[Author’s note: Tragically, the prediction that I made in the penultimate paragraph has already become a reality with the suicide of one of the victims. No one need to attribute any prophetic powers to me. The real miracle is that not everyone else understands it to be true.]
The Chaim Walder debacle affords opportunities to positively change attitudes, or to make a bad situation worse. Sometimes, both are contained in a single message.
Rav Gershon Edelstein’s, shlit”a, words are a powerful reproach about how we use speech. But they cannot be the last word, the only takeaway from this horrible story.
Rav Gershon is certainly correct in shining a light on the terrible effect that public humiliation and shaming can take. Few would disagree that this humiliation was a burden that Walder could not bear, and that it drove him to take his own life. Hopefully, Rav Gershon’s ire was directed at loose tongues, and at social media. That in no way should imply that victims should be loathe to come forward, or that batei din should not publicize their findings.
“Words kill” is not an abstraction to us. We saw it happen. Even if you believe (as I do) that the Haaretz article and the actions of the Tzfat Beis Din were entirely necessary and appropriate, Rav Gershon’s message is important. Would Walder have taken his life without the contribution of the contempt in the social media? Was that appropriate? Will it be appropriate the next time?
What should the proper reaction be to women who came forward with allegations? Even people who were skeptical before should now realize that we cannot continue business as usual, namely sweeping such allegations under the carpet. Ignoring the credible accusations when they are made. Silencing those who speak up, as people have for decades. “How do we know they aren’t making things up? However bad his behavior is, why should his family suffer? How will his kids find shidduchim.” And the beat goes on. And the abuse continues. And the victims who suffer are made to suffer again through the failure of family, friends, rabbonim to protect them. And women who are groomed for sexual dalliances with unlicensed “therapists” are advised to keep silent, so that another group of potential victims is always available in the waiting room. It simply cannot be that parents should convey only the following message to their children: Evil people said bad things about Chaim Walder till he became crazy and killed himself. Even if those “evil people” mean the street, rather than the beis din, the message is inadequate. What we teach out kids must also include the power of the yetzer hora, and education about personal safety, including that there are things that you should never allow, even coming from an authority figure. It should also convey that otherwise good people can do terrible things, and that terrible people can do wonderful things.
There is one part of Rav Gershon’s message which, if allowed to stand at its plain meaning, can add new levels of misery to a horrible situation. Taken at face value, Rav Gershon offered a simple equation. Walder was guilty of some sexual indiscretions. Others were guilty of retzichah. Retzichah is worse than adultery. Therefore those who unnecessarily contributed to his death are worse than Walder.
That, however, is simply wrong. Molestation of children and teens is also murder. Don’t we all know that by now? How many teens are driven to suicide because of what adults – especially authority figures – have done to them? If the allegations against Walder are true (I’m just not prepared to get into that), it might very well be that those whom Rav Gershon is critical of killed one person – but Walder may have killed many, many more. And if none of the victims have taken their lives, how many of them carry their scars with them for life? How many marriages are ruined down the line? How many will suffer from depression? How many will be failed parents?
The actual numbers are irrelevant. So is Walder’s innocence or guilt. If the presumption is allowed to stand that he may only have violated an aveirah of gilui arayos, we have a much greater problem on our hands. If this is what we will share with our families, we can be certain that there will be many more victims in the years to come.
Some of them will kill themselves, r”l. Whom will we fault then? If Rav Gershon doesn’t realize all of this, responsible people close to him will certainly share the blame if they don’t convey to him what the fine people at Amudim, the parents who have lost their children, and the properly trained therapists who deal with their trauma all know.
Does this suicide now inhibit victims and their families from presenting their cases in some proper forum? I hope not. They all deserve closure. If communities can’t issue timely warnings about predators in their midst, more innocents will suffer.
Any way of dealing with these matters that values the well-connected over other Jews promotes an already toxic public cynicism.
Also consider human nature. People (not just leaders of groups one may or may not identify with) take bad events as absolute proof that their own previous positions, crusades, etc., were correct. The idea that such things should prompt real reflection and maybe a personal or communal change of direction gets little traction. As if teshuva is great…for the other guy.
R adlerstein, I was expecting a thoughtful and thorough discussion of the laws of loshon hora, what is considered a קול, הלכות של באפי תלת וכו׳ . Instead you offer your own feelings as to what should be done, effectively imitating the blogosphere to which you would like to belong. Not befitting a תלמיד חכם…
I’m aware of others who are planning to write on the issues of lashon hora as applied to outing predators. I will leave it to them. Call it what you want, it is important to do what parts of the American community are doing: realizing that predators are murderers, and keeping their kids safe NOT by silence, but speaking to them in age-appropriate manner about personal safety.
R adlerstein, you have missed the opportunity to bring the Torahs perspective to your readers. “Predators are murderers”- discuss דין רודף בסנהדרין, הלכות רוצח של הרמבם וכו׳ it almost seems as if you are voicing an opinion on the subject without learning the sugya (chas vashalom) . Are you bringing the Torah’s valuable perspective or projecting your own feelings on the world (like the less savory corners of the blogosphere)? If the latter, your readers can get the less watered down version elsewhere. It is unbefitting you in particular r adlerstein as I know you to be a talmid chacham…
Guilty as charged! I don’t write halacha, mostly because I am a coward, and have an elevated sense of yiras harommemus about halacha. But I also don’t see the need to reinvent the wheel. The presentations of both R. Meiselman and R. Willig did excellent jobs bringing the mekoros together – and stating unequivocal conclusions
I believe that Reb Eliyashev held that when there is a level of strong “raglayim lidavar” it removes the presumption of innocence and the accused has a din of a rodef -even prior to a p’sak din.
However, once the accuser is not alive –absent a final p’sak; I do not know if there is a heter to continue to publicize their misdeeds as there isn’t a need to warn anyone. I’m looking for some halchic guidance in this.
Future victims need incentives to come forward. Sure knowledge that a sex criminal can get the tzaddik treatment is a rather strong disincentive, no? Sure knowledge that respected higher-ups can look away, even for decades, can’t help either.
“Hopefully, Rav Gershon’s ire was directed at loose tongues, and at social media. That in no way should imply that victims should be loath to come forward, or that batei din should not publicize their findings.”
Did R.Edelstein specifically and clearly state in this reproach to the gossip etc, that any current or future victims must immediately come forward and report any such behaviour to the civil authorities?
Many thoughts; just one for now.
I worry about how the victims will ensure their own well- being through all of this unfolding turmoil. I pray that their inner circle of family, friends and therapists keep a close and loving watch over them.
Actually, Walder killed himself not because of words, but because the police had notified him that day that he was about to be charged.
Just as he said he would, in the recorded phone call.
Just like Jeffrey Epstein.
Exactly. This must repeated, because already there’s a false narrative that is spreading concerning what drove Walder to kill himself. Walder did not kill himself until the police investigation was opened.
“Would Walder have taken his life without the contribution of the contempt in the social media?” Maybe yes, maybe no, but what difference? “Was that appropriate?” Yes! “Will it be appropriate the next time?” YES! A thousand times yes! It’s ONLY public scandal which makes people take these things seriously. As Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Executive Vice-President of Agudath Israel of America publicly acknowledged, it’s only because of scandal created by social media that the issue of child abuse started to be taken seriously by rabbinic authorities.
