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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. sadiesadie

    As a woman who is Christian I don't mind dressing conservatively and don't find it se.xist etc. No one is asking me to cover my face or to not interact with men.
    I am not really bothered by the altering of this picture because maybe they have different beliefs than me, but they should have stated that they changed the picture. Also since it was illegal I suppose they will have to deal with that.
    I do find the hateful comments.about religion a bit unnecessary but have come to expect it from an extreme sect of the population that thrives on insulting others and showing off their bigotted and closed minded ways... Those atheists sure are progressive!

    May 9, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • Chris Baumgarten

      Well, you do know that as an observant Christian woman you're second to your husband and are at least expected to cover your head when in church? Read Paul... It's not like Christiany was in principle a step towards progress in the treating of women. Fortunately today's practice is a bit more modern, at least with the overwhelming majority of Christians. But if only you took a look at late medieval cathedrals in Europa, or even some from later periods, you'd notice that all the women are depicted as wearing a veil with a striking resemblance to the one many Muslims expect women to wear.

      May 10, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  2. Matt

    How are these people any different from the Muslims. They seem to have the same view of women. Abraham started all the major religions. Now we see another example of how similar, at least two of them, really are. Maybe they should get together and have a few drinks and get closer together. They seem to have alot in common.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • David Zarmi

      Well they don't really like the killing of innocents, but otherwise, you're right... On a non-anti-semitic serious note, it is really sad that Muslims cannot be accepting of Jews religiously, but aside from exceptions, the norm is that they can't. Jews of course have no problem with anybody else doing anything – they don't proselytize and avoid conversions except for the serious die-hards who keep coming back.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  3. richard

    What a bunch of backward, ignorant morons. I have absolutely no respect for any religion that still embraces such ridiculous practices and laws.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  4. Tom

    Hey, here's an idea: If you are that offended by the content of the photo DON'T REPRINT IT!

    May 9, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • tngirl

      Or photoshop penises on the guys to balance things out.

      May 9, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
  5. Busted2010

    Don't we hear from politicians in the US that one of their biggest criticisms againts Islam is the discrimiation against women. Newt wants to bring back the Judeo-Christian roots of America, which are inline w/the traditional beliefs that removed the women from this photo. Well if he's elected say good my to your rights ladies.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  6. bushwhacked

    more jewish extremiism at work here

    May 9, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  7. NoWay

    Typical ultra orthodox Jewry we have to put up with in this country. Doctoring of a copyright image removing women is an insult that must not be tolerated in this country. Dirt bags.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Phil

      I wonder why their lawyers didn't catch this?
      I thought Jews made good lawyers, no?

      May 9, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • David Zarmi

      I like how you're equally offended by the copyright violation as their decision to avoid gawking at women. I saw a photo that photoshopped a game controller into Obama's hands. Those dirt bags and their copyright violations. Or how about all the music downloads? Now we're up to half the population of the civilized world being dirt bags. Hey, I bet you're surrounded by dirt bags.

      "That is his name sir. Dirt Bag, Major Dirt Bag!" "And his cousin?" "He’s a Dirt Bag too sir. Gunner’s Mate First Class Philip Dirt Bag!" "How many Dirt Bags do we have on this ship, anyway?" Entire Crew: "Yo!" "I knew it. I’m surrounded by Dirt Bags!"

      And that was a copyright violation from Spaceballs. Or maybe it was fair use. Maybe Der Zeitung was pranking CNN. Then that wouldn't be dirt bags, right? The difference between good and bad religions would be the percentage of their adherents that think it's okay to physically harm or kill others and impose their beliefs on non-adherents. And the former category is worse than the latter, believe it or not. Not only to khasidim not think that Christians should become khasidim, they don't even think that Jews should – they just live by themselves happily until CNN comes along.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  8. bushwhacked

    these MORONs , religious nuts are the jewish version of the taliban.
    they ought to be ashamed of this behaviour and im amazed they let their daughters out of the house of to school

    May 9, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Chris Baumgarten

      Actually, there was a case of a rabbi in Vienna who took his daughters out of school because there was no gender separation, not even in the Jewish private school. He was fined for that, especially since he could not even prove that his daugthers got any serious homeschooling at all. Of course he was crying discrimination all over. The public hardly reacted to that at all since everyone knows the guy's nuts (he's one of the rare species of Jewish holocaust deniers). I just imagine the outroar had he been a Muslim imam. At any rate, I am strictly against homeschooling on religious grounds. It's just like leaving children to religious fanatics. Oh well, it is leaving childred to religious fanatics...

      May 10, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  9. peakarach

    What do Christianity,Urthodox and Islam have in common? Believe it or not they are all part of Arab religions.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
  10. Jim

    Anthony: "Godless atheists" is a reduncency, since "atheist" means "without god".

    May 9, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
  11. ART

    Wow they are just as backward as the muslims

    May 9, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
  12. Stephen

    By merely posting this article CNN is giving these people 1000000 times more attention and legitimacy than they deserve.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
  13. BaltoPaul

    First time Hillary Clinton was ever erased from a photo for being "too hot."

    May 9, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  14. jb

    I don't know, Joe Biden and that other guy without the tie must be getting some women really hot right now. They are showing more skin than the ladies. 🙂

    May 9, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  15. get real

    s3xually suggestive and Hillary Clinton in the same sentence? GET REAL!

    May 9, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  16. jlf2002

    Why does the "Situation Room" look like a converted broom closet?

    May 9, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  17. w_roos

    Just goes to show that no religion is immune from its share of dingbats...

    May 9, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  18. Jewish John

    Appears the Jewish community have serious issues. They should be ashamed of themselves. Reality check, they were there get over it .

    May 9, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • Edwub

      Like muslims and christians, jews are not one big religion. There are many groups, often with differing beliefs.

      Criticizing all jews for this is like criticizing all christians for the exorcisms of children in west Africa or condemning all muslims for the actions of bin Laden.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  19. Daniel

    So...The Jews have a "Taliban" too. I wish the ultraconservative Jews, Mormons, Muslims, and Christians would just SHUT UP or go live in enclaves like the Amish and leave the rest of us alone.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • Phil

      Well said sir, well said.
      There's nothing wrong with religions in general.
      But when asshats like these start putting themselves before the rest of the world, it show just how much ignorance is ingrained in their daily lives.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • truss

      Mormons are Christians. They do not delete women from photos.

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

      I don't think the comment is completely in reference to just doctoring photos.
      It's the whole intolerant mindset of, "it's my way or no way."

      May 9, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • Chris Baumgarten

      Or better yet: Let's build a giant hall for them where they can just discuss it out. Or fight out. Whatever they prefer. Just as long as the compound is guarded tightly. We could broadcast the discussion live on Comedy Central...

      May 10, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  20. Jenerous

    So...they took out the females so the men wouldnt have impure thoughts or actions. Ok. Why didnt they take the men out so the women wont have impure thoughts or actions? Lmao are they confirming that women are better than men? 😉

    May 9, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • Jenerous

      I eat carpets.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:40 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.