Ultra-Orthodox paper ‘makes history’ with partial photo of Hillary Clinton

A newspaper that serves the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community took a small but significant step for women last week when it printed a picture of Hillary Clinton, partially obscured, speaking at a campaign rally in Florida.

The photo was first picked up by a Jewish blog, Only Simchas, which wrote about it under the headline: “History Made: Yated Ne’eman Publishes a Picture of Hillary Clinton. A Woman!” The photo shows only Clinton’s hairdo and raised arm, but it goes further than other images used to illustrate articles about Clinton in the ultra-Orthodox press. In the past, editors of Yated Ne’eman and other papers have instead used political cartoons or photos of Clinton’s husband, Bill.

The obscured photo ran only in the print edition of Yated Ne’eman, an English-language weekly published in Rockland County, NY, whose name means “the faithful peg,” a reference to Isaiah 22:23, where the prophet speaks of placing a divine servant as a “peg in a sure place.” The paper’s website carries only a small selection of articles each week.

CJR reported last year that the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency was a “nightmare” for the ultra-Orthodox papers, which have a policy of not printing photos of women for reasons of tradition and modesty. In interviews at the time, editors of the ultra-Orthodox newspapers said that they were reevaluating the policy in light of the success that Clinton was having in her campaign and the growing likelihood that she would be elected president. Not to run her picture as president, one of the editors said, “would be disrespectful.”

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It is clear that the most recent partial image is a step in that process: a test to see just what the community will tolerate. One editor familiar with the decision told me that the most recent Clinton photo does not represent a change in policy–“ultimately, the rabbis will decide,” the editor said. But market research is important, too. So far, the editor said, reception to the picture has been positive. Additional images of Clinton, obscured and unobscured, are likely to follow.

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Ari L. Goldman is a professor of journalism at Columbia and the author of four books, including The Search for God at Harvard and Being Jewish.