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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. Adrian GMV

    Sell crazy someplace else, we're all stocked up here!

    May 9, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
  2. Pipps

    I'm going to hire Di Tzeitung guys to manage my election campaign. They are good.

    May 9, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
  3. what the

    There's no difference between these guys and the Taliban when it comes to misogyny.

    May 9, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
  4. Chad

    Well, at least Jews and Muslins can agree on something.

    May 9, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
  5. PCissuchBS

    "there was then a time when the women were blurred. Now, they're just not there."

    Just as they have done this to a historical photo shows how ALL RELIGIONS have done this to women throughout the centuries. To the victor the spoils. "History is a set of lies agreed upon" ~Napoleon

    Thank God I am an atheist!!! 😉

    May 9, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
  6. Mr Aak

    I am not Jewish myself, but I work as an IT consultant and one of my clients is an orthodox Jewish high school. I've learned a great deal about ultra-conservative Jewish people working with them over the past 4 years and I'd like to share my take on this. First of all, I enjoy them as people a great deal – they're simply not what you might assume they are. Secondly, their culture has not changed for 6000 years – they still follow all the rules. It may seem odd that they don't publish pictures of women in the paper, but they simply don't. I've watched the national daily papers edited (removing underwear ads and other female images) before distribution to the students many times and there's simply no malice involved. That's how they do it, they are free to do it and no matter what you think from where you sit without any real exposure to Orthodox Jewish culture, they're not evil people for doing this – they're truly just following the rules as defined by their faith. Orthodox Jews have to deal with dissonance from the rest of the world all the time and this is simply another example of that. I will also report that both Jewish and non Jewish women do work at the school, but are required to be properly dressed.

    May 9, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
    • vasechek

      interesting perspective. it has to be noted, though, that for all the trying it doesn't mean they are all saints – like all other groups they have criminals, perverts and just plain a$$..les in their midst. in other words, these riles, while extreme are nowhere near 100% effective in what they are trying to achieve.
      also, as mentioned a few times here – they didn't need to pretend the ladies were never in the picture. they could have handled it without truth modifications

      May 9, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
  7. Tom

    The Jews have their own version of the Taliban.

    May 9, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
  8. Dale

    Now we just need to rid this country of religious nuts.

    May 9, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
  9. Brooklyn

    You know who else doctored politicians out of historical photos? Stalin.

    May 9, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
  10. tim

    all the newspaper needed to do was put the women's names in the caption.. Then we could've been saved from most or the comments in this blog..

    May 9, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
    • SammyTT

      EXACTLY. It is not about WHO it was, it is about WHAT it was - women. BTW, I don't condone this Jewish group's actions in any way, but they are expressing their view of religion about women's modesty. This is similar to some Islamic groups, where women wear veils. Or Catholic nuns, who cover their entire head and neck, save for their faces. Nevertheless, I personally take offense at thinking this way about women at all. Oh, and I'm an Observant Jew. The editors of this paper are not representative of mainstream Orthodox Jews. But of course, CNN didn't bother to find anyone else to interview in the Orthodox Jewish world.

      May 9, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
    • vasechek

      who tells you the names weren't in the caption?

      May 9, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
  11. Meki60

    Monica Leuwenski came to haunt you!

    May 9, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
  12. ElPerrazo

    Pathetic! Anyone who believes that the world religions are not used as mechanisms of control are living under a rock. When will we give up fantasy in favor of science.

    May 9, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
    • Greg Eric

      Science let's you fly to the moon.
      Religion let's you fly into buildings.

      May 9, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  13. Brandon Bare

    Oy vey!

    May 9, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • SammyTT

      Yes, Oy!

      May 9, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
  14. calvin

    If some other publication had intentionally left out a Jewish individual from a picture, it would be 10X worse than what this newspaper did. There would probably be protests and the editor would be called on to resign. And no, I am NOT anti-semitic, it's what I think would happen.

    May 9, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
  15. Tenayaj

    Also, for everyone who says that the government should sue the publication for violating the disclaimer, I'm pretty sure the government has more important things to do, like dealing with the flooding and tornado damage. Or dealing with the budget. Or getting our troops out of Afghanistan. Yes, it was illegal. However, a lot of illegal things happen and they are just dismissed. Unfortunately, this isn't really that important in the scope of things. Sorry girls, but we're always going to be oppressed. No amount of debate is going to change thousands of years of doctrine.

    May 9, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
    • vasechek

      how are you oppressed by this? this is a closed community. are you a hasidic jewish feminist and your mother is not letting you out of the house?

      May 9, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
    • kuntahkintey

      Tenayaj, Do yo agree withy me that If it is Muslim newspapaer that did this in anywhere America, Right wings from all over the world will be up in Arms?

      May 9, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
    • Lora

      Uh...WOMEN, not girls. And no, it's not going to keep happening as long as intelligent people are around. It's not okay – this was not done to Margaret Thatcher or Madeline Albright. It shouldn't be done to Clinton. It is offensive because it's not a man/woman thing. This is the United States Secretary of State, 4th in line to the presidency.

