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. skeptic

    It turns out the difference between ultra-Orthodox Jews and ultra-conservative Muslims is just a veil.

    May 9, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • tldixon

      truer words were never typed

      May 9, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      All's veil that ends veil...

      May 9, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • Dee

      And a terrorist label? It's incredibly ignorant to equate these two groups.

      What's wrong with you people? Didn't you ever learn critical thinking skills? The anti-semitism here is shocking!

      May 9, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
  2. stormsun

    "...we regret if this gives an impression of disparaging women." No, sir, it does not. It demonstrates your disparagement of women very clearly. Yes, you enjoy freedom of religion in America...and thanks to the laws of this land, women are EQUAL TO YOU. They can even go to school and vote, how about that? And, thanks to my right to express myself freely, it is my right to express contempt for the stupidity you exhibit – "in my opinion," of course.

    May 9, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
  3. StupidityHunter

    This is just moronic. Ok, take religion completely out of the picture. These people print their own newspaper. They know all about copywrite and doctoring photos. ESPECIALLY governement docs. Rather than prove to the world that you are a complete bumbling idiot 'Don't Publish the Article" !!

    I used to be a Christian employee of a Jewish Synagogue. They hire Christians so that there is someone there to break the Sabboth (sundown on Friday evening) and flip the light switch...serious. I have never worked for a more arrogant group of people in my life. I was literally told that they are God's chosen people, and come before the rest of us in his eyes....what ever. The Rabbi was an arrogant maniacal overbearing blowhard...and that was on a good day. There were a lot of congregational members whom I loved, but the leadership was a flaming joke. Can't wait to get to heaven and have that Rabbi told, sorry ladies first...and I will get to walk in front of him...LOL

    May 9, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • RoseMcB

      Holy Crap! They're as bad as the Taliban! I had no freakin' idea! That's disgusting.

      May 9, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • Jim

      That's copyRIGHT, not copywrite.

      May 9, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  4. WeakFolkNeedGod

    They removed the women from the photos because their "Laws of Modesty." In other words, they wanted to protect Clinton and Tomason from men thinking impure thoughts regarding their likeness. In a sick and twisted way, it's a compliment. So, in closing, ultra orthodox jewish men find Hillary Clinton attractive. That should actually be the headline, CNN.

    May 9, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  5. Greg Huey

    This is pretty sad – are the people running this paper trying to take lessons in feminism from the Taliban?

    Freedom of religion does not give one the right to lie/libel which is effectively what altered photos like this are.

    May 9, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • Greg Huey

      Thus I would say journalistic integrity forbids them from publishing altered photos. If they feel so strongly that it is immoral to publish a picture with a woman in it, then they simply should not publish any photo that fits that criteria. I'd bet that paper would publish many fewer photos.

      May 9, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
  6. carrotroot

    If they had such a problem with the picture then they should not have used it.

    May 9, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • Dee

      A voice of reason! Bravo!

      May 9, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  7. John _Atlanta GA

    Reigion remains the heart of most probelms !

    May 9, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  8. Woody

    Wiping away any trace of Hillary ever existing should be so easy

    May 9, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  9. Aidan

    Once again religion dragging us backwards to dark ages.

    May 9, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • Dee

      How is it drawing 'you' back to the dark ages? You did say "us."

      May 9, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  10. Daveid Johnson

    Wow! What time warp are these guys living in?

    May 9, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
  11. Jimmythinks

    Religion–the crutch of society ...Also, consider government; like the State Motto of MD "Fatti Maschii Parole Femine, meaning Manly Deeds, Womanly Words or Men do, Women talk I think both are a little skewed.

    May 9, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  12. Larry W

    The elders are in need of a heavy dose of vitamin "F".

    May 9, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  13. Stop Judging

    Hi – I think everyone should calm down. You cannot judge an entire group of people based on the actions of an independent newspaper trying to reach out to their audience. These people are not bad they have simply made a choice in how they want to live their lives. You would be shocked to see how much airbrushing goes on in almost every magazine/publication with its pictures. Women have been made completely acne free and four sizes smaller then they really are. It is 100% different to remove a person of course, but it happens A LOT with major publications – google it. Every race/religion/nationality/etc. has something about it that another person thinks is insane. Instead of hating, perhaps everyone should try to make themselves a better person and be a bit less judgemental.

    May 9, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • Daveid Johnson

      Thank you oh, great and wise one for sharing your vast and considerable knowledge with us lowly ones!

      May 9, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • Elmo


      Actually they need to go back to figuring out if the Lard will send them to Gehenna for flicking on the light switch on the Sabbath.

