Photo Credit: Wikicommons
Chaim Walder

Until as recently as two months ago, Chaim Walder was a highly-regarded therapist and advocate for kids’ safety, a popular author whose children’s books – including the well-known “Kids Speak” series – were ubiquitous in the homes of religious families around the world. On Monday, Chaim Walder’s own story came to a close in an apparent suicide at the age of 52. According to multiple Israeli news outlets, he was found dead near the grave of his son at a Petach Tikvah cemetery after a passerby reported gunshots.

Walder’s death came the day after a beit din convened in Tzfat heard testimony from 22 individuals detailing his alleged sexual harassment, abuse, and assault of girls, boys, and women. Alleged incidents of abuse dated back as far as 25 years ago and as recently as six months ago, taking place in his storeroom in Bnei Brak, his office, his car, or various hotels. Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, Chief Rabbi of Tzfat and a member of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate Council, led the beit din, joined by Rabbi Reuven Nakar and Rabbi Aharon Yirchi.


Along with testimony from victims, therapists, and others familiar with the incidents in question, the rabbis reviewed audio recordings and documents that supported the claims against Walder, according to multiple media outlets. In a detail that feels prescient now, it was revealed that Walder threatened to kill himself as a tactic to manipulate people. “You know I have a death wish,” Walder said in one recording, threatening to shoot himself if the woman he was speaking to didn’t recant her confession of an affair with him given during her divorce proceedings.

Back in November, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on claims of sexual abuse and assault by Walder from three unnamed women, two of whom were minors at the time of the alleged abuse. In the days that followed, Eichler’s (a Jewish bookstore in Borough Park, Brooklyn) and Israeli supermarket chain Osher Ad removed his books from their shelves; publisher Feldheim Books pulled his books from their website; and his weekly column in the charedi Yated Ne’eman newspaper and his radio talk show were indefinitely suspended.

After the first allegations were published in Haaretz, Walder categorically denied them in a statement made through his lawyers. They asserted that Walder successfully passed a polygraph test to prove his innocence and would henceforth “take a break from all of his public duties, so that he will be free to fight to clear his name and dedicate his time to his family during this period.”

The beit din originally summoned Walder to participate in its proceedings – which, while not part of the state’s civil or criminal court process, carry weight in the chareidi community – but he refused. According to a statement released by Walder’s lawyers earlier this month, their client felt he was being subjected to a “populist process” and that the outcome was predetermined before the case began.

“We will make it clear that a self-appointed court that decides a person is guilty and only then invites him to tell his version is a sham court to which truth is foreign and the rules of justice do not apply,” the representatives said in the statement. “Our client will not give up, and he is ready to fight for his good name until the end.”

Meanwhile, Haaretz reported Dec. 26 that the police opened an investigation into Wilder after the allegations against him were published in November, but no criminal complaints were filed thus far. Some of his accusers were contemplating civil suits, the outlet reported.

Speaking with Rabbi Avi Berman on the radio program Galei Yisrael back in November, Rabbi Eliyahu emphasized that his condemnation of Walder and endorsement for pulling his books from the stores and homes of the Jewish community was not based on a newspaper article. “There are documents, transcripts, court records. Photos, recordings. Unequivocal things,” he said. He described Walder as comparable to other uncovered predators in the chareidi community such as Rabbi Eliezer Berland and Yehuda Meshi-Zahav and “a danger to society.”

“I think it is assur for people to be near anything connected to him,” said Rabbi Eliyahu. “People like him should be denounced by society, and it is impossible to denounce someone when you’re reading his books. It legitimizes him.”

Responding to the news of Walder’s death, Rabbi Eliyahu said: “It is unfortunate that he chose this path. We suggested to him to fix what he had ruined and ask forgiveness from the victims, change his ways and ensure that no more people would be hurt. He could have taught many people how to do teshuva. It is a shame he chose to harm himself. I wish to strengthen the many victims at this time; their lives come before his.”

Share this article on WhatsApp:

Previous articleHamas Taking Gaza Killed the 2-State Solution
Next articleA Brief History Of Haskama Letters
Rachel Kohn is a freelance writer based in Chicago. Follow her on Twitter at @RachelKTweets and see more of her work at