By Barney Zwartz (The Age)
March 29, 2013
Victoria's Human Rights Commission will investigate a complaint by Zephaniah Waks, the father of Jewish abuse victim advocate Manny Waks, that he has been shunned by the Orthodox Jewish community in Melbourne because of his son's anti-abuse campaign.
Mr Waks snr says that since the police began investigating child sexual abuse complaints around Melbourne's Yeshivah Centre nearly two years ago, he has suffered an escalating campaign of ''innuendo, lies, vilification, victimisation and discrimination''.
The case, which is shocking in a community that prefers to sort out disputes internally, names Yeshivah Centre spiritual head Zvi Telsner and its committee head Hershel Herbst as respondents.
Mr Waks said on Thursday he had tried to resolve issues internally and through Jewish courts, but the Yeshivah leadership refused, so he had gained permission under Jewish law to go to the secular courts from a leading American rabbi, Yosef Blau from Yeshiva University.
He has been a member of the Yeshivah community for 27 years, but has strongly supported his son. He says he has been denied religious honours in the synagogue, ''viciously attacked'' on the internet and has lost friends because of his support for abuse victims.
''Whatever happens, I am going to be a leper in the community. I know three perpetrators [of sexual abuse] who are walking free today, and they will do so unless the leadership attitude changes. People are afraid to come forward, and you can see why,'' Mr Waks said.
He said the Yeshivah Centre leadership called him a ''moser'', someone who informs on Jews to secular authorities.
Rabbi Telsner declined to comment on Thursday, while the Yeshivah Centre did not answer calls.
Manny Waks, himself a victim and founder of the Tzedek victims' advocacy group, said he was proud of his father for standing up to intimidation and bullying - ''this outrageous behaviour by individuals who refer to themselves as religious, including the head rabbi of the Yeshivah Centre''.
''It would have been much easier to heed the advice of some and to simply leave that synagogue. But why should he? He's been a member there for almost 30 years and has done absolutely nothing wrong. Also, if he would simply walk away, it would provide legitimacy for these bullies,'' he said.
Both Zephaniah and Manny Waks appeared before the Victorian inquiry into how the churches and other groups handled sex abuse complaints, but their evidence remains suppressed.