Former Headmistress Sentenced For Sexual Abuse At Australian School

Former headmistress Malka Leifer has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for sexually abusing two sisters at an Australian Jewish school. Her extradition saga from Israel, spanning over a decade, ended in her conviction on 18 charges

Harnur Watta
Aug 25, 2023 09:24 IST
Image credits: iPleaders

Image credits: iPleaders

Malka Leifer, a former headmistress of an ultra-orthodox Jewish school in Melbourne, Australia, has been sentenced to 15 years in jail for sexually abusing two sisters under her care. The long-standing legal battle, which saw Leifer fleeing to Israel to escape justice before being extradited back to Australia, culminated in a landmark decision by Judge Mark Gamble on Thursday.

Judge Gamble, in his sentencing, addressed the severity of Leifer's actions, stating that her "insidious offending" had caused enduring trauma to the sisters. 

Leifer's abuse of her position within Melbourne's ultra-orthodox community scarred the victims for life, casting a shadow over their sense of security and self-worth.

Extradition Saga Ends with a 15-Year Jail Term


The case captured international attention as it unfolded over more than a decade. Leifer fled to Israel in 2008 after rumours of her crimes began circulating. 

Her extradition was vehemently contested through over 70 hearings spanning several years. However, the dual Israeli-Australian citizen was finally brought back to Australia in 2021 to face the charges. 

Earlier this year, she was found guilty on 18 charges of sexual assault against sisters Dassi Erlich and Elly Sapper. 


Notably, a third sister, Nicole Meyer, did not receive a guilty verdict for her claims of assault.

Haunting Impact on Victims

During the trial, Sapper, in a moving victim impact statement, described the profound impact of the abuse on her life. 


The abuse had left her feeling "utterly broken," "ashamed," and plagued by "vivid flashbacks."

Gamble conveyed Sapper's sentiments, highlighting that she still carried the weight of blame for allowing the abuse to continue.

Leifer's demeanour during the sentencing was stoic, as she participated via video link from a maximum-security prison in Melbourne. 


The sentencing judge emphasised Leifer's status as a "serious sexual offender" who displayed a "callous indifference" to the suffering she inflicted on her victims.

The abuse took place between 2004 and 2007, during Leifer's tenure as headmistress of the Addass Israel School in Melbourne. 

The school, nestled within a secluded Jewish sect on the outskirts of the city, adhered strictly to Jewish laws and customs. 


This insular environment and Leifer's elevated status in the community made it exceptionally difficult for the sisters to come forward with their traumatic experiences.

According to the prosecution, Leifer manipulated the students by using their faith and cultural norms against them. 

She allegedly assaulted one sister during a "sleepover for kallah lessons," a form of pre-wedding etiquette training that included inappropriate sexual education. 


In other instances, Leifer reportedly justified her actions by claiming she was preparing the students for their future roles as wives.

A Trail of Deception and Extradition

Leifer fled Australia in 2008 after one of the sisters confided in a therapist about the sexual assaults. 

She found refuge in the ultra-orthodox Emmanuel settlement in the occupied West Bank. 

The Australian police filed charges against her in 2012 and requested her extradition from Israel two years later. 

This request initiated a convoluted legal battle marked by Leifer's claims of mental incapacity and her struggle with depression.

The extradition process gained traction when a private investigator recorded Leifer seemingly unaffected by the mental illnesses she had claimed. 

Despite her denial of the charges and assertions that her interactions with the students were "professional and proper," the evidence against her proved convincing in the eyes of the law.

Leifer, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison, will be eligible for parole after 11 years. 

Suggested Reading: 'Paid, Taught Indian Teens To Sexually Abuse Kids': UK Teacher Held


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