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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. midgick

    I am trying to address this issue to non Jews . All of our religions have their ultra ultra orthodox. Be it Christian/Muslim/Hindu/ or what ever. This particular sect of Judaism follow their Jewish laws as they interpret it. Who are you or me of whoever to say they are wrong?
    We, in America, are very very very lucky that we can even have this discussion publicly. So my thought is live and let live as long as no one has to be exterminated or killed for it.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • conradshull

      Who's to say? Me.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • Bobb Dobbs

      Who is to say? Anyone with a brain.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • Joe

      Oppression is oppression. Don't try to justify it.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • austen

      You obviously have a penis.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      The issue is the violation of the terms of use of the photograph. And the implied revisionist history.
      In sincerely hope that the DOJ sues that newspaper.
      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...

      May 9, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Alan

      they are allowed to have their own belief set and opinions.

      They are not allowed to have their own facts and historical records.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Erin

      I don't care if the newspaper is religious, my expectation from any newspaper is that they print the facts. If there is a liberal or conservative bent, okay, I can recognize that, live and let live and take it with a grain of salt – but keep the facts intact. If the editors at this Jewish newspaper don't want to print a photo of men and women sitting in a room together, don't doctor the photo – leave it out of the article. This is bad journalism at best and misogynistic at worst. Disgusting.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • Eric

      As both a Jew and someone with a degree in journalism, this offends me horribly. If the readers of this paper are too chauvinistic to handle seeing women in positions of power, DON'T PRINT THE PHOTO. They had no right to doctor the photo; and in fact are expressly violating the terms under which the White House released it. They didn't have to print it, but they have no right to doctor the photo and alter the facts as presented. Total nonsense.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • P

      Well it's a good thing they have religion as a moral compass, otherwise how would they learn about lying and dissemination of false materials?

      May 9, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • JediMasterMatt

      If this sect of the Jewish religion does not approve or print images of women, then they should have NOT printed the photograph at all...YES, they were wrong to erase Clinton and the other woman from this official photo! Couldn't they just write a story in the paper without a photo? Shame on them!

      May 9, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • Vulpes

      Anyone you wants the truth can say this is wrong to do ...

      May 9, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • Shane

      @Midgick-Stop defending ignorant misogynists. Religion is all founded on fables and mythologies. As Gene Roddenberry once said: "We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty Humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes."

      May 9, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • salvaje

      Your point is taken but it is misguided. The fact is that Hillary and Audrey were there and by removing them, the newspaper is falsely representing the historical context of that picture and the events unfolding. The judging is being done by the paper printing the photo and they are the ones who judge what is acceptable or not, regardless of the facts. So while your point is taken, in my opinion, your references to judging or otherwise should be directed to those individuals who took it upon themselves to distort reality and represent the context of the photo in a way that fits their propaganda...

      May 9, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • Paul

      I am quite ready to say they are wrong. In fact I'll say they are ridiculous close minded people. Religious zealotry to the point where adherents can't or won't live in the real world is dangerous. If rational people don't express their opinions that this kind of thinking is primitive then we can expect it to continue and possibly lead to violence. We've seen that in many religious zealots.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Scott

      Any excuses expounding religion are silly and obnoxious. If your religion does not allow you to use it honestly then Don't Use It!!

      May 9, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Kelly

      They are certainly within their rights to control their own publication to be in accordance with their beliefs. However, they should have opted to not use the photo rather than using an altered version. It would appear as if they may have violated copyright law since they did opt to use an altered version.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • Not Erica

      They are wrong because what they are publishing is a) a lie and b) a violation of the terms of publication.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • NoFool

      "Who are you or me of whoever to say they are wrong?" Wow – what a Politically Correct whiner and apologist you are! The world is getting sick of your kind. Who are we to say they are wrong? Anyone with half a brain! The claim that having those two women in the picture ..."could be considered seksually suggestive" says so much about the sickess of mind of these orthodox. There is no way on earth that ANYONE, unless they have some serious mentral issues, could ready ANYTHING seksual into that picture with those two women in it. To even suggest such a thing is absolutely ludicrous. This is one of the problems with religion. Att-i-tudes based in the dark ages are still spawning big lies to the people. It's amazing that you seem to have no problem with this blatant propaganda and complete distortion of reality, as if the people, orthodox or not, have no right to the truth. People like you scare me.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  2. Pam

    Are all religions so full of lunatics and backwards cave men? I say cave MEN, because us women don't even exist, apparently. It seems to me that ALL religions have a real problem with acknowledging that women really are capable, smart, intelligence and strong. When I read the bible when I was 12 years old, that convinced me that religion is not for smart people! So ridiculous! Laughable, really.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • W247

      At 12 years old you were mature enough to understand the Bible? How wonderful for you!!! How has your career taken you with your knowledge?

