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. Jeremy

    Im glad as a secular Jew I dont affiliate with the Hasid sects in crown heights and williamsburg (brooklyn) or in Lakewood and Monsey ( New Jersey & New York). Sadly they consider me an apikoros because im not religious, and they dislike secular jews who support Israel as well...they dont believe in a Secular jewish state at all and they dont support a Jewish state being created without the Moshiach ushering it in....many of us jews consider them crackpots who live by archaic rules...

    May 9, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  2. yeti37

    I say, "turn the other cheek" and let it go.....oh, wait....wrong guy....

    May 9, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  3. Soda Bob Curtis

    The White House can "disclaim" this photo all they want. But as a product of the United States Government, there is NO copyright protection on it of any kind. Not to say I agree with what this particular newspaper did (I don't, at all, it's goofy), but unless I'm mistaken there is no crime or copyright infringement in modifying the image, and it can be used for ANY purpose.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  4. Wayshower

    It is not religion that is the problem, the problem is the people with skewed perceptions of their religions that twist the belief into something of their own bigotry, and intolerance. Unfortunately this doesn't stop at religion though, as it is the problem of humans period. Skewed perception of their beliefs causes hatred, prejudice, intolerance, oprpession, etc, because of someone's belief that something is "evil", "inferior", etc.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  5. Sunfighter

    Considering there was a 25 minute blackout...id like to know what exactly they were watching intently. Twitter? Got Osama, shot im in the face, LOL - Sealguy This is probably just another classic staged historical photo.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Yeah 25 minutes during a 40 minute mission.
      I wonder if this photo could have possibly been taken during the up time.
      Why I believe it could have been, fancy that.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  6. A.Hill

    Say what you will as far as religious beliefs are concerned. I will stay out of that debate. The issue I have is that the publishers of this so-called "newspaper" are willing to re-write history so it is more palatable to their readership. The people that did this are a joke as far as journalists go. I am a photographer myself, and I know that I would be furious for at the publishers of this "paper" for this. It is not only unethical, it is straight up illegal. I really wish Pete Suoza (Obama's Photog) and/or the white house would pursue legal action against them. HORRIBLE!!!!

    May 9, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  7. debbie338

    Is "freedom of religion" the same thing as "freedom to lie"?

    May 9, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  8. Armadillo

    This is just disgusting.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  9. Doc Vestibule

    Q: Why do women in the middle east walk ten paces behind their husbands?
    A: Land mines

    May 9, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  10. Observer

    It's just another group of fanatical religious people who replace intelligence with wishful thinking.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  11. Nate

    I will pray to the Lords of Kobol that they may have mercy on their souls.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Laura


      May 9, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • Caprica Six

      So say we all.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  12. Jay

    Interesting that the White House puts restrictions on use, because since it was taken by a government employee, by federal law, it's in the public domain. Can you put restrictions on something in the public domain?

    May 9, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • A.Hill

      Interesting indeed...I searched this photo on the white house flickr account and under it's licensing inofmation it was listed as "United States Government Work", which is defined by the following parameters"

      A United States government work is prepared by an officer or employee of the United States government as part of that person's official duties.

      It is not subject to copyright in the United States and there are no copyright restrictions on reproduction, derivative works, distribution, performance, or display of the work. Anyone may, without restriction under U.S. copyright laws:

      reproduce the work in print or digital form;
      create derivative works;
      perform the work publicly;
      display the work;
      distribute copies or digitally transfer the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending.

      So it seems you are right Jay and it was not illegal as I asserted before. Nonetheless I personally find it to be completely unethical for this "news" outlets to be doctoring photos in this manner. But apparently they can do it. But if Suoza (the photog) was working for Obama as an indepndent contractor, then copyright laws would apply.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  13. Magic

    As I recall, Hasidic Jews are supposed to follow over 600 divine commandments. Are there not a few in there which prohibit lying (by omission or manipulation) or breaking the law of copyright or desecrating (altering) the work or another?

    I hope that this paper is fined out of existence and that this serves as a learning experience for other manipulators of reality.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  14. joe

    Interesting. I wonder what the newspaper's 17 subscribers thought.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  15. Parent50

    What are they afraid of? These people lack self-control to such an extent that they can't even handle seeing a picture of a woman in a newspaper? Frankly, I'm tired of all the woman-bashing going on. It's everywhere. All it means is that the people doing it are small, afraid, and trying to prove how 'big' they are by putting someone else down. Grow up and grow a pair, guys.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • SSILF

      Well, Hillary is looking pretty hot there! ROWR!

      May 9, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  16. Jen

    It should be pointed out to every one associating this paper with Israel that the paper isn't even published in Hebrew.... it's actually a dead language called Yiddish.... not the language of Israel.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Jeremy

      Yep...also the fact that the hasidic sects who espouse these beliefs also hate Israel because it was not divinely created....I grew up modern orthodox, now secular, in new jersey. I know these crackpots first hand..they are out of touch with reality big time and often call conservative and modern orthodox out as apikoros...

