Chaim Walder tells stories to children at an outdoor event in 2011
1969 (age 47–48)
|Known for||Haredi children's literature|
Chaim Walder (born 1969) is an Israeli Haredi rabbi and author of literature for children, adolescents, and adults. In 1993, he became an Israeli publishing sensation with his first book, Yeladim Mesaprim al Atzmam (Hebrew: ילדים מספרים על עצמם, Children Talk About Themselves, translated into English as Kids Speak), which revolutionized literature for Haredi children by introducing young protagonists who speak openly about their problems and feelings. Yeladim Mesaprim al Atzmam became one of the top five bestselling books of all time in Israel, and opened the door for many more writers to produce original fiction for Haredi youth. Walder is also a long-time columnist on social issues for the Hebrew daily Yated Ne'eman, an educational counselor, and manager of the Center for the Child and Family, operated by the Bnei Brak municipality.
Walder was born in Haifa and raised in a Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) family. He attended Yeshivat Kol Torah and Knesses Chizkiyahu and married at age 21. Although Haredi men usually do not serve in the Israeli army, he fulfilled his army service as a soldier-teacher.
After his discharge, he began teaching in a Haredi cheder in Bnei Brak. When he began having trouble with an unruly child, he decided to write a story from the child's point of view and read it in front of the entire class, hoping that the child would get the message and calm down. The other students were transfixed by the story, and subsequently he began writing more stories from the children's point of view and reading them aloud. He also encouraged his students to write down any problems or dilemmas that they were experiencing and send him a letter at his post-office box. As his "story hour" became a fixture in the classroom, one of the mothers of the children encouraged him to publish a book. To gauge public interest, he first printed some of his stories in the Yated Ne'eman; when they were received positively, he decided to publish a book. On the advice of the Premishlaner Rebbe of Bnei Brak, he borrowed money and self-published 2,000 copies of his book, Yeladim Mesaprim al Atzmam (Children Talk About Themselves). Within ten days, the entire run sold out.
In 1996, Walder published his first novel for children, Korim Li Tzviki Green! (Hebrew: קוראים לי צביקי גרין, [They] Call Me / My Name is Tzviki Green!, translated into English as That's Me, Tzviki Green!). As of 2011, he has published 26 volumes of stories and novels for children and adults. More than two million copies of his books are in print.
Since 1990, Walder has been a regular columnist for the Yated Ne'eman, writing about social issues. He also hosts a popular radio talk show. He heads the Center for the Child and Family, run by the Bnei Brak municipality, and is a certified educational counselor working with children who have suffered trauma and abuse. In 2003, he received the Magen LeYeled (Defender of the Child) award from the Israel National Council for the Child.
Yeladim Mesaprim al Atzmam
Walder's first book, Yeladim Mesaprim al Atzmam (Children Talk About Themselves) revolutionized Haredi children's literature by eschewing the "programmatic and religious-indoctrination tone" that had previously characterized books for this age group and introducing the "language of the emotions". The protagonist in each story speaks from the heart about his or her problems and feelings, and the language is "direct and grown-up". The stories are all written in the first person; many are based on true-life incidents that have been told to Walder. Since the publication of the first book in 1993, thousands of children have written letters to Walder, sharing their own feelings and challenges. In 2011, Walder estimated that he had received over 20,000 letters in Hebrew and 10,000 letters in other languages. From these letters, he has learned more about how children think, what interests them, what makes them laugh, and what their fears and worries are. He makes use of the stories that children send him as well as his understanding of a child's mind to craft the plots and dialogue in his tales.
In addition to becoming one of the top five bestselling books of all time in Israel, Yeladim Mesaprim al Atzmam has been translated into eight languages. It paved the way for many new writers to begin publishing "imaginative, thoughtful, emotional, and enjoyable" literature for Haredi children and young adults, a phenomenon that has surged since the late 1990s.
As of 2011, the Yeladim Mesaprim al Atzmam series stands at six volumes. Walder has also published two Yeladim Kotvim al Atzmam (Children Write About Themselves) collections and an adult version of Yeladim Mesaprim al Atzmam titled Anashim Mesaprim al Atzmam (Hebrew: אנשים מספרים על עצמם, People Talk About Themselves, translated into English as People Speak), which presents adult-themed stories that have come up on his radio show. Factuality of stories printed is not a given. Asked whether a particular story included in People Speak was true, Walder responded in the negative, stating that "most of it is made up."
In the early 2000s, Walder developed a therapeutic summer camp called Yeladim Mesaprim al Atzmam. At these camps in Bnei Brak, Jerusalem, and Haifa, campers are encouraged to explore new avenues of expression, such as writing and acting out stories.
- ילדים מספרים על עצמם [Children Talk About Themselves]. Sifrati. 1993.
- ילדים מספרים על עצמם 2 [Children Talk About Themselves, Vol. 2]. Sifrati. 1994.
- ילדים מספרים על עצמם 3 [Children Talk About Themselves, Vol. 3]. Sifrati.
