Malka Leifer, a former Australian school principal who is wanted in Australia on suspicion of sexually abusing students, walks in the corridor of the Jerusalem District Court accompanied by Israeli Prison Service guards, in Jerusalem February 14, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Migdal Ha’emek Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Dovid Grossman has retracted his offer to provide assistance to suspected child sex-offender Malka Leifer, after having testified in favor of releasing her to house arrest last week.
On Monday Grossman informed the relevant parties that he was unable to provide assistance in the case, after his involvement in the legal proceedings sparked outrage, particularly among the victims of Leifer’s alleged crimes.
Grossman had argued that Leifer, who claims she suffers from mental illness, was unfit to remain in custody and offered to supervise her house arrest.
Leifer is accused of 74 charges of sexual abuse against at least eight pupils, who were minors at the time, at the Adass Israel School in Melbourne where she served as a teacher and principal from 2003 to 2008.
Police arrested her last month in the West Bank settlement of Emmanuel where she lives, after an undercover investigation indicated that she had been feigning mental illness to avoid extradition to Australia.
A statement released Monday by Rabbi Grossman Enterprises noted that Grossman is an Israel Prize recipient who “has dedicated, and continues to dedicate his life to assisting the disadvantaged, families at need, at-risk children and youth... newly repatriated inmates and any other person in trouble – all of this out of a concern for the maintenance of a healthy society.”
“The rabbi has responded to every plea of humanitarian assistance of any kind, and so he did when he was called upon to assist in the hearing on Malka Leifer’s matter,” the statement read.
“As the rabbi discovered that the assistance he had agreed to provide as an alternative to arrest for the solution of the problem facing the court has been interpreted as supporting an attempt to avoid trial, he decided that it would not be appropriate for him to be involved. Therefore, he has notified the parties that he is unable to assist in the aforementioned matter,” it continued.
The statement stressed that Grossman sees child abuse “as the worst of all injustices,” and recognizes the pain and suffering of the victims of sexual assault.
After Grossman testified on Leifer’s behalf last Wednesday, the Jerusalem District Court judge decided that she could have been released Friday morning to house arrest. However, an appeal prevented that decision from being implemented until the Supreme Court judge makes his final ruling on the matter.
DASSI ERLICH, a sexual abuse survivor and activist, campaigning on behalf of Leifer’s alleged victims – herself included – said Grossman’s retraction was “proof that together we can create a culture that is morally accountable.
“We are glad he has withdrawn his support,” she said, “but feel the pain he caused was not recognized with an apology. Rabbi Grossman is in a position to foster significant change in Israel. We would welcome a discussion with him on how he can further encourage and support victims who speak up.”
Jewish Community Watch, an organization that seeks to combat sexual abuse in the Jewish community, expressed appreciation to all those who vocally objected to Grossman’s involvement.
“We are pleased that Rabbi Grossman has withdrawn his offer to supervise the house arrest of Mrs. Leifer, and we are so happy for the relief that this has brought to the victims of Leifer,” the group said. “This positive development came about as a result of concerned members of the wider Jewish community taking a stance against protecting child sexual abusers. In that way, this is another milestone in our mission to combat child sexual abuse in the Jewish community.”
The group also expressed hope that Grossman “develops a greater understanding of the pain and trauma experienced by survivors of abuse, that he fully apologizes to the victims of Leifer and that he acts as a voice against abusers, and for victims.