Israel's Chief Rabbi Expresses Support for Chaim Walder's Victims

'My heart goes out to the victims,' Rabbi David Lau says amid criticism over his visit to Chaim Walder's shivah despite the allegations of sexual abuse against him

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Chief Rabbi David Lau
Chief Rabbi David LauCredit: Olivier Fitoussi
Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz

Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel David Lau expressed support on Sunday for acclaimed Haredi author Chaim Walder's abuse victims after he had been criticized over his visit to Walder's shivah (the seven-day mourning period).

Walder, 52, had committed suicide last week amidst growing allegations of sexual abuse.

"My heart goes out to the victims," Rabbi Lau said in a statement. "We must always stand by them and especially now," Lau added, emphasizing that the victims had won his trust.

Lau referred in his letter to the phenomenon of sexual violence as a whole, writing that "these harms exist on many levels in society, and the cry of the victims whose souls are murdered cries out to us."

"In any case where there is fear of indecent acts or harassment, it is obligatory to complain to trusted authorities about these things and to not hide," he said.

Last week, a rabbinical court in northern Israel heard 22 testimonies accusing Walder of sexual assault. Walder took his own life at a cemetery in central Israel the next day.

Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau visits a mourning tent at Chaim Walder's shivaי.

The allegations against Walder and his subsequent suicide have stirred criticism against many top spiritual leaders for covering up Walder's abuse.

Walder's body was found in a cemetery in central Israel after a passerby reported of gunshots. He left his house last week after days of self-seclusion and his family later reported him missing. 

According to a Haaretz investigation in November, Walder, 52, allegedly sexually exploited girls and women for years. One of them was slightly older than twelve when the exploitation began, while two others were 15 and 20.

Walder was one of the most prominent children’s advocates in the ultra-Orthodox community, the founder of the Bnei Brak-based Center for the Child and Family and is a recipient of the Prime Minister’s “protector of the child” award.

He has written 80 books, including numerous volumes of the popular “Kids Speak” series, which are a fixture in ultra-Orthodox households across the country.

Following the publication of Haaretz's initial investigation, the board of ultra-orthodox paper Yated Ne’eman, for which Walder wrote a weekly column, asked Walder to suspend himself or face termination. In addition, ultra-Orthodox radio station Radio Kol Hai dropped Walder’s program.  

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