Chaim Walder, author accused of rape, summoned to Safed rabbinic court

Walder refused to attend, claiming Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu already decided the ruling.

 Chaim Walder in his office with a copy of his bestselling book Kids Speak (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Chaim Walder in his office with a copy of his bestselling book Kids Speak
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Ultra-Orthodox author and therapist Chaim Walder was summoned Thursday to appear before the beit din of Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu after his alleged victims appeared before the court to testify about the alleged sexual abuse they suffered at his hands, Haaretz reported.

Walder, author of the widely popular Kids Speak series of books, has been accused of raping minors.

In response, Walder's lawyers said the author does not plan on going to the court, according to Haaretz.

According to the lawyers, Eliyahu has already decided his ruling in the case. Further, the fact that a Haaretz journalist tweeted about the summons indicates that it is part of a "populist" process.

Eliyahu has been vocal in his condemnation of Walder after the allegations came to light.

Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu attends to the funeral of Rabbi Elazar Mordechai Koenig in Safed on December 31, 2018. (credit: DAVID COHEN/FLASH 90)Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu attends to the funeral of Rabbi Elazar Mordechai Koenig in Safed on December 31, 2018. (credit: DAVID COHEN/FLASH 90)

In a Facebook post, Eliyahu said that keeping Walder's books in schools while he faces these accusations makes Walder "a character who has legitimacy, and it is an educational disaster."

"The Torah wants us to treat rape with the greatest severity there is and tells us that rape is considered murder. It is impossible to keep books at home by someone suspected of sexually abusing so many women," he said, stressing the need to make it clear that his actions have "no shred of legitimacy."
"I hope for his sake that the accusations against him aren't true," Eliyahu concluded. "But meanwhile, there are many women who testify that he has harmed them, and their voices cannot be ignored."

In mid-November, Walder was dropped by his publisher, Feldheim, and his books were removed from shelves at popular haredi supermarket chain Osher Ad and from the Borough Park-based retailer Eichler's.

The author has also seen his talk show on Kol Chai radio taken off the air and his weekly column in the haredi newspaper Yated Ne'eman stopped.
Walder, who lives in Bnei Brak, is a well-known author publishing literature for children and young adults in the ultra-Orthodox world, with his series Kids Speak (in Hebrew - Yeladim Mesaprim Al Atzmam - Kids Speak about Themselves) selling over two million copies of his books in haredi communities across Israel and the Diaspora. The first book in the series became one of the top five best-selling books in Israel of all time.
Notably, one of his stories, titled "Stay away from strangers," deals with a minor being raped by an adult.
He has written over 50 books and is seen as having revolutionized literature for children, as his books allow the child to speak their thoughts and emotions aloud, and focus on difficult and sensitive topics. He also heads the Center for Child and Family run by the Bnei Brak Municipality, and is a certified counselor, working with children and young adults suffering from trauma and abuse.
However, he has been accused of allegedly engaging in sexual activities with minors, two girls aged 12 and 15, with a third testimony accusing him of regularly raping a 20-year-old woman, his therapy patient, as first revealed by Haaretz.
Since then, the number of women coming out with accusations against Walder number over 20.
Walder has denied these allegations against him, and his lawyers have accused them of being a "virtual blood libel" with "no connection to reality."
Shira Silkoff and Aaron Reich contributed to this report.