Somewhere in an ultra-Orthodox enclave of Israel, former Melbourne school principal Malka Leifer continues to evade extradition to face criminal charges in Australia. Now one of her alleged victims speaks out for the first time.
Malka Leifer’s role in Melbourne’s Adass community was all-powerful.
As head of the Adass Israel School from 2003 to 2008, she was highly regarded in the community, running day-to-day operations at the school and teaching Jewish studies.
Leifer is now under house arrest somewhere in the ultra-Orthodox enclave of Bnei Brak in central Israel, where she fled in 2008 — allegedly with the help of senior members of Melbourne’s secretive Adass community.
She is wanted by Victoria Police to face prosecution for 74 child sex offences involving the abuse of girls at the Adass Israel School.
For almost two years, she has managed to evade extradition proceedings and her latest hearing, scheduled for Thursday, has been postponed to an unknown date.
Outraged at the failure to extradite Leifer, one of her several alleged victims, who we will call Rebecca, is speaking out for the first time.
“It’s still extremely difficult for me to go into detail in regards to what happened to myself and the other victims,” she told Lateline.
“But the far-reaching effects the physical and emotional abuse is still having … I can’t find the words.”
Last September, in a civil case against the Adass Israel School and Leifer, a Melbourne judge awarded one of the alleged victims $1.27 million in damages.
Barrister David Seeman represented the alleged victim in that case and he says the abuse occurred over a period of three years.
“It was at times frequent abuse, daily abuse and also at times not that frequent,” he said.
“It was conducted at the school, it occurred at Leifer’s home, it occurred on camps.
“It was made up of what you might regard as abuse low on the scale of severity, all the way up to the most serious horrific abuse.”
Mr Seeman has gained a rare insight into the ultra-conservative Adass community, from which the alleged victims came.
“It’s a very insular community. There’s very little communication or access to the secular community,” he said.
He says the alleged victims were brought up in an extremely strict environment.
“They were not allowed to watch television, books had to be vetted to make sure they were suitable and they had very little contact with the outside world,” he said.