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Australian Jewish girls’ school principal convicted of sexual abuse charges



A former principal of a Jewish girls school in Australia, Malka Leifer, has been found guilty of sexually abusing two female students, bringing to an end a nine-year legal battle that had strained relations between the Australian and Israeli governments.

The issue also caused a strain in the Australian Jewish community, according to a report in the Voice of Alexandria.

Leifer, 56, a Tel Aviv-born mother of eight, was convicted on Monday on 18 counts including rape, but was acquitted of nine other charges.

She was accused of sexually abusing several students including three sisters, Nicole, Dassi and Elly Meyer.

State prosecutors told trial judge Mark Gamble that Leifer abused the students between 2003 and 2007 at the Adass Israel School, an ultra-Orthodox school in Melbourne where she was head of religion and later principal, as well as at her Melbourne home and at rural school camps.

Lead prosecutor Justin Lewis told jurors that Leifer tended to have a sexual interest in girls when they were teenage students at the school and when those same girls were student teachers.

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Lewis said Leifer engaged in sexual activities with them and took advantage of their vulnerability, ignorance in sexual matters, and her own position of authority.

The allegations first came to light in late 2007 or early 2008, when Erlich disclosed information to a social worker in Israel.

In the months and years that followed, Erlich’s two sisters also came forward with claims Leifer had sexually abused them.

The three sisters alleged the offending took place on school grounds, in locked staff offices, on school camps and at Leifer’s home when the victims were around 12, 14 and 16 shortly after Leifer’s arrival at the school from Israel in 2001.

In a statement, the new principal of the Adass Israel School, Aaron Strasser, apologised to the survivors of Leifer’s abuse.

“We are sorry for the distress they have suffered and the impact of that abuse on their lives and families.

“We commend the survivors’ bravery in coming forward,” she said.

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