Abuse victim welcomes Yeshivah Centre's redress scheme
7 December 2015
Advocate and abuse victim Manny Waks has welcomed a redress scheme for people sexually abused at an Orthodox Jewish centre in Melbourne.
Victims of child sexual abuse at the Yeshivah Centre in Melbourne will be eligible for up to $80,000 in compensation under a redress scheme launched today.
Accepting the compensation will not remove their right to take further legal action, nor will they be required to sign any confidentiality agreements.
Melbourne's Yeshivah Centre appointed an independent panel to design the scheme.
The scheme's co-ordinator, Michael Debinski, said victims will be encouraged to report sexual abuse allegations to police, but the decision to report will be up to them.
Former student and abuse victim Manny Waks, whose case sparked the Child Abuse Royal Commission's investigation of Yeshivah College, came back from his new home in Israel to hear details of a landmark compensation package and an apology.
“There are few cases like Yeshivah where a community turned on its victims and where good people stood by and did nothing," he said.
“Today’s announcement of the redress scheme is a watershed moment for our community. It sends out a clear message that the Yeshivah Centre is finally taking this issue seriously and is trying to right past wrongs."
The years may have passed since the abuse happened, but for Manny Waks walking through the Melbourne campus where it happened brought back memories.
"[I] went in there, he told me to undress," Waks said outside a Jewish ritual bath house on the grounds of the Yeshivah centre.
"I remember exactly where it was on the bench over there and we just went in and what happened happened."
He said he was shunned by members of the local Jewish community as a result of speaking out about the abuse.
Walks said stepping foot on the grounds again after so many years has been difficult.
"It is probably difficult to articulate the feeling this morning. I haven’t been this nervous for some time, not just in the context of speaking, even walking here," he said.
"This is first time after many years. It is like a whole generational change for me in many years. I think coming on the Yeshivah grounds as a welcome guest, the committee of management was here, the Rabbis were here - I feel like I am much more amongst friends now.
"And of course it is not going to change overnight and I did, for example, see someone there who still owes me an apology.
"Hopefully this process of self-reflection will impact all of us to reconsider what we can do better to make victims feel as best as they can. It is also about the future so that we can ensure the safety of our children."
Manny Waks said he believed many former students could come forward now the redress scheme has been launched.
"I suspect that we will see dozens of these cases and from my perspective, the more the better because it will mean that victims have faith in the system."
A two-week hearing of the Child Abuse Royal Commission revealed a cover-up at the ultra-Orthodox centre, which employed convicted sex offenders David Cyprys and David Kramer.
Now under new management, the college is keen to make amends to the children it failed.
"Each of you had a right to be protected and cared for. You had a right to feel safe," said Yeshivah spokesman Yechiel Belfer.
"In each of these respects we let you down in ways that we can never fully make up for."
Originally published at SBS.