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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. dink

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

    I'm sorry to bust your bubble; but this particular denomination DOES do that in every way. The Clinton vote is because she could push power their way.. no other reason. FAKING ANY PHOTOGRAPH IS DAMNING AND INDEFENSIBLE. YOU ARE NOT GUARANTEED ANY RELIGIOUS PROTECTION UNDER UNDER U.S. LAW!!.. This publication has just reduced themselves and their faith to little more than a cult status. It is absolutely sickening.

    May 9, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  2. TRouble

    How do we know she wasn't painted in to begin with? lol

    May 9, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  3. TRouble

    Hillary says: "This is a vast right-wing conspiracy" lol

    May 9, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  4. darrel

    We castigate the islamic faith for their treatment of women-and rightly so. Why then do we turn a blind eye to the ultra, and sometimes plain, orthodox hebrew? No religion is beyond questioning or comment. If it's that thin skinned, then it's belief's aren't that strong and should be pretty much ignored anyway

    May 9, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  5. Melanie

    Hmmmmm... getting turned on by seeing Hillary Clinton....those Chasidim really do need to get out a little...

    May 9, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  6. Nurse Lisa

    so they couldn't have simply used a different photo? Choosing to alter without permission and then republish a great undoubtedly copyrighted photo already seen by millions of all faiths and none, sure sounds like they are guilty of the same type of discrimination from which they wish to be exempt.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  7. Chewy

    yeah totally. we're women, we dont actually need to be seen or head in newspapers or media. female presence is so 90s.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  8. cankles

    would you want that beast in a pic? the whole thing was staged anyway, they could have just asked her to leave for the second photo

    May 9, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  9. Melanie

    That is rubbish- there is no rabbinical prohibition against seeing a dressed woman in a picture. If you haven't taught men to control themselves then you haven't done your jobs. I have a great idea for these chasidim- put the wife and daughters in the basement, and have all the boys in the family upstairs- or maybe have separate streets for men and women- or maybe separate countries- a country for women and one for men.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  10. J

    Why do we give these people ANY exposure?

    May 9, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
  11. mat

    Man... religion is stupid.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • sigh

      Yup, in a word.

      May 9, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  12. Carlos

    Editors of Di Tzeitung, perhaps you should re-analyze your interpretation of your religious laws. I find it hard to believe your deity intended such a breathtakingly inane result.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • vasechek

      they don't attempt to analyze it... they do what the rabbinical board tells them to do... this is called faith...

      May 9, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  13. jo mama

    there is no way in HELL those ultra conservatives voted for her willingly. her senatorship was bought and paid for just like her husband's presidency. money is a wonderful thing.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • Albert911emt

      stupid comment

      May 9, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  14. Rob

    lol whats funny is that if this was a Muslim magazine, the white house and the Americans would take that as a target against clinton and the other chick,,,, but since the jews did that its cool, since Americans love their jews. This whole terrorism war would be over, if the jews would leave the states go back to israel and americans would stop funding your tax money to that country. All corporations are run by jews and they have this community of corruption. I'm not really religious but have read the bible.. and one thing gets me.. when Judas was screwed over to showing then jesus, in return the devil said the jews will one day be wealthy and own land., well they are wealthy and are trying to take land

    May 9, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • vasechek

      this comment is a masterpiece. suggest you donate your brain to a museum of pathology near you.

      May 9, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • Albert911emt

      I see where you are going with your comments, and while I agree with part of what you said, you went off the rails a bit with your anti-jew bigotry.

      May 9, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
    • Nurse Lisa

      guess in all that Bible reading you glossed over the parts where God refers to the Jewish nation as His chosen people (Jesus was Jewish). Please provide the reference for where in the Bible the devil promised prosperity to them.

      May 9, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  15. Burbank

    Doesn't get any more chauvinistic than that! How can women even agree to belong to these religions that put them down? They should have just not bothered to use a photo at all. Catholicism, Judaism and Islam are all religions run by extremely insecure men with "dinky winkie" syndrome. Most, but not all, Protestant/Christian religions are included in that category too.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • Sarah

      Let me guess, you a***h***, you're Protestant?

      May 9, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • sigh

      Hit a nerve there, eh Sarah?

      May 9, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  16. Jason

    What a bizarre belief, that showing a picture of a woman at work in the white house is somehow violating her modesty. Do these fellows get hot and bothered when they see pictures of fully clothed women in their 60s?

    May 9, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  17. Wolf

    Major failure. Another stupid male dominated religious belief. That type of "protecting" women is nothing more than a veiled project to keep women subservient to men. To Hades with you, you Hasidic fools.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  18. Bill Wood

    There is nothing "modest" about a photo of a woman. To stamp them out like they don't exist is to deny half of God's creation. Any religion that refuses to treat women equally is not deserving of respect from civilized people.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • Albert911emt

      Mr. Wood, very well said. Kudos to you.

      May 9, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  19. GiveItARest

    Just like you like it. Women totally non-existent. nice.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  20. Gerry Evans

    AMEN.... AMEN....!!

    May 9, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      You mean: Ahhh, Men... Ahhh, Men...

      May 9, 2011 at 5:52 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.