Bais Yaakov School in Brooklyn punished for asking Hasidic parents to shut up about Chaim Walder rape scandal

Members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community are at odds after a Brooklyn elementary school principal encouraged parents not to engage with their children over allegations of sexual abuse related A famous children’s author committed suicide after the allegations were made public.

Hasidic rabbi, therapist and writer Chaim Walder, 53, died by suicide on December 27 in an Israeli cemetery where he allegedly shot himself at his son’s grave site Meir Zvi, who died of cancer in 2019 at the age of 28. Walder’s death comes a day after 22 people testified before a papal court, describing an alleged pattern of sexual assault in past two decades. After Walder’s funeral, where he was praised by respected community members in emotional eulogy, one of Walder’s accusers took her own life on December 29, distressed by the vindication of his alleged crimes, friends said.

If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Message Line crisis by texting TALK to 741741.

Walder is one of the Hasidic world’s most popular and beloved young authors, with around 80 books to his name. He founded summer camps for Jewish children, and is the man behind the Center for Children and Families in the city of Bnei Brak, mostly Hasidic. As a result, the global Haredi Jewish community was shaken by offensive statements against him — and leaders like Rabbi Menachem Frank, principal of Bais Yaakov’s private girls’ school in Brooklyn’s Borough Park neighborhood, are being criticized for a response that one Some say it will only hurt children more.

The Bais Yaakov incident began shortly after Walder’s recent death, when a student wrote about the situation in the school bulletin. Once they were sent out, the school changed its mind and immediately attempted to get all copies of the bulletin back by asking parents to return them upon receipt, a source close to the community said. co told The Daily Beast. In the face of confusion and uncertainty among parents about what led to the school’s strangeness, Frank sent a letter to his parents in an attempt to clean the air.

“Given the horror that recently occurred in Eretz Yisroel involving a famous children’s author, I urge all of you to exercise extreme restraint when discussing this,” he wrote, suggesting that Conversations about Walder can lead to “mental health triggers, confusion, feelings of betrayal, etc.”

“Sharing these discussions with our children can certainly create deep wounds in their precious and delicate minds…,” continued Frank. “Please recognize the danger to ourselves and our children. In fact, this topic never reached our children’s ears in the first place. As a community, we need to be more vigilant about what we share with our children and what we allow them to see, read, or listen to. We are part of the cause of this needless crisis of how to support our children, who are currently struggling with too much information. Be more careful”.

Frank wrote in his letter the solution was to “remain vague and simply say, ‘We all think he’s a good person but it sounds like he might not be so good. It sounds like he hurt people. But now that he’s gone, it’s over, let’s move on. ‘”

Frank said Bais Yaakov will remove Walder’s books from its library, and he urges parents to “do the same in your home”.

On Thursday, following what Frank described as “great feedback from so many parents and requests for further clarification,” he wrote another post explaining his views. Frank wrote. “We don’t talk to children the same way we talk to adults. I also don’t believe we should use Chaim Walder’s horror as a platform to discuss personal safety. Instead, wait a few weeks and have this talk at that point. In other words, discussions with your children should be about them and their safety, not about Chaim Walder. “

Dainy Bernstein, who attended Bais Yaakov as a child and then taught there as an adult, focused their PhD studies on ultra-Orthodox Jewish children’s literature in America. Bernstein, who also teaches courses in youth literature at Lehman College in the Bronx, said that Frank’s second letter “isn’t done yet.”

Bernstein told The Daily Beast: “The idea of ​​’Don’t use the horror of the Chaim Walder story’ – this is like saying, after gun violence, ‘Now is not the time to talk about gun control. . . “No, now is exactly the time to talk about it.”

Bernstein, who identifies as non-binary, “grew up” on Walder’s books, they said, calling them “a hugely important part of my childhood”.

Although many The ultra-Orthodox rabbis in Israel condemned Walder, others came forward to defend him after his death. Ashkenazi, Chief Rabbi of Israel David Lau was spotted calling condolences Walder’s family, and had to issue a statement in support of Walder’s victims in the ensuing riot. Again praise Walder’s good deeds. And coverage by the ultra-Orthodox media denied Walder’s lingering sexual abuse allegations, with an obituary calling him, simply, “”Famous writer and educator. This lack of recognition has partly led Israeli activists to take action more than 300,000 leaflets throughout the Hasidic . region read, “We all believe the victims.”