- ילדים מספרים על עצמם 4 [Children Talk About Themselves, Vol. 4]. Sifrati. 2000.
- ילדים מספרים על עצמם 5 [Children Talk About Themselves, Vol. 5]. Sifrati.
- ילדים מספרים על עצמם 6 [Children Talk About Themselves, Vol. 6]. Sifrati.
- English edition: Kids Speak 6: Through Fire and Water, Feldheim, 2011
- קוראים לי צביקי גרין [Call Me Tzviki Green!]. Sifrati. 1996.
- הגיבורים שלנו: ילדים בעקבות העבר [Our Heroes: Children in the footsteps of the past]. Chaim Walder Publishing.
- English edition: Our Heroes: Kids follow in the footsteps of the past, Feldheim, 1998, ISBN 0-87306-866-1
- הגיבורים שלנו 2: ילדים בעקבות העבר [Our Heroes: Children in the footsteps of the past, Volume 2]. Chaim Walder Publishing.
- סיפורים מתוך הלב של אורי [Stories from Uri's Heart]. 2004. (with Ahuva Raanan)
- English edition: Stories Straight From Avi's Heart: A collection of stories for young children to enrich their emotional world, Feldheim, 2004, ISBN 1-58330-720-6
- סיפורים מתוך הלב של אמא [Stories from Mommy's Heart]. (with Ahuva Raanan)
- English edition: Stories Straight from Mommy's Heart: A collection of stories which strengthen the emotional bond between parents and children, Feldheim, 2007, ISBN 978-1-58330-989-6)
- סיפורים מתוך הלב של תמי [Stories from Tammy's Heart]. Chaim Walder Publishing.
- ספור חיינו: ילדים כותבים על עצמם [Story of Our Lives: Children write about themselves]. Chaim Walder Publishing.
- זה קרא באמת: ילדים כותבים על עצמם 2 [This Really Happened: Children write about themselves 2]. Chaim Walder Publishing. 2009.
- אנשים מספרים על עצמם [People Talk About Themselves]. Chaim Walder Publishing.
- אנשים מספרים על עצמם 2 [People Talk About Themselves 2]. Chaim Walder Publishing. 2003.
- English edition: People Speak 2: More people talk … about themselves!, Feldheim, 2003, ISBN 1-58330-609-9
- אנשים מספרים על עצמם 3 [People Talk About Themselves 3]. Chaim Walder Publishing.
- אנשים מספרים על עצמם 4 [People Talk About Themselves 4]. Chaim Walder Publishing.
- שימו לב אל הנשמה [Listen to the Soul].
- English edition: Listen to the Soul: Stories of the heart and spirit, Feldheim, 1996, ISBN 0-87306-780-0
- Subject to Change: Stories of the heart and spirit. Feldheim. 1999. ISBN 1-58330-404-5.
- מאחורי המסיכה [Behind the Mask].
- עצות מהחיים [Advice from Life]. Chaim Walder Publishing.
- Arielli, Kobi (19 June 2009). "כבוד הרב מכר: "ילדים מספרים על עצמם" כובש את הציבור החרדי" [In Honor of the Bestseller: "Children Talk About Themselves" Conquers the Haredi Public]. Maariv (in Hebrew). Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- Rotem, Tamar (4 January 2002). "Very Telling, These Tales: Chaim Walder is the darling of ultra-Orthodox children". Haaretz. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- Hakhimian, Eva (2011). "חיים ולדר: הלב אינו מחסן" [Chaim Walder: 'The Heart is Not a Storage Room'] (in Hebrew). Hidabroot. Archived from the original on 15 June 2012. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
- Rebibo, Joel (2001). "The Road Back From Utopia". Jewish Agency for Israel. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- "Review: People Speak 4" (PDF). Afikim Jewish Spirit. Spring 2001. p. 22. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
- "An Evening for Haredim". ONE Family Fund. 2005. Archived from the original on 19 December 2010. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- "הסופר חיים ולדר אוסף סיפורי גבורת ילדי גוש קטיף" [Author Chaim Walder Collects Stories of Heroism of the Children of Gush Katif] (in Hebrew). Arutz Sheva. 4 January 2005. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- Going Live with Rabbi Yoel Gold: A behind-the-scenes look at the production of his inspirational videos, Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter, Ami Magazine, August 9, 2017 (issue 330), p. 59-60 where after Gold tells of one story in illustration of his observation that "[m]any of the stories I track down aren't true," he is further quoted relating that "[t]he next one involved a video that someone once sent me of a mashpia telling a story about a former kapo who needed a kidney for his son after the war. The only match he found was the son of one of his victims, so the father refused to let him have the kidney. Then it turned out that the kapo had secretly saved the victim's son from the Nazis. The person who sent it to me wanted me to get to the bottom of the story. In the course of my research I found out that Chaim Walder had written up the story in his book People Speak, so I called him and asked if it was true. 'No,' he replied. 'Most of it is made up.'"