If you read the twittersphere, and hareili coverage of sites like chadrei chareidim, you know there may be no better more condoning community on earth to commit moral outrages like sexual abuse , get refusal etc than haredi Jewish ones. The victims are the accused, the power structure favors the mighty ( and ALWAYS the males) and as r slicking points out roaches hate the light…. I have tried to defend haredi positions on social media, but at some point, gotta let the critics of moral rot run unopposed….
” the power structure favors the mighty ( and ALWAYS the males) ”
there may be no better more condoning community on earth to commit moral outrages like sexual abuse
Speaking of the Agudah, at the 2021 Agudah Convention Q&A session this November, “I’m Asking for a Friend”, R. Yosef Elefant said that if it would be clear that the community has zero tolerance for abuse and molestation on any level, people would feel secure, and wouldn’t feel the need to rush in as cowboys and local sheriffs and convict people in public opinion before due process. See Minute 34 below(Minutes 21-36 is full response):
R. Ahron Lopiansky, Minute 25 of above link, says its a tragedy in Klal Yisroel that there is no fair and effective mechanism to deal with these issues and mentions the Bnei Brak beis din which he heard works with police.
Similarly, R. Aryeh Klapper of the Center for Modern Torah Leadership in Sharon, Massachusetts, while agreeing that Walder’s books should be removed, at one point wrote on FB in November:
“its a tragedy in Klal Yisroel that there is no fair and effective mechanism to deal with these issues”. This is absurd. We can do what everyone else does. Report to the authorities, suspend the alleged offender and launch and independent investigation if necessary. Instead we wait for the abuse to show up in the papers, many years after the fact.
“Neither American nor Israeli nor Orthodox society has yet developed a reliable means of ensuring dignified treatment of both accusers and accused when there are accusations of private sexual impropriety.”
Last I checked, both countries had police, courts, and trained, licensed, and regulated mental health professionals.
Did he *really* say that?
One cannot seriously compare the professionalism of most US law enforcement personnel with their parallels here in Israel. Just no comparison. As for “regulated mental health professionals,” there is far, far less regulation here. In fact, the unlicensed, unregulated kind abound, and are very much a part of the problem
I’m not the biggest defender of the Israeli Police, but “no comparison” is a huge exaggeration. But even assuming that it isn’t…so what? Does that mean they shouldn’t be gone to? Does that mean there’s a better alternative? No, and no.
“As for “regulated mental health professionals,” there is far, far less regulation here.”
Or you live in a bubble, or just are of an age or world where you’ve never dealt with them. Israel has a very extensive system of trained and licensed professionals who can and do deal with these issues, and well, all the time.
“In fact, the unlicensed, unregulated kind abound, and are very much a part of the problem”
Just because the charedi world- most notably, in this case, the city of Bnei Brak, which not-so-theoretically is completely governed by the word of R’ Edelstein- has chosen to utilize only frauds and charlatans and worse in these roles does not mean that others don’t exist. Of course they do. (I’m *married* to one.)
Still checking on it, but reportedly several complainants went to the police over many years. They did nothing. It may be because they generally have a hands-off policy regarding the charedi community. I completely stand by “no comparison.”
I’m well aware of the existence of trained and licensed therapists. Its the existence of the other kind that is part of the problem. In parts of the charedi community, having the untrained, unlicensed pseudo-therapists around means that people never have to make use of the genuine article. Some of them are well meaning, but still capable of inflicting lots of damage.
I think you’re proving my point for me. That the charedi world messes up in one way and pressures the outside world to mess up in another proves…
Human nature and Torah Law have coexisted for thousands of years. Human error and sin didn’t just crop up among us just recently. So, why this?— “Neither American nor Israeli nor Orthodox society has yet developed a reliable means of ensuring dignified treatment of both accusers and accused when there are accusations of private sexual impropriety.”
Have we had to wait for outsiders to solve the problem?
“Or you live in a bubble, or just are of an age or world where you’ve never dealt with them. ”
AIUI anyone can put up a sign that says “Ploni Almoni, therapist”. You can’t say “licensed therapist” but nothing prevents anyone with next to zero knowledge from opening an office. In fact, there are ads for 4 month courses which train a person to be a marriage counselor.
To get certification and become a member of a professional society – that is a different story. My wife recently completed a very long, very demanding process with a long list of requirements before she was accepted as a certified clinical social worker.
“Have we had to wait for outsiders to solve the problem?”
We should indeed not wait for others. Relatedly, R. Yaakov Horowitz wrote this past week, “our public image will dramatically improve when we direct our focus inward”( “Our Kids Need Protecting, Not Our Community”, Times of Israel blog).
As far as R. Klapper, he has an updated post from 12/30, “The Walder Case and Suicide: Lessons Learned and Not Learned”, on his Modern Tora Leadership blog. The part I quoted, however, which was not about Walder specifically, seems unchanged. R. Klapper’s updated post has a link to the full November 18 FB I quoted from(part of which was also referenced in the JTA).
R. Lopiansky, in the Agudah Q&A, also said part of the problem is that there are many different groups without any overarching beis din that is trusted and has leverage. He suggests school principals and rebbeim should have professional training to recognize symptoms of abuse, when suspicious situations should be checked out(see Minutes 25-30 of above linked Agudah speech).
R. Lopiansky’s Mishpacha article this week followed some of the points which he mentioned at the Agudah Convention. See link:
You might want to sit this one out.
I’ve spoke to several Charedi relatives today. I’m talking about very intelligent Kollel people in their 40’s, with large families.
It appears to have become a narrative in significant segments of the Chareidi community that the Chaim Walder story should be used as an inflection point regarding Lashon Hara (in addition to sexual abuse). Given that the object of the Lashon Hara and the tragedy that befell him was a heinous criminal who took his own life rather than face the music, this really makes no sense.
I suspect that if Rav Edelstein (and other Chareidi leaders) had not gone to such great lengths to equate the supposed Lashon Hara element (which I don’t even believe IS Lashon Hara) with the real crimes, it would not really have occurred to most Chareidim to do so.
The damage wrought by these leaders is truly frightening
“(in addition to sexual abuse)”
That really doesn’t seem to be the case.
Your comment is understandable in the context of Rav Edelstein’s statement and much (although not nearly all) of what is coming out of the Chareidi community.
I was trying to be as fair as possible to my Chareidi relatives. Here is what one of my relatives wrote. It’s frustrating enough as it is, without exaggerating it:
“but-i would like to say one thing- there are two issues emerging here:
1. the abuse and the victims
2. the shocking way it ended- the suicide- which was a direct result of the publicity (not lashon hara)
we have to be able to talk about both issues. it cannot be that if we talk about the first, then we are automatically assumed to be ignoring the second, and it can;t be that if we talk about the second then we are automatically assumed to be ignoring the first.
Who do you think you are to argue with daas Torah?????? This article should be taken down.
This article is דעת תורה.
The fact that you think R Edelstein’s purported words are unassailable Torah truth are precisely why responsible talmidei chanachmei need to say otherwise.
His suicide was NOT because of SM, it was because he was caught. He used threats of suicide to silence his victims constantly. He took his life and prevented justice and made himself a martyr EXACTLY so people would write things like this.
