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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. On the Sidewalk

    What Der Tzitung should have done, was to simply replace the two subjects with white space, removing their images while preserving their outline. The extra effort they invested to disguise the women’s very existence seems incriminating. Still I have to wonder if the text accompanying this photo stated that the image was doctored in accordance with the publication’s beliefs? If so at least they were honest while holding to their principles. If not, their photoshop job amounts to a blatant manipulation of the truth. Of course knowing nothing about this paper, maybe it also runs stories about alien landings and some overweight woman who gave birth to a monkey. It’s not like we don’t see that kind of tripe in print every day at the checkout counter.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  2. James S

    I read this short report, and my first reaction was outrage. I read some of the comments, and see that most of them were similarly outraged, for various reasons. And a truly ugly thought came to my mind. This is, I see, an 'ultra-orthodox Jewish' newspaper. I remember a group that was very famous for editing ideas, based on fervor. They called themselves Nazis.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  3. Daniel

    I thought Israel was democracy . I guess not , it's a theocracy

    May 9, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • Lettuce Prey

      Yet another comment from the shallow end of the gene pool. This newspaper is published in Brooklyn, NY. Not Israel. Read the article, moron.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  4. M.F. Stout

    What a bunch of clowns. Medieval.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  5. BroadCasting

    Those a$$wipes are the first to whine about discrimination and persecution but they have no problem removing two women from history.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  6. Sameer Khan

    Oh, and Islam is the religion that prevents women's rights.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • Lettuce Prey

      All of the world's major religions are patriarchal. Man created god in his own image.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  7. heraldofwhoa

    Maybe they held the photo up to a mirror?

    May 9, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  8. thehumanconditionisitchy

    Religion shows how viable it is in this new world..again. Go away zealots and fairytale-mongers, you smell like failure and mothballs.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  9. MS

    All religions are insane

    May 9, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  10. Mark

    Just shows how F'ed up the mideast way of thinking is. Oh, sure we can show people's bodies all mangled with their head chopped off but NOOOOOO pics of women, and not so attractive women, in a photo. Need to shut this paper down or at least fire whomever did it.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Mo

      Mideast? You do realize this newspaper is printed in the NYC serving the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, right?

      May 9, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Thinks2010

      Most male dominated religions have engaged in this sort of foolishness to a certain degree at different times in their existence. Have you ever noticed how similar traditional catholic nuns' habits are to the clothing imposed on women by fundamentalist islamic groups or how similarly fundamentalist christian, jewish and islamic sects try to restrict the participation of women in religious activities and at various times in public life? I'm sure there are a lot of other similarities as well; they just aren't coming to my mind at the moment.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • tngirl

      Not sure what a female's appearance has to do with this. I wish men could drop the judgement of women on a physical basis some of the time, maybe when it's really irrelevant. I'm a girl, and I have to look at ugly dudes all the time. I don't really want to look at any of the men in this pic anymore than you seem to want to look at the women, but I also recognize that the significance of this photo is not dependent on the appearance of its subjects. It's not a swimsuit magazine.
      The men who impose these restrictions are weak, and their bias has nothing to do with protecting women or avoiding arousal. It has to do with gratifying a pathological need to dominate another group.

      May 9, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
  11. Doc

    And yet another example of just how goofy religion can be. People of the Jewish faith take great exception to anyone who reconstructs history regarding the holocaust, and yet here they are recontructing history for their own purposes. This is why religion, ALL religion, and government should be kept completely separate. Religion, more often than not, is utter nonsense.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • NoFool

      Very powerful statement. You are absolutely right, and thanks. The contradiction you point out needs to be scrutinized and resolved. Can't have it both ways, and I'm not aware of any exceptions to that.

      May 9, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
    • LG

      in 'reconstructing history" jews seem to leave hitler's other victims out of the holocaust story like it's usually look what he did to the jews!!! not look what he did to all those people. I believe these jews see themselves as separate and not equal with other people Do they represent a majority of jews? Maybe. .

      May 10, 2011 at 6:00 am |
  12. Ann

    Err ... what about the gay Hasidic Jews? Surely, they are turned on by graven images of men! So off with the images of those who sport penises! Not to mention the temptations of ultra-orthodox cat-loving gentlemen - no images of cats for them! And finally, think of the plight of those poor fellas turned on by images of laptops, paper coffee cups and newsprint ... oy vey!

    May 9, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  13. eddie2010

    Just goes to show that to the religious a lie (a false, doctored photograph) is more important than the truth (yes women actually are involved in day to day life and can make decisions, even in government). Why bother with the photograph at all if it is so offensive as to merit many hours of photoshop to remove those lesser mortals known as "women"? Surely a block of text describing the scene would have been enough.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  14. Daniel

    Is it true that a jewish woman in israel can get 7 yrs in prison for wearing a .......pray shaw ?

    Can someone confirm this ?

    May 9, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  15. Joe Fattal

    What we need to do is take a street in a Jewish neighborhood in brooklyn take of all the store signed and change then into German. A good photo opp.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  16. Alfredo Fla.

    It may have been because they have a ban against pant suites there... lmao

    May 9, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • Phil

      In New York City?
      Not the last time I checked...

      May 9, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  17. Johnny

    Fundies are the scrouge of humanity. They twist the truth to further their twisted agenda. The world would be better off without them.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  18. Daniel

    Your comments tying these people to all religion is whats rediculous. It would be like saying that if a football player for the Broncos got arrested for selling cocaine, " I told you all those professional football players were cons and drug dealers!" YOU are the morons!

    May 9, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  19. CH

    It's got nothing to do with being Jewish but everything to do with being religious. All religions are basically silly nonsense, and those who take it seriously are fools, and this is yet another example.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  20. MissWendy

    I may be wrong, but I didn't think you could edit a picture that was copy written. I'm not sure about this, but I wouldn't think so.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • Sam

      Copyrighted... not copy written.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
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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.