SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — A former student at a haredi Orthodox Jewish day school in Melbourne who allegedly was sexually abused by the principal has been awarded $1 million in damages.
Justice Jack Rush said in Melbourne Supreme Court on Wednesday that the actions taken by the Adass Israel School in helping former principal Malka Leifer flee Australia in 2008 were “deplorable and disgraceful.” The allegations of Leifer’s behavior were raised shortly after she left Australia.
The school also has been criticized for failing to contact police.
Leifer was arrested in Israel, where she is facing extradition to Australia to face 74 charges of sexual abuse against girls at the school.
Hadassah Ehrlich, who sued the school, is one of three sisters who allegedly were abused by Leifer. The offenses involving Hadassah Ehrlich allegedly started in 2002 when she was 15.
The judge found the school liable “for the former student’s pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, economic loss and past and future medical expenses.” Rush ordered the school to pay Ehrlich $912,740 in damages and ordered Leifer to pay $107,500.
The school told JTA that it would not comment on the ruling.
In response to the decision, the president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, Jennifer Huppert, said in a statement: “Although the Adass Israel School is not affiliated with the JCCV, events at Adass concern all members of the community. The JCCV believes very strongly that Malka Leifer must be brought back to Australia to face justice. It is critical for the sake of the victims and for healing to be able to take place.”
She added: “We are pleased to note that the current administration has been working towards improving policies and procedures regarding child sexual abuse, and they have been participating in this year’s JCCV Child Protection Policy & Procedures Training. We hope that the administration of the school uses this knowledge to ensure a safe and secure environment for the children in their care.”
A second student who was an alleged victim of Leifer has started lawsuit proceedings against the school, the Australian daily The Age reported Thursday.