Australian ultra-Orthodox School Ordered to Pay $1 Million to Alleged Sex Abuse Victim

Ex-student allegedly suffered repeated abuse at the hands of former headmistress Malka Leifer, who was arrested in Israel last year, and is facing extradition to Australia.

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Melbourne's skyline.
Melbourne's skyline. Credit: Donaldytong

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish school in Australia has been ordered to pay more than $1.1 million in damages to a student who was an alleged victim of sex abuse.

The former student sued Adass Israel School in Melbourne and ex-headmistress Malka Leifer over alleged repeated instances of abuse between 2003 and 2006. The alleged abuse took place at Leifer's home and at the school itself, The Herald Sun reported.

The former student is now in her twenties. Judge John Rush ordered that she receive compensation on the grounds that the school was both “directly and vicariously liable for the conduct of Ms Leifer.”

The allegations first came to light in 2008. Leifer left the school after they surfaced, and left the country soon after, the court head. According to testimony heard in the court that the school, only hours after the allegations came to light, the school's management committee helped Leifer fly out of the country. She was arrested in Israel last year and is now facing extradition to Australia.

“The failure of the board to report the allegations to police prior to arranging Leifer’s urgent departure is deplorable,” the judge said in court Wednesday, The Guardian reported.

The court heard that the former student, who grew up in the ultra-Orthodox community, had little contact with the world outside her community until 2011, when she became suicidal and was taken to a clinic for treatment.

The alleged victim was depressed, and suffered from post-traumatic stress and flashbacks. The school wouldn't help her pay for therapy, according to the former student.

The judge ordered the school to pay her $1,024,428 in damages, along with $100,000 for helping Leifer flee. Leifer was also ordered to pay $150,000 in damages to the victim. The hearing is set to continue Thursday.

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