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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. Commenting

    This is what makes frontpage at CNN. Do you know how ridiculously small the circulation is for Der Tzeitung? Its written Yiddish which is only spoken by a very small percentage of Jews. For the few people who would have seen this picture had the media not run with this, this is completely making a mountain out of a molehill. Why would the media publish this particular story that is completely not news worthy, but just happens to make Jews look bad? Hmmmmmm......

    Oh and by the way, women aren't oppressed in the Jewish religion. To say we are is just shows a complete ignorance of all things Jewish.

    May 10, 2011 at 1:52 am |
  2. Terry Brookman

    They are only upset because it shows how well they can manipulate pictures. As far as I know Obama was not there and there is some doubt about the role he played. The word is Clinton went around him and helped put the mission together and it has been ready to go for three months.

    May 10, 2011 at 1:48 am |
    • Alyssa

      Haha... Are you kidding me? "As far as I know"? Really? You speak as if you have actual connections instead of being just an average nobody like the rest of us.

      May 10, 2011 at 2:02 am |
  3. pete giacobbi

    This is all very entertaining.

    May 10, 2011 at 1:47 am |
  4. Matt

    Pathetic. Utterly pathetic. They look like the horses asses that they really are.

    May 10, 2011 at 1:44 am |
  5. jon

    This is not religion, this is nuts. Ironic how Mary is honoured and so central to Catholicism, yet in some religions, women are disparaged.

    May 10, 2011 at 1:37 am |
  6. TheId

    Maybe they should have drawn a burka over the two women.......

    May 10, 2011 at 1:36 am |
  7. cheezewiz

    @TheDude, I would personally welcome cruel public executions...you know, for murderers, rapists and child molesters.

    May 10, 2011 at 1:26 am |
    • Pilfer

      Look up Right Wing Authoritarian personality. When you are done reading it and fully understand what it is saying, get up and go look in a mirror.

      May 10, 2011 at 1:41 am |
  8. jc maze

    Of Course Hilary had the pic's altered, She knows in that picture she doesnt look PRESIDENTAL

    May 10, 2011 at 1:25 am |
  9. Garrick

    The fact is, Jewish and Muslim religious "laws" are very similar. Just look at the dietary laws (pork eating thing), and the treatment of women.

    I wonder why they have so much mutual animosity?

    May 10, 2011 at 1:23 am |
  10. BROWN

    I tried to sit back and figure something positive out about this story for hours, but it was like trying to find something positive with healthy people being jobless......NOTHING!

    These jerks that airbrushed the two female images from the paper; religious paper or not; they are a total waste to the human race!

    May 10, 2011 at 1:22 am |
    • JP

      You have hours to think about this? Maybe a life would be in order. I spent 5 mins I'll never get back.

      May 10, 2011 at 1:51 am |
  11. Rhoda

    Fascinating, Not allowed to show women in pictures as dictated by the scriptures? Like they had pictures when the scriptures were written! In the book of Judges it is apparently alright to beat your concubine senseless, then chase her down when she runs back to her family, drag her through the street then throw her to the crowd of (apparently Jewish) men who have their way with her, leave her dead on the door step. Then (the Levite) cut her into 12 pieces and sends her to the 12 tribes. OOOOOHHHHH that's alright but do not show a picture of them, NOOOOOOOOO. I don't know what god they are worshipping but they all fall prey to the same Devil.

    May 10, 2011 at 1:22 am |
  12. Kristen

    How interesting and deeply ironic that a conservative Jewish sect would agree on this point with conservative Islam, that the feminine contribution should be hidden, no ERASED from the relevent recorded history of the world. That a Jewish sect would rationalize erasing the feminine as a form of respect is frankly an example of deeply insane projective denial, given that the whole Jewish race and religion should understand deeply what it means as a human being to be erased.

    May 10, 2011 at 1:16 am |
  13. NoGr8rH8r

    So much for reporting the facts. To remove women from a photo is utterly ridiculous. Is this what your God told you to do?
    I'm sickened by the fact that we as a species can't overcome one of the biggest obstacles to our growth, which is the need for a Supreme Being! Wake Up, There is No God !!! If there was, "IT" is doing the worst job.

