Orthodox activists challenge rabbis with sex abuse flyers

i24 News, Israel/January 3, 2022

The flyers protested the Orthodox leadership's response to sexual abuse accusations against Chaim Walder

Some 320,000 flyers reading “We all believe the victims” were distributed in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods across Israel on Friday, protesting the community leadership’s response to reports that author Chaim Walder was a serial sexual abuser.

The leaflets featured a young girl with a hand over her mouth and the Hebrew caption “We all believe the victims.”

A bracelet on the wrist of the hand also read “Lashon Hara (the Hebrew word for gossip) does not speak to me,” The Times of Israel (ToI) reported.

Roughly 150 grassroots activists dispersed the flyers on town bulletin boards, in mailboxes, and at synagogues.

Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll, one of the activists, told ToI that the campaign was a response to ultra-Orthodox leaders that the stories of Wadler’s alleged victims constitute Lashon Hara and that they led the author to take his own life last week.

“They decided that if the leadership isn’t doing anything [for victims], we have to take action,” said Keats Jaskoll, who co-founded the advocacy organization for Orthodox women’s rights Chochmat Nashim.

She noted that the response from the ultra-Orthodox community upon seeing the flyers was significantly positive, apart from some onlookers who were not as supportive.

In reporting on Walder’s death, ultra-Orthodox media largely excluded the sexual abuse allegations against him and failed to mention ‘suicide’ in obituaries, ToI reported.

The Behadrei Haredim news site described Walder as a “well-known writer and educator,” highlighting summer camps that he started.

However, some Orthodox rabbis took more definitive stances against the accused abuser, such as Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu calling for the removal of all of Walder’s books from schools.

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