Adass defends response to Leifer fallout

Gus McCubbing and Callum Godde
·3-min read

Adass Israel School has defended its response to allegations made against former principal Malka Leifer, now charged with child sexual abuse.

Leifer faced the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday after landing back on Australian soil 13 years on from allegedly fleeing to Israel.

Leifer, escorted by Victoria Police, completed the final leg of her extradition from Israel on Wednesday night.

The ex-educator touched down at Melbourne airport aboard a commercial flight from Singapore at 8.44pm and was taken into 14-day quarantine.

Adass principal and chief executive officer Aaron Strasser defended the school's response to allegations originally made against Leifer in 2008 in a staff letter this week, seen by AAP.

Mr Strasser said Adass reached out to former students in Australia, Israel and the USA and organised an evening in each locale with a mental health professional.

He also recognised Leifer's presence in Australia "may evoke a range of reactions" for the school community, with further support being offered to former students and parents.

"We want to assure you that Adass Israel School fully supports the legal process in place and will do all that is requested by authorities to assist in the processing of this case," Mr Strasser said in the letter.

Adass president Benjamin Koppel said student safety and wellbeing was the school's highest priority and responsibility.

"We have zero tolerance for abuse of any kind," Mr Koppel said in a statement to AAP on Thursday.

"While this case is currently before the courts, we are unable to comment specifically on the allegations or the details of the case at hand."

Australia's Attorney-General Christian Porter noted Leifer's arrival marked the end of a long and complicated legal battle.

"The arrival of Ms Leifer in Australia will bring relief to alleged victims who have waited many years for this moment," Mr Porter said in a statement.

Leifer faced Melbourne Magistrates Court via a video link on Thursday for her first appearance.

It is expected 74 charges of child rape and sexual abuse stemming from her years as principal of Elsternwick's Orthodox Adass Israel School will be formalised during the hearing.

Leifer has previously denied all allegations.

Wednesday's flight was the final leg of Leifer's extradition, long-awaited by sisters and former students Dassi Erlich, Nicole Meyer and Elly Sapper, who filed police reports in 2011.

It began with her boarding a Frankfurt-bound plane at Tel Aviv on Monday, just hours before the closure of Israel's airports due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Pictures published by local media showed Leifer about to board the flight wearing handcuffs and legcuffs.

Israel's Supreme Court approved her extradition order in December and Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn approved the order the following day.

Leifer's final failed appeal followed 74 hearings in Israeli courts, which were drawn out on the basis of her claims of mental illness.

After fleeing Australia in 2008, she was first arrested in Israel in 2014 only to be freed from house arrest on the condition she undertook psychiatric assessments.

An independent undercover investigation proved Leifer was feigning mental illness and she was re-arrested in 2018.