    May 10, 2011 at 1:14 am |
  14. cheezewiz

    I think that people have lost sight of the point here. Yes, the paper may have violated copyright laws. Yes, it was rude to erase the 2 women in the photo. But what the heck is everyone spewing all this religious hate around for? I've noticed a lot of the atheists trashing religion in a horrible, hateful way; with name calling and assumptions. I'll agree that the belief in a god seems archaic and naïve. But for some people, that's all that they have or it makes them a better person. Who do you think you are to tell someone they or their beliefs are stupid or wrong? There's nothing wrong or crazy with wanting to believe in something more than yourself! Belittling others for having a religion is akin to religious terrorism. While I'm in no way religious myself, I refuse to persecute a believer. In so many cases, religion defines heritage. Who's so perfect to tell someone else that their whole sense of self is wrong? Not me. As far as this photo shop job degrading women, get real. This newspaper was never meant for mainstream America. And as far as this one Jewish sect goes, you've got to understand that is the world in which they live. They've been omitting women in the newspaper for years and NOW everybody has a problem with it. Grow up. It's like everyone's grabbed on to the new "it" thing to gripe about.

    May 10, 2011 at 1:11 am |
    • Q

      @cheezewiz – Belief is not an ent-tlement of immunity to direct criticism. Belief is not a virtue unto itself. I agree, one need not be "hateful" when pointing this out, but simply pointing this out is not "hateful". Furthermore, irrational beliefs acted upon have consequences beyond the believer. When children die due to lack of medical care because parents chose their belief over treatment, do you defend the parent's "right" to believe as they wish? Like any other "freedom", it's legitimate expression ends when it infringes upon others, in this case, when the paper actively "lied" in publishing a fake picture at the expense of the women in the photo and at the expense of history itself.

      May 10, 2011 at 1:27 am |
    • chillwind

      Uh, and religious people doesn't belittle non believers? There were wars in name of religion. you know to convert or destroy people that doesn't "believe" in their god. Crusade, jihad, forceful conversion of natives, etc, rings any bells? I mean jewish people believe they are the chosen people. So please, get off your holier than thou soapbox. In a secular country with free speech, people can believe and criticize. Seems hypocritical you think atheist belittle believers, while you simply ignore that believers does the same to non believers. If you want to sound like a crusader of morals and ethics, at least acknowledge both side of the coin. I think you should grow up and actually acquire some real life world experience.

      May 10, 2011 at 1:30 am |
  15. Klaark

    I would have respect for them if they came out and said "We hate women. According to our beliefs, women are not people and we treat them as inferiors."

    It's the lying I can't stand, but I guess it's to be expected from a group of people who would publish such an altered image instead of owning up to not being able to show the real one. I doubt this will win them admirers and it will be a bright day when this backwards community ages and fades away completely.

    May 10, 2011 at 1:10 am |
  16. boop

    1.800.FUZ.JEWS. Period.

    May 10, 2011 at 1:04 am |
  17. jimmy the freak

    Organized religion is the scourge of mankind.

    May 10, 2011 at 12:56 am |
    • Robert

      You got it right man.

      May 10, 2011 at 1:41 am |
    • TheRealDoris

      I couldn't agree more. Out of everyone in the room, 'Laws of modesty' prevent publishing photos of these two government officials. Truly, the mass delusion of religion is keeping us in the dark ages and will prove to be our undoing.

      May 10, 2011 at 1:55 am |
  18. Stupidity

    Just goes to show how Religious zealots are crazed....after all they already believe in something in the sky that's imaginary.

    May 10, 2011 at 12:53 am |
    • Sharon

      Just goes to show you how ANY type of religious fundamentalism, no matter what religion it is from, be it Islam, Christianity or Judaism, (or any of the rest) is seriously f'd up.

      May 10, 2011 at 2:02 am |
  19. Farzana

    Imagine a muslim doing this and then the whole world going against the act. But if a non muslim does it ...... Okay????? DOUBLE STANDARDS.

    May 10, 2011 at 12:18 am |
    • Q

      @Farzana – What? The CNN coverage and this thread? Please pull your head out....

