Just when you thought that the stupidity of the media has gone so far that nothing they cover will surprise you….
With all that’s going on in the world these days, you know terrorism alerts, economic crisis, rising unemployment, sky rocketing deficits and increasing oil prices. I’m struggling to understand why this is even a story.
Some small time local Yiddish language Hasidic newspaper with a readership of about 20,000 Orthodox Jews. Edited Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and one other female adviser out of the iconic photo showing President Obama and his security team watching the raid on Usama bin Laden’s compound last weekend.
For some odd reason the entire national and international media ran with this story as if someone had just discovered America or something. It began when a website dedicated to degrading Orthodox Jews decided to turn nothing into something.
The Jerusalem Post began with speculations:
While Der Zeitung had no comment as to why it altered the picture, many conjectured that it was either because of concerns about immodesty, or strong feelings that women should not be in positions of power.
Foxnews went along with the Jerusalem posts speculations:
The Jerusalem Post, which published an article on the alteration, suggested that the Brooklyn newspaper edited the women out because of concerns about women in positions of power. Others suggested that claims of modesty barred the newspaper from showing images of women.
Note how Fox turns around the argument and points to the theory of concerns about women in positions of power before the claim of modesty. On air Fox News even went as far as conveniently editing out the modesty claim.
Even the usual Jewish friendly website The Blaze picked it up and ran with another manufactured inaccuracy:
According to that site’s author, Rabbi Jason Miller, the newspaper not only violated the pictures copyright, but it might be guilty of an even greater “crime.”
“Der Tzitung edited Hillary Clinton out of the photo, thereby changing history,” he writes. “To my mind, this act of censorship is actually a violation of the Jewish legal principle of g‘neivat da’at (deceit).”
You get the gist of it. This story ran like a wild fire. As is evident no one bothered to do even minimal research to understand why Der Tzeitung newspaper acted the way it did and why the editors of the newspaper made a decision which according to the standards of that paper was the right decision.
In order to understand the actions of Der Tzeitung newspaper, it is necceseery to understand the principles of the Hasidic Jewish culture.
In Orthodox Judaism, especially in Hassidic Jewry, family purity is paramount, over and above anything else. In order to maintain this purity much emphasis has been put on modesty and family values. Boundaries are set by Rabbis and individuals take upon themselves either stronger or more lenient boundaries. But whichever way one leans, the ultimate goal of maintaining modesty will remain. Whatever boundaries or stringencies one accepts upon themselves will be kept under any circumstances. Some of these boundaries include, not shaking hands with a woman, not greeting a strange woman, not accepting any item directly from the hands of a woman and some will even go so far as not to even acknowledge a strange woman’s presence in the room. This is not due to lack of respect, but a personal guideline to avoid any temptation whatsoever.
One of the primary principles is that girls and women are taught to avoid any behaviour that may incite a strange man. Modesty of dress is important; they wear only long sleeves, high necklines and their dresses must cover the knees. Tight or suggestive clothing is a complete no-no. Many women will take upon themselves more stringent boundaries such as only wearing wide skirts and covering their hair. Within the households many are extremely stringent not to bring in any outside female influences which includes clothing catalogues, magazines, movies and other media. Some even go so far as to not allow internet access in their homes. All this is with the ultimate goal of keeping the families and future generations pure.
If one were to take a closer look at the Jewish community the result of these stringencies means that, unlike any other culture in the world, teenage pregnancies are practically non-existent, sex outside of marriage is more or less unheard of and even talk of sexual nature, except of that between husband and wife, is considered unacceptable.
This is not to say that the Orthodox Jewish community is uneducated or not up to date with news or world events. The community boasts successful business men and women, accountants, lawyers, doctors, politicans, financial advisers and even journalists and other media representatives. This is where Orthodox Jewish newspapers like Der Tzeitung come in. The community likes to be kept informed, but do not wish to impinge on their moral standards. With the mass media celebrating sexuality and where moral values keep on plummeting, the Orthodox Jewish community had to create their own media outlets. In order to comply with even the most stringent boundaries set by individuals upon themselves, the newspapers have to set extremely strong moral guidelines.
There are various Orthodox papers, with some catering specifically to women, where pictures of women are allowed, but still kept to an extremely modest standard. Each editor will set his or her own boundaries as to how much is permissable in their particular publication based on their target audience. Whilst a picture of a modestly dressed Hillary Clinton will not be offensive to many, each paper must stick to the guidelines they have set so as not to alienate their target readership. If a paper like Der Tzeitung has established, based on Rabbinical guidelines, that no pictures of women are to be included in their paper, then they must stick to it. Even if the woman may be the President of the United States. This is because once the paper starts blurring the lines of what is and is not acceptable, it is a slippery slope and defeats the purpose of having an Orthodox Jewish publication.