As a point of information: It is very rare for a perpetrator to commit suicide when exposed, even though it is common for an accused to threaten to do it. In the US, less than 2% of all exposed sexual abusers attempt or complete suicide. Of all the prominent individuals in the frum world who have been exposed for sexual misconduct – and there have been, most sadly, more than a few – only one other predator appears to have done so. Yehuda Meshi Zahav is in a coma after a bungled suicide attempt, and we’ll never know if he meant to take his life or made a gesture to drum up sympathy.
Walder’s suicide stands apart from the actions of other abusers. Suicide is also not a common behavior of psychopaths, as many have labelled him to be. Walder may not have been a stereotypic case of “power corrupts”.
We can offer condemnation and RL not rationalization of Wadler’s actions and suggest speculative conclusions as to the cause of Wadler’s suicide. Nevertheless , a reasonable person could conclude that it appears that Wadler knew he was at the end of his game, and now decided , based on the same improper and seriously flawed power of rationalization ( which the Beis HaLevi identifies as having its origin as a consequence of eating from the Etz HaDaas) that allowed him to perpetrate such horrible acts, that he would RL do whatever was necessary to take all of his secrets about what he perpetrated to his grave and wherever he will reside in the Olam HaEmes. .
R Efrem Goldberghttps://rabbiefremgoldberg.org/dontunderstand has written what IMO is a piece that is must reading and reminds us that if we could even think of comprehending such conduct, we would be capable of perpetrating the same as well.
I fully agree that words can kill
But I still remember walder, in an article in yated, comparing yair lapid, son of a holocaust survivor, to Hitler
Did he not know that words can kill?
R Edelstein’s response is completely wrong, terribly damaging and promotes continued abuse by silencing victims as I think that you understand R Adlerstein. Walder killed himself because he was exposed as a complete Rasha and was facing arrest and imprisonment. The Haaretz article and the public outcry are the only reason that Walder is not raping another boy or girl today.
But there is really a person who was killed by a combination of Walder’s rapes and the way he was eulogized and celebrated by Rabbis and media in the Charedi world. One friend wrote on social media that “she ended her life because her wounded soul could not stand the celebrations that were held for him.”
Rya- Could you maybe get some Kiruv professionals to explain how they justify haredi morality in the squeamish areas of life- abuse, gittin etc. where it seems that the rest of the world- including that of the other 80% of Jewry- stand opposite the haimishe communities: whose hasbara annex must pilpulate angels-dancing-on-pinheads arguments to justify, nay exult and glorify, these olam hafuch types of realities. I wonder how easy it is to brush the dirty realities of life aside….
I couldn’t if I tried. Which is why I won’t try
The haredi world cannot handle that possibility. If it is true, it means that a person held in high esteem for his lofty values turned his back on them and committed suicide knowingly – something comparable to seeking baptism and becoming the pope. Frum people can conceivably fall prey to all kinds of taavah, but me’abed atzmo l’daas? Can’t be. Their only way forward is to presume that pressure made him non compos mentis, which makes him a victim. Little choice there
Is the Haredi world too concerned about looking good in its own eyes? This would be a mussar revival opportunity.
R D S Leiman describes IIRC a Yahrtzeit of one of the Tanaaim who “infiltrated” the early Christian circles to the point where he influenced them to be so different that they detached themselves from Judaism as being one of the persons for who a Taanis is mentioned in SA.
Yochanan Kohen Gadol, who became a Tseduki, is a forceful counterexample. And Chaim Walder was no Yochanan KG.
Steve, you’re thinking about the unnamed reason for the 9th of Tevet in Megillat Taanit Batra. R’ Leiman traces it to the work Toldot Yeshu which claims that Simon/St. Peter was a “spy” by the Tannaim to change Christianity to a different religion. It claims he was an undercover tzadik all along, not a rasha.
R’ Leiman eventually traced the legend to an entirely different St. Simon, a non-Jew who lived centuries later and was apparently good to the Jews.
I don’t know why a gadol’s comments on Walder should have said anything at all about lashon hara. I would think that they would be centered entirely on the welfare of the victims of abuse.
. R’ Leiman traces it to the work Toldot Yeshu which claims that Simon/St. Peter was a “spy” by the Tannaim to change Christianity to a different religion.
Of real historical importance and actually important to modern day issues is when exactly was the Minim Brachia added to Shmonei Eisrei. Relevant not only for historical curiosity when exactly did the rupture take place-but then to figure out which specific changes caused Chazal to formalize a split. Knowing that is relevant in dealing with any deviant movements and analysis of what may constitute a break-what beliefs even by groups accepting binding nature of Halacha may or may not justify a split.
I think there is one part missing here. A discussion of the Torah sources that allow publicizing the person’s misdeeds. Where does the Torah talk about this? so here are some sources.
First, there is a Tshuva in the Shoel UMaishiv 1st volume #185
Two teenage boys say that a Rebbi acted incorrectly with them and therefore cannot continue to be a Rebbi. However, the incidents took place when they were under Bar Mitzvah and even though now, they are Bar Mitzvah, they are not Kosher witnesses. The Rebbi rejects all the claims.
He says that even though in other Teshuvas he wrote that you cannot Pasul a person unless there are two Kosher witnesses, which these are not, there is an exception accepted by the Poskim. Where the situation is as such that there are never Kosher witnesses, even non-Kosher witnesses are accepted. And since such actions are always with children the testimony of children can be accepted.
In addition, we are not coming to take anything away from him, just he cannot be a Rebbi till he accepts to do Teshuva.
And also, since one can accept Lashon HaRa to be careful to not transgress an Issur, and even accept witnesses, not in front of the defendant, it is permitted to accept their testimony and act upon it.
Then these are the sources to publically condemn a Rasha.
1) You can publicize those who act like Tzadikim but are evil in their hidden life. This is a Gemarra in Yoma and see how the Ran explains it. It is brought in the Chofetz Chaim.
a. תלמוד בבלי מסכת יומא דף פו/ב – מפרסמין את החנפין מפני חילול השם שנאמר ובשוב צדיק מצדקו ועשה עול ונתתי מכשול לפניו
b. ר”ן על הרי”ף ביומא שם – מפרסמין את החנפין. שהם רשעים ומראין עצמן כצדיקים אם יש מכיר במעשיהן מצוה לפרסמן:
c. ספר חפץ חיים – הלכות אסורי לשון הרע – כלל ד – וְעוֹד אָמְרוּ, מְפַרְסְמִין אֶת הַחֲנֵפִים מִפְּנֵי חִלּוּל ה’, וְכָל שֶׁכֵּן (לא) אִם הוֹכִיחַ אוֹתוֹ בָּזֶה וְלֹא חָזַר, דְּמֻתָּר לְפַרְסְמוֹ וּלְגַלּוֹת עַל חֲטָאָיו בְּשַׁעַר בַּת רַבִּים וְלִשְׁפֹּךְ בּוּז עָלָיו, עַד שֶׁיַּחֲזֹר לְמוּטָב, וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתַב הָרַמְבַּ”ם בְּסוֹף פֶּרֶק ו’ מֵהִלְכוֹת דֵּעוֹת (הֲלָכָה ח’), אַךְ יֵשׁ לִזָּהֵר שֶׁלֹּא לִשְׁכֹּחַ (לב) פְּרָטִים אֲחָדִים הַמִּצְטָרְכִים לָזֶה, וּכְתַבְתִּים בִּבְאֵר מַיִם חַיִּים:
2) Someone who does not listen to Bais Din can be publicized
a. שו”ע יו”ד סימן שלד – על כ”ד דברים מנדין את האדם, ואלו הן: (א) המבזה את החכם, אפילו לאחר מותו. (ב) המבזה שליח ב”ד. (ג) הקורא לחבירו עבד. (ד) המזלזל בדבר אחד מדברי סופרים, וא”צ לומר מדברי תורה. (ה) מי ששלחו לו ב”ד וקבעו לו זמן, ולא בא.
