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. John

    I guess Truth is not something important in their religion. This is the equivalent to Sharia law.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  2. Nobody N. Particular

    ultra-Orthodox = Taliban, doesn't matter if it Christian, Jew, or Muslim. Ultra-Orthodox tend to think they are the only "true believers" and everyone else are blasphemers, be warned.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  3. asgardshill

    Stick to marketing diamonds and trying to look like Johnny Cash, guys. Because journalism obviously ain't your thing.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  4. SammyJ

    Obviously they know how to use PhotoShop! Now that's SCARY!

    May 9, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  5. MikeMazzla

    Religion in all its forms Judaism, christianity, islam etc are all ridiculous with fake made up ridiculous rules that are based in nonsense and on some fake god that doesnt exist.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  6. UglyTruth

    Tel Aviv is the brothel capital of the world.
    do not publish pictures of women.
    Only the fantasy world of religion can explain this.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  7. pfunny

    Wow, the thought of some young jewish boys getting worked up over Hillary is just funny. Forget about Sears catalogs and National Geographics.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  8. smokey

    Religion manipulating reality... go on.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  9. Loki

    can't fix stupid

    May 9, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  10. UglyTruth

    Jews are not special.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  11. Bob

    The 21st century. (for some)

    May 9, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  12. kimber c

    Pathetic! And, they have broken the law.......they should be made to pull the photograph and print a retraction stating that the photograph did not include two women who were, as much as some apparently don't like it, there. Hey girls who allow men to marginalize them-it's time to just say no!

    May 9, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  13. John

    Good – women have no place being anywhere but the kitchen. They should be home baking cookies for their men.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • rn

      Hi Troll!!

      May 9, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • shoos


      May 9, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  14. god

    ...someone needs to get laid.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  15. Maryann

    HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! This is hilarious! So....if they take the women out of the photo, then they weren't really there?

    Maybe these guys are gay and only want men in the world?

    Or....religion is just stupid.

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

      oy vey

      May 9, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  16. Annonymous

    Um, I guess Golda Mier was a ghost? I mean, did they cut her out of the Israeli Prime Minister historical facts as well?

    May 9, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  17. Bob

    Is it even possible, practically speaking, for Hillary to be se#ually suggestive?

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

      lol im a hillary fan but thats a good one bro

      May 9, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  18. BH

    This is how you spell "morons".

    May 9, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • TominRochNY

      I believe that's "ultra-morons".

      May 9, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  19. Dennis

    "One Man's religion is another Man's belly laugh" – Someone said it, look it up.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  20. Ross

    Censorship. Female rights. Where should I start? Let's make up our own version of the truth as we see fit. Very sad that the death of an icon (bin Laden) from a radical Muslim faction is censored by another radical religious community "across the aisle." Irony. Letterman is going to have a field day with this one.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • douglas

      Yet I don't believe any of us are surprised, are we? They have a long way to go (the Middle East).

      May 9, 2011 at 3:02 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.