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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. The Half Baked Lunatic

    Yet another example of why I hate religion.

    May 10, 2011 at 6:41 am |
  2. Zeus

    If they're going to edit photos, the white house should deny them access to any information.

    May 10, 2011 at 6:30 am |
  3. Zeus

    I thought the Taliban was a muslim group. No, wait? Maybe not.

    May 10, 2011 at 6:28 am |
  4. MYOB

    So what? If you're not a Chassidic Jew they're not bothering you shut up and my mind your own f-in business. Idiots.

    May 10, 2011 at 6:10 am |
  5. Mike

    I hope this church gets no tax deductions.

    May 10, 2011 at 5:38 am |
  6. Nokat

    The ultra-Orthodox Jewish publication need to PULL their heads out of the ?......sand

    May 10, 2011 at 5:09 am |
  7. MS

    I'll Just Leave This Here – Thank you, well put!

    May 10, 2011 at 4:50 am |
  8. M Shute

    "I'll just leave this here" – Thank you, well put. Could not agree more.

    May 10, 2011 at 4:47 am |
  9. NYer

    All religions have sects that take things too far. Can you say Pentecostal? I knew you could

    May 10, 2011 at 4:35 am |
  10. Ted M

    So when Jews pray it's like they are talking to a wall? Wait a second.....

    May 10, 2011 at 4:09 am |
  11. NYer

    Hey, only the republiCON party is allowed to rewrite history

    May 10, 2011 at 4:01 am |
  12. mels777

    You know what the world would be like without any form/type of religion? Peaceful. Wars are fought because of religious beliefs...everyone thinks their religion is better than anothers and they fight over it. Give up religion and allow for peace, love and equality to exist.

    May 10, 2011 at 3:43 am |
  13. Willow

    This is ridiculous. They should just not have published it in the first place then.

    Religious idiocy is religious idiocy no matter which religion is involved. Wanting women to not exist is idiocy.

    May 10, 2011 at 3:01 am |
  14. Yuliq Mahbaht

    Face it – religion is poison no matter your faith. As long as mankind continues to embrace the ability to change whatever they want in the alledged 'Word of God', then what is the use of religion? Fear + superstion = religion.

    May 10, 2011 at 2:56 am |
    • Bluec

      As if lack of religion or spirituality has brought us peace. Secular societies have allowed abor tion and the spread of tobacco. How many lives have just those two cost? He ll more people have been ki lled by just tobacco then all the Indians ki lled by the white man. What about the N a zi's? They kil led God and attempted to replace him with the state. The cost of that secular experiment, 40+ million souls. All the crusades combined didn't add up to a quarter of the lives lost in WW2(Europe).
      Shall we visit comm unist China next? How high can you count dude?

      You can blame the religious all you want. Just so long as you realize that the numbers just don't support your argument(at least not yet). The Godless have made the believers look like pikers when it comes to ki ll count. People can try to paint religious people as evi l but ask yourself this. If it was late at night, would you rather your car break down in Salt lake city or Detroit?

      May 10, 2011 at 4:03 am |
    • Allison

      Bluec, I do hear what you're saying, however I think we shouldn't blame secularism either. Some of the old tobacco execs were religious personally. I think that it is anybody who believes that what is true for them spiritually and personally should be pushed on anybody else is the problem. To try to hide or deny anything that does not conform to a chosen way of life is the greatest evil people can commit.

      May 10, 2011 at 7:09 am |
  15. jack

    Jews just airbrush women out of history. Another half-jew airbrushed 6,000,000 jews from history in the 30s and 40s. I guess its a jewish thing.

    May 10, 2011 at 2:53 am |
    • Jackas

      The Nazis murdered millions. A digital airbrush did not. Crappy analogy.

      May 10, 2011 at 4:15 am |
  16. Clay

    religion=problems. Man! I hate people like this. they think something is wrong with photos of women who are covered in a photo. stupid idiots. I hate all these people the ones that do this stuff. go back to Israel and get bombed by Jordan you jerks!

