Adass Israel School Principal "Used Student's Home Life to Groom, Abuse"

By Patrick Hatch
The Age
May 6, 2015

Malka Leifer fled Australia two days after she was sacked, on a plane ticket organised by Adass Israel Girls school.

A school principal used a student's abusive home life as a way to groom and then sexually abuse her over several years, a court has heard.

A former student of Adass Israel Girls School, in Elsterwick, is suing the school for damages stemming from abuse she allegedly suffered at the hands of former principal Malka Leifer.

The school sacked Mrs Leifer in March 2008 after allegations of impropriety came to light.

The Supreme Court heard on Tuesday that a member of the school's committee arranged the plane tickets so Mrs Leifer could leave the country within two days of being sacked.

Mrs Leifer was arrested in Israel in August last year and extradition proceedings are underway to bring her to Victoria to face sex abuse charges.

The court heard on Wednesday that the former student's abuse started in 2002, when she was 15, and as a result had suffered flashbacks, nightmares, persistent depression, post traumatic stress disorder and at one point was suicidal.

The former student, now 27, told the court she was brought up in a family dominated by her physically abusive mother and that Mrs Leifer offered to help her.

"She [Leifer] had an interest with my older sister first ... so when she approached me and said she knew what was going on at home and [she said] she could help me with that," she said.

The alleged victim said Mrs Leifer started giving her private religious lessons, during which Mrs Leifer would rub her through her clothes.

This abuse accelerated and by the time the alleged victim was in grade 11, aged 15 or 16, Mrs Leifer was touching her skin and digitally penetrating her, she told the court.

The alleged victim, who can not be named for legal reasons, said she was too scared to speak up about the abuse because of Mrs Leifer's pre-eminent position in the community.

"The community is the school and the school is the community. Because she was the head of the school, the whole community looked up to her and idolised her," she said.

"She had a very powerful personality... I saw how she reacted to people who attempted to cross her. I was scared."

The alleged victim said she feared Mrs Leifer would tell others in the ultra-orthodox Adass community about her abusive home life, which would damage her marriage prospects.

The victim said Mrs Leifer gave her a part-time job at the school when she graduated, aged 18, and the abuse then continued for eight months until she was married and left the school.

The Adass community is a small, ultra-orthodox Jewish group of about 150 families based in Elsternwick and Ripponlea.

The trial in expected to continue on Thursday.








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