Victims of the child sexual assault scandal that rocked Melbourne’s Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish community have called on Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne to intervene in the running of Chabad’s Yeshivah College in a bid to rid the school of the influence of leaders tainted by the child-abuse royal commission.
The Australian reports:
Victims of the child sexual assault scandal that rocked Melbourne’s ultra-orthodox [Chabad-Lubavitch] Jewish society have called on [Australian Prime Minister] Tony Abbott and federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne to intervene in the running of [Chabad’s] Yeshivah College in a bid to rid the school of the influence of leaders tainted by the child-abuse royal commission.
In letters to federal and state MPs, including the Prime Minister, Mr Pyne, Bill Shorten and Victorian [i.e. Victoria; the Australian state where Melbourne is located] Premier [the rough equivalent of a US governor] Daniel Andrews, the victims claim that the powerful and secretive [Chabad] Yeshivah leadership, many of whom gave evidence to the royal commission into alleged cover-ups of abuse, still held a stranglehold on the management of the school.
The letters came as the Yeshivah Centre in Melbourne braces for a wave of litigation following the royal commission, which heard evidence of cover-ups, threats, intimidation and ostracism of victims who spoke up or tried to report the abuse to non-Jewish authorities.
The lawyer for several of the victims, Vivien Waller, confirmed that four cases of negligence had been lodged in the Victorian Supreme Court, while there were ongoing discussions with a “number of other clients” regarding potential claims.
“They are negligence claims on behalf of former students of Yeshivah College for compensation for psychological injury arising from sexual abuse,” Dr Waller confirmed.
“Four of these matters are issued in the Supreme Court of Victoria and a number of other clients have instructed us to explore alternative dispute-resolution processes.’’
In the letters to MPs, the 11 victims, headed by child-abuse advocate and victim Manny Waks, pleaded for them to use their power as education funders to take an interest in the management of the school to prevent any further alleged cover-ups, intimidation and “unspeakable acts” occurring at the school.
“The government is a key stakeholder in the Yeshivah Melbourne, by way of crucial education funding,” the letter to Mr Abbott says
“We respectfully ask you, as the Prime Minister, to publicly support the position of the 11 victims of child sexual abuse at the Yeshivah Melbourne, of which I am one … in calling for change in leadership at the Yeshivah Melbourne and an overhaul of internal governance at the school.”
The letters to the MPs was attached to a statement by the 11 victims claiming some members of the Yeshivah leadership group were more concerned with protecting the reputation of the close-knit community following the explosive evidence about alleged cover-ups to the royal commission.
In the statement, they claim the immediate resignation of all 20 members of the board of trustees and the committee of management, plus key staff and volunteers, is the only way to ensure the scandal is never repeated.
“We strongly believe that the removal of yourselves, as well as key staff and volunteers from the Yeshivah Centre who have been implicated in any way in this ongoing scandal, is now required,” it says.
A spokesman for the Yeshivah Centre said it was committed to making the school “better, stronger, and more transparent.”