The über-haredi Adass Israel girls school in Melbourne will not fight the allegations of child sexual abuse against its former principal Malka Leifer – not because the school is admitting her guilt, but because it now claims not to have been her legal employer.
Above: Malka Leifer
Über-Haredi School Skirted Government Licensing Requirements To Hire Unlicensed Principal, Who Later Alleged Raped And Abused Students, Court Hears
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The über-haredi Adass Israel girls school in Melbourne will not fight the allegations of child sexual abuse against its former principal Malka Leifer – not because the school is admitting her guilt, but because it now claims not to have been her legal employer, The Australian Jewish News reported.
The school’s attorney told the court today its position is that it is not liable for Leifer’s conduct.
Instead, the school’s current principal, Israel Herszberg, testified that the school’s parent congregation, Adass Israel, hired Leifer to teach at and run the school in 2008, and it is that congregation one of Leifer’s alleged victims should be suing.
He said a group that included three rabbis suspended her after the child sex abuse allegations surfaced in 2008. Leifer subsequently resigned and fled to Israel – with the help of Adass officials.
Herszberg claimed the Adass congregation’s board had no choice: it had to pay Leifer’s and her and her family’s air fares and related costs to move her back to Israel as stipulated in her contract.
Even if this somehow were true, Herszberg’s testimony does not explain why Adass purchased the tickets on an urgent basis and essentially helped Leifer and her family flee justice, rather than simply reporting the alleged abuse to police, allowing police to interview Leifer and the alleged victims and then determine whether it was legal for Leifer to leave the country or not.
But Adass did not do that and Leifer is currently in Israel, where she’s been since 2008, and is fighting an Australian police attempt to have her extradited to Melbourne to face justice.
Asked by the plaintiff’s attorney why Leifer’s contract was printed on letterhead stating “Adass School Inc,” Herszberg said administrative practices were different then and there was no Adass congregational letterhead that could be used. He also insisted that Leifer was not a full principal at Adass – even though she clearly was.
Most tellingly, Herszberg testified that even though police were eventually notified of the accusations – i.e., after Leifer fled with Adass help – he did not report those accusations to police even though he succeeded Leifer as principal in early 2009. Herszberg claimed no one told him he had any obligation to do so under the mandatory reporting law.
Leifer was not registered with the government as a teacher because she was paid by the congregation, not the school – likely a legal fiction to get around licensing requirements. She did have a government certificate authorizing her to work with children – but no teacher's certificate or license – and her contract was reportedly conditioned on here passing a routine police check for any criminal record. But because Leifer was imported from Israel to run the school, and because haredi communities even today most often do not report child abuse cases to police, especially if the alleged abuser is a prominent haredi person, Australian police would likely have been blinded to any previous allegations against her.
Adass “got her into the school under subterfuge and got her a temporary visa under subterfuge,” the plaintiff’s attorney said to Herszberg. “Are you serious about that? She was headmistress at the school, but was not a teacher?”
The civil trial is continuing. If she is extradited, Leifer faces many counts of rape and sexual abuse against what could be as many as a dozen former students.