Inside Israel

Celebrated Haredi children’s author accused of sexually abusing teen girls

Well-known Haredi children’s author Chaim Walder has been accused of taking sexual advantage of a number of teen girls. Walder, known as an educator and therapist in the community, allegedly used his popularity and status to commit the acts.

In an investigative report by the Haaretz newspaper published Friday, three women accused Walder, 52, of sexual abuse — two of them detailing incidents they said happened when they were minors. Walder has denied the allegations.

One woman said Walder began grooming her when she was sent to him for treatment at age 12, some 20 years ago, slowly moving from compliments to sexual acts. After she got her first period at 13, Walder told her this needed to be celebrated, and had sex with her at a hotel in Ramat Gan. She said she was traumatized and cried afterward.

Sexual encounters continued on a weekly basis, the woman said, sometimes several times a week. Though she was repulsed by him and only waited for sexual encounters to end, his status and his conversations with her, in which he treated her like an adult, kept her around him. She finally cut of ties around age 16. Several associates of the woman confirmed to Haaretz that she had revealed the details to them in the past.

Another woman told the paper that Walder began using her when she was 15, also some two decades ago, and had sex with her on multiple occasions. A third said he abused his position as her therapist when she came to him in her twenties to have sexual relations. She later filed a police complaint, but the case was closed by prosecutors who cited lack of evidence.

Walder’s attorneys said he denies the accusations “with disgust.”

They said the claims were “false accusations rooted in bold lies that amount to a blood libel” and “are unworthy of a response as they have no connection to reality.”

They further asserted that Walder was being targeted for his work to help children who have suffered from violence and abuse, and “as a result, some people have come together to harm him.”

They also said that their client had undergone a lie detector test in which he denied the accusations and was found to be truthful.

The claims against Walder follow a precipitous fall from grace for another lauded Haredi figure, Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, who attempted suicide in March following numerous allegations of rape and sexual assault. Meshi-Zahav, who founded the ZAKA emergency service and who was known for various social activities, left a note in which he denied the accusations.

Meshi-Zahav remains hospitalized in a coma since his attempt to take his own life.

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