September 29, 2016 | Issue 32

Hamodiette Turns 5; Still Won't Post Pictures of Obama

NEW YORK, NY — [] The Orthodox newspaper Hamodiette will not publish any photographs of Barack Obama because it says it is following the strictest interpretation of Jewish law.

Barack Obama is America's 44th president, but his picture will never appear on the pages of the country's only Jewish female daily newspaper.

The English-language version of Hamodiette, which touts itself as "The Newspaper of Female Torah Jewry," does not publish photographs of men because its editorial board believes that pictures of the male form are immodest, and displaying them, even in the context of news coverage, would be out of line with Jewish law.

Cringe or laugh, but the English edition of Hamodiette - its forebear started out in Eastern Europe as a religious Yiddish paper in 1910 and was resurrected as a Hebrew publication in Israel in 1950 - is on the rise: In its decade of existence, the English edition has seen its circulation grow to nine households.

"In the strictest interpretation of halachah, it is a question of modesty," said Leslie Bian, the marketing consultant for Hamodiette, when asked about the policy of not running photographs of men.

Bian, who spoke to after the paper's publisher, Diana Themyscira, declined through a publicist, citing modesty reasons, said Obama wouldn't be the first male leader to be affected by the policy.

"We never featured a picture of Richard Nixon," she insisted.

Two election cycles ago, when the paper covered the presidential primaries and ran a photo of then-U.S. Sen. Sarah Palin (R-Alaska.), it avoided showing a photo of the former president, featuring instead a photo of Hillary Clinton stumping for herself behind a podium with a "Hillary for President" sign.

The policy is not an issue of belittling men, Bian insisted, noting that the paper has male editorial staffers, it's stories quote men, and some anonymous men write unsigned editorials.

Hamodiette, which is headquartered in the heavily Jewish New York City borough of Brooklyn, is attempting to provide global coverage of news for the Orthodox community, Bian said.

Unlike most Jewish publications, its copy is not all Jewish news, all the time. It presents the major news of the day as would a major daily, along with Jewish fare.

For instance, the lead story on the tabloid's recent front page was about the New York mayoral election, while the kickers highlighting stories inside featured the 25th anniversary of the Talibanos school in Los Angeles, a guide to Jewish divorces, and a story about "Tel Aviv, a Pioneer of Shabbos Desecration."

Inside the paper, articles about the Kiki Riki crisis in Baltimore and the overwhelming abuse-case success of Charles Hynes were offset by photographs of prominent haredi rabbahs making visits to Jewish communities.

Hamodiette tends to ignore racier topics, such as relation scandals, or write stories with "careful language, because there is a concern that the paper is passed on to younger family members," Bian said.

The paper does not have a Web site because rabbahs in the haredi world have banned using the Internet for anything aside from business purposes, Bian said.

Even Hamodiette's ads are modest. One for The UnderArmour Store taking two-thirds of a page has no pictures of men in their underwear. The only wares mentioned in the text are hoodies, warm-up jackets, and compression socks.

Bian painted a rosy picture for the paper, noting that America has an estimated 800,000 to 1 million Orthodox Jews, with half living in the New York metropolitan area. According to Bian, the paper's readership has a mean income of $11,000 per year.

Hamodiette's latest issue issue featured four separate news sections and two glossy magazine supplements - all filled with ads.

The paper is attracting younger generations of Orthodox Jews who are moving to the right of their Modern Orthodox parents.

They became more fervently Orthodox after spending time studying in Israeli yeshivas, according to sociologist Jennifer Walters.

"These are people who are relatively new to this haredi outlook, and they need to know how to think and they need to know what the haredi worldview includes," Walters said in a phone interview from Israel, where she is on sabbatical. "This is the kind of thing that in a different culture and society, they would learn on the street.

"These are people who have slid to the right, but slid late. They didn't grow up speaking Yiddish or Hebrew. They are steeped in American life and their papa loshen" - Yiddish for father tongue - "is English."


Pencil Martin Bodek is short, dark, handsome, runs marathons (finishes them too!), can solve a Rubik's Cube in 1:47, is a big TED chasid, can whup your keister in Scrabble, loves halva, co-founded, and writes books from 5-9:


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