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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. balled gerkin magnet

    btw- This dark aged publication broke copywrite laws. THey should pay the price.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  2. Frank A NYC

    The allegations that religious Jews denigrate women or do not respect women in public office is a malicious slander and libel."

    You wjust prefer that women are not seen, least the men get offended.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • Artist

      They clearly hate women

      May 9, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • Norm

      You got to be troglodyte to be "offended" by looking at a woman, or some misanthrope. I look for the day when that religion of
      this Hasidic people will move up to 5th century B.C

      May 9, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  3. joey

    christians, muslims, jews, all children of abraham, killing each other. Brilliant. Please, just kill each other already.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  4. Jenn

    This country would be better off without any religion.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  5. henry

    that prove a point that i long believe, they have the different way to reproduce there next generations other then man and woman @$$$ together .

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

    This only seems nuts because it is not your religion... but if you are religious then your religion (also) seems nuts to me. When religions are selective on what they use from their religious texts then they can become acceptable to the modern mainstream. These Ultra Orthodox Jews may be extreme – but they haven't been selective in their reading and so they are at least honest with themselves (and nuts.)

    May 9, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  7. Dave

    So I am disappointed, it seems there is no difference between Jews and Arab religion, both are barbaric

    May 9, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • Artist

      Bingo
      Religion – returning people to the stone age

      May 9, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • Norm

      Arab Religion?? What is Arab religion? No such thing. Islam is one religion embraced by Arabs. But so is Christianity, Bahai, etc.
      In your haste, you exposed your ignorance

      May 9, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • tj

      This is true in Catholicism and of those who do not practice any known or unknown religion. This is not just a Jew and Islamic response.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
  8. tj

    All the Human Rights violations like bigotry, discrimination and gender inequality in world are right here in the good old USA as well. We need to change our ways before we point fingers on the rest of humanity. Women are people too. Looks like a federal case of class discrimination to me. Not to mention misrepresentation of the Unites States Government in a political rag. All under the guise of religion!!

    May 9, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  9. binny22

    Still, the only real news is unbiased news. You can't alter it- even for religious purposes. Shame on a news publication for running an altered photo. Either run it untouched, or do not run it. Don't care if they "apologized" for not reading the fine print. An altered photo is a lie ,no matter what, and a picture speaks a thousand words.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • rh

      Honestly, they could have made it into separate pictures only showing the men, or only one picture with Obama. Why did they not make him white wearing a yarmulke and with long curly sideburns?

      May 9, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  10. South Side

    Them some silly Jews.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  11. Jimmy

    It's really funny to me how everyone complains about Muslims hiding their women from sight and yet it is completely alright for an ultra-orthodox Jewish newspaper to do the same.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  12. Bob N.

    It is precisely this sort of nonsense that turns modern people off to religion. How can a normal Jew, who does not believe that every worin the Bible is true, be a memeber of a religion who"s views are so out of touch with reality?

    May 9, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  13. Paul

    i dont like hillary myself, but removing her is a act of evil, not of faith or freedom or otherwise.

    both islam and jewish and christian all tend to go to far in claims of faith or religious freedoms and etc..

    Fortunately most normal people will ignore faiths that do this.

    Removal of her in this case is a act of evil and nothing else.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  14. balled gerkin magnet

    Gerkins are good with potato knishes. This should stick to the subject though. When Ms. Clinton spoke for years into a microphone and press shots were administered, Did the dark aged publication show a podium with a microphone and erase her image ? This really is a laughing matter. How can real news and events be properly captured and noted, if "females" must be erased ? This is totally ridiculous. Is this how this piticular group of jewish elders want their kids to grow up.
    I will not even begin to explain all the basic, along with important news will be altered and how it will confuse their children while growing up. Perhaps certain history books must be re-evaluated in case the rather important women in the jewish comunity were just erased.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • finnyd420

      I had the same ques. the other day. A little research and the answer would be YES. I asked specifically about Golda Mierer (Israel former PM) and was told that no pics of her would have been published in a Habinic newspaper. If Hillary was Pres. they would have used a stock photo of the WH or something similar. Crazy yes but that what you get when the world continues to believe in stories that are older than Cinderella.

      May 12, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
  15. T. Lee

    Just as STUPID as Muslim fundamentalists are about women.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • rh

      And they don't see how Arabs and Jews are much more alike than any other peoples. It is like two tribes in Africa fighting over the same land – they come from the same stock.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  16. JewWhoCannotViewPhotosOfFemales

    All Jewish males suffer from premature ejaculation. We have so little control in this way that viewing photos of women can double our weekly laundry bill. Please understand and Shalom.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • binny22

      Thank you for finally bringing this out in the open- Of course! Only possible explanation!

      May 9, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • Dennis

      Very funny!!!!

      May 9, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  17. Paul

    i DONT LIKE hillary myself, but removing her from the pic is not a religious or freedoom act..
    Its pure evil.

    Any faith that denies the facts of a event or of the contributions of any person (male or female) is evil in its own set.

    BTW, BOTH

    May 9, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • rh

      Misogyny is accepted, as is anti-Catholic rhetoric, but G-d forbid anyone would say anything even remotely anti-Semitic...

      May 9, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Atteckus

      Right on Paul. Doesn't matter what faith, what political persuasion, what demented reasoning. The denial or hiding of the truth about the doings of our government is evil. Today, it is a religious newspaper doing so for demented reasons. I find it incredulous that they did not explain in text that Hillary and Audrey had been omitted from the picture for "religious reasons." It militates against believing their excuses and religious explanations, because it demonstrates an intention to deceive. They are not religiously prevented from mentioning women in text, but they are commanded by God – NOT TO LIE (Thou shalt not bear false witness).

      This is the same reason it is evil to conceal the photographs of Osama. We, the People, have a right to see what was done in our name, done at our behest, and done at our expense. And as Jon Stewart aptly implied, how will we decide whether we approve of a policy (like war) if the government prevents us from seeing and knowing what the consequences of the policy truly are. We did not establish this government to be the arbiter of what information the People can have access to.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  18. Charlie from the North

    BTW a Klan publication could show this picture without Obama, But that would not change the facts. Obama cabinet has all kinds of people.... so have the past fewadministrations....but GOP and Democratic. God Bless America. (All of America!)

    May 9, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  19. Soundbug

    This is just sick, backward, thinking. Just sick! And STUPID! How twisted that men are so much more important than women in this so called religion. Yikes....very very scary.

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

      so true, if only they could analize their alter boys at the same rate

      May 9, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  20. tehSuxXorcist

    they tried to photoshop them into a kitchen somewhere but didn't get it done in time to publish

    May 9, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • rh

      Are they allowed to show men without yarmulkes? That should be not allowed either by their teachings.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • Damon Amos

      They definitely have a gift using Photoshop. They should of Adobe'd in a picture of Osama Bin Laden in the room with his mouth covered lol

      May 9, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • joey

      i wonder if the pope used photoshop on the alter boys

      May 9, 2011 at 4:28 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.