      May 9, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
  14. the truth

    honesty who cares if they show hillary clinton in the picture or not? she didnt do the killing. she shouldnt be celebrated. she had about as much right to watch that video and be in that picture then every american citizen. hell all editing her out did was make the picture a little easier on the eyes. STOP COMPLAINING ABOUT WHAT DOESN'T MATTER AND DO THINGS THAT DO MATTER

    May 9, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • tldixon

      seems like you hate women as much as jews and muslims

      May 9, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  15. Beasterdamas

    You people Jewish or otherwise have got to get over religion...please, you are destroying the world we live in because of your fear based faith...

    May 9, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • Dee

      How the heck are these people destroying the world. They are about as harmless as the Amish! Anti-semitism must be alive and well through these threads. I'm not Jewish AND I'm a modern woman. What's with the inability to let people have their own faith if they're not hurting anyone?

      May 9, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  16. patrolboat

    These ultra-Orthodox Jews are just as whacked as al-Qaeda.

    May 9, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • Dee

      Uh, no. That is the most ridiculous statement I've seen this afternoon!

      May 9, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • Amanda

      All religions fall under the same category.

      May 9, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • absurd

      Do the ultra orthodox crash planes and blow up buildings?

      May 9, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  17. Ryan

    I don't believe a word they say about not degrading women...If that were true, why aren't the women of that religion able to do what they want to. If you use the excuse, "it's part of our religion" then your god is a degrader too..

    May 9, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  18. thatsjarrod

    And remember. These people are our "allies".

    May 9, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • C'mon

      Yes, New Yorkers are our allies.

      May 9, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • Duckman

      "These people" ? Wow, careful or you might just sound racist. "These people" are Americans – read the article.

      May 9, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • casper

      They are not American, they are Israeli's living in the US for financial gain. Trying to change our country to Israel's benefit.

      May 9, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      casper wrote: "They are not American, they are Israeli's living in the US"

      You couldn't be farther from the truth... Most of these people don't even recognize the State of Israel... They're waiting for their Messiah to show up first...

      May 9, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • not for nothing

      I thought NY was another country and your statement conforms that, now if we could only get those pesky Neyawkers to learn english. Oh by the by Newyawkers are not our allies... remember 9-11-2001? America under attack... New York under attack? Ahh, so we still have male chauvanist in this country... what else is new?

      May 9, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • vasechek

      casper, they don't recognize israel because it doesn't fit in with their religious views. they are so anti-israel, they use a different language to disassociate from anything israeli... a lot of them are dirt poor... clinical cases...

      May 9, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • Dee

      Give me a break – at least they aren't terrorists!

      May 9, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • joanna

      these are stupid americans who think a pic of a politician is gonna make their husbands' have an affair. this has nothing to do with being "an ally." take your anti-semitism and shove.

      May 9, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
  19. Phil

    Religion...once again censoring everything. Isn't it about time we censor and abolish all religions?

    May 9, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • Dee

      That's a pretty deceptive statement. Religion does not censor 'everything.' In fact, I can find more instances these days of the liberal media censoring what they think is not PC. To think America gives you the freedom to make such dumb remarks! I hope you're grateful.

      May 9, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • not for nothing

      Does freedom of speech exclude omittion of speech... I mean am I free not to say something. It's called freedom of speech right? Or is it freeeeedom of speech as long as they say what you want to hear. Freeedom of politicall coorect speech.

      May 9, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • Phil

      Yes, Dee... America. Quite possibly THE best place to live on this planet. Freedom to say what I want. Freedom to travel anywhere I want. Freedom to choose my beliefs. Freedom to own as many guns as I want.

      May 9, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  20. Julie Labrouste

    ... O.o ... w ... t ... F! Are we in the F****** 19th Century again!?

    May 9, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • Relictus

      More like the 15th, when religious leaders wondered if women had souls.

      May 9, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • Dennis Pence

      If we could just figure out how to erase the rest of the idiots in Washington – would be a good start.

      May 9, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • Julie Labrouste

      Heytsus Tap-Dancing Kryst! Will PIGS ever cease?

      May 9, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • stupid religions

      proves that muslims aren't the only ones living in the past

      May 9, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • Morgana

      just a little hint at what they think about honesty in History. Anyone following these people should seriously second guess EVERYTHING they have been told. This is, of course how many religions operate. Misinformation is the best way to keep people... uh... ... misinformed. Cheers!

      May 9, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • Dave

      These are the same people that wrote the bible. Things haven't changed in thousands of years. They are still trying to rewrite history so that if benefits them.

      May 9, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • Automated Same Day Religion Turd Detector


      May 9, 2011 at 7:56 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.