Until last night, I didn’t know who Chaim Walder was. To say that I’m oblivious to popular culture is an understatement. Working 10-hour days, I speed from therapist to dad to husband, to unconscious. Luckily, these three parts of my life are what is most important to me. I’m lucky. Not every man gets to check all three boxes. You’re fortunate if you get to have one.
My 7-year-old son is awake before everyone. He’s a little squirrel. After raiding the kitchen for treats he settles back into his top bunk. He watches the sunrise listening to his adventure series Chavurats Taryag. It’s an audio serial about four children saving the world. The impact on his life has been profound. His obsession with the four little heroes even prompted a career move. If you ask him, he’s been the director of the Shin Bet for years with a distinguished career. Now, he’s decided to become a crime fighting scientist instead. For the past month he and his friends have created a laboratory lord knows where. It’s location is top secret. According to all accounts he and his friends have been diligently saving the world. He is going to grow up to be a good man.
My daughter, 13, is a pill. She takes after me. A bit of a thrill seeker, negotiator, and a passionate seeker of truth. Sometimes she seeks truth a little too much and transforms into the best darn trial lawyer you’ll ever meet. It had been getting to be too much. A year ago she started to pump the breaks a tad on her legal discourse when she picked up the book Kids Speak. She consumes books like a California forest fire. This series was no different. The books opened her up to greater emotional intelligence. I know change happens becomes many factors aligning at the right place and time. Good therapy is finding those factors and balancing them together. But, around the time she began consuming those books she became less committed to “the truth.” and more committed to “the good.” She began cultivating a more emotionally informed view of things. I’m not going to lie and say she’s calmed down. In fact, I hope she never does. At the same time, transitioning from an obsession with what is correct to what is morally right is a huge developmental shift. Being more attuned to feelings is a huge part of that transition. The books certainly gave her that.
My two youngest are tag-alongs. The fact they’re cute, social, and giving make it easier for my older ones to not just tolerate them but to be friends with them. Another box not many people check in their lives. My daughter reads her books to them. My son includes them in his world saving lab work. You can’t have friends in theory. You have to meet them somewhere. That place can be real – I’ll catch you at the mall. Or, it can be an idea – stories, play, and art. For good or ill, my kids take after my wife and I. We’re ideas people. Their friendship for the past few years has grown out of stories of emotional intelligence, heroism, and an intense interest in the world.
Did I mention these books, stories, and games are what got us through the COVID lockdowns?
A sharp left turn. Child educator, therapist, and rabbi accused of sexually assaulting three girls for years. Shocking. 20 more women step forward. Damning. Winner of the Defender of Children award from the Israel National Council for the Child. Dark irony. When the news broke the religious response was swift. His publishers dropped him. Rabbis issued calls to eject all his books from school libraries and shuls. What did this guy write again?
Who is Chaim Walder? Last week he was nameless. At the same time, he was the single most important person in the private lives of all my children. Who is he today? An alleged rapist who is going to argue his innocents in court. Last week, all I knew of him was his work. Today, I could care less about his books, audio series, coloring books, and board games. All I want to know is who is this man and did he do the horrible things so many women are accusing him of. With the amount of people coming forward I find it hard to believe he is innocent. That is for the courts to decide.
The allegations leave us with questions that will take time to process. What was truly motivating all that he created and gave us? Did he write his Yated articles before or after the alleged weekly rapes? Was the computer screen open with his next children’s story ready for editing witnessing his accused atrocities? His interest in the private lives of children seemed noble and gave us so much. Now it has given us pause to ask two fundamental questions: First, what was motivating all that, really? Second, more broadly, how can we responsibly place our trust in those who should be trustworthy? On the left is the danger of cynicism and on the right Pollyanna naivety.