      May 9, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
    • SammyTT

      Lora, its not about WHO it was, it is about WHAT it was - a woman. BTW, I don't condone this Jewish group's actions in any way, but they are expressing their view of religion about women's modesty. This is similar to some Islamic groups, where women wear veils. Or Catholic nuns, who cover their entire head and neck, save for their faces. Nevertheless, I personally take offense at thinking this way about women at all. Oh, and I'm an Observant Jew. The editors of this paper are not representative of mainstream Orthodox Jews. But of course, CNN didn't bother to find anyone else to interview in the Orthodox Jewish world.

      May 9, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
  16. repubocrat

    Forcryingoutloud!!! Who ARE these people that participate in these radical extremist religions?! I'm tempted to walk down one of the streets in that neighborhood in a short skirt or shorts with a tank top on just to see what happens. Is this not America?! They should be held accountable for altering an official Whitehouse photo.

    May 9, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • GLMcColm

      Exactly how is the White House supposed to be accountable. As Walt Kelly said, in America, people are free to make fools of themselves in public.

      May 9, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
    • GLMcColm

      Exactly how is the White House supposed to hold them accountable? As Walt Kelly said, in America, people are free to make fools of themselves in public.

      May 9, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • vasechek

      roflmao. you are threatening to walk in a short skirt and tank top on the streets of the city where women can sometimes be seen walking around buck naked in the light of day???? hilarious. you are mistaking brooklyn for riyad

      May 9, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
  17. james

    This proves that Jews and Arabs are cousins.

    May 9, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • vasechek

      and this proves james' cousins live in the zoo

      May 9, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
  18. Paul Battis

    http://pkpolitics.com/discuss/topic/cia-admits-obama-situation-room-pics-staged-no-video-of-raid

    In the first place it was a staged photo. They did not watch the events on tv from the situation room. CNN would you please report that and stop misinforming the public. I should not have to do your job for you.

    May 9, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
    • Cedar rapids

      oh please, the cia just said there was 25 minute cut in feed during the 40 minute mission, at no time did they state that this was a staged photo.

      May 9, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
    • Oh boy - birthers rise again

      Nice to see that you have a new lie to fixate on.

      May 9, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
    • Rob

      lol how is that websites claim different from cnn's... just cause some guy photoshopped thats it was staged means nothing.. remember if you do not use your laptop it goes to sleep mode. There I'm someone on the internet that states a claim, you have to believe me, dunbass

      May 9, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  19. junk1958

    I find this disturbing. if someone else erased Jews from a photo for any reason at all, they would be the first to scream prejudice and make comments about re-writing history.

    May 9, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
    • Zoomie

      Not much difference between Jews and Muslims

      May 9, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
    • vasechek

      not much difference between zoomie and a zombie

      May 9, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
    • Moonzappa

      Zoomie...there's not much difference between you and a complete idi*t. Every religion has extremism – whether that be Muslims, Jews, Christians, etc. Even so, not all extremists have reached the levels of radical Muslims. To say that there isn't much difference between Jews and Muslims really just shows that you are a complete moron.

      May 9, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • Chosen my a**

      No, Muslims and Jews are very similar. Eastern religions tend to be misogynistic-focused. Racism is very prevalent also. Of course there are exceptions, but we aren't talking about them here.
      If you identify with a religion and do not identify with the human race as a whole, then you are more likely to support the inhuman treatment of other humans due to religious fervor. What you identify with will influence your decisions and how you treat others. Don't be a slave to religion. Your god does not exist. All you have is insanity to share with your fellow believers.
      Join the human race you bigots! We're all stuck on the same dam planet.
      Either figure out your glaring mistakes or no peace is possible.
      You doom humanity with religion. But then again a meteorite might wipe us out too. hmm. Two weeks until the end! ha ha! What a bunch of crazy nutjobs.
      No respect for religion is deserved or earned in view of the truth.

      May 9, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
  20. BGko

    It doesn't matter, they admitted that picture was nothing more than a staged photo op and they weren't able to watch live feed of the raid as originally purported.

    May 9, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • Cedar rapids

      they didnt say anything of the sort, and there was a 25 minute cut in feed during a 40 minute mission.

      May 9, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
    • KG

      Stop spreading falsehoods you right wing stooge

      May 9, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
    • Greg Eric

      Science let's you fly to the moon.
      Religion let's you fly into a building.

      May 9, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • fda

      Who cares.... Historic, my azz...

      May 9, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • snippylee

      Well that's totally inaccurate. Photo doctoring such as this to suit your own limited purposes is misrepresenting the facts.

      May 9, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • marymartha37

      I work as a supervisor on a Federal site – there are only 9 of us out of 257 males (a state with Mormon and Jewish influence). Every chance the management (government contractors) here the management remove women out of the picture, out of the compliments, out of any kind of recognition phase and give it to a guy who is a "Class Clown". Funny, how Jesus never treated women as less than equal and chose to be seen first by a woman upon rising, and forgave a adulteress..... Yep...the Jewish are still crucifying Christ and the women of Christ, and more..... Won't change – remember the zeaous Jews and Pharisees... To bad, we should all pray for them.

      May 9, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • Carol

      It definitely does matter that the women were cut out of the picture. This is the same treatment that many Arab countries do to women. Let's hide them they're only good for having babies and cooking dinner. They should be ashamed of their behavior. I hope none of them have female children.

      May 9, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • Curt

      Liar = Loser

      May 9, 2011 at 11:11 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.