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After sex abuse accusations, Haredi author Chaim Walder steps away from public life

Celebrated kids’ author says he intends to spend time clearing his name; announcement reportedly came after newspaper where he works told him to take a break or he would be fired

Chaim Walder in 2011. (CC BY-SA Yoninah/Wikimedia Commons)
Chaim Walder in 2011. (CC BY-SA Yoninah/Wikimedia Commons)

Well-known ultra-Orthodox children’s author Chaim Walder announced Wednesday that he was taking a break from public life to clear his name, after he was accused of taking sexual advantage of teenage girls.

Walder, known as an educator and therapist in the Haredi community, allegedly used his popularity and status to commit the acts.

His announcement came after the ultra-Orthodox Yated Ne’eman newspaper, where Walder is employed as a writer, warned him that if he didn’t take a leave of absence he would be fired, according to the Haaretz daily.

The Yated Ne’eman management had held a meeting Wednesday evening to discuss his further employment, according to the report.

“He decided to take a break from all his public pursuits in order to devote himself to the struggle to clear his name and devote his time to his family at this time,” a statement on behalf of the author said.

The development came as a number of ultra-Orthodox entities severed their ties with Walder, a resident of Bnei Brak.

Earlier Thursday, Walder was removed from his work at the ultra-Orthodox radio station Radio Kol Chai, according to the Haaretz report.

The Otiyot children’s magazine said it would stop publishing his stories. Walder’s books were also removed from the shelves of the Osher Ad supermarket chain. On Tuesday, Jewish bookstore Eichler’s Judaica of Borough Park  said it would stop selling Walder’s works.

The development came several days after Haaretz published an investigation into alleged sexual abuse by Walder, the author of the “Kids Speak” series.

The books, which have been published since the 1990s, tell stories about Orthodox Jewish children and emphasize a child’s perspective on the problems they face in their lives. The books are popular among school-age children in Israel and the US.

In addition to his writing, Walder also works as a therapist and was honored in 2003 with the Israeli prime minister’s “protector of the child” award.

According to an investigation by Haaretz, several women accused Walder of initiating sexual relationships with them when they approached him for counseling.

One girl told Haaretz that the alleged abuse began when she was 13, eventually progressing to weekly sexual encounters in a rented hotel room. Walder told another woman, who was 20 when he began a sexual relationship with her, that their sexual encounters “gave him the power to write to the children of Israel,” according to Haaretz.

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