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Rabbi Eliyahu: A Pity Chaim Walder Chose Suicide

Safed chief rabbi: We will continue to take care of author’s victims; their lives take precedence over his.


By Yehonatan Gottleib/Arutz Sheva with combined sources

Following the news of the death by apparent suicide of charedi children’s author Chaim Walder, Chief Rabbi of Safed Shmuel Eliyahu released a statement:

“We heard with pain about the suicide of Chaim Walder. It is too bad he chose this path; we had offered him the option to fix what he had broken. To apologize to his victims. To change his ways. To ensure that no more women would be harmed,” Rabbi Eliyahu said. “We send strength to the many victims in these difficult times, their lives precede his life.”

Rabbi Eliyahu had been presiding over a beit din regarding the alleged sexual abuse suffered by victims at the hands of Walder, who was found dead in a cemetery near his son’s grave in Petah Tikva on Monday, December 27. Walder had been facing multiple allegations of rape and sexual assault of minors since a Haaretz expose last month.

According to Rabbi Eliyahu, Walder “could have taught many through repentance. It is a pity that he chose the path of suicide. We are strengthening the many victims at this difficult time; their lives take precedence over his life.”

Rabbi Eliyahu, who summoned Walder to appear before the special rabbinical court he had established together with Rabbi Reuven Nakar and Rabbi Aharon Yirchi, explained how he came to the conclusion that the women who testified against Walder were telling the truth and noted that Walder committed serious acts, as he defined them.

Rabbi Eliyahu said: “We checked and questioned and asked extensively, witnesses came before us who testified that he committed adultery with married women for many years until he caused them to divorce and be forbidden to their husbands. We have seen a court action on this and have strengthened things with further unequivocal evidence. We also heard recordings in his voice indicating serious acts of sexual crimes he had committed, and we found him guilty beyond any doubt.

“Even though it was clear to him that he was destroying homes. And even though it was clear to him that he was tripping and defiling the house of Israel, Walder continued on his way without stopping for a moment. We received testimonies about 22 women and girls he harmed, and there is no doubt that these cases are only a small part of the serious damage he caused.”

Walder was accused of raping minors and young adults, all of whom he met in his line of work as a therapist and children’s author. In November of this year, two anonymous women spoke to Haaretz and shared their accounts of their experiences with Walder, and a third anonymous account from a 20-year-old woman was also shared. A total of 22 people had come forward to testify before the Bet Din, Haaretz reported.

Walder continued to deny the allegations against him, with his representatives saying he passed a polygraph test as evidence that he was telling the truth.

In an interview with Kan Reshet Bet on Tuesday, December 28, Rabbi Eliyahu said, “He will not go to Heaven at all. People like that do not go to Heaven. The suicide was predicable—in an attempt to silence the victims, he threatened to kill himself. The severity of what he did is like murdering [someone]. Now, we need to look at the victims as well. Not at him. I saw the horrific scar he left on those children.

“It’s obviously not pleasant when someone commits suicide, and it’s painful, and we are people. But at the same moment I said—at this moment, dozens more girls are being spared from attack. The world has become more pure. It sounds a bit inhumane to think this way. One who saw, with their own eyes, the young girls and the men who were hurt, cannot help but think of them. I know them and I saw them, and I saw the horrific scar that he made on their souls. You can’t help but avenge them.”

Walder was a well-known author of children’s and young adult’s books in the ultra-Orthodox world, with his series Kids Speak selling over 2 million copies in 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.

Rabbi Asher Melamed, the former chief rabbi of the Israel Police who currently serves as director of the Israeli Protection Center, said Israel’s charedi sector has been traumatized by the scandal and Walder’s subsequent suicide.

“The scandal created a trauma in the charedi sector, not just among the victims,” he said. “Many mothers read their kids Walder’s books before putting them to bed. Three generations have raised their kids on what he wrote.”

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