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. Sandra

    Such BS, I'm glad I'm a 'regular' Jew. Extremism in all its forms are dangerous.

    May 9, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
  2. Jimbo

    Schmucks. Enjoy your alternate universe, and oh, good work by your "Rabbinical Board."

    May 9, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
  3. jdog1063

    This photo taken by the White House photographer and distributed to all of the news agencies was the only photo of the bin Laden mission released to the Press for several days.
    It was released by the White House to be published by the Press the very next day after the raid. Republicans and their right wing radio hosts wailed for days about Obama's decision not to release any actual photos of the raid, or of bin Laden, but this photo distributed by the White House to the Press disproves all of their meaningless rants!
    This is the only photo that ever needed to be released. It is the only photo that Americans needed to see.
    Why would Americans want to see the dead body of bin Laden, when we have such a great photo of our General Obama leading the mission by Closed Circuit TV? Look at how "serious" General Obama is. And Mrs. Clinton gives such a great femininity to the Administration's operation. Obviously, if you want something done right, a woman has to be a part of it! This is such a great photo of the folks that really made this happen. Why can't the rightwingers see how great General Obama is, and quit griping about photo releases? This is the only photo the American voters needed to see of this whole operation, and let's give credit where credit is due!

    May 9, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
  4. Joshua

    You know what makes it hard to be religious in America. It isn't faith in a God whose existence you can't prove (or disprove}. It isn't the intolerance, hate, and persecution you receive from people {including many posting here}. It is knowing that no matter how good a life you live you will always in some way be associated with people such as those that write for Di Tzeitung.

    May 9, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
  5. Pizzadeliveryboy

    Why should we believe anything any of them over there say? Really....cover up your women, cover up the truth...live the lie.

    May 9, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
  6. guy

    By altering the picture...they are NOT telling the truth...what idiots!!!

    May 9, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • Pizzadeliveryboy

      Umm....DUH!!! Captain Obvious.

      May 9, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
  7. riga

    "The allegations that religious Jews denigrate women or do not respect women in public office is a malicious slander and libel" is just as true as when the Wizard told Dorothy and the gang to "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!"

    May 9, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • Pizzadeliveryboy

      Really...Jewish women are actually pretty hot....until married. Then they turn into Barbara Streisand.

      May 9, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
  8. Grumpster

    This is exactly why religion is complete and 100% BS. Suppression of the truth for 1000's of years. Made up stories of fantasyland told by prejudiced and mythos-based mentality that doesn't want to know that science has proven them wrong, and that we would all be far better off without them.

    May 9, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
  9. oregonian101

    They should publish the photo on the front page of their paper, unaltered, with an apologetic large font apology. I'm all for supporting Israel, but, America should not be offended by even their most ultra-conservative factions. Whether or not you like Secretary Clinton, this should not be tolerated by any American. Or, do Hasidic plan on imposing their own form of Sharia law when they finish wiping out the Palestinians?

    May 9, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
    • vasechek

      1. hasidic jews in brooklyn have nothing to do with israel and vice versa
      2. hasidic jews as a group votes blue and played a role in electing clinton to the senate seat from ny twice and her hubby to the wh twice
      3. hasidic jews never dream of imposing any sort of religious laws on anyone – not even fellow jews, who they feel SHOULD follow the same path (but do that voluntarily), let alone non-jews.
      4. as much as i can't stand that lady up front the fact that they made it look like she wasn't even there is apalling to me, so there, we can agree on something

      May 9, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
  10. Nicholas Voss


    May 9, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
  11. josh thomas

    Faith never outweighs fact

    May 9, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    If they have altered the pictures, one wonders if they have also altered the teachings they teach to their believers.

