Parents told The Age at the time that the former principal of the Adass School, Malka Leifer, molested students aged 15 and 16 at her home and probably at school camps, and that one victim had attempted suicide. Leifer is now living in the haredi settlement of Emmanuel in the West Bank, and a resident of the town says Leifer often takes children from the synagogue there to her house for after-school tutoring and to study the Torah, sparking alarm among residents who know of the accusations against her in Australia.
Above: Malka Leifer
The Age reports:
A former student at an ultra-orthodox Jewish school in Melbourne is suing the school and its former principal, who fled the country days after molestation claims against her surfaced.
Malka Leifer fled to Israel in 2008, days after being sacked as principal of Adass Israel Girls' School, in Elsternwick, following complaints of inappropriate conduct with students.
Parents told The Age at the time that Ms Leifer had molested students aged 15 and 16 at her home and probably at school camps and that one victim had attempted suicide.
Two former students filed civil claims in the Melbourne Supreme Court in March last year against Mrs Leifer and the school for breach of duty.
Solicitor Nick Mazzeo, of law firm Lennon Mazzeo, has acted on behalf of a number of former students at the school who claim to have been sexually abused by Mrs Leifer.
He confirmed one of his clients’ cases is listed for trial in May 2015, seeking damages for pain, suffering and economic loss. It is understood the second case has been withdrawn.
“There’s a whole host of damages they allege have been sustained, including psychological injury,” he said.
Mrs Leifer lives in Immanuel, a settlement town in the West Bank, where her husband is a rabbi at a local synagogue.
A resident of the town, who did not wish to be named, said Mrs Leifer often took children from the synagogue to her house for after-school tutoring and to study the Torah, sparking alarm among residents who knew of the accusations against her in Australia.
Victoria Police launched an investigation into claims of abuse at the school in 2011, and a police spokesman confirmed on Friday that the Moorabbin sexual offences and child abuse investigation team was still investigating the case.
“It is believed the person of interest who is alleged to have committed offences is currently overseas,” Sergeant Kris Hamilton said.
“Due to this belief, the person of interest has not yet been spoken to by investigators.”
Adass Israel School principal Israel Herszberg said the school would not comment on any matter that was before the courts.
Parents of students at the school alleged to The Age in 2008 that Mrs Leifer, a mother of eight, shared her bed with different students when her husband was away.
One parent said problems emerged when their 16-year-old daughter stopped eating and became unsociable. Her parents took her to a psychologist and she revealed she had been molested but was too embarrassed to tell her parents.
The Adass community is a small, ultra-orthodox group of families based in Elsternwick and Ripponlea, who have little contact with the wider Jewish community and non-Jewish community.
Girls and boys in the community are segregated from kindergarten, are not allowed television or to mix with the wider community. They do not attend university until after they are married.
It is believed some alleged victims feel constrained by the prohibitions of mesirah, which discourages Jews from referring other Jews to civil authorities.
The Rabbinical Council of Victoria released a statement in 2013 that stated the prohibitions of mesirah did not apply in cases of child abuse.
Manny Waks, founder of victims advocacy group Tzedek, is suing the St Kilda East Yeshivah Centre for negligence over abuse he claims to have suffered as a boy.
He said pursuing civil cases was an important part of the healing process for victims of abuse.
“This option is particularly important in the context of child sexual abuse within institutions as often it is the only option available to victims if they wish to hold an institution to account,” Mr Waks said.
[Hat Tip: David.]