A few months ago, a scandal rocked the ḥaredi world. Chaim Walder, a psychotherapist and prolific author of books for children and young adults, was found to have committed sexual assault. Some of his victims were underage, and another was his patient. Walder was not a household name outside of haredi circles, but within them he was not merely a trusted authority, but something more akin to a celebrity. As one astute observer put it, his public persona combined Mr. Rogers and Dr. Seuss. An immensely popular writer admired by young and old, Walder revolutionized ḥaredi children’s literature and wrote an influential weekly newspaper column aimed at adults. In December of last year, after a court of Jewish law publicly confirmed the merits of the charges against him, he killed himself. Hundreds of haredim turned out for his funeral, where distinguished rabbis eulogized him. Countless others from the same communities looked on the public honoring of a disgraced figure with horror.
Orthodoxy's Cancel Culture
The recent decision to stop selling the books of a disgraced Orthodox children’s author reflects a pre-liberal sensibility worth recovering.