Melbourne’s Yeshivah Centre has set up a redress scheme to help support victims of sexual abuse.
Michael Debinski, who will oversee the independent scheme, said victims would be offered counselling and redress payments, starting at $10,000 and going up to $80,000.
He said he did not know how many victims would come forward.
“We’ve got trained professional social workers who’ll then meet with them, assess their claim and may also assist them if they have other issues they need psychological care or support [with],” Mr Debinski said.
“Yeshiva funds the scheme, but in every other respect we’ve been very careful and diligent to establish it in a way that all of the contact points are independent of Yeshivah.”
The Yeshivah Centre has been criticised in the past for its handling of multiple child sex abuse cases.
The former head rabbi of Yeshivah, Rabbi Zvi Telsner, stood down in September after months of pressure to resign over his treatment of the issue.
Mr Debinski said those who applied for the scheme would not be prevented from taking further legal action.
“We won’t be asking anyone to sign any release or confidentiality agreement if somebody receives financial redress, the scheme still allows them to take civil action,” he said.
Manny Waks was sexually abused at Yeshivah College over several years in the 1980s and 1990s.
Today he returned to the college for the first time since he disclosed the abuse and called the redress scheme a “groundbreaking” development for the Jewish community.
“It’s taken a long time, but I’m proud and delighted to be standing beside people from the Yeshivah Centre, representatives at the Yeshivah Centre itself, somewhere I haven’t been to for some years now,” he said.
“It’s certainly an emotional day, personally for me, but I think more importantly it’s a ground-breaking day for the Jewish community.
“Through this scheme, Yeshivah Centre is acknowledging what has transpired in the past, the horrible things that have happened in the past but they’re doing so in a very sensitive and compassionate manner,” he said.
Mr Waks encouraged any victim – there are estimated to be dozens – to come forward.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if there would be more than that, because I’m aware of a total of around, either convicted or alleged offenders, of around 15, which would therefore indicate that the number may be significantly higher in terms of the victims,” he said.