Australian Sex Abuse Victim Angry at Lag in Ex School Principal's Extradition From Israel

Malka Leifer, the ex school head is under house arrest in Israel. She fled from Australia in 2008 as allegations of sexual abuse surfaced at her ultra-Orthodox school.

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MK Yifat Shasha-Biton (Kulanu) and Manny Waks at a Knesset pre-hearing on child sex abuse in Jewish communities, Jerusalem, March 21, 2016.
MK Yifat Shasha-Biton (Kulanu) and Manny Waks at a Knesset pre-hearing on child sex abuse in Jewish communities, Jerusalem, March 21, 2016.Credit: Aimee Amiga

Malka Leifer, a woman under house arrest in Israel's ultra-Orthodox city, Bnai Brak, has eluded extradition to Australia where she is wanted for a case involving the alleged sexual abuse of 74 children at the Adass Israel School where she was principal, before fleeing as allegations of abuse began to surface in 2008.

One of the victims expressed her outrage at the delay to Australia's ABC television in a story appearing on its web site on Thursday.

"It's still extremely difficult for me to go into detail in regards to what happened to myself and the other victims," the victim identified fictitiously as Rebecca, tells the network's show, Lateline.

"But the far-reaching effects the physical and emotional abuse is still having I can't find the words."

Rebecca says nobody believed her when she first spoke about what had happened to her.

"I only told two people and one of them threatened me that I have to keep quiet. She actually called me and said 'what happened to you?' And I started to tell her and she said: 'That didn't happen. Make sure you keep it that way.'

"That was the last person that I told."

Eventually another victim revealed what had happened to her but Leifer and her family fled to Israel just after those allegations were raised.

"The whole community was in an upheaval and that's when it properly hit me that the woman who had controlled my life for the past three years had just fled the country and she had just gone," Rebecca tells Australian TV.

"And it was the shock, the anger, the pain, everything started coming in at once."

Melbourne’s Supreme Court awarded one of the school's students over $1 million in damages in September, over the board’s actions in aiding Leifer to leave after she had been fired, and for its failure to report the incidents to the police.

After an extradition request from Australia, Laufer was arrested in Israel in August 2014 and placed under house arrest in Bnai Brak.

But since then, Leifer has managed to avoid seven court hearings into her extradition, her lawyers arguing she is unwell, suffering panic attacks and depression whenever a court date approaches.

At a session in February, Leifer's lawyers have asked for the case to be thrown out.

Watching from Australia, Rebecca says.

"I mean, first hand I know how manipulative she is. She manipulated all of us into doing many things."

"Day after day we're waiting for the Israeli justice system to make this woman face her crimes and to come back and be extradited and face her victims and face justice," Rebecca says.

Leifer's lawyer Yehuda Fried refuses to talk to the media other than to say last year he would fight her extradition all the way to Israel's High Court, ABC reports.

"We are conducting a court procedure. The Israeli law confirms that anyone in a psychotic state cannot be subject to legal proceedings," Fried has said.

Israeli prosecutor Avital Ribner Oron accused Leifer of faking her illness.

Leifer's attorney rejected the accusation, but admitted that the panic attacks occurred around the time of scheduled hearings.

In his ruling, Judge Amnon Cohen questioned Leifer's hospital admissions. A document from the Sheba hospital on January 14 indicated that she had been referred for treatment on December 30 but showed up only on January 3, and then asked to be released as soon as the court session was over.

"There is a sharp difference between her behavior in the [psychiatric] department, among groups, during telephone conversations with family and in her formal examinations," court documents said of the judge's observations.

Australian-Israeli victim advocate Manny Waks blew the whistle on sexual abuse at his ultra-orthodox Jewish school and in Melbourne and also gave evidence to the child abuse royal commission.

Now living in Israel, Waks has founded a new global body to advocate on behalf of victims of child sexual abuse from within the Jewish community.

In an interview with Haaretz, Waks criticizes the delays in Leifer's case.

"It is staggering how long it's taken and I think it's a poor reflection on the Israeli judicial system. Especially when we have seen some of the tactics used," Waks told the Australian TV station.

"It seems to me and to many of us that Malka Leifer and her legal team are really running the show here."

Waks, who grew up in the ultra-Orthodox Chabad community of Melbourne, was sexually abused as a child by a security guard at the Yeshiva Center, an umbrella organization for Orthodox Jewish institutions in Australia, who was also his karate teacher, and was allegedly molested by another man at a local synagogue.

As an adult, at age 35, after efforts to confront the abuse with a rabbi and the police didn’t bear fruit, Waks went public with his story in 2011 in an interview with a Melbourne daily newspaper.

One of Waks’ offenders was imprisoned, as was a man who abused two of his younger brothers. In addition, many senior Australian rabbis have stepped down from their posts, and those who were suspected of hiding the offenses of the Yeshiva Center’s employees or intimidating victims into silence were questioned in the country’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

“People who weren’t sexually abused don’t fully understand its impact,” Waks says. “They don’t know what it is to have people not believe you – or cover it up – or intimidate you when you do try to do something about it.”

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