3) In general, a Rasha can be publicly castigated, so people do not act like him
a. ספר חפץ חיים – הלכות אסורי לשון הרע – כלל ד – עָשָֹה הַחוֹטֵא כַּמָּה פְּעָמִים בְּמֵזִיד אוֹ שֶׁעָבַר בְּמֵזִיד כַּמָּה פְּעָמִים עֲבֵרָה אַחַת הַמְפֻרְסֶמֶת לַכֹּל שֶׁהִיא עֲבֵרָה, אִם כֵּן מוּכָח מִנֵּהּ שֶׁלֹּא מֵחֲמַת שֶׁגָּבַר יִצְרוֹ עָלָיו עָבַר עַל דִּבְרֵי ה’ כִּי אִם בִּשְׁרִירוּת לִבּוֹ הוּא הוֹלֵךְ, וְאֵין פַּחַד אֱלֹהִים לְנֶגֶד עֵינָיו, לָכֵן מֻתָּר לְהַכְלִימוֹ (ל) וּלְסַפֵּר בִּגְנוּתוֹ בֵּין בְּפָנָיו וּבֵין שֶׁלֹּא בְּפָנָיו. וְאִם הוּא יַעֲשֶֹה מַעֲשֶֹה אוֹ יְדַבֵּר דָּבָר, וְיֵשׁ לְשָׁפְטוֹ לְצַד הַזְּכוּת וּלְצַד הַחוֹב, צָרִיךְ לְשָׁפְטוֹ לְצַד הַחוֹב, אַחֲרֵי שֶׁנִּתְחַזֵּק לְרָשָׁע גָּמוּר בִּשְׁאָר עִנְיָנָיו, וְכֵן אָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ “לֹא תוֹנוּ אִישׁ אֶת עֲמִיתוֹ”, עַם שֶׁאִתְּךָ בְּתוֹרָה וּבְמִצְוֹת, אַל תּוֹנֵהוּ בִּדְבָרִים, וַאֲשֶׁר לֹא שָׁת לִבּוֹ לִדְבַר ה’, מֻתָּר לְהַכְלִימוֹ בְּמַעֲלָלָיו וּלְהוֹדִיעַ תּוֹעֲבוֹתָיו וְלִשְׁפֹּךְ בּוּז עָלָיו
Thank you for sharing these מ”מ, R’ Rudman. It’s important for people to see that there are significant Halachic sources for dealing with abuse in an effective and logical way.
Even assuming someone is a molester and a molester is a Rodeph there is also an halacha of not killing a rodeph when one can save the victims in other ways (Yochel L’Hatzeloy B’Eched M’avoverov) In this case was there any real effort to weigh if other options can be used? Say the public letters would have said that we have serious concerns but HEAVILY, HEAVILY, HEAVILY stressed that we have we do not know whether the accused is guilty or not, we are gathering information anyone who can help us determine should please do so. Could that not have accomplished awareness of the danger but also avoided the current situation? Would it not also avoid the doubt caused by the argument that he was convicted without ever being given the opportunity to defend himself like he himself argued. (Rabbi Eliyahu seems to acknowledge never having spoken to him or hearing his side. Guilty or not no one can reasonably expect someone to show up in or cooperate with a Beis Din that has already broadcasted their opinion against him and caused him enormous damage )
While some of the rabbis involved and others are now saying “he should have done Teshuva” or even “we offered him a way to teshuva” did they say so during his lifetime? Or perhaps it is something that they should have but didn’t?
Even assuming everything done during his lifetime was correct, what about afterward? Who is being made safer by running to the radio and other venues to vilify him? What about the letters coming from rabbis ,therapists and other activists who probably have no knowledge about this other than what is being peddled on the internet. How much thought did they put into if voicing their opinions justifies Kol Alamanah V’Yosom Lo Saanun that their public letters are causing?
There is no doubt he was a serial child rapist. Why would it have helped to lie and say we’re not sure. We are sure. What good does it do to say that now that he is dead? There are two important goods.
1) He has live victims. They are revictimized when people deny the abuse. It is important to the victims that people now do acknowledge that they were wronged by this man.
2) He got away with serial rape for 20+ years. People knew what he did but no one stopped him. We need a thorough accounting of how that happened and make changes to the system so that the other child rapists how are still out there can be held to account and also so that we can prevent this from happening again.
He was invited to come to the Beis Din and refused. Don’t just throw questions around when the facts are readily available.
He killed himself. No one killed him.
First, it didn’t sound like R’ Gershon was talking to the Bais Din at all. It definitely did sound like he was talking to the street.
Second, it sounded like he was assuming that the arayos/eishes ish issue was pretty clear based on the recording, and my understanding was that he was saying that if all that was clear was that he was an adulterer, then we had no right to publicly ruin him.
However, the issue that he didn’t seem to address is that it seemed that R’ Eliyahu believed that it was NOT only the (supposedly) consensual affair that was clear, but that they had ample proof, or at least raglayim ledavar, for many of his other misdeeds. In that case, according to many, if not most, he does have the din of a rodef-not in the sense that one can walk over and kill him-but in that the gloves are off, and that the beis din may be able to use other means at their disposal even if it hasn’t yet been proven.
But the truth is that regardless of what R’ Gershon did or didn’t intend, we can take his statement as one point amongst many, and still agree with what R’ Shmuel Eliyahu and others have said. Meaning that we’ll try to avoid the lashon Hara involved, and still fiercely defend and protect the victims.
We can do both. Is that so complicated?
No. Bringing up other matters is only a way to avoid dealing with the real problem.
Why has committing adultery become an acceptable offense? Sounds like a religion not governed by the Torah.
I think this post is a fine example of the contortions you have to go through when you pay lip service to the the amorphous concept of daas torah, but you know in your heart that it’s not true. Let’s just call a spade a spade – Rav Gershon shouldn’t have made those comments. The end.
If you read the original, he didn’t even sign it. It is just a proclamation an anonymous “mechanech” says he showed Rabbi Edelstein and got permission to publicize. Does that mean he said it or meant it? I have no idea. The problem with Daas Torah is that nowadays it is almost impossible to know who said what. We need to stop relying on pashkevilin and go with actual psakim.
Exactly. Would appreciate your thoughts on this aspect of the situation, Rabbi Adlerstein.
All I can add is that the claim in Israel is that R Gershon approved of the statement in Hamodia that elevated the status of his initial instructions to some mechanchim to the level of Daas Torah for the entire community
So basically Daas Torah, at least as practiced, is pointless. If the biggest gadol can’t stay on message on the biggest issue, there’s no point following it.
Just as the ephod became an avodah zarah, for some people one might say Sefer Chafetz Chaim has become an avodah zarah.
The Sefer Chafetz Chaim makes due allowances to spread negative information as a preventive measure. Defenders of rapists. molesters, embezzlers, apikorsim, etc., don’t want to hear about that.
