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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

    I wonder if the paper's editors know this is exactly the kind of thing Stalin's dictatorship did, erase people out of photos and make them unpeople, including Jews.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  2. RunForTheHills

    In other news, the two missing women were found in a news file photo of a kitchen being built in the West Bank – where they belong.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  3. AGeek

    Complete lack of respect. Respect is a two way street – you want it? You give it. Otherwise, you're invited to pound rock salt and be viewed as completely f–king idiotic.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  4. axtenn

    The saddest part is Ultra-Orthodox Jews are now in charge of Israel's foreign policy and US is expected to support them while alienating the rest of the world.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  5. Rock God

    Patriarchal religions all suck. God is female.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  6. RLF

    Again, the most dangerous organizations on the planet... organized religions. ANYTHING is justified.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  7. just tell the TRUTH

    Congrats on setting your people back a couple hundred years...reminds me of the bible...edited to their "standards". Im not an athiest or anti-religious nutjob but you can't argue the fact that the bible has been edited and chopped by governs and monarchs for thousands of years to brainwash the masses of THEIR ideaologies and politics. This photo is no different

    May 9, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  8. male american

    Wow..and here, right in our back yard is the next realm of radical religion, Di Tzeitung. Suppressors of truth and tyrants to woman....I say we bomb them next!!!

    May 9, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  9. Ron

    Actually are two women edited out. The second was at the back of the room. Print the original photo or don't print it. To try and rewrite history for your religious views is way too bigoted.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  10. Andulamb

    Blurring the women's faces would still have been offensive, but at least it wouldn't have been lying. As it is, this "news" paper is nothing of the sort, if it is going change facts that it doesn't agree with. It is a FACT that two women were in that room. I hope the readers of that paper are aware that it does not consider honesty a high priority.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  11. Eric of Reseda

    As a Jew, I am ashamed...

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

      Don't let the action of stupid people make you feel bad. Stand tall and proud.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  12. Chuck Steak

    Wow! I guess their editor has read "1984" ! ! !

    May 9, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  13. Dr. B. Good...

    It looks like they are rivaling the radical Muslim community for most misogynistic religious fanatics.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  14. michael

    may be it is the moslem "exteremist" who did it and blamed it on the israeli!

    May 9, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  15. Joe

    Why o why must we give people a reason to hate us?

    May 9, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  16. Carl, Secaucus, NJ

    I realize these guys (I say "guys" because it looks like it's the guys making all the rules) are only a small sect, and they have the right to exercise religious freedom. But I think they're making a gesture of disrespect to the country that protects that freedom. They don't have to run the picture at all, or they could run it as-is and have editorials, etc., as to why they think women shouldn't be allowed to be in government. But to run it edited like that, as if the women didn't even exist...

    May 9, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  17. Bubba

    I say this all the time: "You can't fix crazy."

    May 9, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  18. hy

    Taliban in Brooklyn!..

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

      Sound true!

      May 9, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Kian

      Jewish Taliban

      May 9, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  19. TamarS

    How disrespectful the Haisidm are toward women. Shame.

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

      They feel about women,the same as Hitler thought about them.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • vasechek

      riiiight, that's why you have women concentration camps and slaughterhouses all over the jewish neighborhoods

      May 9, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Bull

      @ vasechek , I meant in the way of being thought of as "non-people". Not the final solution.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • Kian

      Hitler didn't hate women... there werent any concentration camps for women

      May 9, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Kian

      he even had a wife for about 6 seconds

      May 9, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • Bull

      @kian: Read The Third Reich at War by Richard J.Evans . Camps for women were at fact.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  20. Bgrngod

    Ridiculous. While I can certainly respect their choice to practice their religion any way they want, they should have not edited the picture. Instead, they should have simply not shown it and then explained in their article why (because a woman was in the picture) to their readers. Instead, they choose to manipulate the truth and continue to damage all other Jewish sects who do not share their beliefs.

    The last thing the various Jewish religions need right now is another black eye.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • DB

      So, you're saying we shouldn't have been eposed to the jewish oppression of women. I get it, lets keep the focus on muslim oppression...give me a break...

      May 9, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • vasechek

      for a country that boasts an over 90% literacy rate we have surprisingly many people who can't read......

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

      I suppose given the chance these same guys would lecture God about His being too inclusive of women and then proceed to edit the Old Testament to remove all references to women. No Eve. No Sarah. No Deborah. No Ruth. No Esther. Do they have their own version? Sometimes we humans are way too smart for our own good. We are blind but our pride refuses to acknowledge it even as we keep bumping into things and hurting ourselves and others.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:40 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.