      May 10, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • Just Sayin

      Is it just me or are the Jews are just as bad as the Muslims...?

      May 10, 2011 at 12:48 am |
    • Diane Bralley

      Frazana has a point here. While most would expect this of a Muslim oriented news source, how many would expect it of a Jewish newspaper? As for myself, I am sick of all religions at this point. Is there not one religion out there that does not minimize women or see them as merely 'help mates' to the almighty and superior male????

      May 10, 2011 at 12:52 am |
    • Alex

      you are absolutely right
      if a a Arabic or Muslim newspaper did the same, it would be the end of the world .

      May 10, 2011 at 1:02 am |
    • Q

      @Diane – I agree with your reference to religion but this is precisely why Farzana's post fails. Any frequent visitor to this forum can clearly see that no belief or unbelief goes unchallenged.

      May 10, 2011 at 1:04 am |
    • CuzzyLINY

      Don't forget: This was done frequently by the Soviet Union too. Personally I feel these people are slaves to their religions. Religion is all about power and the people who control the power. Of course these mens actions affect others in their chosen (no pun intended) community, the women and children who get trapped.

      Time and attrition will take of this situation for the future. Do you see the name of the newspaper? Its in Yiddish. This group is already relegated to history.

      May 10, 2011 at 1:19 am |
    • Tom

      Idiots – the whole point of the article is that it's not alright. A 3rd grade wit can see that...

      May 10, 2011 at 1:44 am |
    • JP

      That's because the Jews have a word for when people call them on something. Its called Anti Semitism and by God you can't be that. If your anti Semitic you might as well be a Nazi right? So sick of religion.

      May 10, 2011 at 1:49 am |
  20. pete giacobbi

    There's little room for interpretation here...this group has denigrated Hilary Clinton and her tireless efforts as sec of state. Their response to their "haste" in publishing isalso demeaning to women.

    May 10, 2011 at 12:17 am |
    • The Dude

      Where would we be if no one challenged Religious ideology?

      We would still be treating diseases like Diabetes, Appendicitis, Cancer and other treatable illnesses with prayer.

      We would still believe the world was flat.

      We would kill hundreds of thousands of women every year for witchcraft.

      Public executions would be common and cruel.

      95% of the population would be illiterate.

      Our life expectancy would be 30-40 years

      We would be living in a constant Dark Age.

      Thank God for the people who stood up to Religion. We owe them our lives.

      May 10, 2011 at 1:13 am |
    • CuzzyLINY

      Yes the "haste" excuse. Plenty of time to retouch the images, but not time to read enough to read the instructions? Pretty lame, childlike response. A simple way to get away with something if it only costs an apology.

      May 10, 2011 at 1:25 am |
    • JuiSir

      Those wild and crazy Jews are at it again. When will they learn?

      May 10, 2011 at 1:43 am |
    • Joe Kenadee

      Hmmmm so Ultra Orthodox Judaism is even worse that the Taliban who knew?

      May 10, 2011 at 1:51 am |
    • jon

      The Dude, you don't know history. Religion has been instrumental in many advances in medicine and learning. The first universities were begun by the church. The first hospitals and schools in the North America were opened by nuns. Hitler and Stalin were atheists. Your thinking is sloppy and I could go on and on but these lies remind me of that saying, in 1984, that "if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it". Stop telling lies.

      May 10, 2011 at 1:53 am |
    • Ralf The Dog

      I thought I was a bad dog for editing the picture to give everyone Groucho Marx glasses.

      May 10, 2011 at 1:54 am |
    • Q

      @Jon – Speaking of lies, though Hitler's actual beliefs are debatable (though little there to support "atheism"), his frequent Christian references and application of a Lutheresque antisemitism to inflame his Catholic followers is most certainly not. "Gott mitt uns". Furthermore, science and medicine advanced in spite of religion, i.e. via physical evidence and validation in application, not because of it. Yes, I know many foundational scientists were people of faith, but again, their influence is due to their methodological naturalism, not to their supernatural metaphysical beliefs...

      May 10, 2011 at 2:01 am |
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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.