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. omegarising

    Good job! Now if we could just erase her from history completely...

    May 10, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      omegarising wrote: " Now if we could just erase her from history completely..."

      What has she done to you or your family? Shades of the right-wing idiots who have taken over the country...

      May 10, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  2. Jack

    As a practicing Orthodox Jew, I would just like to state that the newspaper that altered the image caters to a tiny part of the community. The sole reason that the images of women are avoided is for modesty purposes as they understand it. The majority of Orthodox non Hassidic people do not suscribe to this type of behavior.
    Just for the record: In Jewish law, a husband must honor his wife more than himself. He must buy her clothes and jewelry before he spends money on himself. G-d counts each tear that a woman sheds due to improper treatment by their spouse and it is absolutely forbidden to physically or mentally abuse a spouse.
    Women are actually created on a higher spiritual level than men and the blessings in one 's home originate from the woman of the house. The Bible recounts many instances of female prophets.
    This is just to correct the misconceptions and prejudices that are being printed here.
    I have always been leery of people that claim their religion is the true one. Jews have never sought converts and have never forced conversions under pain of death.
    As far as the world being better off without Jews, Jews have contributed way out of proportion to their numbers in practically all fields of human endeavor. Just verify the statistics on the number of Nobel Prize winners of Jewish background and you will be more than mildly surprised.
    Please note that we have our share of bad apples as well .
    No country in the history of civilization has been friendlier to the Jewish community that that of the United States and in many many synagogues prayers are recited every Sabbath for the welfare of the Government.
    Hopefully, this post will educate and enlighten some people.
    We are all human beings created in the image of G-d and we must treat every other human being with respect.

    May 10, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Jack said: "Jews have contributed way out of proportion to their numbers in practically all fields of human endeavor."

      A little note with regard to this: Jews have only started contributing to the modern world once they became more secular and left the isolation of their religious cliques...

      May 10, 2011 at 11:31 am |
  3. Doc

    I wonder how they handled Golda Meir? Maybe like George Bush in the Doonesbury comic strip.

    May 10, 2011 at 9:31 am |
  4. Mama Bear

    That's too little too late. It is a mindset that needs to be eradicated, just like Muslim terrorism. It is barbaric. Plain and simple and has no place in civilized society. We are human beings and gray matter is the ONLY thing that matters. Period.

    May 10, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • Michelle

      "no place in civilized society"??? Just who is civilized? The Clintons? The hasiddic communities have close to zero crime rate, affairs are virtually unheard of and they'll repay a debt on time down to the last cent. One has to wonder who is the more moral.

      May 10, 2011 at 9:46 am |
  5. A Convenient Mistake

    Hmmh. They made a mistake. Sure. I bet they knew and did it on purpose and figured to just say sorry. How would they feel if the killing of jews in the history of WWII was left out by mistake.

    HOw about reprinting the picture WITH Hilllary to make ammends.

    May 10, 2011 at 9:27 am |
  6. filter

    "The allegations that religious Jews denigrate women or do not respect women in public office is a malicious slander and libel."

    Your actions show that you disrespecting women as a fact. This is disgusting.

    May 10, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • Roy

      They probably just thought they were editing out the cleaning crew, it's an honest mistake.

      May 10, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  7. TRouble

    I think what happened was she went back to the future and her parents never met so she is slowly disappearing.

    May 10, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  8. jean2009

    Yet another group of uneducated boys who need to take off their little boy pants, and get over the fact that women can do what they do and most times much better. Where did they learn this nonsense from the Taliban?

    May 10, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • Dudley

      Not true Jean, women can't grow a penis....so your statement is false.

      May 10, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • jean2009

      Maybe not, but guess what men can't grow besides a brain.

      May 10, 2011 at 10:06 am |
  9. beth

    As a Jew this is an embarrassment. I am so very glad I'm not associated with this group and am not Orthodox. I feel very sorry for the women and girls and even for the boys and men growing up with such outrageous practices. It's very sad when religion turns people into people who can't think rationally as this act shows.

    May 10, 2011 at 9:15 am |
    • Mitchell

      Why are you embarrassed to be a Jew?

      May 10, 2011 at 9:35 am |
  10. kevin

    I wish i could close my eyes and Hillary Clinton wouldn't exist anymore too!!!

    May 10, 2011 at 9:15 am |
  11. Cleveland

    Hilldog erased from a photo...so what. Let's start worrying about matters of actual importance, that is the economy & national debt.

    May 10, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • sbp

      Seems to me the only President in the last 30 years to worry about the economy and budget/debt was Clinton. Sure wasn't Reagan, Bush, or W. Spending – Up. Debt – Up.

      May 10, 2011 at 9:49 am |
  12. the truth shall set you free

    No women were killed during the holocaust

    May 10, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • Bob

      I see you like to revise history as well.

