A day after the Jerusalem District Court backed the deportation of a suspected Australian-Israeli child molester, two of the suspect’s victims hailed the development as an turning point in their own efforts to close a difficult chapter in their lives.
Dassi Erlich and Nicole Meyer, two former students at the Adass Yisrael school in Melbourne, Australia who were abused years ago by then-principal Malka Leifer, spoke with Arutz Sheva about the developments in the case, and the extradition of the woman who has evaded justice for over a decade.
“We actually could not stop smiling last night,” said Erlich. “There was just so much emotion. We were flooded with excitement and relief. We actually couldn’t believe that it was happen. We fought so long for this to happen, and finally for it to happen felt like a dream…it just felt surreal.”
When asked whether they felt fear over seeing Leifer in court and confronting their former abuser, Meyer told Arutz Sheva there would be “anxiety”, but added that it would also be “incredible” to finally see Leifer put on trial, saying it would give her and Erlich a degree of closure.
“We have prepared many, many years for this moment, so of course there will be nerves, there will be anxiety, there will be trauma, there will be flashbacks. All that has happened in the last nine years in the lead up to [this].”
“It will be absolutely incredible to get to the point where she comes back and we face her in court and we can put this chapter behind us. That’s really what we’re looking forward to.”
“I’m not saying the journey won’t be difficult facing her in court, of course it will be. Seeing her the first time…in Israel in court hearings was very difficult. But once we’re able to get to this point and put it behind us, we can hopefully move on and get some closure.”
Returning Leifer to Australia to be put on trial in the country where she committed her crimes is “very important,” Meyer said, to send a message on the severity of child sex abuse and punishment perpetrators must face, lamenting the “culture of silence” which often prevails. “We wanted to break that silence.”
“It is very important for people to understand that when someone sexually abuses another person, they deserve to be in jail as a consequence of what they have done, and not to shove it under the covers and not to allow the culture of silence. Silence just allows abuse to continue. And we wanted to break that silence in the Ultra-Orthodox community and in the wider Jewish community.”
“This campaign became not just about our story, but about voices for everyone who understands that abuse should not be kept quiet,” said Meyer.
“Malka Leifer abused us here,” said Erlich, “in Australia, therefore she has to face the courts here in Australia. There can’t a criminal trial in Israel for crimes that she did in Australia. We knew that was never a possibility, so we needed her to come back here to face her in court.”
The two lamented the slow response in Israel, singling out then-Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) over his alleged involvement in Leifer’s efforts to be ruled mentally unfit to stand trial or face extradition.
“We were faced with a lot of resistance and we could not understand what was taking so long,” Meyer told Arutz Sheva.
“When it came out that Litzman was allegedly involved, it made sense to us. We had suspected something was going on that wasn’t kosher behind the scenes.”
“There was a disappointment in the Israeli justice system that this had dragged on for so long.”
The two said that they since they had gone public with their story had received “hundreds of messages” from other victims, some of whom have asked for help in contacting authorities.
“We feel like we’re part of the change,” said Erlich. “We feel like we’re part of the change in society where we see sexual abuse for what it is and we push the blame from the survivor to the perpetrator.”
Leifer, the former principal of the Adass Yisrael girl’s school in Melbourne, fled Australia in 2008 shortly before she was formally indicted on 74 child molestation charges. She eventually moved to the town of Emmanuel, in Samaria, where she was later arrested.
On Monday, the Jerusalem District Court approved Leifer’s extradition back to Australia, finding that the charges against her have enough basis to merit extradition.
"The defendant can be extradited to Australia for the crimes attributed to her in the extradition
request," the court said in its ruling.
The ruling paves the way for the Justice Ministry to order Leifer’s extradition.
Leifer may appeal the decision, however, to the Supreme Court.
Beginning in 2014, Leifer evaded extradition, claiming to be mentally unfit to stand trial. After an investigation, however, Leifer was arrested again in 2018, and her claims to be mentally unfit reassessed.
Earlier this month,Israel's Supreme Court rejected an appeal filed on Leifer's behalf and affirmed the findings of the Jerusalem District Court this May that Leifer is mentally fit to face deportation and to stand trial.