Saga over

Reactions to Leifer sentencing

'The sentence matches the severity of the offending'

A courtroom sketch of Malka Leifer at the County Court of Victoria during the trial. Photo: Mollie McPherson/AAP Image via AP via Times of Israel
A courtroom sketch of Malka Leifer at the County Court of Victoria during the trial. Photo: Mollie McPherson/AAP Image via AP via Times of Israel

Dassi Erlich
Child abuse survivor

We are here today because we did not give up. And while we know that the onus of justice or fighting for justice should not be up to survivors, this fight was never just for us. We are showing that the voices of survivors will not and cannot be silenced, no matter the obstacles.

This has been one of the most traumatising, destabilising and awful, painful paths to justice. But today really marks the end of this chapter of our lives and opens the chapter to us healing.

To any other survivors in this nightmare, you are never alone. We are all behind you.

Elly Sapper
Child abuse survivor

We feel overwhelmed and grateful that the legal system has recognised and validated the extreme impact of abuse by female perpetrators. Malka Leifer has finally been held accountable.

Today’s ruling of 15 years recognises the harm and pain that Malka Leifer caused each one of us to suffer over so many years. Trauma from sexual abuse is a lifelong sentence. While no amount of years will ever be sufficient, we are so relieved that Malka Leifer is now in prison for 15 years and cannot prey on anyone else.

Nicole Meyer

It’s been 22 years since Malka Leifer arrived in Australia, and her evilness permeated all of our lives. 15 years since she was aided and abetted to flee, leaving behind destroyed lives. 12 years since we walked into the police station and broke through the walls of silence in our community and found a voice we didn’t know we had. Six years since we stood in front of the world and fought for justice, reaching the highest level of government in Australia and Israel and having a part in changing the conversation of systems that protect abusers. Two years, she was finally extradited to face justice. And then today.

Daniel Aghion
President, Jewish Community Council of Victoria

I was in court to support the sisters, who have so bravely persisted on their quest for justice. I am satisfied that the sentence matches the severity of the offending. On behalf of the JCCV, I express an overwhelming sense of relief that this process has concluded. Every person in the Victorian Jewish community has a responsibility to do our utmost to protect children from harm. We stand with Dassi, Nicole and Elly, whose courage and tenacity is an example to us all. Today’s proceedings bring to mind the famous quote by American-Jewish Supreme Court Judge Louis Brandeis that sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Peter Wertheim
Co-CEO, Executive Council of Australian Jewry

This was a momentous vindication, not only for those who survived Malka Leifer’s abuse but also for the cause of truth and justice.  The survivors have shown great courage, tenacity and skill in coming forward to give evidence after spending years fighting to overcome the numerous obstacles that were placed along the path that finally brought Malka Leifer before an Australian court to stand trial.  We sincerely hope they can find some closure now that their long legal battle has been won.

Jeremy Leibler
President, Zionist Federation of Australia

We stand by all of the survivors of Leifer’s abuse, and hope today will bring a measure of justice for them. The courage, dignity and determination of Dassi, Nicole and Elly inspired our whole community.

David Southwick
Member for Caulfield

Today, Malka Leifer was sentenced to fifteen years in prison. She cannot hurt innocent children anymore. This verdict marks the end of a deeply painful and traumatic saga and serves as a sobering reminder of the work we need to keep doing to keep our children safe.

Most importantly, today is about justice for Dassi, Elly, Nicole, and all survivors. Hopefully, this will help bring them the healing and closure that they so fundamentally deserve.

As a proud member of Melbourne’s Jewish community and due to my close involvement for over a decade with the case against Malka Leifer, it has been a long and turbulent path to justice.

We must acknowledge a difficult truth: the school system utterly failed these women, who were innocent, vulnerable children when these horrendous crimes were committed against them. In the years since, they have waited and fought for justice to be served, despite years of heart-wrenching setbacks and uncertainty.

This is why we must acknowledge the unfathomable bravery of Dassi, Elly and Nicole. No person should have to endure what they have gone through. Their strength, fearlessness and enduring sense of purpose has been inspiring. It is also important to recognise the countless Jewish community members, political leaders from across the spectrum and many wider members of the Victorian community, who have rallied around them.

From a community perspective, Melbourne’s Jewish community desperately seeks its own form of closure too. Like any other community that has had to deal with child abuse involving people in positions of trust and authority, it has been a journey of complex emotions and incredible sadness.  Unfortunately, we still see cases of child abuse and we must work tirelessly to ensure we have the laws, training, and resourcing in place to keep our children safe.

I am pleased that many in the Jewish community have understood the importance of standing up and speaking out against child abuse, wherever it may occur and whoever may be involved.  Our core priority must be to ensure abuse doesn’t happen in the first place, but if it does, the needs of survivors must always be put first.

Today, we can all hold our heads high and stand in solidarity with Dassi, Nicole and Elly and all survivors of abuse. After years of trauma, the time for healing and closure has finally come.

Dave Sharma
Former Australian Ambassador to Israel, former federal MP
(Handed over the original extradition request in 2014 while Ambassador)

I’m gratified to see that justice has been served in the case of Ms Leifer, and pay tribute to the tireless advocacy of the many victims who ensured this was the case.

Aaron Strasser
Principal and CEO, Adass Israel School

Her offending was a gross and complete breach of trust and it is our hope that today’s sentencing provides a sense of justice for the survivors and helps them to heal.

The abuse suffered by the survivors is completely unacceptable. On behalf of Adass Israel School, we apologise to the survivors abused by Mrs Leifer, for the distress they have suffered and the impact of that abuse on their lives and families.

The school has made professional counselling available on a free and strictly confidential basis to any member of our community who wishes to access it. The safety and wellbeing of students remain our highest priorities and we have zero tolerance for abuse of any kind.

Manny Waks

Today’s conclusion to this trial sends a powerful message to victims and survivors: justice can be achieved even when the road is long and challenging. It also acts as a strong deterrent to perpetrators; no one is above the law and the authorities will pursue justice regardless of when the crimes are alleged to have occurred.

We are pleased that Victoria Police is continuing to investigate the alleged criminal actions of the Adass Israel School leadership in facilitating Leifer’s evasion from justice in 2008 by spiriting her out of Australia to Israel in the darkness of night. We hope and expect that they, too, will be held to full account.

Michelle Spiro
Federal president, WIZO Australia

WIZO Australia stands united with Dassi Erlich, Elly Sapper and Nicole Meyer. As an organisation dedicated to providing support, raising awareness, and allowing women to have a voice, we commend their continued dedication to advocating for justice and empowerment. We echo their calls for justice, awareness and change.

read more: