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. Linda

    A lot of Christians, and certainly most other people who believe in God and Jesus as the Son or greatest prophet, forget that He said before He was nailed to the cross, that He was "going to tear down the church (Jewish), and rebuild it in 3 days. He certainly did this when he was resurrected 3 days after his burial, beginning the Christian religion.

    Personally, I find the psuedo intellectualistic vent above to do with Adam and Eve and the Book of Genesis above to be the biggest crock of junk I've read in years! At least you were able to "get your vent on" with your post because of this article. And, as Jesus also said, may those with ears to hear, hear; and those with eyes to see, see. Obviously some just don't have them. It's hard for many people to have Faith in what they have not experienced, miracles they haven't seen, answers to prayers they haven't prayed, and yet Faith is believing in what you can not see. I think it takes an open mind and not a closed one, some degree of spirituality to truly be a believer. As for "Think I'll Just Leave This Here", I think that you are greatly angry with God for some reason, or you might not even know what you claim to about the Book of Genesis. Get in touch with that anger and instead of blaming everything on God, look for what your own responsibility in whatever the source of all that vile anger and hatred is about. I don't think you'd have read as much of the chapter as you did, were you truly a non-believer.. Talk about someone needing a reality check, hope this helps you.

    May 10, 2011 at 11:39 am |
  2. Coriolana

    If they cannot use the photos given to them properly, then they simply should not be issued any kind of exclusive news at all, photos, text or anything else.

    May 10, 2011 at 11:17 am |
  3. GetReal

    I don't have any tolerance for this. This isn't "religious differences" – this is insulting and demeaning, as well as criminal. If a religious group wants to avoid eating pork, that's their business, but when they cut women out of a photo and display it as if they were never there, they insult me and all other women, Jewish or not.

    May 10, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  4. jojogan

    i also read another article where a rabbi harasses an airline stewardess and he claims he was asleep! the higher ups jewish council probably removed it coz i cant find it. so this is the new trend and stereotype for this group?

    May 10, 2011 at 11:04 am |
  5. Andreas Kyriacou

    At least these ultra-orthodox misogynists are politically neutral... In the past they also erased Laura Bush and female members of the Israeli govt from pics: http://kyriacou.ch/2011/05/virtuelle-realitat-nach-judischer-art/

    May 10, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  6. Cliff

    The Jews are at least partially responsible for providing us with Scarlett Johansen, Natalie Portman, Alison Brie, Elizabeth Banks, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Mila Kunis, Jennifer Connelly, and Gwyneth Paltrow. Where was I going with this? Oh yeah – I'm willing to overlook this transgression.

    May 10, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Cliff wrote: "The Jews are at least partially responsible for providing us with..."

      Don't forget about a certain fellow whose purported exploits have been glorified and promoted into yet another religious fable... Initials are J.C....

      May 10, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  7. thinkhard

    I have to say.. this is quite enlightening as far as how many different ways that humans can think about the same thing.
    We Jews are born into it, it is in our blood. What we choose to do with it is the question. As I see, several people have chosen to believe in HaShem (respectful Hebrew name for G-d), others have chosen to believe there is no god, and others a mixture of everything with their own opinion on top. Remember that HaShem will take anyone, just give Him a fair chance. I can guarantee that if you ask him to change your life, He will. But if you just sit there doing nothing, He will do nothing in return.
    I am also a Christian, or better put, a born-again believer in Yeshua (Hebrew name for Jesus). This is a life changing decision that I made a few years ago, one that you can NEVER and should never be forced into. It is absolutely and totally your decision to accept the gift He gives when he offers you life after death.
    Just wanted to say that so that you who are not believers would not feel pressured or insecure in any way. HaSHem is the director of the universe, all things happen in his time. I also want to apologize for other people who call themselves Christians, thus putting me and them in the same category, who are hard and angry with you, trying to push you to make a decision. That is not right. This world was not created to be full of strife, so everyone needs to just lay back and relax, their anger will do no good.

    May 10, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • Goobernut

      nicely said, and to the point Thinkhard...

      May 10, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  8. Bdub

    So why do we protect them agains those whom they are fighting against when their belief structure is essentially the same?

    May 10, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  9. Pete

    I guess if Clinton had won the Presidency back in '08, pictures in Di Tzeitung would show heads of state shaking hands with nobody and the State of the Union pictures would show groups of people looking to an unpopulated podium.

