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. alexx

    Hahaha...religion is just seperatist bs.

    May 9, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
  2. Ray Koper

    Men should take good care of their women, because most of good to their men and only think of the best for them. Mutual respect and a balanced marriage, makes this go so well. 🙂

    For as smart Jews as supposed to be, that's pretty damn stupid for a news paper of any credibility to put out, Shame on you!

    May 9, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
  3. Jessica

    Ahhhh.... If only we could do this in real life..........

    May 9, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  4. Neil Dadaska

    Down with the Jews! Down with Christians! Down with Muslims! Down into the mass grave of scorn we rightly delegate your bullsht into! Down down down doobie down doobie down down down. Breaking them ain't hard tooo do.

    May 9, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
  5. Lin

    If the intent of erasing the women's images was not meant to be "disparaging" as stated in the article, then what the heck was it meant to be???

    May 9, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
  6. shastadaisy

    There should a law against this kind of tampering, the archaic ideas aside. This has nothing to do with journalism. And don't blame the whole "tribe" for the actions of a few nutcases.

    May 9, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
  7. SDN

    Rules of Modesty? Wouldn't it then follow that we put pants on all non-human animals that actually have genitalia? There are a lot of very strange people on this planet, and it seems that the vast majority belong to some hallucination-based cult or another.

    May 9, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
  8. patricia

    Di Tzeitung imihjy of ran a doctored photo to get attention, building a bigger soap box through fraud, tradition. Surely they had heard objections of their practice before. Now gaining fame on the dime of women at work.

    May 9, 2011 at 6:57 pm |


    May 9, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
  10. Moses

    What is this Firestorm all about?? Orthodox Jewish Newspapers will never publish a picture of a women, no matter the age; race and so on! due to their Modesty rules.. even a picture of Hallen Thomas they will not post...

    May 9, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • Landruu

      The problem is that they doctored the photo. It's fine not to publish a picture of a female if they do not wish. However, publishing a picture that is no longer the truth is a problem.

      May 9, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
  11. richard aptekar

    Disgusting. Dishonest. Crap from controlling, misdirected editors. Shame on the publication.

    May 9, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  12. Moderate

    I'm just wondering what would the media reaction be if this was done by an islamic publication?!?!?!?

    May 9, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • doublestandard

      I was thinking the same thing!

      May 9, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
  13. JT

    Lol...if anyone is getting a bo-ner over Hilliary then you have bigger problems than your dark ages religion.....just ask Bill.

    May 9, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • Faux Paws

      I suppose you're getting one over the guys in the picture.

      May 9, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
  14. mark

    We should kick any religion out of our country that denigrates women like this anal Jewish sect. I would take away their non profit status and make the men eunichs. That way they would die out over time and this ridiculous sect would be no more.

    May 9, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  15. Deborah Doe (real name)

    Not only Clinton was removed but the other lady in the back ground too???

    May 9, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  16. Victor Goodwin

    Sing along with me, now:

    "Hava Re-tard-a, hava re-tard-a..."

    May 9, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  17. Carl, Secaucus, NJ

    I'm sure that there are plenty of religious Jews who do respect women...but I don't think this sect does. I'm sorry, I don't see how editing the Secretary of State (the most senior Cabinet member) out of a picture of her at her job, dressed as conservatively as any of the men, for no other reason than she is a woman, can be seen as anything other than denigrating women.

    May 9, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  18. Zenith

    If men are stronger and more moral than women, then they should be able to withstand the "temptations and evile that women bring to the world". Afterall, women came from a "man's rib". So, will someone explain why these orthodox views persist in blaming women for their "shortcomings"? Pun intended.

    May 9, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  19. justsayinnnn

    Just WHAT, I'd like to know, was immodest about these two women? Do these 'journalists' believe, like the radical Islams, that all women should wear whole-body veils as well?!

    May 9, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  20. Lynn1234

    Oh, please I smell an "Onion"....

    May 9, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • JT

      if only it were "The Onion" making a parody but religions are making it hard to parody them anymore. Another example are Christian churches giving away large flat screen TVs, etc. if you come to their church, etc.

      May 9, 2011 at 6:46 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.