Wow, that is actually very deep. I am in awe. I will have to think about that one, although I am already absorbing your words to become part of my thinking as well. I appreciate your insight.
Nah, don’t think so. If you learn it well with all the pratim, there’s room to say any lashon Hara that is ever necessary to protect people.
Far too many consider the sefer as a mussar sefer as opposed to being a Halacha sefer, which was the great Chiddush of the CC to codifying various statements by Chazal and Rishonim as Halacha and don’t realize that the issues posed by the sefer are when Lashon Hara is permitted as opposed to simplistically thinking it is all prohibited.
Really! See above quotes fromm CC
R Rudman the Chiddush of the CC is the codification of all of the various Mareh Mkomos on this area of Hss as Lacy’s Unfortunately if you don’t learn the Sefer you will never learn when it is a Mitzvah to speak what would otherwise be Lashon Harah or what is not Lashon Harah at all
You would have to be an am ha’aretz to say that. If you actually study the Sefer Chafetz Chaim, it is clear that many acted improperly here.
The description Chassid Shoteh is more appropriate. Someone who emphasized one part of the Torah at the expense of other important parts.
If the presumption among some religious Jews is that publicizing what Chaim Walder did is worse than the crimes he committed, I cannot help but conclude that it only goes to show that even the most religious of Jews behave just like anybody else who defends the undefendable because that guilty person is one of their own. That in itself is a desecration of G-d’s Name, bringing shame to our people. Those who are truly morally upright would be appalled at such a misguided form of loyalty.
And as for Chaim Walder committing suicide, I have zero compassion for him. Nobody forced him to end his life other than he himself, both in his final act as well as in all of his reprehensible behavior that led up to it. I just think it is so wrong to try to shift the blame from him to anybody else.
regardless of how rabbi Edelstein’s pronouncement is interpreted, it is not in consonance with how I would interpret the intent behind the words of hazal: chachamim hiz’ha’aruh bi’divraichem.
imho, with advanced age, past experience, and historic responses tend to make the current reality insufficiently influential in one’s assessment.
sadly, this scenario may well reoccur.
Almost 50 years ago, I was talking to a member of the local Bnai Brith lodge who marveled at the hospitality BB members always extended to other members visiting from out of town. At the time, I didn’t think to ask him what any Jewish host owes any Jewish guest. The point is that members of a Jewish clique or subgroup or professional category must never attenuate Torah Law to make it protect only their in-crowd. For good reason, the Torah keeps reminding us to take care of the widow, the orphan, and the stranger. We can talk about Daas Torah, but that has mostly to do with a Torah scholar’s informed judgment outside of straight Halacha. What about Halacha itself, that does not favor one social class over another?
There’s adultery – and there’s manipulated adultery. Is there really evidence to say that charedi women were consensual versus caught in his manipulation as well – that’s destroying an entire family not “only” adultery.
It’s irrelevant what this one rabbi meant or didn’t mean. What’s relevant is that someone raped or abused about 20 kids and his community calls him a tzaddik. Thats seriously messed up and anyone who can’t see that or say that loud and clear is part of the problem.
My understanding is that Rav Edelstein’s words were directed at melamdim, as guidance for what they should tell their students. It was NOT meant as a final statement on the story. It wasn’t even directed at parents, let alone the general public. Personally, I would not have been happy had my kids’ teachers gone into detail of the accusations against Walder and I believe Rav Edelstein also felt that teachers should limit what they tell the children. I told my kids all the details I felt they could handle myself in my own way.
Look up apologetics.
I want to point out something else. Even Walder’s sex with adult women was not just consensual adultery that we understand happens sometimes because Ein Apitropos La’arayos. This was clergy abuse. These were women who came to him to get counseling for themselves or their children. Taking advantage of his position as trusted Rabbi and counselor to either elicit or more likely coerce sex out of these women is by itself a terrible ethical violation, a complete chilul Hashem and worthy of publish shaming and permanent removal from any position of trust. This is beside the fact that if he raped children on a consistent, he almost certainly also raped many of these women.
Obviously this was clergy abuse-When you think about the victims of Walder’s clearly criminal acts, and that Walder was regarded as a defender of the Charedi world and wrote well received books for children, what you see is a huge disconnect between public and private persona which clearly is demonstrative of a major and undiagnosed mental illness along with a web of rationalization and lies. Was not his conduct a terrible Chillul HaShem as opposed to the outing of his behavior by his victims?
Think about the conduct involved and then think again about Chazal expected men and women to act-not as Greco Roman hedonists or viewing celibacy as the highest form of human sanctity. Walder may have learned many sugyos and even possibly many of the Masectos in Seder Nashim that are the cornerstone of family relations and dynamics at some time in his life but he never incorporated whatever he learned when he opened a Gemara into his life. I
“Union rules” among the clergy continue to be a problem. Who dares to blow the whistle on bad apples, loud enough for the public to hear it? Who dares to say that this or that PR campaign to raise money for bad apples on trial is misguided?
“Taken at face value, Rav Gershon offered a simple equation. Walder was guilty of some sexual indiscretions…”
Au contraire. Rav Gershon shlita said exactly the opposite. Rav Gershon clearly said that Walder was guilty of nothing at all and that none of the allegations can be believed until and unless a fully halachic Beis Din trial, with Walder in attendance, convicted him. Since that never occurred, Rav Gershon said those that publicized the accusations caused Walder to become mentally ill and take his own life, and therefore have his blood on their hands.
I think one important point is missed here in raking Rav Edelstein over the coals. This was not a statement issued to Klal Yisrael outlining his approach to the entire Walder disaster. This was a limited statement issued to cheder rebbeim who wanted guidance as to what to say to the children. Yes, perhaps he should know better and recognize that in today’s climate every sneeze of a Rosh Yeshiva will be spread throughout the internet in 15 seconds, but in no way should naivete or clumsiness in public communications be interpreted as license, nor support, for child abusers and sexual predators. Rav Edelstein is the person who had Walder removed from his public positions immediately after the initial Haaretz report.
I would love to believe this. It would explain the apparent inconsistency in Rav Gershon’s quick response to the story by removing Walder from several positions. I’m not so sure that I can believe it, however. It is unthinkable that a response to children in mainstream haredi schools would include a reference to aveiros of eishes ish. They are just not going to mention anything that sensitive. Even if he did mean it just for schoolchidren, I would find it disappointing. In a community where kids are targeted more easily than the general population, how can melamdim and/or parents not speak to their children about their personal safety? How do you miss an opportunity to save future children from the hell of abuse by explaining what behaviors they should never, ever countenance, even when asked by authority figures. And if you are correct (again, I hope this is the case) you’ve saved Rav Gershon, but incriminated many, many in the broader haredi community who have turned Rav Gershon’s words into THE haredi statement on Walder. In so doing, they have done worlds of harm, dragged the reputation of Torah into the thickest mud, and shown themselves to be contemptible for their ignorance, their lack of caring, or both
“but incriminated many, many in the broader haredi community who have turned Rav Gershon’s words into THE haredi statement on Walder. ”
But that’s the modus operandi now isn’t it? There are no longer detailed תשובות or statements with clear description of the facts (was CW accused of one time adultery or habitual child abuse?) and directives with clear limitations defining which in situations the advice is relevant. We don’t know what RGE was told; we have a sort of answer, but we don’t know what the question was.
