Malka Leifer and the Skeptical Social Worker

Malka Leifer

Malka Leifer

I was reading the text of the court ruling* awarding more than a million dollars damages to the woman sexually assaulted by her Adass Israel School principal, Malka Leifer. This jumped out at me:

[In 2007] the plaintiff consulted Ms Chana Rabinowitz, a counsellor/social worker, concerning her symptoms. The plaintiff saw Ms Rabinowitz on five or six occasions and then ceased seeing her. The plaintiff said she stopped seeing Ms Rabinowitz because she did not appear to believe that she was sexually abused by Leifer. Eventually, the plaintiff resumed sessions with Ms Rabinowitz after she confirmed the plaintiff’s allegations with the plaintiff’s sister and a person at the School. (page 57, section 155)

It shocked me for several reasons.

It was proof that the Adass Israel School knew Malka Leifer molested her students and yet kept her on as principal until 2008 at which time they knew of a total of 8 victims.

Mrs. Chana Rabinowitz is a staff social worker at Darchei Binah Seminary (according to a blurb for Mrs. Debbie Fox’s book, Seminary Savvy, 2015). It raises the possibility that we are dealing with a therapist unwilling to believe a victim of sexual abuse without corroboration from other sources. This pattern makes it less likely victims get necessary support and contributes to the underestimation and under-reporting of sexual abuse.

Unfortunately, this is not a rare problem. Over and over, allegations of abuse are dismissed for want of a second, third or fourth victim. This delays the detection of some abusers and shields others indefinitely. Sometimes, the victim is expected to find their corroborating case.

Any victim willing to come forward with allegations is a potential Nachshon, a brave person who can part, not the sea, but the curtain of silence that shields abuse. Midrash celebrates Nachshon, one man who stepped forward in the water right up to his nostrils. If we had needed two Nachshons, would we have had them?

Can we successfully fight abuse if we keep demanding two, three, four and more Nachshons? I think, not, or at least, not very successfully.

Zero tolerance means one case is one too many. Otherwise truth in labeling demands that orthodox institutions announce a policy of one tolerance, two tolerance, etc. For Adass Israel School it seems their policy was seven tolerance, since the 8th broke the bank and got Malka Leifer fired. I could be wrong and the reason they fired her was that the police were hot on her trail and they needed her out of the country, pronto.

Mrs. Rabinowitz’s skepticism may have extended the period in which Malka Leifer was free to sexually assault underage teens in the Adass Israel School. Our children and our survivors deserve better.

*I am not posting the ruling because my version is unredacted and I wish to protect the privacy of the plaintiff who was a victim of abuse by Malka Leifer.

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32 thoughts on “Malka Leifer and the Skeptical Social Worker

  1. As a social worker, I am very,very disappointed by the way the social worker handled a victim of abuse who was seeking help. But sadly, I am not at all surprised.

    The voice of women who are willing to challenge the system is missing. Women who go along with patriarchy and do not challenge it are complicit.

    • The concept proposed is truly beyond the pale.
      Women in general, but very very particularly in specific communities have been abused., have been conditioned to fear their abusers. From no where has there ever been support for them.

      To state that abused women who don’t step forward are complicit is a huge gross misunderstanding of society of abuse by men, by authorities who back the abusers.

      assuming that you are frustrated beyond belief by our society’s lack of support for abused women, your hypothesis that these women, conditioned, forced to accept the societal norms, to accept the lack of cooperation of esteemed Rabbis, are complicit is outrageous, and further victimizes these women.

      Your concept is probably applicable in a marriage where a woman puts up with an alcoholic husband for years. and does not leave, but that is not the case in the vast vast majority of abusive families.

      • Just pointing out that in this case, the abuser was, in fact, a woman – which did go some way to putting people off guard. That said, I take your point that those in authority who implicitly protect the abuser are often men.

  2. You really should try to speak to some people in the know in Melbourne. In spite of what she might have testified in court you really have it all wrong!
    Chana Rabinowitz is one of the good guys! She helped take Leifer down and was actually flown to Melbourne to help the girls and their families after the scandal became public.
    It would be nicer to not have to issue a rebuttal and pour salt on the victims wounds but suffice it to say her version of events is not precise and Chana Rabinowitz only deserves accolades not to be bashed on the Internet.

