Former Adass Israel School principal to be extradited over alleged child sex abuse

Jewel Topsfield

The former head of an Orthodox Jewish school in Melbourne will be extradited to Australia to face charges of sexually abusing her students.

Malka Leifer, a former principal of the Adass Israel School in Elsternwick, fled to Israel in 2008 after the school board sacked her, following complaints of inappropriate conduct with students.

The Australian Attorney-General’s Department said Mrs Leifer had been arrested in Israel in response to an extradition request made by Australia.

“Ms Leifer is wanted to face prosecution in Victoria for alleged sexual assault offences,” a spokesperson said.

The Israeli news website Ynet reported that a resident of Emmanuel, a settlement town in the West Bank, was arrested on Sunday [17 August].

It said the woman was suspected of sexually abusing three sisters at an Orthodox high school in Melbourne between 2004 and 2008.

In 2008, parents told The Age Mrs Leifer had molested students at school, at her home and prob-ably 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.

“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,” a parent told The Age at the time.

Sergeant Sharon Darcy from Victoria Police said the Moorabbin sexual offences and child abuse investigation team was investigating complaints of sex offences at an Elsternwick school. “As this is a current investigation it would be inappropriate to comment further,” Sergeant Darcy said.

The extradition comes as a former student is taking legal action against Mrs Leifer and the Adass Israel School for breach of duty.

Solicitor Nick Mazzeo, of law firm Lennon Mazzeo, confirmed one of his client’s cases is listed for trial in May 2015, seeking damages for pain, suffering and economic loss. Ynet reported that the arrested woman fled to Israel two days after details of about 74 sex offences allegedly committed against the three sisters were revealed.

Manny Waks, the CEO of Jewish child sexual abuse victim advocacy group Tzedek, welcomed the development. “It should be seen in the greater context of the ongoing child sexual abuse scandal that has been plaguing the Australian Jewish community in recent years where we have seen numerous convictions in both Melbourne and Sydney,” he said.

“Many victims are no longer willing to remain silent, and neither is the community.”