      Since you did study the bible then you will know how Jesus honored women throughout His lifetime. Even making a point to make sure that His earthly mother was taken care of on earth, and that a woman would not get stoned for actions she was forced to take in her lifetime, that cultural barriers were crossed with love and kindness ( Samaritan woman) through His interaction with a woman He met at a well. When He was resurrected, the first people that He showed Himself to, were woman, at a great honor to them.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
  3. JohnCL

    It appears tat another female face was also deleted from the photo. One from the very back of the original.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Nancy

      Good spot! Now try reading the article: "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."

      May 9, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  4. Doc Vestibule

    "Sin began with a woman and thanks to her we all must die."
    Ecclesiasticus, 25:19
    "Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says."
    -1 Corinthians 14:34
    "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission."
    -1 Timothy 2:11

    A good Christian woman should be silent, submissive, subservient and filled with shame for the curse her gender forced on humanity.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • gina

      as I noted above this is what is wrong with religion.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • ckelley

      Yes, and the bible also says that a talking snake tricked a naked lady into eating an apple from a magical garden. Enough said about the validity of THAT particular book of fairy tales.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Vicki

      Wow, the nutbars are out full force.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • PCF

      Doc – your mom must be so proud – and right after mothers' day. By the way, humanity minus women leaves only men – are you free of sin?

      May 9, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • tim Ricard

      Who were the first to see the empty tomb two women, who stayed loyal to Christ, these two women when the disciples fled.
      You found 3 of the 31,173 verses which supported your position

      May 9, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Jim

      Not just a talking snake, but a talking snake with legs.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • W247

      Ok my friend, so we all know that you can pick and choose verses out of the bible, out of context and with apparently no understanding, to make a point that is really untrue. If you have done any studying at all then you will know how Jesus honored women throughout His lifetime. Even making a point to make sure that His earthly mother was taken care of on earth, and that a woman would not get stoned for actions she was forced to take in her lifetime, that cultural barriers were crossed with love and kindness ( Samaritan woman) through His interaction with a woman He met at a well. When He was resurrected, the first people that He showed Himself to, were woman, at a great honor to them.

      Stop writing ignorant and inflammatory statements without backing them up with study and thoughtfulness.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • Stevie7

      There are FAR more than three highly misogynistic verses in the bible. And your counter argument is that two women were lucky enough to have found jesus first after the resurrection?

      And clearly Doc's comments were tongue in cheek to the rest of you haters.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @W247
      My point is exactly that you can pick and choose bible verses to prove anything. The book is just a huge collection of contradictions that one can use it to bolster just about any argument about anything.
      The wonderful thing about citing God as a source is that nobody can disprove you.
      Like those that use scripture to prove that gays are going to hell.
      If I want to, I can show you that God hates left handed people.
      "A wise man's heart is at his right hand; but a fool's heart at his left."
      – Ecclesiastes 10:2
      "The right hand of the lord doeth valiantly, the right hand of the lord is exalted."
      – Psalm 118 vv15,16

      Those lefties better change their dominant hands before Judgement day on the 21st, right? The Bible says so.

      So far as I'm concerned, the only version of The Bible with real value is Thomas Jefferson's as he literally cut out the virgin birth, miracle stories, claims to Jesus' divinity and the resurrection.
      He knew that one needn't swallow the dogmatic foolishness of religion in order live one's life in the image of Christ – that is humbly, compassionately, peaceful and without condemnation.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • thebob.bob

      TJ's bible is a direct rebuke to the mystical and magical fantasies of religious fanatics of his time. They were burning people as witches and the founding fathers wanted nothing to do with them. That's why they wanted to keep them out of government. The idea of a "faith-based" government is against every principle they fought for.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Cathy Scott Pollard

      Read ALL the texts surrounding these you self serving.....

      May 9, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Cathy Scott Pollard
      What I'm doing here is an exercise in reductio ad absurdum.
      Plenty of religionists have spouted bits and pieces of their "infallible" tracts to condemn this and that from a fiery pulpit.
      But let me ask – do you adhere to ALL of the Bible?
      Many Christians will state that the New Testament supercedes the Old (especially the absurd rules in Leviticus) and yet will still quote OT scripture when it suits them.
      Do you believe Revelation to be accurate and truthful?
      Is all of the Bible to be taken literally? Is it allegorical? If so, which parts are metaphor and which parts historical truth?
      Why can one denomination's interpretation drastically differ from another's?
      To an outsider watching the historical squabbling between hundreds of Christian sects, it gets hard to take any of it seriously.
      An religion that can worship a trinity and call itself monotheistic is capable of rationalizing anything.
      A prudent person considers shamans con-men until proven otherwise and is wary of anyone who claims faith as their motivation.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Thinks2010

      PCF–Nice sentiment, however, a more accurate statement would be, humanity without women leaves humanity extinct.

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

      Ouch. Someone hit a whole bunch of over-sensitive nerves. And they absolutely missed his whole point. And in the end proved my view. That organized religion is the great destroyer of civilization because it removes the need for people to think independently, to accept responsibility for their decisions & opinions, and gives the authority for determining right and wrong to others instead of oneself.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • Everyone is dumb

      Says a book written by men......

