One of Melbourne’s most senior Jewish figures questioned over allegations of child abuse has launched legal action against the head of a victims’ advocacy group.
In a writ lodged in the Victorian Supreme Court this week, victims’ advocate Manny Waks was accused of defaming the rabbi in a series of online articles and Facebook posts.
Mr. Waks allegedly published articles that falsely implied the rabbi had perjured himself in court, was guilty of abuse and had admitted to abusing children.
The rabbi was stood down last week from his position at a local Jewish boys’ school after allegations that he molested a student in the school’s synagogue were leveled at him.
The student claimed he was molested and made to perform lewd acts on the rabbi, who was then deputy principal at the school in the 1980s.
After the allegations were made to police, the rabbi voluntarily attended a police station and was questioned.
It was the first time he had been accused of misconduct, and he has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
Following his questioning, the rabbi was released without charge pending further police inquiries.
In a statement of claim filed with the court, the rabbi claims he was defamed by articles posted by Mr Waks following his questioning by police.
The articles were posted on Mr Waks’ personal Facebook page and on websites he runs as the founder and CEO of victim support group Tzedek.
The claim alleges Mr Waks posted false imputations and selective material for the purpose of sensationalizing his campaign against child abuse at the expense of the rabbi.
“The defendant invited comment to be published on the website and Facebook pages, which led to a torrent of abuse and defamatory statements,” the statement of claim said.
It is alleged Mr Waks failed to properly screen, block publication of or remove defamatory comments left by visitors to his site.
“As a result of the publication of each of the online articles and postings…the plaintiff has been severely injured in his reputation as a practicing rabbi, educator in the State of Victoria and as a responsible member of the community,” a statement of claim alleges.
The rabbi claims he was “brought into hatred, contempt and ridicule”.
He has claimed aggravated damages, interest and costs.
Both Mr Waks and the rabbi were unavailable for comment.
This article has been modified from its original form; the name of the plaintiff has been removed.