    May 10, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • Melissa

      HAHA! Right! They are REDICULOUS! They publish a paper but "miss the small print"-BULL CRAP! They know laws, they knew this was a STUPID idea...but they did it anyway.

      May 10, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  10. Dan

    The religion built on lies. Nice!

    May 10, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Dan wrote: "The religion built on lies. Nice!"

      Name me one that isn't built on lies?

      May 10, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
  11. Nivek

    If we can accept that there is a God and there is a heaven, and God is all knowing, eternal, all seeing, almighty, do you really think God gives a rats as to whether you eat pork or not, that women should wear burkas, that no photographs of them should be published (Heck, photography is not that old), that prayer is given 6 times a day over loud speakers, that the rosery should be said once a day...... I believe in treating others kindly and live a good moral life – that I think is what will get me to where I want to go (and it's pretty easy – plus I can eat pulled pork BBQ!!!!)

    May 10, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  12. Steve

    Religious freedoms DO NOT override all other laws. Di Tzeitung had the choice to not publish the photo. But, they chose their own laws over any others. Hmmm. Sounds like another "religious" organization we all know about, that puts themselves above all others.

    May 10, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  13. morningyet

    but heaven forbid if anyone says anything that is considered Anti-Semitic....we would never hear the end of it......JEEZ

    May 10, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  14. Robert W.

    I find this to be quite a quandary for the publishers of the news paper. Their best bet was to not use the picture at all. IF a murder was occurring in the picture and that was wrong to be published would they Photoshop it out?

    May 10, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  15. McLuhan

    WHen you get down to it, its all the same!

    May 10, 2011 at 10:06 am |
  16. Not All Docs Play Golf

    This dishonest manipiulation of truth is consistent with the fabrication and heavy editing of the Torah (and the whole Bible for that matter) over the long history of Judeo-Christian religion. How can you really believe any of it?

    May 10, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • Yoann

      The term judeo-Christian is an oxymoron

      May 10, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • Clarity

      That '...This dishonest manipulation of truth...and heavy editing of the Torah ...' has been identified a long time ago committed by the Jewish scholars of scriptures for a meager worldly wealth in The Quraan.

      May 10, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • Magic

      Yes, playing fast and loose with reality seems to be a long-held tradition. Around 3000-5000 years ago they would have photoshopped *in* a divine talking burning bush, the Red Sea parting, and all sorts of other weird events which they claimed to be real.

      May 10, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  17. Susan

    "..we regret if this gives an impression of disparaging women?"

    It was no 'impression' - it DID and DOES disparage women.

    Poof! Females simply disappear...

    Are all Hasidic males born of an immaculate conception? Oh, I forgot. Females are for procreating and catering to males' needs. Sorry.

    May 10, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • Hasher Iva

      Ultra Orthodox Jew, Muslim, I guess it all depends on if you are holding a bible or koran.

      May 10, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  18. mike

    More proof: ALL religion is lunacy. Some are more looney than others, but at the end of the day, crazy is crazy.

    May 10, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • Robert

      I'm sure you believe in wind, even though it's invisible, because the evidence of it surrounds you. It's the exact same with God, you just have to open your eyes to it.

      May 10, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • D

      Yeah, Robert, except with religion, there IS not "surrounding evidence." So "exact same with religion?" Eh, no. Not at all. It would be similar if we still thought wind came from an opened bag on a Greek island...

      May 10, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • manny

      wow well put mike.

      May 10, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • Kevin K in Texas

      There is evidence of wind.. ask ppl in florida, chicago, the midwest along with other random states that experience "God's" wind.. God must hate those ppl errrrrrrrrr, are testing their faith.. "faith" another invisible thing that has no evidence of existance... but whateve.. you psycho religous ppl keep having faith.. i will open my eyes to reality and not dumb blind faith in a "god" that hates humans and kills them with random natural disasters.. i will stick to believing in nature, something tangible, not some random invisible man.

      May 10, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • Jubril

      I do believe in God but i don't believe in Religion, religion has created more evil than good.

      May 10, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • Dave K

      @ Robert
      This is a terrible argument. There are multiple problems here, but the biggest one is air, while we cannot see it, can be measured. 'Wind', when the air moves, can be felt. We can measure the O, N, Ar, etc in the air (which comprises the wind). There's no way to measure a deity. In fact, "measuring God" barely makes sense to even read.

      May 10, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • Rex Remes


      Mike's comment was not about believing in God, it was about the lunacy of some aspects of religion.

      May 10, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • Clarity

      mike and all,
      Study religion from it's original sources – NOT from the secondary! You may be in for a better life ahead once you know where you are heading instead of being driven to an end you are unsure of. We shall all face the 'end' that no one has been able to escape. So hurry up.

      May 10, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • Melissa

      I agree-religion has caused more evil than good....RELIGION has decapitated innocent people, RELIGION has had planes fly into the World Trade Center and killed thousands of innocent people, RELIGION breeds evil thoughts, RELIGION breeds AL QAEDA...and....RELIGION breeds HYPOCRITES!

      May 10, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • Simon

      Robert. Limiting perception to sight is reductive. Wind is measurable and affects the sense of touch and can be explained by the laws of physics. Wind can also blow down buildings without reference to any god. Gods cannot be seen, felt, smelt, heard or tasted, except metaphorically.

      Belief in gods isn't logical, not to say it's bad, believe what you like, but suggesting god is like the wind is not defensible.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:42 am |
  19. magnus

    just another example of why religion is the greatest evil in humanity. at least jews and muslims agree on something: they hate women – and its founded on religious laws. LOSERS!

    May 10, 2011 at 9:48 am |
    • Robert

      It's not "religion" that's the problem, it's the corruption or misunderstanding of religion that is the problem. As the apostle Paul called it, "teaching as doctrine the words of men". This law they cite that forbids the display of women is not a biblical law (of the Bible, or Tanakh, being the Old Testament as Christians know it), it's something that men came up with outside of God's instructions, an interpretation taught as tradition and later as doctrine. I challenge this group to prove that this is God's law by referring only to God's law.

      May 10, 2011 at 10:05 am |

      Your 'sound byte' is pretty shallow. I would assume you know little about this from your own readings and study. Meaning, you hear and repeat with little substance. If this is incorrect I apologize.

      May 10, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • Peter

      "Jews" don't hate women just because a fundamentalist offshoot goes to an extreme. You would never say that "Christians are racist" because the fundamentalist Christian school Bob Jones University forbid their students from interracial dating, would you? i won't even begin to mention all Muslims tied to the very small percentage of radical Muslim terrorists. Come on. Look closer, my friend.

      May 10, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • Melissa

      I agree with ROBERT-I challenge them to find in the Bible a supporting argument for their claims. And I also agree that "Religion" causes more problems than anything.

      May 10, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • AreYouSerious?

      well yeah – so there could be endless wars that idiots you could blame on the invisible man in the sky?

      May 10, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • Isaac

      The way you all talk about religious jews, makes me think that not being
      religious doesn't help your brain much. Doesn't this non religiousness make you
      more open minded to understand other people? It seems that non religiousness is
      a religion of its own – with set rules, whom to fight and whom to hate! So what,
      they followed their narrow religious customs... There is no harm in it. Its not
      pleasant to see people stuck in the middle ages, but they could be nice people
      in their personal lives, for all that I know. The promotion of hatred towards
      people of any sector is far more dangerous than erasing a portion of a picture,
      how historical it may be.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  20. Option

    Simple Solution...... Never send them any White House photos again !!!

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

      My dear fellow Americans,
      Do you notice? Everyone news media Islam doesn't allow any freedom to woman. Is what way, this news paper's view is different than some Mulla's view?

      Why are news media targeting only Muslims?

      May 10, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • Ban Islam

      to mohamed – because jews, although as deranged as muslims, do not blow up buildings, that's why

      May 10, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • Paul

      I would like to point out to everyone here that this is a prime example of how any religion taken to its extreme tends to suppress women's rights and treat them like they are less than human. Orthodox Jews...Taliban style muslims, Pat Robertson style Christians...all basically the same thing in the end.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • Paul

      Mr. "Ban Islam" but Jews demolish homes and buildings in retaliation for random rocket attacks that rarely kill anyone. Jews practice terrorism themselves, they try to terrorize the population in palestinian territories by destroying neighborhoods with bulldozers and tanks. you think that's not terror?

      May 10, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • vasechek

      Paul, random indiscriminant rocket attacks on civilians nigth and day vs demolishing illegal buildings after due notices have been served? and you are calling the latter terrorist acts, while dismissing the former as child's play? that is enlightening. tell us more about yourself, please

      May 12, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
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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.