Two of the most leading religious court judges in Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community have called on the public not to read books by ultra-Orthodox author and therapist Chaim Walder, who was recently accused of sexually abusing young girls.
Although the two religious court judges, Yehuda Silman and Sariel Rosenberg, did not mention Walder by name, they wrote on Monday that it was inappropriate to read his books until the allegations, which were first reported by Haaretz, have been investigated.
Silman and Rosenberg’s comments came in response to a question regarding whether the public can continue reading works by an author of books who "is called an educational figure" and who also reportedly committed "serious and ongoing offenses."
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"If the things reported about him are correct, it is certainly prohibited to read the books, and as our rabbis cautioned not to read books written by authors who were not God-fearing, particularly if there is concern that the author is indecent."
"Reading his books is then akin to supporting the acts of which he has been accused," wrote the two religious court judges.
They made it clear that until the matter is clarified, it was not appropriate to read his books, despite uncertainty over the allegations. The statement appeared on the Beinenu.com website, which is geared toward rabbis and teachers of halakha, Jewish religious law.
The two rabbis are senior judges on the religious court, which is the most highly regarded religious court in the country’s non-Hasidic ultra-Orthodox religious community.
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After the allegations were initially reported, the chief rabbi of Safed, Shmuel Eliyahu, who has been a figure in efforts to combat sexual assault in Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox communities, called on members of the public to remove Wilder’s books from their homes.
“One must not have books at home by someone who is suspected of sexually assaulting so many women,” Eliyahu wrote. “There’s no compromise in the war against this abomination.”
In its investigative report last month, Haaretz reported that over the course of years, Walder, who was among the most important and successful authors and educators in the ultra-Orthodox community, sexually exploited teenage girls at a time when he had a major reputation and easy access to children.
One of his accusers was 12-and-a-half years old when the alleged sexual exploitation began. Another was 15 and a third accuser was 20 years old and who had come to Walder for therapy.
Organizations that had worked with Walder, including Radio Kol Hai and the newspaper Yated Ne’eman, disassociated themselves from him.