But that’s דעת תורה today. If you don’t like what the Gadol says, you can concoct any chiluk you want and claim its irrelevant. And if you like what the Gadol says, you can expand its application to whatever you want- נתלה באילן גבוה. And you can get away with it, because the askanim no longer extract a statement that actual has unambiguous meaning.
If you read the original, he didn’t even sign it. It is just a proclamation an anonymous “mechanech” says he showed Rabbi Edelstein and got permission to publicize. Does that mean he said it or meant it? I have no idea. It is well known that people publish things in the name of Gedolim that they never said. It is a big open secret in the yeshiva world.
This is just the latest example of people claiming to speak for gedolim and an ignorant public believing them. Some random guy put together his feelings on the subject and published it with a gadol’s name. Did he really show it to Rav Edelstein? Is what he said accurate? Who is this guy? And why is nobody else asking this question?
There is a story where a group of people came to get the Brisker Rav to agree to them on an issue. He refused to open his mouth until they left. He explained, “No matter what I said, they would twist it into me agreeing with them. The only way to avoid this was to say absolutely nothing.” (Hador V’Hatekufa, page 27).
It was guidance for the Mechanchim, which explains why the arayus is mentioned.
What we have here is a total clash of cultures. Haredi readers of Yated Neeman understood immediately that when זצ’ל was replaced by ז’ל, and the report included no personal praise of Walder’s character, that the newspaper intended only a bare minimum mention of the writer who was their spokesmen for 20 years. Haredi press never mention the word ‘suicide’, which explains why the cause of his death was not specified. The public press operates differently, so this report was portrayed to the world as being laudatory – which it wasn’t. The same type of miscommunication exists with the reporting of Rav Edelstein’s comments. The world imagines that this was some type of presidential press conference, where pronouncements are issued regarding the state of the union, and is inferring all types of unintended motivations. Perhaps a Haredi press office would be a good idea, and Rabbi Adlerstein, you should be appointed as the public liaison. Until that time, unfortunately, every aspect of this is one big churban.
This is silly. The body of the article had זצ’ל. Moreover, even if you are correct, the fact that he was accorded a little less Kavod than he would have been is an absurdly low bar. The man was terrible Rasha who did horrific damage to at least scores of victims and probably more. Their publication of any praise of him caused pain to the victims can continues the abuse coverup that has been going on for more than 20 years with this one individual alone. Enough with the silly apologetics. They covering up serial child rape and thereby continue to abet it as well as revictimizing the victims.
I haven’t seen anything in the American Yated about Wadler. The American Yated is a great window into the American Charedi world but then again that world is far different than the Charedi world in Israel because of a four letter word-WORK
The American Yated has been completely independent of the Israeli Yated for years.
Please see the following in which R Gershon elaborates on his daas torah.
For years, it appears that Walder, whose books can be found in many charedi and yeshivishe homes, committed these unspeakably horrible acts. One can argue that if ( or since) that Walder’s conduct, if well know, notorious and a matter of knowledge, should have been brought both to Talmidei Chacham such as R Edelstein and law enforcement years ago. WADR, I do not understand how blaming the victims for the suicide of the perpetrator constitutes Rtzchicha.
“If the allegations against Walder are true (I’m just not prepared to get into that)”
I’m not sure why this point is raised (and not even addressed) only parenthetically. Everything else in this entire saga is entirely premised on the answer to that question.
Not at all. Certainly not my piece, which attempted to make one point: It is not true that sexual aveiros are ONLY gilui arayos. They are not. They are retzichah. Victims kill themselves, after years of suffering. Watch an Amudim video. We have learned that in the US. In the Israeli haredi community where such topics may not be discussed – including with your own kids – ignorance reigns. And if the askanim who are the ones who convey information to the leaders are ignorant, then so will be the people they serve
Can anything be done within the system to promote vigorous leadership and establish secure lines of communication to and from the leaders?
In the US, YES! In Israel – extremely unlikely
Rav Adlerstein, if you are correct in your pessimistic view of the leadership in Israel, what can the rank and file do for self-protection?
I didn’t know you were contemplating Aliyah, Bob. 🙂 I’ll try to assemble some resources, BEH
When you refer to “the US” in this reply, are you also including Boro Park and Lakewood?
It is about time cross currents acknowledged the problem in meaningful way-How about rounding up, investigating all the sexual abusers in the charedi world and expel them from the land which is holy, and the holy congregations outside of Israel. , Perhaps a city of refuge in the desert or africa so that they cannot hear the derision and escape the harm relatives of victims owe them. That will reduce the suicide rates of the lowlife rabbis
Can we discuss future procedures?
1. Can or will a Beis Din be established in the ‘holier than tha” Bnei Brak for future actions of sexual misconduct?
2. Can and will the Israeli police investigate individuals accused/suspected of sexual abuse in t Charedi society?
3. Can & will parents /educators/leaders teach rules of safety and modesty to their children/students so that abuse can be stopped at the front door?
4. How could 20 years of behavior of CW not been noticed or discovered by anyone? And if it was… why the silence?!?
SILENCE MUST BE CONDEMNED!!!
At least one of our two local sefarim stores don’t carry Walder’s books. We found a few of his books in our house and we will be getting rid them via Shemos I think In the US Feldheim and Eichlers of Boro Park have taken the lead and that many other stores and their customers will follow their lead I would add that if you read the American Yated nd Mishpacha qualified therapists are featured in every issue on a wide range of issues as opposed to charlatans who claim to have expertise R THWeinreb once commented at a Nefesh conference that the American Charedi world is decades ahead of the Charedi world in Israel on mental health issues
Steve: What criteria are you using to deem the therapists in Mishpacha and Yated to be “qualified”? State and professional association recognized credentials to practice in the way that they have been providing services to clients? Would Rabbinic and pseudo-Rabbinic columnists who are dispensing eitzos on critical life questions that overlap mental health be considered “therapists” or are they held to a lesser standards? Or are you implicitly trusting the publishers and their anonymous Rabbinical Boards to have vetted out both the therapists’ credentials and the content of their articles to be in the best interest of Klal Yisrael?
I think that the reaction of Eichlers in Boro Park and Feldheim spoke volumes about the reaction of the street in the Charedi community in the US.What suggestion would anyone suggest with respect to the many volumes of Walders’ books that are in many peoples’ homes and communal libraries ? I have seen suggestions that range between outright bans such as was issued by the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Tzefat and R Yair Hoffman as placing any proceeds in a third party account of sorts that would go only to his wife and family . How that will develops is anyone’s guess
I understand that Dr Norman Blumenthal spoke on line via Zoom IIRC to those members of the RCA interested and distinguished between them suicide brought on by a totally irrational moment and a well thought plan by someone who realized that they were at the edge of the cliff with no way back One could argue based on the evidence available to the public that Walder’ s case was of the latter variety. Yes there is a well known Teshuvah of the Noda BiYehuda that provides a Kulah to a family where there has been a suicide but whether that is applicable here is well beyond my pay scale and shoulders to opine on
Let’s observe this at a high level. The Chofetz Chaim notes that there are two issurim mentioned in a single possuk:
לֹֽא־תֵלֵ֤ךְ רָכִיל֙ בְּעַמֶּ֔יךָ לֹ֥א תַֽעֲמֹ֖ד עַל־דַּ֣ם רֵעֶ֑ךָ אֲנִ֖י ה:
Why? To teach us that sometimes one is obligated to relate negative information about someone else. The same Hashem that gave us the first commandment gave us the second. There is no leeway to be “machmir.”
