Leading rabbinic judges urge against reading Chaim Walder's books

According to the rabbis, reading the books of Walder, a popular Israeli ultra-Orthodox author and therapist accused of raping young girls, is like supporting his actions.

 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)

Two leading dayanim (rabbinical court judges) in Israel's haredi community have urged the public to not read the books of Chaim Walder, a popular Israeli ultra-Orthodox author recently accused of raping young girls, according to a statement shared on Beinenu.com and later confirmed by Israeli media.

The statement, written by Rabbi Yehuda Silman and Sariel Rosenberg, did not mention Walder by name, but instead referred to an author who is called an "educational figure" who is accused of committing "serious crimes."

Walder is a noted therapist in the haredi world and is the author of the popular Kids Speak series, which have been used as educational books in schools.

Israeli media corroborated that the letter was intended to refer to Walder. Further, Silman and Rosenberg, who head the Bnei Brak rabbinic court, have also known the author for years, KAN reported.

Accusations have been levied against the letter's authenticity, but it was confirmed by the court to be genuine, according to KAN.

"If the allegations against him are true, it is prohibited to read these books," the rabbis wrote, adding that one should not read books by an author who is thought to have committed something indecent, as "reading his books is like supporting these acts."

Despite the accusations not being confirmed, and Walder denying all accusations against him, one should not read these books before the situation is resolved, the rabbis stated.

These statements are in line with what was previously stated by Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, who 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."

The accusations against Walder has sparked a wave of condemnation throughout the ultra-Orthodox world, with many leading voices speaking out against the author.

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 contributed to this report.