    May 10, 2011 at 2:47 am |
  17. Grey, Atlanta

    I appeal to all anti-Semitic posters here, who are so trigger-happy to bash the Jews every time the word "Jew" is mentioned, to realize that most Ultra Orthodox Jews hate Zionism and the State of Israel as much (or perhaps even more) than the worst anti-Semitic posters do. Ultra Orthodox Jews in America are of Eastern European descent and are comprised of various Hassidic sects that follow their Rebbe (spiritual leader) implicitly. They are discouraged from ever questioning their sect's traditions or the authority of their Rebbe. Some of them go as far as declare their Rebbe the Moshiach (the Messiah). They speak Yiddish exclusively and many of them refuse to learn English or let their children learn English. They are extremely hostile to Zionism and the State of Israel, considering both to be the abomination of Judaism. The most extreme of them – Neturei Karta – visited Arafat and Ahmedinedjad and expressed their support for the policies directed at the elimination of the State of Israel. They demonstrate against Israel, waiving the Palestinian and Iranian flags. Even though most Hassidic Jews do not go as far as Neturei Karta, most of them do not accept the legitimacy of the State of Israel. In short, the anti-Semites posting here should embrace the Ulta Orthodox Jews.

    The mainstream Orthodox Judaism supports the State of Israel and disagrees with Ultra Orhodox Jews on many religious interpretations and positions while sharing most traditions. Even though the laws of modesty are highly revered by Orthodox Jews, there is no prohibition of printing pictures of modestly dressed women, which was certainly the case with Hillary Clinton in this picture. As for other (less traditional Jewish denominations), the views range from allowing women to serve as Rabbis in Conservative and Reform denominations to allowing Gay and Lesbian marriages and ordinations in Reform and Reconstructionist Jewish congregations. Therefore, the Hassidic way of life and their system of believes is a deviation from the mainstream Judaism and the Hassidim represent a very small percentage of Jews.

    May 10, 2011 at 2:40 am |
    • Sylmar Max

      Many Muslim communities assumed a semi-democratic image throughout history but periodically revert to "orthodox" belief systems that bring out ancient oppressions. The fact that this New York newspaper is experimenting with original texts with only one, visible complaint merely shows that "radical" isn't radical when there is a shift in power. Makes me wonder about our friends in Israel.

      May 10, 2011 at 3:07 am |
    • glenn robert

      WOW! Jews who don't support Israel? That is hard to believe. What ever problems that Israel has the Orthodox are part of the problem not the solution.

      May 10, 2011 at 3:45 am |
    • Barney

      Sorry, it would not let me reply to the guy below. But Glenn Roberts, I'm sorry if you find it hard to believe, but it's true. Also, Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Jews are different. The Ultra-Orthodox, though, are extremely hostile to the idea of Israel and Zionism.

      May 10, 2011 at 4:00 am |
    • Ted M

      -Grey, Atlanta –
      Meh. You don't appear to understand where these people are coming from. Your religion is bullsh-t regardless of how extreme you are. They aren't being anti-semitic, they are being anti-bullsh-t. A big difference you schmuck.

      May 10, 2011 at 4:06 am |
    • MS

      Grey, Atlanta – Having a dissenting or varied opinion does not make someone anti-semitic, a nazi or a klan member. By callously throwing around such terms, you appear ignorant or their true meaning and detract from stronger points you may or may not have.

      May 10, 2011 at 5:08 am |
    • CL Steinberg

      Then they are NOT of the Jewish ethnicity or faith and God will see them as they are. For shame to vilify women in such a way, their own mothers, sisters and daughters should punish them for the idiots they have turned out to be. A man cannot be jewish if HIS MOTHER is not jewish (it doesn't matter whether his father is jewish or not).