      May 10, 2011 at 9:27 am |
  13. DMcK

    "Our photo editor realized the significance of this historic moment , , ," – and cut women out of this historic moment. Women have been robbed – by men -of their significance throughout history. It would seem these orthodox Jews are trying to compete with Islam for the 'stupidity' award. What a shame!

    May 10, 2011 at 9:09 am |
    • Mark

      Uh oh, sounds like someone needs a hug?? Leave it to the feminist nut-jobs to ignore the great photo-editing work done by a man!

      May 10, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • Michelle

      who said the photo editor was a man?

      May 10, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  14. john


    May 10, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  15. sam kohen

    Sometimes you wonder, is there any real difference between Orthodox Judaism and Islam. They sure seem identical.

    May 10, 2011 at 9:01 am |
    • rainkettle

      Radical Islamists carried out terror attacks against the US, and killed someone I knew. When Hasidics start blowing up buildings, then you can peddle your poisonous false equivalence.

      May 10, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • Bulloch

      All hail Satan!!!

      May 10, 2011 at 9:25 am |
    • AM

      Do your homework and stop being a close minded idiot. Using your religion as a platform for hating other people is not specific to radical extremists in non-christian faiths. Orthodox, radical, evangelical, fundamentalist... these words can be used to describe people of all faiths who contort the doctrine of a faith to become something that propagates intolerance and hatred. Your comment shows that you are a member of this small group, even if you aren't Jewish or Muslim.

      May 10, 2011 at 9:36 am |
  16. trixen

    Epic fail.

    May 10, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  17. idb

    Well, maybe they cut her out because she is spit ugly? Or because they did not want to offend their readers? Especially the last argument should be welcomed by the overly politically correct?

    May 10, 2011 at 8:48 am |
    • rainkettle

      Political correctness in a nutshell: Don't be a dick. I'm sorry that's hard for you to understand. Cutting people out of photos is the opposite of political correctness.

      May 10, 2011 at 9:15 am |
  18. Tim

    This will probably add fuel to the fire for distancing the US from Israel.

    May 10, 2011 at 8:48 am |
    • DC Chicagoan

      This happened in Brooklyn, not Tel Aviv.

      May 10, 2011 at 9:06 am |
    • rainkettle

      What does this have to do with Israel? The Hasidics want nothing to do with Israel, they think it's an abomination.

      May 10, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • rainkettle

      I sure hope this is a misunderstanding and you're not just another anti-Semite who thinks Jews are a uniform hive mind that operate out of one little country in the Middle East.

      May 10, 2011 at 9:14 am |
    • matt

      why is it that any time someone has spoken against actions undertook by a person of Jewish background, someone enevitably is lurking in the weeds to throw out the anti-semite argument? It is a form of goading someone to reply to reinforce the acusation and inforces a negative stereotype of Jewish people....be quiet already!

      May 10, 2011 at 9:43 am |
  19. noboat1

    What?.........We don't have bigger more pressing problems to worry about..........WHO CARES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 10, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • jane

      "Who cares"......being a woman, I certainly care!

      May 10, 2011 at 9:02 am |
    • 2711jbm


      May 10, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • God

      Hanukkah oh Hanukkah, come light the menorah, gather round the table and mom will bring us whatever we tell her to.

      May 10, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • Billy O

      The less mainstream religions get the more woman and minorities suffer. This is in my opinion worst than insisting and creating laws that "veil" woman. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hold an extremely important position in our government, if a group can deny her existence and human rights than what hope do the woman of this ultra orthodox group have. Everything is justified in religion by referring to the Bible or off shoots of those writings by groups of religious men that don't want to save souls but have power of them.

      May 10, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • kmb

      1. women care, 2. people who are interested in reading and seeing accurate images care, and 3. people with even just a bit of intelligence care about reading history as it happened, not as changed for religious/other reasons, care.

      May 10, 2011 at 9:23 am |
  20. Theo

    "The allegations that religious Jews denigrate women or do not respect women in public office is a malicious slander and libel"
    And simply removing all evidence of the existence of woman in historical photographs is what? A misunderstanding?

    May 10, 2011 at 8:32 am |
    • Jon O

      Why is that the fundamentalists in every religion believe in oppressing women?

      May 10, 2011 at 8:50 am |
    • alec

      This is just another example of prehistoric, misogynistic behaviour under the guise of religion.. Watch the Israeli movie "Kadosh".

      May 10, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • Didn't you read?

      They said the women weren't modest...

      May 10, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • Michelle

      I'm a woman and I couldn't care. All newspapers (or at least most) draw a line somewhere as to what levels of modesty their publication will stand by and will not publish pictures which they consider offensive. This newspaper simply doesn't want to decide what that line is, and so rules out all women.

      May 10, 2011 at 9:35 am |
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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.