're not practicing Catholics. Please come back and play again - or not.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • David


      May 9, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • Reality Check

      To "Eyes Wide Open" - you're naive and know little about Islam. This "peaceful" religion was created by a man who lived by the sword and converted followers with a simple choice, convert to Islam or die. The same man who demands that every Muslim remain in a constant state of Jihad, either actively expanding via force or taking a break from the front lines to prepare supplies and weapons for the next offensive. Being in a perpetual state of Jihad is mandated in the Koran - it's great that many Muslims ignore this Islamic duty, but the fact that it's fundamental to Islamic religious teachings shouldn't be ignored in spite of the unpleasant truth that it exposes. Islam was born and nurtured in violence and intolerance and it's teachings sow the seeds that lead to and justify militant extremism. While each religion has it's extremist elements, none come close to explicitly demanding perpetual Jihad as Islam does. This gaping and violent "loop hole" in the Koran is the fount from which people like Osama can effectively justify their monsterous and murderous ways without soliciting an overwhelming outcry of repudiation from the general Muslim population. You will almost always hear a "Osama is wrong, but..." comment from Muslim commentators. If a Christian or Buddhist (other) killed 3.000 people in the name of God, you would would have an immediate, overwhelming, and damning mass reaction world wide. That never happened in the Muslim community to the extent it should have and everyone with "eyes wide open" knows this to be true. The "Osama was wrong, but..." line of thinking lives on in the Muslim community and feeds and supports Islamphobia outside of it.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Justin Observation

      LOL, I can't believe how many silly, but serious, comments this post got. Yes it was over an exaggeration of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religious beliefs towards women.

      If you can't read between the lines of their dogmas, and see the underlying message they teach on how men should view women and how women should behave, your are an idiot. You are hiding your eyes from the truth just like the morons who run the newspaper in question. Either you were truly brainwashed, or you know very little about religion.

      For those who don't know that Judaism-Christianity-Islam are all directly related and share the same values, well you should not be commenting on religious topics, you should study their history instead.

      Just because the truth angers you when it's put out so bluntly, doesn't mean it should be ignored or pretend it's not true.
      Those three related religions degrade women. You can agree with their view, or oppose it, or you can pretend it isn't there, but you can't make it disappear.

      You all are too funny, and way too serious. No wonder there's so much war in those religion's histories.


      May 9, 2011 at 5:18 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.