Senior rabbi Zvi Telsner on committee that helped accused sex predator flee Australia, court told

By Shannon Deery
Herald Sun
May 11, 2015

Former Adass Israel School principal Malka Leifer.

Adass Israel School in Elsternwick.

A SENIOR rabbi accused of covering up sex crimes at Yeshivah College formed part of a committee that helped accused sex predator Malka Leifer flee Australia, a court has heard.

Mrs Leifer fled Australia just days after the Adass Israel School committee of management was told of allegations she abused at least three sisters and a string of other girls.

Yeshivah Centre chief rabbi Zvi Telsner was on Monday named as a member of a panel that decided to terminate the former Adass Israel School principal’s employment and help her flee Australia in 2008.

It comes as Mrs Leifer was on Monday night expected to fight an application for her extradition from Israel to face criminal charges here.

But the federal Attorney-General’s media department thwarted attempts to cover the case by refusing to tell media when or where it would be heard.

The mother of eight was arrested in August after local authorities applied for her extradition.

It followed the filing of a civil action against her and the school by a former student, who says she was abused by Mrs Leifer up to three times a week over several years.

The school’s committee of management learned of the allegations in March 2008, just two days before Mrs Leifer returned to Israel.

Current principal Israel Herszberg told the Supreme Court that Rabbi Telsner formed part of a panel that decided how to handle the allegations.

The panel ultimately decided to suspend Mrs Leifer and send her back to Israel using school funds, he said.

Prof Herszberg said the committee acted in line with Mrs Leifer’s contract.

The revelation Rabbi Telsner was involved in a second alleged cover-up is expected to increase mounting pressure for him to resign.

Insiders said it was evidence of a wider culture of cover-ups, bullying and denial that exists in the ultra-orthodox community.

One alleged victim said as recently as last month he was “told off” for reporting a matter to authorities.

There has been increasing pressure for Rabbi Telsner to step down following evidence he gave to the royal commission in February that included a claim that paedophiles and gay people could be “cured”.

He was also accused of encouraging the shunning of child sex abuse victims, a claim he has denied.

The commission heard that after one sex abuse victim sent an email to Jewish community figures urging them to co-operate with police, Rabbi Telsner lectured the community about speaking out.

“Who gave you permission to speak? Which rabbi gave you permission to speak?” he is alleged to have asked.

His comments were described as “repulsive, ignorant and insulting” by the Jewish Community Council of Victoria.

Lawyers for the school told the Supreme Court it would not contest allegations of abuse by Mrs Leifer but said it was not liable for her conduct.

They will argue Mrs Leifer, who was not registered as a teacher in Victoria, was hired by the congregation, not the school. The trial, before Justice Jack Rush, continues.



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