Adass principal flees Australia in disgrace
NAOMI LEVIN and ASHLEY BROWNE
THE principal of the Adass Israel Girls School in Elsternwick has returned to Israel amid allegations of improper behaviour towards students.
Malka Leifer, who joined the school as a teacher eight years ago and has been principal for five years, had her employment terminated and left Melbourne within 24 hours of being investigated by the school board.
President of the Adass Israel congregation, Benjamin Koppel, told The AJN that the school first acted on Tuesday last week after receiving a call suggesting that inappropriate behaviour may have taken place with one or more of the school’s current or former students.
In a statement to The AJN, Koppel said that the “relevant authority” had been notified of the allegations, but would not confirm whether the authority in question was a rabbinical court, an independent schools board or the Victoria Police.
A police spokesperson was unable to confirm whether or not an investigation is underway into Leifer’s behaviour because of the sensitive nature of the allegations. However, The AJN understands that the principal’s conduct was reported to the police by concerned parents.
Adass has engaged two psychologists – one from Melbourne and another brought especially from Israel – who they claim will counsel the students at the school, which has about 250 students.
“The school is deeply saddened by these events, and is taking every step possible to ensure the welfare of the students is protected and that everything is done to minimise the prospect of any such behaviour occurring in the future,” Koppel said.
“The school’s policy is to always place the welfare of its students as its highest priority, and constantly reviews and revises its endeavours to protect the students entrusted to its care.”
The tight-knit Adass community has been in turmoil since a notice was placed on a school noticeboard last Thursday, indicating that Leifer had suddenly left the school.
On Shabbat morning last week, the spiritual leader of the Adass Israel community, Rabbi Avrohom Zvi Beck, addressed the small community and said they should not consider Leifer guilty of any crimes because there has been no investigation.
He also told congregants that they are forbidden to discuss the matter and if they do, it will be considered lashon hara (malicious gossip).
A number of parents from the school contacted The AJN this week. Their attitudes ranged from disgust to disappointment -- some parents want the principal’s behaviour to be investigated, others are more concerned that the school has not been forthcoming in providing counselling for those students who claim to have had inappropriate contact with Leifer.
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