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Teacher to Be Extradited to Australia Over Abuse Allegations

Former principal Malka Leifer, who fled Australia in 2008, arrested Sunday night in Emanuel.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 8/18/2014, 10:26 PM

Illustration: arrest of woman
Illustration: arrest of woman
Thinkstock

Former Jewish school principal Malka Leifer will be extradited to Australia, the Australian Attorney-General's Department announced. Leifer fled Victoria for Emanuel, in Samaria, eight years ago, to evade allegations of sexual assault. 

Several students said Leifer, who was principal of Adass Israel School Elsternwick in suburban Melbourne, had improper conduct with them from 2004-2008.

Leifer fled to Israel following the allegations, but will now be extradited to stand trial in Victoria, officials said. Meanwhile, investigations into the assault claims have continued.

Manny Waks, founder of Jewish sexual abuse support group Tzedek, told The Australian Monday that he 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,” he stated. “Many victims are no longer willing to remain silent, and neither is the community.”

“I hope and expect that the Adass Israel School will cooperate fully with the police," he added. 

After Leifer’s arrest, Adass Israel school principal Professor Israel Herszberg said in a statement, “The school has and will continue to co-operate fully with the authorities but otherwise is unable to comment further where the matters involving Mrs. Leifer are before the courts.”

Australian daily The Age, which covered the story extensively when the allegations first surfaced, noted that several students said Leifer would host "sleepovers" while her husband was away - and then cover up evidence of abuse to prevent harm to the girls' families or marriage prospects. 

"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 - no one wants to admit their child is a victim," a parent told The Age at the time.

In addition, an attorney revealed to the daily that a former student has brought formal charges against the school, seeking damages for psychological pain and economic loss. The trial is set to begin in May 2015.