More sordid details have come to light about the lesbian abuse scandal at a haredi school in Melbourne, Australia.
Included in these sordid…
…details are the following:
- Parents allege the school paid to send the abuser, its principal, to Israel and waited until she was safely out of the country before reporting the crimes to police.
- The principal is alleged to have left with $20,000 AUD raised by students for a free loan fund.
- She is also alleged to have borrowed $100,000 AUD from a community businessman two days before fleeing the country.
- The community rabbis have hired Norman Rosenbaum, the brother of Yankel Rosenbaum, the yeshiva student slain in the Crown Heights riots, to represent them.
- Norman Rosenbaum says everything is kosher.
- The community at one point called Mark Liebler, the son of Isi Lieber, the man who many think created the World Jewish Congress scandal along with then-NY State Attorney General Elitot Spitzer (himself now snared in a white slavery scandal). Mr. Liebler refused to get involved.
- One of the victims became suicidal.
- The principal lured students to her bed, where she had sex with them.
- Victims were as young as 15 and 16.
- The school is refusing to release details to outside counselors and psychologists retained by parents.
Principal 'molested schoolgirls'
Barney Zwartz and Bridie Smith
March 14, 2008
THE principal of a private Jewish girls' school in Melbourne has fled Australia facing accusations that she sexually molested some of the students.
Outraged parents claim that the Adass Israel Girls' School in Elsternwick paid for Malka Leifer, a mother of eight, to return to Israel before reporting the complaints to the police.
She left Melbourne on Wednesday last week, 24 hours after being investigated and sacked by the school's board.
The Adass community is a small, ultra-orthodox and reclusive group of about 150 families based in Elsternwick and Ripponlea. They have little contact with the wider Jewish community and non-Jewish society.
It is believed the complaints against Mrs Leifer involve girls aged 15 and 16.
The president of the Adass Israel synagogue, Benjamin Koppel, has confirmed that the school acted after receiving a call suggesting that inappropriate behaviour may have taken place with one or more of the school's present or former students.
Mr Koppel did not return calls from The Age, but in a statement to The Australian Jewish News, he said a "relevant authority" had been informed. He would not confirm whether that was police, a religious court or an independent schools board.
A spokeswoman for Victoria Police said the force was aware of the claims but could not confirm whether there was an investigation because the victims might be under age.
Raphael Aron, a counsellor with Gateway Family Counselling Centre in Caulfield, said his agency had referred some families with children at the school to specialists. "This has hit the community like a ton of bricks, it's absolutely out of character with the nature of the school, staff and faculty," he said.
Mr Aron, who is also director of Cult Counselling Australia, which tries to get people out of cults, said he was concerned for the girls' welfare. "In a school where kids don't have much exposure to the outside world, there is a possibility of vulnerability … they may not have the street wisdom to recognise that something is wrong," he said.
Parents of present and past students said Mrs Leifer had molested students at school, at her home and probably at school camps. They said one victim had attempted suicide.
The parents, who would not be named, said that Mrs Leifer would share her bed with different students when her rabbi husband was away. She would tell the students she was scared, although she had five children, aged five to 12, in the house.
The parents said that Mrs Leifer always went on school camps — five or six a year — and would stay an extra night with two or three girls to "clean up".
One parent said problems emerged a year ago when a daughter, 16, stopped eating and became unsociable. Her parents took her to a psychologist, and it came out that she had been molested but was too embarrassed to tell her parents.
"It's very sensitive, because a girl who has been molested would find it hard to get married, so it's very secret, hush-hush — no one wants to admit their child is a victim," the parent said.
Girls and boys in the community are segregated from kindergarten, are not allowed television or to mix with the wider community and do not attend university until after they are married.
They leave the Adass schools at 16 and go to seminaries, usually overseas, until they marry, usually much younger than the Australian norm.
One parent told The Age that Mrs Leifer, who is believed to be in her late 40s, was hand-picked from Israel to teach at the girls' school eight years ago, not because of her teaching abilities but for her ultra-orthodox beliefs. The parent said she was widely regarded as the second holiest person in the community, behind spiritual leader Rabbi Avrohom Zvi Beck.
Some parents are livid with the way the school has handled the claims and frustrated by the "silence of the establishment".
At a meeting with parents yesterday, Mr Koppel avoided answering repeated questions from parents about the identity of the "relevant authorities".
Parents were also concerned that the psychological treatment of the girls had been compromised because the school had refused to release information to outside psychologists. Students and parents were instead referred to school-nominated psychologists.
There are also claims that Mrs Leifer left Australia with up to $100,000 borrowed from a family within the community, two days before she flew to Israel. She is also alleged to have taken about $20,000 from a pool of money earned from some students' part-time jobs.
The money, managed by Mrs Leifer, was pooled in a community fund and then lent to people in need.
The Age was told that Adass leaders at one stage sought the advice of Mark Leibler, a prominent leader of the wider Jewish community, but he declined to get involved.
Barrister Norman Rosenbaum confirmed that he had been retained by the community. "For reasons of privacy, and to protect those affected, we are not saying anything further, other than that all issues are being addressed by pre-eminent qualified professionals," he said.
The Australian Jewish News also reported that on Saturday last week, Rabbi Beck addressed the community and said they should not consider Mrs Leifer guilty of any crimes because there had been no investigation. He told the congregation that if they discussed the matter, it would be considered lashon hara (malicious gossip), the paper reported.
In a separate report on the community, The Age notes:
Another Adass member, who also spoke to The Age anonymously, said the community had got much stricter in the past 10 years under spiritual leader Rabbi Avrohom Zvi Beck, and the younger members were more fanatical in their religious observance than their parents.
"Walking, we are supposed to gaze at the ground, looking up only enough for safety, because we might look at a woman."