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. Barry Comer Design

    You mean the Hasidics are still crazy?

    Heck yeah! I got married in Cyprus to avoid having to deal with those nuts!

    May 9, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  2. Binladenisdead

    I wonder if that is why child molestation is so rampant in that community when they see little boys they get excited, because the men are so repress they are no different from the muslims. God forbidd the women should show their cankles and not wear all black. Each family must have about ten kids in it I guess the more kids they have the more for these perverted men to molest it's a shame.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  3. Gotta6

    HA HA HA HA HA HA HA ! ! ! ! This is a new low !

    May 9, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  4. Sildenafil

    While I find the reason behind it ignorant, the photo was not doctored explicitly to remove Clinton. If you look in the very back, the woman in the upper right corner was removed as well. But of course "Religious paper cuts women from iconic photo" wouldn't draw in the readers now would it?

    May 9, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  5. Magic

    Whoever found this photo - good catch.

    I hope that they fine the pants off of these guys for copyright infringement (or whatever the abuse is called in legal terms).

    May 9, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • tngirl

      Now if they do fine their pants off, can they show those pictures?

      May 9, 2011 at 9:25 pm |

    there is something seriously wrong with this type of thinking, and I am sure no one will say or do anything about it.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  7. Captain_OWNER


    May 9, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  8. MikeBell

    Sorry bunch of incontinent males.
    Apparently they are sick in both heads.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  9. Big~Smelly~Tuna

    "With God on our side we will win the next war." Bob Dylan
    "One death is tragic. one million deaths is a ststistic." Joe Stalin

    "Please, no mustard on my gefilte fish." Rabbi Schnokmen Heimstien

    "Any preacher with more than two suits is nothing but a hustler." Lenny Bruce

    "I will smote all your mf-ing @sses." GOD

    May 9, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  10. Trent

    I'd expect this from Islam, but not from a Jewish group.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Big~Smelly~Tuna

      delusional you.......

      May 9, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  11. absolute marine

    This is what is going to kill all of us on this planet. It's this thing called ( Religion ) in any form no matter what you call it catholic, Muslim, Jewish what ever. You all hate each other and your going to kill the rest of us for some make believe all powerful OZ.
    Grow up there is no bogeyman under the bed or monster in the closet. Some call it having faith ? In what !! How to kill in the name of the all grate OZ. I'll just sit here smoke some good stuff and watch you freaks blow each other sh!# up. You got to love Religion !!!

    May 9, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  12. Tony Zeoli

    It's hypocritical for a Hasid publication to obliterate history when they have asked the world to understand and respect their faith and tolerate their religion, as many of us do (myself included). Just because you have a religious belief does not mean you can simply rewrite history by illegally removing content from a image under copyright. This is Ethics in Journalism 101. I think the White House should file suit and let a judge decide as to whether they should republish the image intact, as intended. If this were a University setting, the person would be expelled. If it were the New York Times, the person would be fired. Unfortunately, the same standards probably don't exist in this organization.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  13. CM

    Open your eyes America... Sharia Islam isn't the only religion responsible for crimes against women. Every major religion out there subjugates them in one way or other.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • MikeBell

      True. But this one is not the one in the forefront killing or mutilating them.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • Chris Baumgarten

      @Mike: True, to my knowledge there is no tradition of female genital mutilation in Judaism. However, neither is there in Islam and in Christianity. Yet in some parts of the world, especially Eastern and Northern Africa, that ancient and barbaric tradition stemming from pre-montheistic times has been incorporated into both religions as they're practiced in these regions. That is one reason why it is so hard to stamp it out.
      And as for hurting women: It will not be very hard to find some Jewish and Christian sects that still condone spouse abuse. And the tradition of "honor killings" in deeply catholic Sicily is not long gone...
      Violence against women is not a particularly Islamic trait. It happens and is justified in and by all religions of this world or at least used to be until very recently.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  14. DanW

    I wonder what the photo editor did with the pics of the two women after he removed them!

    May 9, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  15. fierybuddha

    "We're not going to comment" on this matter, a White House senior official told CNN.

    What?!? They damned well SHOULD comment! Screw the conservatives in this country of ANY religion that want to take away the centuries of equality work women have done!

    May 9, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
  16. Sarah

    they understand that feminism is a joke as well.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
  17. Blue Balloon

    Just exposed those religious nuts for the fearful 'men' they are. A national embarrassment for them.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  18. john

    What's the translation on the caption? Are the ladies mentioned at all?

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

      My guess would be no

      May 9, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  19. mark in nyc

    another group that has outlived its purpose.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
  20. stephen douglas

    Just like Islam, muddling and recreating history to fit their own views and agendas. All religions are distortions and lies meant to control the masses with false hopes.

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

      "Just like Islam, muddling and recreating history to fit their own views and agendas." Wait, are we talking about religion, or the Bush/Cheney administration? Or both?

      May 9, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • Jim

      Ummm...it was a Jewish newspaper that did it, not a Muslim one.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • Chris Baumgarten

      Wrong: It is fear that's used to control people. Or do you know any religion who does not embrace the fear of eternal damnation (or temporal damnation) as a principle? I don't.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:15 am |
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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.