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. Crudahfi

    Well, I'm glad the paper has been publicly embarrassed. Gives new meaning to the word "rag."

    May 9, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
  2. Felicitations

    Cut from the same cloth.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  3. Jason

    The 'suggestive' reasoning is clearly a lie – – – no one could think of Hillary like that!

    May 9, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  4. Vigilant

    So this flavor of Judaism is just as repressive and intolerant as you all seem to think Islam is. Does this mean we get to protest them in the streets and send our military in guns blazing to liberate these trampled people? I mean, if we don't then we're being a little discriminatory don't you think?

    Just saying..

    May 9, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • vasechek

      except they don't mutilate, stone, or physically toruture their women as a matter of abiding by their religious laws. nor will they cut off your head or rip your kids to little pieces if you disagree with them or if you dare to leave their group.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • Vigilant

      @vas lol... show me when that's happened in the 10 years.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • vasechek


      May 9, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  5. chillyindy

    If only it were that easy to delete Clinton from everything...

    May 9, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • vasechek

      post of the day nominee

      May 9, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  6. rad

    Another ignorant religion.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  7. Kathy

    Some people are just plain stupid! They hide behind religion to push their prejudices.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  8. kro

    I don't look at Hillary and think of s€x. Why should they?

    May 9, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  9. Pat in IL

    Removing anyone from a picture like that actually misrepresents facts and historical moments. This is so over the top that it is sad. I hope the younger people in this sect or cult or whatever get out and get educated. That way, maybe the hypocrisy and lies (by omission) will eventually end.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  10. Joe DiLeo

    These religious people are sick.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  11. Joe DiLeo

    These religiou people are sick.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  12. cheekbrown

    Now that is just plain stupid.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  13. Tom

    Really it should be "Die Tzitung". Like "chowda", get it right!

    May 9, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  14. MODGOP

    Disgusting! I think that the newspaper needs to be forced to put the correct picture on the front page! Hillary Clinton has always been pro-Israel and anti-Islamic Extremist its in very poor taste and I think that a Written Apology would make a nice added perk as well!

    May 9, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • vasechek

      nah, she's always been whatever the latest polls told her would be most profitable to be, including ... gasp... pro-islamic terrorist and anti israel... when it suited her...

      May 9, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  15. Steven Brown

    Religious freaks are idiotic!

    May 9, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  16. John

    Equivalent to Sharia law. I guess Truth isn't important to the Hasidic belief.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  17. Steve

    Haha so crazy that it's funny.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  18. richey

    A woman is one of the reasons you are in this world. Erase women, and mankind ceases to exist.

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

      nono, erase women and mankind hears less nagging. DUH

      May 9, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • ED49

      You forget one thing, Hillary Clinton is not a woman!

      May 9, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • Hannah

      @bam – Guess you chose the wrong woman. Fool.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  19. Spunky DerWondermonkey

    Are these Ultra-Orthodox the guy's who won't cut their hair, then curl it? Are they the same folks who refuse to take showers? Aren't they the folks whom get so angry because others try to change history? (i.e. Germany WWII)
    Momma never told 'em where they came from if they can't even look at a picture of a dried up prune like Hillary and say that it is suggestive. The real reason is that they don't acknowledge women. They will not even shake a woman's hand.
    Get with the times guy's... Shoving your head in the sand doesn't change the truth.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Chris Hightower

      Well put...

      May 9, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • Bull

      It looks like nothing this paper prints,would be worth reading.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Concerned citizen

      die you jew hating imbecile.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  20. Morton Redner

    My gravest fear is that people will think all Jews are like this.

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

      no worries only islam has radical religions, this most likely is a false story....... NOT.
      I know right? how dare someone point out the OBVIOUS? now I am sure someone will try to say pointing this out was trying to demonize this religion, point the finger at others.... always away from yourself.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • Harry Merkin

      Whait. You mean they arn't?

      I've said it once and I'll say it again. Religin will be the downfall of man.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • Kald

      Those who do, think all Muslims are terrorists.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • Greg

      Don't worry. We know that ALL religion fosters irrational behavior, not just Judaism.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • BillR

      As a Muslim I can tell you my greatest fear is people will think all Muslims are like OBL.
      Not saying you specifically have one, but we should keep our own prejudices in check before expecting others to do the same.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • william

      These fundamentalist Muslims must be the stupidest people on the planet. It is simply appalling for and embarassing to the human race that there are still people and societies that hold 1/2 of the population in such contempt disdane. I pity the girls and women of these societises a,d countries. That these moronic beliefs and actions are religiously based should make us all consider the dangers of mixing church and state.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Amal1988

      @Morton Redner. Now you know how we Muslims feel...nothing against you or your religion at all, I respect every religion. It's just, this is how I feel everytime Muslims are in the media.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • lucidguy

      Now you know how Muslims feel when their nutters take over the headlines.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • scott

      But aren't they all?

      May 9, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • OH-NY

      Regardless of what religion we speak about, there always seems to be gender inequality, some are more prominent than others. Which is sad enough. But erasing people from an actual historical event in a newspaper simply because they happen to be women, that's editorial judgment, and it's a dangerous line that's been crossed. Then again can anyone mention an unbiased news crew?

      Now for the humor in this: What are they vampires? They have no reflections? I move for all women of the particular group to refuse to do their womanly "duties" and force the men to acknowledge their existence.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:43 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.