Alleged Leifer victim made ‘panicked’ call

September 23, 2021 by AAP
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The former husband of a woman who alleges she was sexually abused by ultra-orthodox school principal Malka Leifer says she spoke “positively” of encounters they had in Israel.

Malka Leifer, a former school principal, who is wanted on 74 charges of sexual abuse in Melbourne, Australia, is led out of the Jerusalem District Court. Jerusalem, Jun 14, 2018. Photo by Hillel Maeir/TPS

Dassi Erlich and her sisters Nicole Meyer and Elly Sapper have given evidence in a Melbourne court hearing about the abuse they allegedly suffered at the hands of their former school principal.

Leifer, 55, is facing 74 charges of child sexual abuse involving the sisters during her time at Melbourne’s Adass Israel School between 2004 and 2008.

Ms Erlich’s former husband Joshua Erlich gave evidence in Melbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday, saying that in the period they lived in Israel after their 2006 marriage Ms Erlich had met on occasion with Leifer.

“She would speak very positively of (the meetings),” he said.

But he said he believed Ms Erlich was depressed during their time in Israel, describing her as “displaying some rather disturbing behaviour of not wanting to socialise”.

“I found that generally quite disturbing,” he said.

Ms Erlich began seeing social worker Chana Rabinowitz, who had previously counselled students at the Adass Israel School.

He said he overheard a conversation between Ms Erlich and her sister Nicole after one session, in which his wife had seemed “panicked” about something she had told Ms Rabinowitz about her relationship with Leifer.

“Dassi was very worried about how it had been taken and that Mrs Rabinowitz was going to contact other people in Melbourne to speak about it,” he said.

“She was very concerned about what was going to happen next and she was not sure why it was being taken in such a serious way.”

He said he believed Ms Erlich had tried to persuade Ms Rabinowitz not to do anything about it, but that she had also confirmed her sister Nicole could corroborate the information.

Mr Erlich said he believed Nicole had confirmed the information – which was not detailed in open court – and the school administration had been notified.

Leifer was stood down in 2008 and returned to Israel before charges were laid. She was extradited to Australia earlier this year to face charges.

The couple later separated, beginning divorce proceedings in 2011, after Ms Erlich decided to move away from religious observance.

Mr Erlich said Ms Erlich had previously described Leifer as taking the place of a mother, sharing that school had given the sisters respite from troubles at home with their mother.

He said he heard Leifer had hugged her, rubbed her thighs and gave her “special attention” but didn’t find it particularly concerning.

“If she had said it was under the clothes or something of that nature I would have been concerned,” he said.

“I don’t believe she would have said anything like that to me.”

The hearing is continuing.


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