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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. Ozarkhomesteader

    What religious law dictates not showing women in images?

    May 10, 2011 at 8:18 am |
    • MCR

      There is no law in the Torah that forbids showing images of women. That is a relatively recent invention of a handful of Haredi ("ultra-orthodox") Rabbis. It does not the beliefs or values of any part of Judaism but their own. As a modern Orthodox Jew, I condemn what the newspaper did by removing the women from this historic, important photo. It is a Hillul Hashem–a desecration of G-d's name.

      May 10, 2011 at 8:33 am |
  2. sender

    From now on, anything Hasidic I will say no.

    May 10, 2011 at 8:16 am |
  3. Heann

    Thats a cool language – it looks like atari 2600 graphics

    May 10, 2011 at 8:05 am |
  4. Ah-64D

    I guess we need Navy seal team 6 in Brooklyn

    May 10, 2011 at 7:59 am |
  5. britt

    I honestly thought this was going to be some kind of Islamic newspaper....scary.

    May 10, 2011 at 7:55 am |
  6. moonpie

    ha...what are they gonna do when sarah palin is president? show an empty podium? these folks will really have a problem then...

    May 10, 2011 at 7:54 am |
    • Chriztopherz

      The day Sarah Palin is president, is the day the world burns to the ground.

      May 10, 2011 at 8:08 am |
    • Malcolm

      They won't be the only ones.

      May 10, 2011 at 8:14 am |
    • darkstar

      When Sarah Palin is President? Hahahahahahah!

      May 10, 2011 at 8:24 am |
  7. Sharp

    Just goes to show how much in common the real old time Judaism has with Islam. Jesus changed Judaism for the better. His ministry was the true beginning of respect for the smaller, gentler people we call women.

    May 10, 2011 at 7:53 am |
  8. TJeff1776

    I'm sure this sect is destined to die on the vine and their disrespect for women will ONLY be one of the multiple reasons.

    May 10, 2011 at 7:48 am |
    • Ol cranky

      the chasids & other ultra orthodox reproduce like crazy, I don't think they're in danger of dying out any time soon

      May 10, 2011 at 7:58 am |
  9. FreedomGuy

    Judaism has no respect for women. In Judaism, it is as if they did not exist.

    May 10, 2011 at 7:48 am |
    • Ol cranky

      you mean among the ultra orthodox. Judaism as practiced by other streams (modern orthodox, conservative, reform & reconstructionist) do not share the extremist views with the ultra orthodox

      May 10, 2011 at 7:57 am |
  10. Scott in NH

    @getreal, Israel is the least s-e-x-i-s-t nation I've ever been to, and is considerably less s-e-x-i-s-t than the USA, The VP of engineering at the company I worked for was a woman, 50% of the doctors are women, etc. You say that Jews and Muslims subjugate women, and you are correct about a tiny percentage of Jews and a tiny percentage of Muslims, and that should change, but the overwhelming majority of Jews and Muslims are pretty seriously normal.

    May 10, 2011 at 7:44 am |
    • Chriztopherz

      well said

      May 10, 2011 at 8:09 am |
  11. Scott in NH

    In the US 16% of Jews are Orthodox and follow rules like separating men and women at the temple, etc. It is similar in the Muslim world, in Indonesia, which has 240 million people women work as doctors, business owners, and presidents. Saudi Arabia, where women cannot drive or leave the house alone represents a very tiny fraction of Islam.

    May 10, 2011 at 7:37 am |
  12. Ersheido

    These people are no different from Bin Laden. If they ever get a chance to be in charge of any type of government, women will not be allowed to leave the house, let alone work!

    May 10, 2011 at 7:31 am |
  13. getreal

    It's astounding. Both Judaism and Islam put women in a secondary position, they both disavow pork, they both claim Jerusalem as holy sites. Sheesh, get married and get a room! Stop dragging the world into your flea-bitten problems!

    Thank God for that good little Jewish boy – Jesus of Nazareth – who recognized women and all people as equals, and made Judaism a religion of the past. As if more than a few dozen people read that piece of trash newspaper. Certainly no women. They've got more brains and self-respect than that. Do these Orthodox Jews even respect their own mothers? I bet not.

