Sunday, August 07, 2022

Every one of us seems to have had multiple copies of these books in our house. Whole shelves, even. A solid three generations of children and adults across the religious spectrum, from Haredi to ultra-Modern, have read and enjoyed the “Kids Speak” and “People Speak” series—books that have made us and our children feel less alone, more loved, and in the company of a supportive and inclusive family of klal Yisroel. These books were great for tougher times, even when—or maybe even especially when—our home lives were turbulent. Books can provide comfort and solace in difficult times, and we all seem to have bought these, sometimes two or more per year. These were books that contained real Torah lessons, and were often read aloud to young children.

This week many of us were shocked by the news of the suicide of Chaim Walder and considered, again, if we had not already, removing these books from our shelves. Still others among us are hearing the disturbing details and still processing the terrible news reports from the beit din he was facing: of sexual abuse of a wide range of victims going back 20 years or more. His death complicates a wide spectrum of questions that are left unanswered, and a lot of people are clearly in great pain.

There is also a very difficult-to-navigate halachic area here, and much of what we have read focuses either entirely on the allegedly guilty party, or entirely on the need for support of the victims. While we know and accept that both approaches are of immense importance, added to that are also shocking questions about the past 20 years: About why—or even how—these victims’ narratives have not, even still, not reached the public’s ears. Was there some kind of “open secret” about Walder that we all missed?

This is not even mentioning the concerns of bystanders, how our community’s young children will feel when they learn about these allegations when they are old enough to understand how very criminal they are; and whether the holy messages contained in Walder’s books are entirely pasul (unfit for use). We have heard strong views from rabbis from both perspectives.

In light of this tragic case we plan to present several pieces as part of a series, ideally addressing the many concerns so many of you have expressed. We hope to present useful articles that will benefit families and children, from as many professional perspectives as necessary. On page 16, in fact, we have some initial thoughts from Rabbi Zvi Gluck, of Amundim, advocating for victims of sexual abuse.

We invite you to send your thoughts to us at edit[email protected].

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