At this point it is encumbent upon me to mention that the Orthodox Jewish media in general, will support female candidates. They will cover speeches, events, print campaign posters equally for men and women. What they will not do is print a picture of any female, whatever her station. It is important to emphasize that the paper in question, Der Tzeitung, was one of the first Orthodox papers to endorse Hillary Clinton for the senate race in 2000 and again in 2006. They ran multiple full page ads for her campaign.
These traditions go back since people were drawing heiroglyphics in caves, so it amazes me that the mass media is picking up on it now. As to the claims that the Orthodox Jewish community cannot accept women in power, these preposterous allegations are widely disproven during the course of history. The Book of Esther is obviously named after the heroine, when it could just as well have been the Book of Mordechai. The Israelites have several Jewish Queens and even the non-Jewish ones like the Queen of Sheba are celebrated. And let’s not forget that the State of Israel had a female prime-minister long before the British and the Americans have yet to catch up.
The Jewish community is made up of several different sects, ranging from Conservatives, Progressives, Reform and extreme Liberals. Many of them have had a lifelong mission to assimilate the Orthodox community. They always represent the Orthodox as being stupid, naive and living in the dark-ages and this theory has been widely disproven judging by the successes of the community in general. The Jerusalem Post, a progressive newspaper, and all the other self-hating Jewish blogs, will never miss an opportunity to stick it to the Orthodox Jews and spin nothing into something when they know quite well where the Orthodox community are coming from. At least the Jerusalem Post had the courtesy to mention the immodesty issue, whilst Fox news, a supposed pro-Israel fair and balanced network, whilst quoting the Jerusalem Post conveniently forgot to mention it. (See video above). And the entire international media just ran with the story without abiding by journalistic standards of doing the minimum research to understand the culture.
In the course of this debate some have argued that by doing so, Hasidic Jews are degrading women, subjugate them and by accepting “culture” of leaving women out of photos, they are heading down a very slippery slope like burka aand sharia. Someone noted that this will result on Hasidic Jews forcing their culture on everyone else.
Orthodox Jews do not degrade women. To the contrary. Many Orthodox women hold high executive positions and political offices. Not only do they hold those positions, they are even encouraged to do so. Orthodox Jews do not invoke the culture on any one else and except in rear occasions, like entering a synagogue, a none Jewish or non Orthodox women entering a Jewish area will not even be asked to abide by the cultural guidelines.
As for the claim by the Blaze that by editing the photo the paper committed “The Crime” of deceit. This is laughable at best. Had they not have edited the photo they would have been deceiving their readers who expect the paper to be clear of any images of women. Had any of those covering the story actually taken the time to read it or have it translated, they would have realized that in the story the paper covered all the details accurately including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s role in the mission.
The only error in judgment Der Tzeitung made was using the image at all. In the spirit of keeping their readership informed of such an historic event they wanted to include this iconic picture. In hindsight perhaps they should have pixelated or cropped the image rather than airbrush.
Finally, as for the claim that the paper violated the White House copyright rules, the Washington Post notes:
Der Tzeitung released the following statement today in response to the furor that has erupted regarding the altered photo:
The White House released a picture showing the President following “live” the events in the apprehension of Osama Bin Laden, last week Sunday. Also present in the Situation Room were various high-ranking government and military officials. 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. 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 allegations that religious Jews denigrate women or do not respect women in public office, is a malicious slander and libel. The current Secretary of State, the Honorable Hillary R. Clinton, was a Senator representing New York State with great distinction 8 years. She won overwhelming majorities in the Orthodox Jewish communities in her initial campaign in ‘00, and when she was re-elected in ‘06, because the religious community appreciated her unique capabilities and compassion to all communities. The Jewish religion does not allow for discrimination based on gender, race, etc.
We respect all government officials. We even have special prayers for the welfare of our Government and the government leaders, and there is no mention of gender in such prayers.
All Government employees are sworn into office, promising adherence to the Constitution, and our Constitution attests to our greatness as a nation that is a light beacon to the entire world. The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. That has precedence even to our cherished freedom of the press! In accord with our religious beliefs, we do not publish photos of women, which in no way relegates them to a lower status. 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 to women, which is certainly never our intention. We apologize if this was seen as offensive.
We are proud Americans of the Jewish faith, and there is no conflict in that, and we will with the help of the Almighty continue as law-abiding citizens, in this great country of our’s, until the ultimate redemption.
One commentator on the Foxnews website, in response to another commentator who claimed that the statement by Der Tzeitung was bigoted or something, summed it up well:
Well, you see it incorrectly, and through bigoted eyes. Their statement is polite, diplomatic, and accurate. And, yes, the only people who did anything wrong were those who “called them on their actions”. Think of it. You never heard of this newspaper before, much less read it. Why are you making an issue of it? In fact, the only reason you even know about it is because of an anti-Semitic former Jew who has a website that specializes in distorting and disparaging the actions and words of religious Jews.
Albert Friedman, the editor of the paper talks to CNN:
Assemblyman Dov Hikind talks to ABC News: