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. NW

    This is a perfect example of what is wrong with this world and its organized religious beliefs. Pitiful.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Lola

      Exactly !

      May 9, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • Ed Galbraith

      Exactly right. Religion makes people a little weird.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • TiredODaCrap

      Yes....A crazy backward culture is what is wrong with religion....Keep holding to your (dis)beliefs!!! It's amazing that "enlightened" and "educated" folks such as yourselves can come up with nothing better than childish insults when it comes to religion. Have fun in Hell!

      May 9, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • Adam

      If by hell you mean Miami, I most certainly will! Thanks!

      May 9, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Chris Baumgarten

      Exactly. Organized religion structurally produces that kinda nuts. And worse.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  2. gotbinladen

    This is just another gutter religion, they don't believe women should have rights, they are the most perverted bunch of men around, alway leering at women. A bunch of child molesters in that communtiy. That religion is no different from the Muslim gutter religion.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  3. J Davis

    Mislabeled XENON Forecast Map Shows Massive Nuclear Radiation Fallout Cloud Over US
    http://blog.alexanderhiggins DOT COM

    May 9, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  4. thebob.bob

    Religious whackos are all the same. It doesn't matter if they're Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Hindu or whatever. When will we learn that when "Faith" trumps fact, when "belief" is accepted as valid in the face of reality, humanity goes down the rabbit hole.

    Faith-based reality is delusional. Get these nutcases on medication!

    May 9, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  5. J. Luna

    I'd understand if they just blocked them out. I can't agree with making it seem like they were never there.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
  6. goss

    Censorship at its worst....what the hell? Der Tzitung is a disgrace. F them

    May 9, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
  7. devilsporkchop

    I think Bin Laden would've done the same thing in the 'Al Queda Times'..... amazing how much all of these fundamentalists have in common....

    May 9, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • Prove Me Wrong

      Right on, sir. Perfectly stated!

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

    These nuts and the taliban look alike the same God and all, the only way to tell them apart is with a short arm inspection.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  9. T3chsupport

    And of course calling them out for doing this is going to be labeled 'anti-Semitic'.
    What a load!

    May 9, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  10. Bill Clinton

    Seriously – Having impure thoughts about Hillary. I never thought that was possible

    May 9, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
  11. Boscobear

    Hasidic Jews know the dangerous when repressed males see pictures of 'pant suit hotties'. The streets aren't safe for weeks!

    May 9, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
  12. AtheistSteve

    One doesn't have to look to fundamentalist jewish newspapers to find discrimination against women. Just a couple of weeks ago in Des Moines, Iowa christian protestors were outside during the American Atheists convention. Led by some blowhard calling himself James the Preacher he was holding up a variety of placards with one that read "Women should not be allowed to vote". This train wreck of mind numbing idiocy is available in all its gory detail at

    May 9, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • Chris Baumgarten

      Wonder hat would happen if I started calling him names like he does to me. Let him think that I as an atheist will burn in hell, alright. His perfect right to do so. As it is my right to think he has a mental problem. But it's not OK to call anyone a pervert or worse. As an atheist I have to put up with that regularly. If I did the same thing to religious fanatics (not to mention your mainstream religious folks) I'd probaby get beaten up and sued for slander every day.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  13. Steve

    Osama would have liked this paper....

    May 9, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
  14. KiltinSA

    I love it...more so becasue the United States stands firmly behind Israel!

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

      The newspaper was published in New York, not Israel. It's not Israeli policy or practice to ban women from photos, it's the practice of a small number of Jews.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  15. kamana

    Whereas everyone has the right to worship in any way they choose, no one has a right to lie or be a part of any lie. This Truth especially applies to the religious community for religion is the oldest of mankind's frauds, first begun in India hundreds of millions of years ago while that sub-continent was still a part of south africa.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  16. Aroo Madazda

    Who would have impure thoughts about Hillary Clinton?

    May 9, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • kamana

      Bill Clinton?

      May 9, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Dark Helmet

      Michael Moore.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Todd


      May 9, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  17. Bibi Baby

    Wonder what this paper did when Golda Meir was Prime Minister of Israel.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
  18. Dead Man Blogging

    If these guys are having impure thoughts about Hillary Clinton, they really need to get out more.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • cecilia

      some men find intelligence, integrity and class a turn on

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

      Besides, Ms. Tomason is actually quite hot 🙂

      May 9, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Mike in WA

      So which of those would apply to Mrs. Clinton?

      May 9, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • jddrew

      and which of those 3 does she have again?

      May 9, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • vasechek

      cecilia, that might be why they decided to "turn her off" 😉
      (but then what's their problem with the woman in the back?)

      May 9, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  19. Seth Hill of Topanga, California

    The Bible says "don't make any image of anything in heaven or earth..." Exodus 20:2 So those folks publishing a picture of the men in the room are violating God's commandment.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • Phil

      Of that particular religion...
      I don't think Jewish people use the same holy texts.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Mike in WA

      Way to take half a quote and twist it to your own use, you could be a good politician. Not to mention that you cited the wrong verse.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Mike in WA

      Phil. Exodus is from the Old Testament which we took from Jewish holy books as it is of their history.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • Vince

      That is in reference to idol worship. If you use a Bible verse, don't take it out of context.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • Phil

      I'll have to take your word for it Mike, I have no idea either way.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Adam

      @Mike in WA he merely did the same thing all religious leaders do. Take text from the bible and bend it to mean what they want it to mean. Nothing new. Its all fiction anyway, so its not like it matters.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  20. Paul

    HA! What a joke! This is why as a Jew I persistently disclaim any affiliation I have with Hasids– they are just as backwards, dogmatic, intolerant and out of touch with reality as any fundamentalist from any religious.

    Let's also not forget about the legal ramifications of potentially violating a copyright condition disseminated with the photo– if it says it cannot be manipulated if copied, then this newspaper has illegally used the copy of this photograph and may face legal consequences (and they should!).

    Fair use of copyrighted materials means just that– fair use under reasonable terms laid out by the owner of the copyright (in this case, the White House since they took and released the photo).

    What a joke, Hassids, what a joke...

    May 9, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • cecilia

      I have a button stating "Recovering Catholic" they should make it available for all religions

      May 9, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • 2cents4free

      Every religion has it's radicals I guess. If they are doctoring pictures I can only imagine the doctored "news" they are putting out.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • Melanie

      Thank you for you words, Paul. I wholeheartedly agree. As a woman, I find this disgusting on so many levels. How can we support any type of censorship, much less something that changes history outright. They didn't even wait until all the people in the picture were dead before removing them from history. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

      May 9, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Belingo

      Good point, Paul! Kind of reminds me of when I was in Israel and I saw an ultra-orthodox Jewish man, and five meters behind him his wife (I suppose) carrying two heavy supermarket bags. Puts things into perspective when it comes to religions (or branches of religion) that disrespect and degrade women.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Chris Baumgarten

      I hear you – as an Austrian I am quite happy to see some Jewish life returning to my home city Vienna. There's at least two or three kosher restaurants and maybe one day we'll hear Yddish on the streets again (a language I love the sound of but understand only a little) and enjoy that great Jewish sense of humour. Unfortunately a lot of the Jewish people immigrating to Vienna are Hassidim from Eastern Europe. So, in short: religious fanatics who try to take control of Jewish life in Vienna. That of course is something I rather resent as this could ruin the benefits of Jewish immigration the city so desperately needs after all the crimes its citizens have committed against Jews. Judaism has been a vital part of Vienna's culture and hopefully will be again. Hassidism isn't. It will just bring about the same problems it has caused in Israel. Just on a smaller scale.

      May 10, 2011 at 10:53 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.