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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. Selfish Gene Simmons

    Mind blowingly ridiculous.

    Does this paper or organization receive tax-exempt because of religion? Because at this point, this paper, that organization is a farce. What is this insanity?

    May 9, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  2. Mettle

    Given that the ultra-orthodox still screw their wives through a small hole in a bedsheet, this news comes as very little surprise to me.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  3. Sam

    I never fails to amaze me that mainstream media organizations like CNN use racist websites like "Failed Messiah" as news sources. Rosenberg is an outsider who fixates on the crime within a certain community and gathers it all together in a one stop hate shop.

    What would you think if I, a white male, went ahead and published a website that focused on crime within the black community and collected every story involving black crime in one glitzy location. Do you think CNN would give me bylines?

    May 9, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  4. STEVEJ

    WOW – SOME TIMES ITS HARD TO TELL THE JEWISH FAITH FROM MUSLIM, ARE THEY RELATED OR JUST ACT LIKE IT?

    May 9, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  5. Jimbo

    Wow, looks like the Jews and Muslims have more in common than they ever knew. Now go shake hands and oppress women together. And before all you chomping at the bit because I didn't include christains in my politically incorrect statement, we already know they are crazy.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  6. veggiedude

    So if Hillary was President, they would always show an invisible president? Wow. I mean, wow!

    May 9, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  7. Laughing at it all

    This news paper just went from News to Tabloid. If you can't report it as it happened without putting your own religious or political spin on it to brainwash your viewers/readers to your ideology, then it should just be a tabloid.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  8. Usaywha?

    Its obvious that God doesnt like women. Look at all the religions that treat women as second class humans.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  9. Cdn_Lynn

    I would expect this from Muslims, not Jewish people. Shame on both groups!!

    May 9, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  10. PeterD

    the article proves that Jews amd Muslims had a same father and same bloodline.

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

    So typical of the jew.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      No... not at all typical "of the Jew" as you put it...

      Typical of primitive religion, yes... If the Taliban had a newspaper, I'm sure they'd do the same thing...

      May 9, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • CTYank

      What other comment would one expect from a silly stereotyper?

      And your group's shtick is? Hating whom?

      May 9, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  12. Charlie from the North

    Islamic extemists,Right wing bible thumpin Christians. It seem like most major religion has it's share of wing-nuts who take their ideas way too far. I don't see why the Jewish faith should be immune from their wing-nuts. It makes me than God for the separation of Church and State

    May 9, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  13. JeepDude

    I guess the new Jewish slogan (at least for this newspaper) is, "Never Forget, Never Forgive, but a little photoshopping? That's OK!"

    May 9, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Better slogan: All the news that fits, we print...

      May 9, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  14. Fernt

    wow, that's some rock solid journalism, Di Tzeitung. embarrassing and dishonest.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  15. Steve

    Wow. It's sad that there are still such primitive people still left in the world in this day and age.
    One would think that's we'd have grown out of this religious non-sense by the 21st century.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • 21century

      Unfortunately, there are many things prominent in various parts of the world today that to most are considered barbaric for those of us lucky to live in "more advanced" societies.

      A lot of the middle east still sees women as second (or third) class people with little or no rights. There are people still people dying from hunger and disease. Some live with no running water or electricity. Even some still exist where you fellow man is on the menu (as you are for him). Granted, some of this doesn't apply to the US, but still exists in the world today...

      May 9, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  16. Antonio

    Another example of how ridiculous Religion is! Just because you a free to believe what you want, doesnt mean that you should take yourself so seriously.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  17. grist

    What a horrible joke this is. Imagine that civilized men cannot look at a picture or a woman. And the women have to sit separate from men in their synagogues because it would be too distracting for the men. And the prayer men say first in the morning thanks their god they were not born as a woman. We really need to start ignoring religious texts and face up to the fact that it is 2011. There is a real world out there with real problems. Praying to gods and observing archaic traditions is not the way to solve our problems.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      You say that we should tell them it's 2011... That could be the problem... They may be behaving as if it's 2011 in the Hebrew calendar... perhaps if you told them that it's 5771, they may change their ways... (nah... I didn't think so either...)

      May 9, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • My 2 cents

      Who said they were civilized...?

      May 9, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  18. Louie

    I'm not surprised. Any individual who thinks religion is the bastion of truth has their head in a hole in the ground. This just proves that medieval, backward thinking still exists in large part to make-believe theories. When is the world going to drop this stuff into the dustbin of history and get on to doing something more meaningful?

    May 9, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • LG

      I don't believe all religion should be dropped into the "dustbin of history"- because then all we have is "louie"-and I guess he must be right about everything- tell me louie what should be so meaningful?

      May 10, 2011 at 2:13 am |
  19. humtake

    No one should get mad at this at all. If there are men who want to follow a gay religion and pretend women don't exist, it is their right.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • vasechek

      miss (on the gay part). most of these same men have ump-teen kids because the same religious rules tell them to.

      May 9, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  20. Anon

    I can tell by the pixels, that photo has been shopped

    May 9, 2011 at 4:02 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.