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I was reading a My Encounter the other week (not available online) which had an interview with the editor of The Moshiach Times. In it he described how the practice of other religious magazines at the time (1980's) was to not include pictures of women (or girls) of any kind on the cover. The interview goes on to describe how the Lubavitcher Rebbe (who reviewed every issue before publication) insisted on including a picture of a girl on every cover, even if the theme of the cover (like a boy's room) didn't really fit.

I later found (with pictures of the relevant covers, including a before and after of the boy's room) a similar description of the story here of the covers here towards the end of the article, with a different (perhaps complimentary) description of the nature of the objection that had nothing to do with the content of other magazines.

I also notice that magazines like Mishpacha and Ami never include pictures of women, even in the section written by and targeted to women - never a picture of the author or any female subject of the story. In terms of illustrations, Mishpacha will only include an illustration of a girl in its kid's cartoon series, whereas Ami will include illustrations of adult women.

The Nshei Chabad Newsletter seems to have no issue, not only with illustrations, but also with pictures of girls and women, although I have no idea what drives that decision.

In a couple of related observations, I know of a camp in flatbush that would not show Young Avraham because it contained animations of women, and I saw a DVD which re-enacted "The cow that wouldn't work on Shabbos" where there was a scene of a Shabbos meal where the wife of the home was conspicuously absent.

What are the opinions of Poskim (contemporary or otherwise) regarding the propriety of publishing such pictures, and their reasons?

Note: As should hopefully be obvious, this question is only about modest pictures of women or girls. It is assuming that immodest pictures would be a problem.

  • Your title limits the question to "religious [publications]". Is that intentional or would you like to include a Jew who works for a secular publication as well? – Double AA Jun 23 '14 at 18:51
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    @DoubleAA, I'm not asking if a religious Jew was participating in a secular publication what the issue would be, or about reading secular publications that contain such pictures. Rather about the halachic requirements of a religious publisher. Although answers could certainly find something from those contexts and apply it here. – Yishai Jun 23 '14 at 18:54
  • This is a good question. I noticed this trend happening in a number of weekly local Jewish newspapers. These papers have NO pictures of women anywhere. Seemingly strange is when you see an ad from a yeshiva dinner and it says "honoring Rav and Rebbetzin Ploni", but only Rav Ploni's picture appears. Likewise, when they show pictures from a simcha, they show only the men dancing. I've also seen a paper that won't publish women-oriented ads such as for sheitels or women's clothing or make-up, etc. Another won't mention any women's names. I think that's stretching the halacha, somewhat. – DanF Jun 23 '14 at 19:05
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    Just to clarify. I'm almost positive that the Moshiach Times never had photographs on the cover, just illustrations. (basing it on the memories of my youth). Just pointing this out because this distinction may be brought up in some of the answers. – Menachem Jun 23 '14 at 21:38
  • This is an ultra modern trend without precedent in the mainstream Orthodox community, Charedi or otherwise. There are extreme (and rather controversial) views regarding modesty amongst Ger chasidim, but current attitudes are simply foreign to anyone with half a memory. I went to Charedi schools, and indeed they did "censor" pictures of women by covering up short sleeves and the like with little pieces of construction paper. But wholesale cropping of women was unheard of and would have been the subject of side-splitting ridicule... – Ephraim Jun 24 '14 at 19:02
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The Nitei Gavriel wrote a letter to the Lubavitcher Rebbe about publishing the pictures of the Rebbetzin, and the Lubavitcher Rebbe's response (in bold):

Nitei Gavriel's letter and the Rebbe's notes on it

ב"ה, י"א אדר [תשמ"ח] לכבוד כ"ק אדמו"ר הגה"ק שליט"א באתי להעיר אודות שיצא לאור ספר אמנו "המלכה" בודאי הבחין בהפשוט גם בלא הסתכלות כלל - אשר במהדורא אחרת הוסיפו בלי צבעים תמונה מהרבנית ע"ה ולפענ"ד אינו נכון - ואף דאחז"ל סנהדרין מ"מ גמירי אין יצה"ר שולט אלא במה שעיניו רואו ושולל בנוגע לאחרנייתא וגם קיי"ל באה"ע סי' כ"א ס"א דאסור 1) להסתכל אף בבגדי 2) צבעונים של אשה 3) שהוא מכירה ומכלל הן אתה שומע שלילת האיסור כאשר אין ג' הנ"ל, ובפרט - כל הג' (ועי' באוצר הפוסקים סקי"ב בשם שו"ת הב"ח סי' י"ד דגם בבגד אשה שכבר מתה עיי"ש) משא"כ בנ"ד ועכ"פ מדת חסידות להחמיר, אלא שעי"ז יתמעט ב"והחי יתן אל לבו" - כנראה במוחש (ואולי זוהי סברת המוסיפים הנ"ל). ואשרי הדור שהגדולים נשמעין לקטנים

So the Nitei Gavriel said that the evil inclination only incites to what he can see, and the Shulchan Aruch (Even HaEzer 21:1) says that one isn't allowed to even look at women's colored clothing who he recognizes, and the Bach says that even the clothing of a woman who passed away is forbidden to look at, so all the more so a pious person should avoid looking.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe responded:

  1. In another print they published the picture black and white,
  2. While the evil inclination incites one to sin only who one sees, it doesn't incite one to sin with another (meaning, if A sees B, he's not incited to sin with C).
  3. It's forbidden to stare, at colored clothes, and only if he knows her. But if all the above three conditions aren't present, it's permitted.
  4. Being stringent in not looking at her will hurt one's "VeHachai Yiten El Libo" - the living will take to heart (and learn from her behavior).
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You asked:

What are the opinions of Poskim (contemporary or otherwise) regarding the propriety of publishing such pictures, and their reasons?

The newspapers you mention have a Rabbinic Counsel of sorts, but it seems that the "no female pictures" comes from a Marketing Perspective.

The average audience they target will not stop buying simply because there are no women - and some will not buy if there are women. So the conclusion of "no women" is easy to reach.

On the other hand (or: to prove the point) page through the Gedolim Biographies that are published.

Most of them include pictures of women (mothers and wives for example). Many of these biographies have approbations from recognised Rabbonim. (Not sure how to define Poskim in this case.) At the very least they have the approval of the Gadol's family.

Another example/proof: The Sefer Minhagei Lita (Customs of Lithuanian Jewry) by Rav Menachem Mendel Poliakoff זצ"ל includes a picture of himself and his wife.

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Rav Nissim Karelitz writes in Chut Shani that it is prohibited "lehistakel" at pictures of women and that it's included in the prohibition of "lehistakel" at women's clothing (Shulchan Aruch Even HaEzer Siman 21 Seif 1). He also mentions that it could be more problematic than being mistakel at women's clothing.

Based on this, the religious publications might want to avoid any halachic issues. (For many houses that receive these publications I could imagine that a magazine would be the only source of a picture of a women that would be available in the home.)

(I have not translated the word histakel because there seems to be a debate on that point and the conclusion is halachically significant. )

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Rabbi Yosef Chaim Ben Eliyahu from Bagdad paskens here that it is improper and unworthy of her Jewish liniage for a woman to model for pictures for publication. (H/T footnote #7 in the blog post referenced here).

(I somehow doubt that this posek is the Halachic basis of the magazines in the question, but it is at least a relevant source to the question).

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