Acc. to accounts, the Walder affair was not only recent, it took place over many years, with many victims.
The system as it now stands is a massive violation of לֹ֥א תַֽעֲמֹ֖ד עַל־דַּ֣ם רֵעֶ֑ךָ. There is no two ways about – this is a serious issur Torah. Whatever that is attributable to (probably many factors), there is no way any God- fearing Jew can believe that the current system can continue this way.
WADR to R. Edelstein, I am reminded of something I heard R. Aharon Soloveichik z”l say years ago about R. Shach z”l: he may be the gadol ha dor, but he is not he beis din hagadol. And even the Beis Din HaGadol cannot pasken against an explicit possuk.
It’s not just about לא תעמוד על דם רעך.
It would also behoove us to finally put the matter of לשון הרע into some kind of perspective. I certainly don’t want to play it down too much and I say this with considerable caution, but it has definitely gotten out of hand. See this Facebook post by Rav Eli Reiff https://facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2782677485211739&id=100004085435536.
The comments are particularly relevant. For example:
פסיקת הצדיק הח”ח ותוצאתה היא נושא גדול לדון בו. פסיקתו היא חידוש, הוא ניסה לפרמל תחום מוסרי, ואכמ”ל, וידוע מה שהביא הרב הענקין בשם זקנו בענין. ראי שלא כתבתי הלכות לה”ר, אלא ענייני לה”ר, אמנם דברי הח”ח פשטו, וכתבתי אף אליבא דבריו.
The comment cited is a blatant but common error. The Chofetz Chaim did not take mussar advice and turn it into halacha. See Rabbi Daniel Feldman’s excellent sefer, False Facts and True Rumors: Lashon Hara in Contemporary Culture, for literally dozens of seforim that preceded the Chofetz Chaim and treated lashon hora as straight-up halacha.
Rav Adlerstein –
I assume you were also referring to all the פרטים of Lashon Hara when you wrote that the sforim treated LHR as a straight-up halacha. Clearly, no one is suggesting the there’s no Lav of לא תלך רכיל.
Let me put it this way, which I don’t think is unfair. Had the Chofetz Chaim not written his sforim, would we treat LHR quite (or even remotely) the way we do nowadays? I think the answer is no and I think the response to that should not necessarily and only be that the CC did us a tremendous service by bringing it to the forefront.
I want to emphasize again that I really don’t want to minimize the importance of avoiding LHR. However, especially in the current context, I think some small amount of perspective is needed. I think that the CC may have turned it – לשטיתו, which is fine – into something capable of dwarfing or transcending other more important issues.
The solution to the issue of balance and perspective is for a capable Gadol to now pull together the big picture + all halachic details + illustrative scenarios of לא תעמוד על דם רעך in a new sefer. I hope someone is willing. able, and funded to do this. We have monographs on almost every mitzvah under the sun, but today this seeming exception needs attention.
Silence = assent, according to the gemara in Shabbat 54b.
“Whoever has the ability to prevent his household from sin and does not, is accountable for the sins of his household. If he could do so with his fellow citizens and does not, he is accountable for his fellow citizens. If the whole world, he is accountable for the whole world”
And I’m sure most if not all of those paskening silence, and their followers, know this piece of Talmud better than I do. Fortunately, I’m not in their world, so I don’t have to listen to them.
Dr E many if not all of the above mentioned columnists appear to have legitimate professional degrees
Steve: Note that mental health practitioners can potentially have a variety of degrees and letters after their names which ostensibly represent training, certifications, and licenses. To an unsophisticated and/or unsuspecting outsider, they often all seem the same. But, note that some credentials are easy to obtain through online or other programs which lack the rigor that traditional programs have. As often the case in the frum world, magazines and individuals will allow therapists to “self-certify” their credibility, just as long as they pass the “unzerer” test. So let the buyer beware, especially in sensitive areas like mental health where unfortunately many practice well above their pay grade.
We can’t begin to count the number of people who promise wonderful results from “Torah-based therapy” when they lack the basic temperament, information, and understanding (much less real credentials) any therapist must have.
When Rav Edelstein speaks of Lashon Hara, he speaks not of outing molesters, but of the incessant and meaningless chatter on internet sites – such as this one – and the popular press, most of whom have another agenda, and these conversations do absolutely nothing to help anyone in real life.
There are lots of very meaningful and important discussions on this site about many issues that confront the MO and Charedi worlds.
Walder’s demise and death presents the Charedi community with a very difficult dilemma-how to balance the very legitimate cries for justice and of suffering of the victims of Walder’s abuse and their families and the fact that Walder’s family after the events of this week , and all of the stages of Aveilus and how they internalize it will pick up the pieces of their lives as well. How that can be accomplished is beyond the pay scale of anyone here.
There are various issues here that are being juxtaposed by the “public”.
1. I am unaware of accusations and a cover up Walder’s actions in prior years, so it’s unfair to bias the current situation with those assumptions
2. Its clear that the charedi leadership took immediate steps when the current slew of allegations became known, even prior to any “psak” of bes din. Rav Edelstein was among those who said to remove his column and books etc.
3. No one stated -and even the clarification of Rav Edelstein made it clear, that there is NO prohibition of loshon hora in circumstances of suspected abuse -or to protect the public.
4. The charedi world, especially in Israel, doesn’t see the value or need to put out PR statements for the public condemning his actions or supporting the victims. In their minds -both are a given. (Not a value statement -just an observation)
5. all of the discussion of prohibition of loshon hora, is to protect the public, or to expose a hypocrite -as per the C.C. What isn’t being discussed -is if this changes once the perp is dead, and no longer any need to publicize to protect.
6. There are other victims of his as well, that haven’t been mentioned, his family and children. they are also victims of his actions. That isn’t a comparison to being abused, but we can agree that a parent who is aexposed as an abuser is traumatic to the family. .
7. while this whole saga has created the awareness and need to have a conversation with our children, or have the schools run a “safe kids ” program; almost no one on the charedi world will have THAT conversation in public or to a general audience.
8. there is a lack of awareness, in charedi leadership, and even in the general public, of how any post impact discussion or comments, will affect those whe were abused.
9. Are we going to defend the WhatsApp phenomena of sharing the video of his conversation, or the suicide note. is that really where we as a society should be?
10. we don’t have guidelines from the professional world as to the approach and conversation that should or could be had in the public sphere -and its impact on victims of abuse.
All this to make the point that there is a general agreement in the charedi world that allegations SHOULD be presented to the proper authorities. Be it the police or beth din that deals with these issues, and we have a gradation of severity in how to relate to an accused person -depending on various criteria.
However, that isn’t a blanket cover for having all of this become fodder for the broad public, and no civilized society gives the public the right and power to be judge jury and executioner. that purview remains in the hands of the relevant authorities.
These points may give us insight into actions taken by various people, who with the best of intentions may have missed the mark of what needed to be said or done.
