Australian Jewish leaders support indictment of Ya’acov Litzman

Police recommendation seen as “positive step” in “frustratingly long” process.

Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman at the Knesset August 8, 2018 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman at the Knesset August 8, 2018
Australian Jewry has expressed both relief and frustration following news that the Israel Police has recommended indicting Deputy Health Minister Rabbi Ya’acov Litzman for allegedly interfering in the ongoing extradition case of alleged pedophile and disgraced Melbourne school principal Malka Leifer.
Leifer’s defense claimed that she is mentally unfit to be extradited, despite Israeli courts receiving evidence to the contrary, and Israel Police said that they found sufficient evidence to charge Litzman with trying to influence the opinion of psychiatrists appointed by his ministry in order to aid Leifer and prevent her extradition.
Litzman, who like Leifer is a follower of the Gerrer rebbe, Yaakov Aryeh Alter, allegedly abused his position to interfere judicially on behalf of at least 10 sex offenders, including Leifer.
Kol v’Oz CEO Manny Waks told The Jerusalem Post that this was “a positive step” and that it certainly “gives hope to the alleged victims themselves and the broader Australian community, who have been watching this case very closely.”
Waks said, however, that is “disappointment” from the community and the alleged victims “over what has gone on over the last few years.
“After over 50 hearings, we’ve always wondered what is going on in this case,” he said. “We’ve spoken to experts, and no one is able to understand why this has been continuing for so long.”
Waks said that this may shed light onto to part of why this case has been going nowhere over the last few years, and that they are getting some sort of answer.
“This case has gone on and on, and people have been watching all the twists and turns, the psychiatrists [evaluating Leifer’s mental state] changing their minds and how her legal team have been dictating the terms of the case,” Waks said.
He made it clear that she needs to face justice.
“We’re not convicting her,” he said. “She claimed that she was unfit to face the courts, and if she needs hospitalization, provide with the best health care, but if she is well enough to face the courts, let the judge decide.
“It’s not for anyone else to decide,” Waks added.
Dassi Ehrlich, a survivor of Leifer’s abuse at Melbourne’s Adass Israel School who has been at the helm of the #BringLeiferBack movement, said in a press statement that they were “feeling so grateful that the questions we continually raised through the #BringLeiferBack campaign, resulted in one more step to achieving justice.
“The investigation that followed into Health Minister Litzman brought to light the systemic cover up and support of abusers, in the highest levels of government, particularly in the Malka Leifer case,” she wrote. “The recommendation for Litzman to be charged, has us feeling excited, relieved and encouraged going forward.”
The Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) welcomed the news, but said that the process has been “frustratingly long.”
“This is a very welcome step forward in a frustratingly long and drawn out process to achieve justice for Leifer’s victims,” said ZFA president Jeremy Leibler. “It sadly also highlights the considerable evidence of attempts to unlawfully interfere with the extradition of Malka Leifer by a senior member of United Torah Judaism.”
The ZFA called for Litzman to step down from his office at the Health Ministry, claiming that “These are extremely serious allegations and it is simply untenable for anyone in a position of public trust and responsibility to continue in their position while under investigation for fraud and breach of trust,” Leibler added.
He stressed that the Australian Jewish community joins Erlich, her sisters and all other victims of sexual abuse in their frustration at the many setbacks, delays and allegations of corruption in relation to the extradition of Leifer.
“We commend the Israeli State Prosecutor for his determination, in the face of these challenges, to facilitate the extradition of Leifer and hold accountable all those who have unlawfully interfered in this process,” he said, adding that they remain “hopeful and confident that this latest development will bring us closer to the extradition of Malka Leifer to Australia to face justice.”
Police in Victoria, Australia have laid 74 charges against Leifer, the former principal at the center of the Adass Israel School sex abuse scandal, over the alleged molesting of students from 2003 to 2008. Leifer, a dual Israeli-Australian citizen, fled to Israel shortly before a warrant was issued, and has been fighting extradition for more than a decade.
Alon Einhorn contributed to this report.