    May 10, 2011 at 7:28 am |
    • Frank

      Perhaps you should go back and actually read the bible instead of blindly listening to people who manipulate and interpret passages for modern times. When you do you will see women were property and second to 'man'. Women didn't protest and continue to fight for equality because god said they were equal.

      May 10, 2011 at 8:07 am |
  14. Diana

    This shows their true and appalling ignorance and mid-evil way of thinking towards women. And these people wish to be respected?
    Apologies not accepted.

    May 10, 2011 at 7:26 am |
    • Jesus

      Ironically, Jewish women are not known to be shrinking violets. They tend to be outspoken, strong willed, and politically involved. They need to condemn these orthodox clowns.

      May 10, 2011 at 7:39 am |
    • Gwen

      Thank you Diana.

      May 10, 2011 at 7:55 am |
  15. bill

    Did anyone notice that a second woman, in the back of the room, was also cut out of the picture?

    May 10, 2011 at 7:23 am |
    • getreal

      Did anyone read the article, bill? The other woman, Audrey Tomason, director of counterterrorism, was clearly identified along with Clinton. Lay off the bong, bill!

      May 10, 2011 at 7:32 am |
    • A point, I say

      She's not only smart and beautiful, she's kicking terrorist butts! How awesome is that?

      May 10, 2011 at 7:43 am |
  16. john b

    Maybe its payback for her saying Al-Jazzera is real news? Besides I wouldn't want a pic of the sea hag from Popeye in my paper either!! OI VEY

    May 10, 2011 at 7:21 am |
    • Derek

      Well aren't you the class act.

      May 10, 2011 at 8:32 am |
    • Really?

      Yeah! Just like I would not want your comment seen on an intelligent discussion board.

      May 10, 2011 at 8:41 am |
  17. Jeff

    Wow, what a bunch of kool-aid drinkers these people are. I understand that uber religious people hold onto their faith, even if it is outdated for this day and age and that's good for them, but wow, i mean.....really?

    May 10, 2011 at 7:16 am |
  18. leciat

    so the white house refuses to comment on the blatant subjugation of women? you think if i burn a koran in protest of this barbaric discrimination the white house will THEN comment?

    May 10, 2011 at 7:01 am |
    • Heather

      Why would you burn a "Koran" when this has NOTHING to do with Islamic law or the Muslim community? That is a ridiculous connection to draw. Even if you did have the proper religious text to burn, I don't see this as an appropriate form of protest. Don't take it out on a book, look to the people who interpret and apply said book, otherwise you are quite literally adding more fuel to their religious fire.

      May 10, 2011 at 7:21 am |
    • Peter

      Hopefully not.

      May 10, 2011 at 7:30 am |
    • Jesus

      People forget that Islam and Christianity are based on and have their foundation in a bonze age barbaric and primitive society where death by stoning (or beheading), animal sacrifice, and adherence to what today is ridiculous myth and dogma was the way those robed folks used to live. Women were chattel...mere possessions or objects...just read Deut. 22:13-29 for proof of that!

      May 10, 2011 at 7:35 am |
    • VinnieVee

      does the white house have to comment about everything? Some people will never be satisfied no matter what is done. Even if they did comment then I'm sure there'd be something wrong with the comment!! Please!

      May 10, 2011 at 8:21 am |
  19. Nelly6

    Funny how they apologized to the White House, but not to the public.

    May 10, 2011 at 7:01 am |
    • leciat

      they can't apologize to " the public" nelly because "the public" contains women and they are not sorry they subjugate women just that they were caught in public doing so

      May 10, 2011 at 7:03 am |
  20. 21k

    what do you expect when you allow your life to be run by cults, which means any religion. once we have an xtian leader in the white house, like newtie-boy or huckleberry, behavior like this will become government policy.

    May 10, 2011 at 7:01 am |
    • Monte

      Interesting, because soon, politicians are going to delete religion.

      May 10, 2011 at 8:03 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.