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. Another Larry

    That's just sad, in the pathetic sense.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
  2. sol

    more dumb religion showing just how dumb it can be.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
  3. Steve

    This guy's lucky he didn't cover Israel under Golda Meir.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
  4. Leslie

    It does not matter ladies...you were there!!! And a part of history.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
  5. fiskenmann

    just like ben ludicrous followers, the ultra-orthodox jews have proven they are also dancing boys.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  6. PhilG.


    In America,too.

    Women should keep their mouths shut and get behind their man three steps back too,I guess.


    May 9, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  7. jinn

    There is no difference between a staged photo and a tampered photo.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  8. Buzz

    Once again, orgainzed religion proves itself obsolete. Get rid of the backward and/or violent Big Three, Christianity, Judaism and Islam and the world will be a better place.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • Bob


      May 9, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • Lettuce Prey

      I agree with you for the most part, but realize that more than 90% of the world's population believes in god in one form or another, therefore you and I are in the minority.

      However, I think in this country we should abolish their tax-exempt status. That could go a long way towards solving our current deficit problem.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • absolute marine

      well said

      May 9, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  9. Phoenix

    Written from a perspective of a non-religeous jew:
    Anything ultra- (left or right, religious or not) is not good. None of the extremes are... Considering the fact that judaism does not prevent women to be seen in public, this kind of "editing" makes little to no sense... Every religion has extremists – judaism, islam and christianity alike. The difference is the percentage of total population. For example, there are ultra-orthodox jews in Israel who want Israel destroyed because they don't like its civility. However, the ultras can amount to roughly .00X percentage of hasidic jews and about the same percentage of religious christians. Unfortunately, the percentage of muslim ultras is a lot bigger, roughly around 20% of the entire population. As for my opinion re this so-called newspaper – US government should sue them for violation of copyright laws – I'm pretty sure the Israel government will only be glad to support it.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  10. Roland

    Can't say I'm surprised. Every sect seems to have some sort of branch of radical extremists. So why should these people be any different just because they are "jews"?

    May 9, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  11. mee

    taking out the pictures is the same as lieing , it show the media can never be trusthed , where ever it is.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
  12. Blue Balloon

    Religion vs. faith. Know the difference.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • Phil

      Can't have the former without the latter?

      May 9, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • shamgar50

      Blue Balloon, both are pretty dumb ideas to base your life on.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Religion = blind adherence to dogma
      Faith = steadfast belief in a proposition that totally lack evidence.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  13. TechGuy

    Leave religion out of it and start paying your taxes, don’t hid behind your beliefs, embrace them and contribute to society in a positive manor. All you’re doing with this kind of crap is throwing fuel on the fire. Last time I check religion does not exclude you from following the laws of the nation you reside in!

    May 9, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • LG

      Yes we live in a nation of laws--and some of the laws might be crazy

      May 10, 2011 at 1:21 am |
  14. Ham

    I for one can't wait for America to be ruled by Hasidic Jews. Finally a group that's willing to stand up to the rampant Sharia law that's happening across this once great nation. Finally a group that puts women in the place the Bible says to put them. I'm tired of all these apologist Christians twisting the words of our Lord and Savior. Why would women ever need to be able to vote when their husbands (God's appointed Ruler of the household) should be the one shouldering this responsibility?

    May 9, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • MrEee

      Now that's not the Bible that the Hasidic Jews are following but the Torah, but in terms of Christians adopting Old Testament laws you're not that far off. It's all insane.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • GTA

      You must be joking, because you couldn't possibly be that stupid...

      May 9, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • imalady

      Wow, can we chauvinistic? Seriously people, this country was founded on freedom for EVERYONE! Not just males. This isn't a jewish state, and it isn't a muslim state. We tolerate you because we stand for freedom. If you don't like our freedoms you do not have to be a part of this country. So get the H out if you don't like it!

      May 9, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • KPM

      I rather hate to burst your bubble, but the assertion that a particular sect of the Jewish faith will "rule the world" or even "rule the country" is laughable at best. It's not any type of discriminatory statement, it's a look at pure facts. There are by current estimates no more than 14 million people practicing Judaism worldwide. Of that number, less than half are in the United States. If you look at demographics, there are more Mormons in both the Unites States and in the world as a whole than there are people of Jewish faith. Add to that information that there are only a tiny number of people in the specific sect you are describing, and you can see just how ridiculous your statement is.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  15. RDS

    Ahhhh....Religion strikes again ! "Tolerant, peaceful, accepting, forgiving" and all those other fine qualities that religions have when it's convenient for them.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
  16. vbscript2

    They said that a picture of Hillary might be suggestive? Really? That's probably the best complement she's had in a while.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • absolute marine

      Now That's Funny !!!

      May 9, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  17. Peace

    the hasids are terrified that their wives (who basically live as cloistered and abused as any taliban wife does) will see this picture of women in positions in respect and power and will realize that there is a world outside for them to live in if they choose...something they've never been given their entire lives: freedom and choice. what a horribly abusive life hasidic women live.

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

      Hahaha... and of course the White House won't comment on it because it's a Jewish group. They won't touch that one with a 10 foot pole.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
  18. It'sObvious

    Religion vs. Reality.....
    One's real, one isn't

    May 9, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Bob


      May 9, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  19. Dennis Linsin

    I would love to hear the rationale behind the paper's decision!!

    May 9, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  20. stevarreno

    How absolutely sleazy can you get? Doesn't Judaism have the same proscription on lying that Christianisty has? Or similar? This isn't religion. This is just old fashioned political lying. What a bunch of jerks!

    May 9, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • MrEee

      A fundamentalist is a fundamentalist is a fundamentalist. Don't think that a crazy Jewish religious person is any more sane than a crazy Muslim one, it's just that they have no doctrine telling them to try to convert other people to it. Their doctrine says that God gave them the Holy Land, so that's what they will kill for. Islam, it's killing / subjugating everyone, but in terms of level of sanity... it's all just wacky people.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:10 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.