Bernstein said Hasidic parents are trying to figure out how to deal with this with their children. Taking his books off the shelf didn’t stop the conversation, because news of Walder’s situation exploded in the community.

“I mean, I understand that you don’t want to scare the kids,” Bernstein continued. “And they are right, talking to children is not the same as talking to adults. But this letter gives absolutely no instructions on how to talk to children.”

Many people in the Hasidic community were not raised with the same skills to think critically about the world, says Bernstein. Because of this, parents who now have a “strange feeling” about Walder’s books are confused about what to do and how to figure it out on their own.

And they’re looking for leadership, and all the leadership is saying is, ‘Stop all the talking,’ says Bernstein. “Parents Are Moving [the school principal] for instructions. Be a real guide to them”.

Theoretically, the unfiltered Internet is forbidden in the Hasidic community. In many Yeshivas, access to public libraries is also prohibited. But Bernstein, who was no longer Orthodox, resisted these restrictions and learned about sex from secret visits to public libraries around New York.

“I really remember asking my mother at one point, ‘Is this something that is also part of Jewish marriage, or is this just something that goyim does?’ I don’t know how babies are made, and I thought I was 17 when I asked my mother. It’s ridiculous. ”

Today, it is becoming increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to keep that information away from those looking for it. A member of the radical Orthodox community who is not Bais Yaakov’s parent has had a stolen copy of Frank’s letter telling The Daily Beast that he “lives in a space between Orthodoxy and paganism.” Orthodoxy, this gives me a lot of freedom to talk about these things. And people pass me a lot of scuttlebutt. ”

The unnamed source provided The Daily Beast with the original letter from Bais Yaakov, emailed on New Year’s Eve in PDF format, with the headline “12-31 For Parents’ Eyes Only.”

“People hope this conversation just bounces off the walls of the school,” he said. “They are used to it. They don’t expect internet, that’s why they are so anti internet. They lose control of the conversation. [The letter] didn’t last an hour before it was all over the internet. But this issue goes back to really the 1800s. Only then it wasn’t the internet, it was Yiddish journalism. “

According to Allison Josephs, his nonprofit does not apply the Talmudic ban on gossiping or defaming others in Walder’s case. Jews in the city, which works to bridge the gap between the ultra-Orthodox and secular communities. She said a prominent Hasidic rabbi, Asher Weiss, issued a statement telling followers to “use this opportunity to expose and hunt down predators” and that “no one , regardless of location, status or age may be ignored.”

“People really call the Chaim Walder case the Orthodox ‘Me too’ moment,” Josephs told The Daily Beast. For me, that’s really good news. Because the problem in other parts of the Orthodox world, is that they deliberately shut themselves off from the secular world as a matter of survival.”

What most people don’t know, says Josephs, is that the Hasidic community is made up of many Holocaust survivors, or descendants of survivors.

“The fear their ancestors had about the outside world persisted almost as if time had not passed,” explains Josephs. “As you try to keep the world alive, active updates, such as better ways to educate and tackle abuse, take longer to arrive. But it is happening.”

As for Frank’s letter to his parents about Walder, Josephs sees “some good… in terms of, throw the book away.”

However, like Bernstein, she says she resented the idea of ​​telling parents and kids to put Walder after them without any real calculation.

“I sensed his discomfort like, ‘We’re not capable of talking about uncomfortable things, let’s move on,’ she said. “And when you close the door on a child like that, that’s when they have nowhere to listen. That’s when they feel no voice in their own home… That’s not Judaism, it’s dysfunction. ”

According to Bernstein, if there is any form of this tragic situation, it is that today’s world of Haredi publishing is exploding.

“I wouldn’t say it’s all great,” they said. “But there are so many things that parents can give their children or teenagers.”

There aren’t many books available to radical Orthodox kids, says Bernstein, who have described them as “the problematic kind, in that they mostly teach ‘the danger of strangers’ and they don’t teach them.” about the fact that abusers are more likely to become trusted family, friends or leaders. So that’s an ongoing issue.”

While the issue of Chaim Walder’s legacy remains an open question for some, Bernstein doesn’t have to worry about his work disappearing from the shelves.

“As an adult now, looking at these books, I don’t think they are the epitome of the greatness in youth literature that the community that produced them,” says Bernstein. “I mean, these books have been praised for years… But as a scholar of youth literature, I don’t think they have as much value as people think.” Bais Yaakov School in Brooklyn punished for asking Hasidic parents to shut up about Chaim Walder rape scandal


ClareFora is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. ClareFora joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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