      May 10, 2011 at 5:16 am |
    • CL Steinberg

      Never forget that Jesus Christ was a jewish man, followed the jewish law and Sabbath, and tried to bring the Jewish religious leaders back to God. Jesus's first followers (for the first 200 years or so) were Jewish! He was celebrating Passover the night he was arrested. Read the Bible, it's all there. The Prophets Isaiah and Ezekial fortold of his coming.

      May 10, 2011 at 5:19 am |
    • Ol cranky

      @Glen Robert – the Hasid's and other ultra orthodox streams are not only anti-Zionists, they are also (quite ironically) the ones who control Israel's extremely harsh policies. Those harsh policies are not supported by an ever increasing majority of Jews that do support Israel's right to exist.

      May 10, 2011 at 6:55 am |
  18. Andy

    Why was 'never publishing the photo' in the first place not an option for this organization? If their religion says it should not show images of women, then the photo should never have been shown in the first place – problem solved. Just another attempt at organized religions efforts to re-write history and destroy facts. One day religion will be no more.

    May 10, 2011 at 2:34 am |
    • glenn robert

      You are right! How many have been killed in the name of God. Christian, Jewish and Muslim. These religions are killers!

      May 10, 2011 at 3:37 am |
    • Allison

      Absolutely agree! I have no problem with people making their own spiritual based decisions for their lives because that seems only right. However, how much of our 'known' history is wrong? Because before photos even they could just erase words that completely altered history! It's too creepy to even think about too long

      May 10, 2011 at 6:55 am |
  19. Terry Brookman

    Christ said he did not come to bring peace to the world he also said he has brought a sword into the world. That seems to be working out very well.

    May 10, 2011 at 2:32 am |
  20. Khalid30

    If it was a muslim guy, he would have been in bigger trouble or at least have gotten criticized a lot more...muslim women cover their hair but a muslim man would not have taken women off the pic...I never agreed with the whole hijab thing but respected people's choices...I just cant get over the fact that the media/the public would be harsher on a muslim than on a Jewish even if it is for the same exact reason.

    May 10, 2011 at 2:31 am |
    • LikeOmG!

      Totally agree! haha if it was a Muslim newspaper that did this, the whole discussion would be about women's rights in islam! lmaooo, but ofcourse, in a jewish-dominated society, all we can do is bow down and submit to the Jews, the same way we did when we couldn't stop Netanyahu from building more settlements in Jerusalem. Seems like sooner or later the "United States of Amerca" is going to be "The United States of America and Israel"

      May 10, 2011 at 3:12 am |
    • Ewan

      Idiots, this wouldn't never happened in the Islamic world because a woman (aka sheep) in Islam would never get to a high enough power to be featured in a newspaper. Plus in most Islamic nation it is illegal to take pictures of women.

      May 10, 2011 at 4:08 am |
    • grandma

      my grandma used to cut pictures of reagan out of the newspaper. before they had photoshop or paint...or probably even computers. not sure what that was all about. i didn't get involved in that. we just let her do what she wants.

      May 10, 2011 at 4:16 am |
    • Joe

      The Jewish edition of Playboy must be kinda dry!

      May 10, 2011 at 5:21 am |
    • Aden Medina

      Its about time to STOP spoiling the Jews in America. This is abuse of freedom in America. The USA has suffered so much because of the Jews–the fraudulent Iraq war initiiated by Geroge W Bush, the massacre of innocent Iraqis, and the trillions of American tax payer money spent for the war America fought for Israel. Its about time to stop this insanity for the sake of the America.

      May 10, 2011 at 5:38 am |
    • Qazi

      Hey Ewan, just some lesson in history for you
      see the list of Women Leaders and identify how many Muslim Countries you see, if you cant I will help you

      1. Bangladesh (Two Women Prime Ministers)
      2. Pakistan (One Woman Elected Twice)
      3. Turkey

      Ohh and Bonus point for finding which Country is not there in List, Yes United States, of its 2 centuries not one women leader, wow thats is an achievement

      May 10, 2011 at 6:15 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.