Jewish college director sues over sex abuse claims on Facebook
A SENIOR administrator of Yeshivah College is suing for libel, claiming she had been accused of pressuring child sex abuse victims not to pursue their complaints with police.
The orthodox Jewish school’s former general manager, Nechama Bendet, has lodged a writ in the Supreme Court seeking damages over five Facebook posts by Bruce James Cooke, whom she describes as a “vocal member of the Jewish community”.
Now the school’s director of development, she claims Mr Cooke suggested she had sought to ostracise two victims by calling them “mosers” for going to police and had thereby tried to pressure them not to pursue their complaints.
“Moser” is an offensive Hebrew term for one who breaks a code banning Jews from informing on one another to secular authorities.
This year, Ms Bendet told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse that the college had never discussed investigating claims of a cover-up after a former Yeshivah guard, David Cyprys, was accused of child sex crimes.
In 2011, it approached Robert Richter, QC, who advised it on public relations and dealing with victims, she said.
In her statement of claim, she says Mr Cooke’s posts suggested that she knew of abuse but did not report it to police; that she had shown complete disregard for victims by asserting the school had no legal obligation to report their abuse; that she condoned not reporting child sex abuse and rape to police unless there was a legal requirement to do so; and that there were reasonable grounds for police to investigate whether she had engaged in criminal conduct in relation to abuse.
Ms Bendet claims he also suggested she bullied and intimidated teachers and staff at Yeshivah and at Beth Rivkah Ladies College; that she abused her position by terminating a security contract for personal reasons; and that by her behaviour she was destroying the Yeshivah Centre and must be immediately removed.
She claims the posts were published without an honest belief in their truth or with reckless indifference, that her feelings, credit and personal and business reputation had been gravely injured, and that she had been humiliated and embarrassed.
Ms Bendet is also seeking a permanent injunction restraining Mr Cook from making such publications.
Mr Cooke’s lawyer, Chris Stakis, said his client would defend the case because he believed the publications were part of a legitimate debate on matters of importance.