We need to explore and identify what are the correct next steps to take. From a communal perspective, a halachic one and educational. For the adults, the school, shuls and our children. Each need a different and particular approach and I look forward to that insight and guidance from our professional and rabbinic leaders.
I just read that the israeli police were informed and investigated allegations against walder many years ago and declined to press charges. Its unclear why. If that’s the case -then this isn’t a failure of the charedi world, but of the system in general. It would helpful to know some of the particulars, to provide guidance for future instances.
People have been known to come up with fanciful excuses for those indicted and even convicted by the authorities, so it’s unclear that reactions would have been much different had that happened.
As a card-carrying member of the US Charedi community, I have a few thoughts on this that may be of interest.
1 – There is no question that more work needs to be done across the board on making it possible for victims of abuse to register their concerns and eliminate the bad actors.
2 – Victims of abuse must not be revictimized – ever.
3 – Abusers need to be dealt with strictly (both to deter others from trying the same shenanigans and to prevent revictimization).
I don’t believe anyone disputes this. The devil, as always, is in the details. Charedi societies are unlike almost any other society and this presents real complications. I leave it for bigger and brighter people than I to decide how to do so. Professionals with experience in this area need to weigh in on this.
However, (and this where folks are gonna start getting antsy), it’s incumbent upon us not to create new victims in the process. How so?
Everyone, when discussing CW, will point to his “clients” as the victims, and sadly, they are. But there’s another set of victims that no one has yet to identify – his family. Having lived through this nightmare, I can assure you that they are also victims. If CW is guilty of what he’s charged with, his wife and children certainly suffered in no small measure. The pathology that drove him to devalue his clients does not differentiate between clients and close family members. Perhaps the abuse was in another form, but it was there.
They not only suffered in his lifetime, but thanks to the mentality that prevails, they’ll suffer for the rest of their lives. If you’ve never been a victim of this sort of suffering, you can’t possibly appreciate what it means. It means that everywhere you go, you’ll be distinctly uncomfortable. People will insult you, often in public in an effort to demonstrate how they stand in solidarity with CW’s victims – not realized that you’re a victim too. You’ll be denied entry into schools, shuls, shidduchim, employment opportunities and more. Your children will suffer too because, through no fault of their own, they carry the Walder last name.
Having lived this nightmare for many years now, I can state without equivocation that close family members suffer to an unimaginable degree, and what’s really painful, is how much is in the name of “protecting the victims!”
Who decided that only one class of victims needs to be protected? מי אמרת דדמך סומק טפי?
Look at it this way- We should daven for the victims of Walder and respond to their cries for justice and then also daven for Walder’s family . Let those who are so upset about Walder’s family’s name being publicly dragged through the mud of public condemnation first recognize. empathize and provide real help to the victims ofWalder’s terrible conduct. As an analogy–you give help and medicine in an ICU or ER to those who are in the most need of medicine, not those who needs are pressing but who are not in such dire need.
Please reread my post and tell me where I failed to express sympathy for his victims.
That’s my entire point. We’re capable of doing both – caring about his victims AND trying to avoid creating new victims.
Your comments about what will happen to the family are probably correct. But that just highlights what is terribly wrong in Cheredi society! You might say that this would happen in every society. Maybe true. But Cheredi society holds itself out to be above the fray of all others.
I would urge anyone who has posted here to read this essay https://iyun.org.il/en/sedersheni/the-walder-episode-and-the-cheapening-of-bloodshed/ by R Y Pffeffer one of the finest thinkers and writers I have encountered in a long time and whose articles are well thought out and nuanced on issues that face the Charedi world. CC should publish more of his articles
Can anyone in the US tell us if their local sefarim stores no longer carry Walder’s books? Can anyone in the US confirm that their rav has instructed them to discard their copies of Walder’s books? I know of at least one such store , one rav who has told his Baalei Batim to discard Walder’s books and at least one family that has discarded Walder’s books as garbage, as opposed to treating the same as sheimos. The individual and communal repudiation of Walder as a spokesman and writer about the Chareidi world is an important message
IMO, and WADR to the Acharei Mos Kedoshim like hespedim which seemingly engaged in blaming the victims, in our community, when a predator who was a magid shiur and a person who refused to give a get started frequenting the shuls in our community, the above referenced oersons received no aliyos, kibduim, etc and were told in no uncertain terms that they were not welcome in the shuls of our community . WADR, the Charedi community must confront the terrible nature of Walder;s actions as zealously as it engaged in legitimate concerns about Walder’s shattered family,
R. Elya Brudny and R. Yakaov Bender have instructed that the books should be discarded.
See the annexed comments of R Eisenman. https://myemail.constantcontact.com/The-Short-Vort–cw2.html?soid=1126050274863&aid=H8uqE36-80whttps://myemail.constantcontact.com/The-Short-Vort–CW.html?soid=1126050274863&aid=3uRVNFCrOBg
Take a look at this week’s Mishpacha https://mishpacha.com/a-place-of-healing/ , https://mishpacha.com/for-this-we-weep/, and https://mishpacha.com/restoring-trust/ You will see no apologetics for Walder in this issue.Mishpacha deserves a huge Yasher Koach for recognizing the gravity, of the issue of abuse and for having articles only by real therapists and mental health professionals with real degrees.
Mishpacha and AMI have always been on the left of the Chareidi viewpoint.
Mishpacha ( in the US) may be to the left of Ami but I would never confuse their editorial point of view.
One of the best issues of the JO was the issue on kids at risk. This week’s issue of Mishpacha is one of the most important and watershed issues and deserves as wide a readership as possible and even letters to the editor applauding Mishpacha for its superb coverage of an event and issue that warrants more discussion, and less avoidance by the Torah committed world
I know I have already commented on this subject, but I just want to add here that I for one am not all that surprised at Chaim Walder’s behavior (well, okay, the suicide part was rather shocking). I have had enough bad experiences with Rabbis to no longer have the default position of trusting them. Now any given Rabbi has to somehow demonstrate to me that he lives up according to all that Torah that he is presumably learning and teaching, and even then, I brace myself for the day when he violates all that just to assert his superiority over me.
You can be wary, but that default is going too far. Do you need to keep any rabbi under observation for years before accepting him? There are tzaddikim in our world.
I have had too many bad experiences with Orthodox Rabbis to be any less cautious than I have come to be. But yes, I agree that there are certainly Rabbis who are beyond reproach at this point, such as the Lubavitcher Rebbe. (and no, I am not Chabad)
Rebbitzen Heller’s view isn’t whitewashing as spun by the Forward -I think that she looks at Walder and admits that she enjoyed his books , etc,and while she looks at anything justifiably from Haaretz about the Charedi world as deserving a large dose of salt, she can’t deny the facts and urges the Charedi world to be more careful-I think that she stops short of the far strongly written articles in this week’s Mishpacha and the Psakim of great Rabbonim, none of whom are Modern Orthodox ( R Elya Brudny, R Yaakov Bender, R Eisenman and R Reuven Gross) , that Wadler’s books belong in the garbage can.
A lot of the Chareidi opposition to Walder and their consideration of him as being unfit, predates any of the recent allegations. And has nothing to do with it.
Perhaps Walder should have been fired from his job a long time ago. For those interested for how a MO school handled similar allegations see thishttps://www.jta.org/2022/01/12/united-states/new-jersey-yeshiva-principal-resigns-abruptly-amid-allegations-of-past-sexual-abuse