      May 9, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
    • MJ

      Yeah let's not forget – Jesus and the disciples were funded by women, women stayed at the crucifixion when the male disciples fled and upon resurrection, Jesus first appeared to a woman. The male disciples were just bitter and jealous

      May 9, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
  5. JohnRJ08

    This is sickening.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  6. JewsAreConfusingUS

    Perhaps American taxpayers should demand no more subsidies be sent to Israel. It could be considered the same as if we were actually murdering, maming, raping, and stealing the land of Palestinians first hand.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  7. Rachel

    Reminds me of the Taliban ... this hatred of women. As a mother of two Jewish-heritage girls, I RENOUNCE these Fundamentalist ... ashamed that they are Jewish. You will be JUDGED, you HATERS, fake-Jews.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  8. Crissa

    You can pick your opinions, but you DO NOT get to pick your facts.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  9. Deby

    Yes, Mark, the word is xenophobia. I'd also like to add ignorance and narcisism.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  10. gina

    This is what is wrong with religion. The cause of most wars and conflicts in the world and the subjugation of women everywhere.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  11. 12Purple

    There are a lot of religions that have problems with women because they are all run by men. SHow me any organizaed religion that isn't about power and control – and money.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Scott

      Ok....Buddhism

      May 9, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • Tenayaj

      @Scott
      Technically, Buddhism is about self-control... Soooo...

      May 9, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
  12. sonofgadfly

    5exually suggestive? Yeah, that was my first thought.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Thinks2010

      Your humorous and pithy comment is my favorite for today.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  13. ITK

    This should be a calling. More Jewish people should study graphics/design. That was a hackish 'shop job at best.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  14. truebuckeye

    aaaa, Paul, read the 3rd and 4th paragraphs.............................K?

    May 9, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  15. Shamrock6

    They should sue the paper for illegal usage of the photograph.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  16. Andrew

    Religion is pure evil and can't be trusted, ever.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • hmm

      wow, way to generalize... please think before writing.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
  17. Rachel

    Woman haters ... just like all Fundamentalists ... full of hate and dangerous to all. FBI, CIA watch these people closely, they are a threat to American values and civilization.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  18. Mainstreet Citizen

    Short and to the point, its copyright violation and the paper should be put on the "no distribution" list for all government publications, press releases, pictures and their white house press creditials lifted immediately if they have any. This is the 21st century folks! Lets get with it. Woman exactly the same rights as us men. If this had happened in China, N Korea or some arab country, the WH would be all over it claiming human rights abuse.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • Joe

      Absolutely correct. They forfeit their right to receive further news releases.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  19. dawn

    What struck me as inconsiderate and rude was the fact that Audrey tomasen is short compared to the people around her, yet she (and the gentleman next to her) had to crane her neck in order to catch a glimpse on the screen. I think the more appropriate question to be asked here is what ever happened to manners that the shorter people are no longer given the opportunity to move in front of the group so they can see what the he!! is going on? Then again, these are probably people Obama appointed, so there you go.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • truebuckeye

      please..shorter people to the front...really, and it is all a huge conspiracy by Obama, some how I think he had bigger fish to fry than the setting arrangements for this event..relax..breathe in..breathe out..move on..(Jimmy Buffet)

      May 9, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • truebuckeye

      please..shorter people to the front...really, and it is all a huge conspiracy by Obama, some how I think he had bigger fish to fry than the seating arrangements for this event..relax..breathe in..breathe out..move on..(Jimmy Buffet)

      May 9, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • stevo

      Who is shorter is not the priority at that moment. That is just so out of touch with whats happening. It's who needs to be in front or got there first. If she wanted she could have moved up and didn't need to get permission.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • PCF

      Really?

      May 9, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • Jim

      This is just a guess, since I don't know who everyone in the picture is, but rather than assume rudeness, maybe a person's position indicates rank...the more important people (The President, Vice President, Secretary of State, etc.) are seated in the front, those of less rank standing in back. Maybe it would be better and more polite to let the shorter people up front, but that is not the way these things usually work in offices.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Stevie7

      Perhaps they should have told the SEAL team to hang on a moment while they moved the vertically challenged closer to the screen. The president's fairly tall, so maybe he should have just stood in the doorway.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • Insider

      Having been in on these sorts of developing situations in the past, I assure you it is more likely because she was ducking out to do other stuff, and popping back in from time to time to catch up. That's how things work. Some people can sit and watch the whole event, other people are trying to keep an eye on it as well as make phone calls, coordinate with other agencies, and so on. This is nothing new, and it is nothing unique to the Obama administration. Stop looking for things to be offended at Obama over.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  20. Greenspam

    Today, Republican newspaper says, "what? you can remove pictures of people that you don't think should be there?" and promptly removed President Obama's image from this picture claiming that black man has no place being in charge in American politics.

    May 9, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Kilovolt

      Which Republican newspaper? You also made up your comment. Why?

      May 9, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • gremlin

      Kilovolt-Spend less time on incredulity and more time looking up sarcasm. If you want to get upset at something, you should be upset at the lame attempt at humor. 🙂

      May 10, 2011 at 2:21 am |
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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.