      May 9, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Nope

      No, it's in Hebrew. Yiddish is written with the germanic alphabet like ours. Trust me on this one.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Sam

      Yiddish is not a dead language. It is the primary language of the Hasidic community, both in Israel and in the US – both written and spoken. In NY, especially in Brooklyn and in the upstate Hasidic community/village of Kiryas Joel, there are large populations of Hasidic Jews who primarily speak and write in Yiddish.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • b0b

      Jen youre wrong. it is hebrew not Yiddish. Yiddish in written in our standard text and is based on German. hebrew is the characters written at the top of the article. Be nice to have your facts correct.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • kevin

      Yiddish is most often written in with Hebrew letters. But Yiddish can be written with the Roman alphabet as we use to write English. Yiddish is not a dead language. Many of the diaspora who may have survived WW2 in central Europe and those who emigrated to the US from a central European heritage have Yiddish as a first language. It is mainly a German language with lots of addtiional vocabulary from the Slavic languages (Polish, Russian, for example) as well as from Hebrew and from Aramaic. The "dead" lamguage is actaully Hebrew, which ceased to be a spoken language after the Assyrian conquest. It was replaced by a related semitic language, Aramaic, before the Christian era, written with Hebrew letters. The Hebrew language spoken and thriving in Israel today is a confection – the result of an effort to revive the Hebrew language based on a compromise of written Hebrew consonants as prononounced by the Sephardic community (Iberian diaspora) with the vowel sounds typical of the Ashkenazi (Central European diaspora) reading.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • vasechek

      nope and b0b, this is definitely yiddish. i actually never heard of it being written with the latin alphabet, but i guess for beginners whose native language is based on a latin alphabet there may have been some adaptations. then again you can write in any language using latin letters, it will look real goofy, but won't change the language much.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  17. keylargo

    Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and other religions have common roots, so its not surprising when they often come up with the same rituals, same taboos etc.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Mike

      You clearly never have read the New Testament. While Jesus was born of a Jewish mother, thus fulfilling prophecy; Christianity is nothing like Judaism or Islam. First, it's all about having a personal relationship with God. Second, Christians believe salvation is by grace through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus not by works or being "religious". Third, Christianity teaches women are of equal value in God's sight, husbands are to sacrificially love their wives as Christ loves His Brides, husbands are to love their wives as their own body, and seek "oneness" with their wives.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  18. SK

    Ripley's believe it or not?!

    May 9, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  19. Teo

    They've learned this technique from the book, "101 Ways to Erase People Who are Inferior", by Adolf Hitler.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • sereny

      No they learned it from the book that was written by men, for men that taught them for whatever reason to hate women.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  20. Elias

    "Your comment is awaiting moderation". Really means "your comment is awaiting censorship". Again immaturity and repression as the norm. SICK!

    May 9, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Jeanette

      And yet, they published this comment. go figure 🙂

      May 9, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Soda Bob Curtis

      It's not "censorship" in the normal meaning of the term if the censoring body is a privately run organization (e.g. CNN). If you don't like it, start your own newspaper and publish your comments yourself. THAT is the meaning of freedom of speech and the press, not that anyone can say anything anywhere on someone else's dime.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Helpful Hints

      AGAIN - does this auto-filter list have to appear on *every* page? I guess so...

      Once a week WARNING for new commentators:
      The moderators of this blog have set up a secret forbidden word filter which unfortunately not only will delete or put your comment in the dreaded "waiting for moderation" category but also will do the same to words having fragments of these words. For example, "t-it" is in the set but the filter will also pick up words like Hitt-ite, t-itle, beati-tude, practi-tioner and const-tution. Then there are words like "an-al" thereby flagging words like an-alysis and "c-um" flagging acc-umulate or doc-ument. And there is also "r-a-pe", “a-pe” and “gra-pe”, "s-ex", and "hom-ose-xual". You would think that the moderators would have corrected this by now considering the number of times this has been commented on but they have not. To be safe, I typically add hyphens in any word that said filter might judge "of-fensive".
      • More than one web address will also activate “waiting for moderation”. Make sure the web address does not have any forbidden word or fragment.
      Two of the most filtered words are those containing the fragments "t-it" and "c-um". To quickly check your comments for these fragments, click on "Edit" on the Tool Bar and then "Find" on the menu. Add a fragment (without hyphens) one at a time in the "Find" slot and the offending fragment will be highlighted in your comments before you hit the Post button. Hyphenate the fragment(s) and then hit Post. And remember more than one full web address will also gain a "Waiting for Moderation".
      And said moderators still have not solved the chronological placement of comments once the number of comments gets above about 100. They recently have taken to dividing the comments in batches of 50 or so, for some strange reason. Maybe they did this to solve the chronology problem only to make comment reviews beyond the tedious.
      “Raison's Filter Fiber© (joking about the copyright)
      1. Here's my latest list – this seems like a good spot to set this down, as nobody's posting much on this thread.....
      bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to post that wonderful argument:
      Many, if not most are buried within other words, but I am not shooting for the perfect list, so use your imagination and add any words I have missed as a comment (no one has done this yet)
      – I found some but forgot to write them down. (shrugs).
      c-um.........as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, etc.
      sp-ic........as in disp-icable (look out Sylvester the cat!)
      ho-mo...whether ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, etc.
      t-it.........const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, etc.
      tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, (an unexpected one)
      va-g....as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant
      ar-se....yet "ass" is not filtered!
      jacka-ss...but ass is fine lol
      p-is.....as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, etc.
      o ficti-tious, repeti-tion, competi-tion.
      There are more, so do not assume that this is complete.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Actually immaturity is usually what leads to a comment being deleted

      May 9, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • fran glass

      um, you know it's a computer censoring your comments not a person, right?

      May 9, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
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About this blog

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.