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Friday, December 31, 2021 

Haredi author accused of sexual abuse commits suicide

Chaim Walder, the ultra-Orthodox writer from Bnei Brak who'd been accused of sexual abuse, committed suicide in Petah Tikva:
Haredi author and educator Chaim Walder was found dead in a cemetery near his son’s grave on Monday in what is suspected to have been a suicide. Walder was facing multiple allegations of rape and sexual assault of minors since a Haaretz expose last month.

[...] He 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. Last month, two anonymous women spoke to Haaretz and shared their accounts of their experiences with Walder. A third anonymous account from a 20-year-old woman was also shared.

Following the news of his death, Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, who had been presiding over a beit din (rabbinical court) regarding the alleged sexual abuse suffered by victims at the hands of Walder, released this statement: “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. We send strength to the many victims in these difficult times. Their lives precede his life.”

Twenty-two people have come forward to testify before the beit din
, Haaretz reported Sunday.
Earlier this year, the ZAKA co-founder Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, who'd also been accused of rapes, tried to commit suicide and put himself in a coma as a result. What he, and now Walder, have done suggests they're not as faithful to the beliefs of Judaism as could be when it comes to the issue of suicide. According to this report, the investigation conducted by the rabbinical panel discovered it gets even worse:
In addition, the rabbinical court spoke with therapists, rabbinical court judges, rabbis and professionals who testified about other men and women they allege were victimized by Walder. They described alleged cases of forced sexual relations and sexual harassment of women, girls and boys who had come to him for treatment, with the earliest accounts going back 25 years ago and the most recent ones occurring six months ago. A good many of the assaults were said to have been carried out in Walder’s book storeroom in Bnei Brak, as well as in his office, his car and in hotels.
So he committed both heterosexual and homosexual rape, much like it was said Meshi-Zahav had committed. It was also reported he'd committed adultery with married women, who themselves had to divorce their husbands. What the man did definitely caused terrible misery for a lot of people.

Sadly, after Walder's suicide, the Haredi press downplayed the crimes he was accused of:
Several leading ultra-Orthodox media outlets downplayed allegations of sexual abuse against celebrated Haredi children’s author Chaim Walder, after his death by apparent suicide on Monday. [...]

The Behadrei Haredim news site described Walder as a “well-known writer and man of education,” and highlighted a chain of summer camps he started. The obituary did not mention the abuse allegations or suicide.

The top story on the Haredim10 news website called Walder, “The man who influenced an entire generation of children.” Much of the article focused on his denial of the allegations against him, and on the work he did within the community.

It noted that the “tragic incident” of his death came after a Haaretz report that accused Walder of “alleged serious misdeeds.” The Kikar Hashabbat ultra-Orthodox site mentions the allegations, toward the bottom of Walder’s obituary.
Very irresponsible of them. Just because Haaretz is left-wing (an ideology most Haredis adhering to socialism are practically embracing, whether they think so or not), doesn't mean you should dismiss it all within an instant, mainly because, as the rabbis investigating pointed out, there were legal documents and other such items backing up the accusations.

By sharp contrast, a non-Haredi rabbi addressed the issue better:
The Kipa news site published comments by prominent religious Zionist Rabbi David Stav, who told the paper that the ultra-Orthodox community had a duty to publish the allegations against Walder to prevent possible further abuse, despite fears of potential suicide.
And he's correct. Seems as though once the criminal is dead, the Haredi press "reverts" to a lack of responsibility or objectivity. And now, the "chief rabbi" David Lau made things worse by visiting the shiva of Walder's family at the expense of his victims:
Lau’s visit to the shiva drew condemnations across social media particularly due to his silence on the Walder affair and not saying anything about the author’s alleged victims. So far, more than 20 testimonies have been brought to the rabbinical court in Safed that had convened to hear the accusations.
Although Lau seemingly addressed the importance of preventing sexual abuse, following the criticism, it was also noted:
Kan News journalist Akiva Novick responded to Rabbi Lau's comments, tweeting, "Rabbi Lau did not say a word about Walder's actions, or about the importance of protecting victims. He began his term as Chief Rabbi with countless promises and pretty words, and he is ending it in the same row as one of the most wicked people, who is covering up the Walder saga."

"We have no complaints about the Walder family, which is going through hell through no fault of its own," he added. "Our complaint is to the Chief Rabbi who has no opinion on such an important issue. He is keeping future victims from the protection which it is in his power to provide them with, and indirectly helping to whitewash the man."
This is why his positions on religious conversions are so hypocritical, and damage the abililty to maintain convincing stands on the issue properly.

And now, it's been reported that one of Walder's victims tragically committed suicide herself, as the way the Haredi press went about this drove her to pain:
A young woman who was allegedly a sexual victim of Haredi author Chaim Walder was found dead in Jerusalem today, apparently having taken her own life. [...]

Friends of the young woman say she had become distraught in recent days as some parts of the Haredi establishment feted him after his death. [...]

One friend wrote on social media that “she ended her life because her wounded soul could not stand the celebrations that were held for him.”
My condolences to the victim and her family. What the ultra-Orthodox establishment's approach did is inexcusable, and has now led to further tragedy that could've been prevented. It's fortunate to note that now, there's Jewish organizations who're taking the victims' side in this case:
Several major Jewish organizations have come out in support of victims of sexual abuse within the Orthodox community following the death of haredi author, therapist and accused rapist Chaim Walder.

The Rabbinic Council of America (RCA), a leading North American Orthodox rabbinical organization, issued a statement over social media expressing concern and support for the victims of Walder's abuse.

"This high-profile case reinforces the reality that our community, like all others, is not immune from the scourge of abuse," RCA president Rabbi Binyamin Blau said in a statement. "We call on everyone to protect and support victims and hold perpetrators accountable. We recognize that the allegations were not adjudicated in court, yet the reports to rabbis and the press are credible and substantial."

"Those in positions of leadership must create an environment in which victims are encouraged and feel safe to report abuse, and must promote public awareness and discussion of credible allegations of abuse," RCA executive vice president Rabbi Mark Dratch said.

On Thursday, Chabad.org released an article about eight things people who were victims of sexual abuse as children should know. This list was meant to remind these victims that they were not alone, the abuse was not their fault, their pain and feelings are real, healing is possible and they should be able to find someone to tell and get help.
A rabbi in Australia has also argued that Walder's books should be shunned, and the Samaria Regional Council's advising parents on how to explain this whole scandal to children. Certainly, it's fortunate to see a lot more religious institutions now voicing concern for victims of sexual abuse. That's certainly a lot more than you see say, LGBT movements in the USA doing, Islamic movements, or even most leftist establishments that haven't clearly condemned Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell for the sexual abuse they were committing over past years, let alone the Clintons for associating with them. If Lau won't make an unambiguous solidarity visit to the victims of Walder, and the Haredi press won't take an objective view of the scandal, that's exactly why they're not reliable sources, and Lau himself should resign for all the embarrassment he's caused the Orthodox Judaist movement.

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