    May 9, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
  13. arch

    If the girl in the back for director of counterterrorism she should have been up in the front. It just shows that the men still think they are more important. My feeling is none of these people should have been watching these live feeds. I am sure that the reason Clinton has her hand over her mouth is because at that moment someone was being killed. Whether it was binL or someone else it doesn't matter. The only people that should have been watching were the ones in Virginia who setup everything. There is too much of this crap of sensationalism when it comes to events like this one. We hear that obama talked to the one who shot binL. Is that a big deal. Walking up to him and holding the gun to his head and pulling the trigger! Wow! That seems so hard to do. I bet it wasn't one of the SEALS at all. I bet it was one of the 2 CIA ops who led the assault. That was their job. That was their orders that obama signed on that piece of paper. With obama, who looked like he was hiding behind Biden, and the others watching if there was to be some type of inquiry into the actions of the operation those bimbos could be called to give their accounts of what happened. Not a smart move on the WH's part. It was a military project and should have been kept within the military and that includes excluding the president for his own safety. I think he invited those people so that they could enjoy what was going on. None of them except a couple of the military ones had ever seen anything like that. I'm surprised they didn't have popcorn for people. The newspaper probably left out the women because they don't believe in women who have power. To them women serve one purpose. These days they are wrong. The ultras are a bunch of nuts! They were all over the place when I lived in MIami Beach. In the photo the women's reaction is a natural one. The men's is, for most of them, fake. They didn't know what to expect and when it happened they didn't know how to react. It was a stupid mistake, that wasn't a mistake, by the paper. They just got caught. They need to grow up to the times of today. Quit living in the distance past. For obama if you are going to order something like this and you want to watch it, then be a man and sit up and watch it instead of hiding your eyes when you were sitting behind Biden. Biden is so dumb he was probably asking what movie they were watching! Clinton's expression summed it up perfectly. Death in living color and it ain't actors playing the parts!

    May 9, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
  14. John

    What a load! The "photo editor" knew full well he shouldn't be altering it. Those kinds of disclaimers are standard whether the picture comes from the White House or from an independent photographer (such as myself). What the editor needed to do was check with the copyright holder (ie: the photographer) to see what could be done, if anything. If they said no to altering it, they shouldn't have used the picture.

    May 9, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • Jim

      If the photographer was a government employee there is no copyright on the picture, it is public domain and anyone can use it in any way they want, the White House's wishes have no legal weight.

      May 9, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
  15. Bruud Edwards

    I am Jew and you people make me feel a shamed to be a jew the way you treat women. You are as bad as Islam and men of the early 19th and 20th century. You people really need to grow up and start to treat women as equals!!!! Do you really believe G-d would want you to treat a fellow human being as bad as you treat women?

    May 9, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
  16. DanteX


    Now Hebrews are stooping to the level of Adolf Hitler – This is very type of thing that Nazi Germany did.

    May 9, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
  17. Smarterthanyou

    Both women do show a sense of weakness in their reactions. Maybe it was to make the U.S. appear stronger to the world

    May 9, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
  18. Kenny

    "faith outweighed fact"-funny how that's so often the case with religion. This instance, as every such one, is an indictment of faith, not fact.

    May 9, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  19. adam

    I think I was something about this years ago on Jewwy Seinfeld.

    May 9, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
  20. ned

    Why do we support these schmucks? Radical Judaism is almost as bad as radical Islam.

    May 9, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
    • CdnJim

      Radical anything is offensive.

      May 9, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
    • Covering women != covering facts

      I don't support the newspaper's policy, but I have to say that in any event the appropriate course of action to comply with their religious mandate would be to COVER the women, not doctor the photo to make it look like they were never there. One is an obvious "sensitivity" mask, and the other is a *lie*. Imagine if there were laws preventing publishing the photos of minors in news stories. Would we photoshop them out of the picture, or put a "blur effect" over them? Obviously the latter... what this newspaper does is not protecting their values, but *lying* to the public. Shame on them!

      May 9, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
    • papia

      I always was in favour of Jews even though I am not a Jew. After reading this article I will not look at them the same way.

      May 9, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
    • vasechek

      papia, why don't you make aquaintance with some and judge for yourself, rather than base your opinions on yellow press?

      May 9, 2011 at 10:37 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.