Children’s author Chaim Walder found dead, suicide suspected

Walder, 52, who lived in B’nai Brak, was facing numerous accusations of rape and sexual assault against minors.

By David Hellerman, World Israel News

Chaim Walder, a popular Haredi children’s author, educator and therapist was found dead in a cemetery near his son’s grave in Petach Tikvah’s Segula cemetery on Monday in what Hebrew media reports say is a suspected suicide. Reports said he was found with gunshot wounds.

Walder, 52, who lived in B’nai Brak, was facing numerous accusations of rape and sexual assault against minors following an investigative report by Haaretz in November. So far, more than 20 women have come forward. The oldest allegation goes back 25 years. Victims ranged in age from nine years old, teenagers and married women.

A beit din (rabbinical court) in Safed investigating the accusations found the testimony of the victims and witnesses credible and consistent, describing assaults on boys and girls who had come to him for therapy. Witnesses described assaults taking place in Walder’s office, car, his book store in Bnai Brak and in hotels.

Walder refused a summons from the beit din, claiming the rabbis had already made up their mind before hearing his side.

The Safed beit din’s ruling on Walder would have carried no legal weight in the Israeli justice system. But it would have carried significant influence in haredi society.

Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu wrote on Facebook on Sunday that the evidence unequivocally pointed to his guilt. This included a tape recording of Walder talking to married a woman he was having an affair with. He warned the woman that should their relationship become public knowledge, “I will shoot myself — you should be clear about that. Have no doubts about it, because from my point of view that is the end of my life.”

In response to Walder’s death, Rabbi Eliyahu issued a statement saying, “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.”

Walder was dropped by his publisher, Feldheim and his books were removed from shelves in prominent Haredi businesses in Israel and the U.S. He lost his column in the Haredi newspaper, Yated Neeman, as well as his talk show on Kol Chai radio.

According to Haaretz, Walder killed himself before he could be questioned by Israeli police.

The author of 80 books, his six-volume series of books, Kids Speak About Themselves, and My Name is Tzviki Green sold millions of copies.