    • This post is mostly about a pattern observed in many cases where victims are doubted until there are multiple victims. As for Chana Rabinowitz’s subsequent activities, I did not speak at all. The fact is that this case was mishandled. It took too long for one reason or another for Malka Leifer to be dismissed and she was never reported to the authorities by the school. Instead she was whisked out of the country. As a result, she has still not faced justice a full seven and a half years after she was fired.

      She may very well have done good work in the aftermath, but this was a fiasco for child protection of extraordinary proportions.

      If she wishes, I will be glad to incorporate her representation of the events and her role (subject of course to limits on her due to professional confidentiality).

          • As I have written numerous times in my series on mesira, mesira is only permitted if there is no other way to deal with the problem (per Chofetz Chaim). For the community in Australia, there was no need to do anything more than remove her from Australia. In E”Y, besides the fact that it is questionable if she is still a danger, she can be dealt with without being turned over to any secular authorities.

            I wrote about it at length in this post:

            http://achaslmaala.blogspot.com/2015/09/child-abuse-and-fire.html

            Kol Tuv

            Yechezkel

            • You are advocating the Catholic practice of shuffling molesting priests between parishes with each claiming they have no further responsibility for the misdeeds in the other location. IT DOESN’T WORK. A plane trip is not a known method of curing sexual predators.

            • You are aware, I hope that there is another position, that of the Aruch Hashulchan which is also the position of R. Moshe Soloveitchik zatzal and Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zatzal, as reported by his talmid muvchak, R. Aaron Lichtenstein zatzal. The position is that in democratic societies with honest systems of justice there is no prohibition on informing the authorities about the crimes of other Jews.

              So, if you are going to quote halacha, please do not quote so selectively.

            • You are aware, I hope that there is another position, that of the Aruch Hashulchan which is also the position of R. Moshe Soloveitchik zatzal and Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zatzal, as reported by his talmid muvchak, R. Aaron Lichtenstein zatzal. The position is that in democratic societies with honest systems of justice there is no prohibition on informing the authorities about the crimes of other Jews.<<

              I dealt with the Aruch HaShulchan at length in this post:

              http://achaslmaala.blogspot.com/2015/09/mesira-iv-mesira-vs-lashon-hara-whats.html

              The upshot is that you are wrong that there is no prohibition.

              I have a great deal of respect for R. YD Soloveitchik ZT”L but not as much for his Talmid muvhak. Please see this post:

              http://achaslmaala.blogspot.com/2010/04/ah-but-how-white-are-his-teeth.html

              When you are locking horns with a chareidi you will not score points by proving ideas from your heroes, only from ours.

            • I was only trying to point out halacha, not earn your love. There are also many other students of Rav Soloveitchik who report the same opinion including R. Hershel Schachter. As you may know, as a Brisker, it was rare for him to write down piskei halacha, so we have to depend on the oral testimony of his students, particularly ones known for mental acuity and honesty. I am sorry for you that to defend a bankrupt response to abuse you have to descend into circular reasoning: if they disagree with us they are not Haredi so their opinions don’t count.

            • I was only trying to point out halacha, not earn your love…blah blah blah… I am sorry for you ..blah blah blah…<<

              How about we drop the posek pandering game and get to tachlis. Did you read my linked post about the Aruch Ha Shulchan or not??

              The meat of my comment was: “The upshot is that you are wrong that there is no prohibition.”

              I stand by that.

              Chezkel

            • You are draying around. It is a simple fact that there are a signficant number of poskim who say all cases of sex abuse should be directly reported to the authorities including almost all Modern Orthodox rabbis, and a number of Haredim.

  3. I am sorry that I am chiming in 9 months after this was posted.

    You claim that this statement is proof that the school knew about the abuse prior to the sacking in 2008. I respectfully disagree.

    First and foremost, this seems to be the word of mouth statement of the plaintiff (it is not direct testimony from Mrs. Rabinowitz). Any statement from a plaintiff is never proof in their own case. The plaintiff is claiming damages, it is incumbent upon them to bring proof to their claims from somebody other than the plaintiff.

    Secondly, this statement was made at trial in 2014 and is claiming that this happened in 2007. The statement itself was not made in 2007.

    Third, she is only claiming secondhand that there was confirmation from “a person at the school”. She is not claiming that she herself confirmed this. (We call this eid m’pi eid – and a toveah cannot even be an eid).

    Fourth, even according to this statement it only says she consulted with Mrs. Rabbinowitz in 2007. It doesn’t say when in 2007. Further, it doesn’t say when Mrs. Rabinowitz finally made her confirmation but it just as well could have been in early 2008 which is when the allegations broke out.

    Fifth, court protocols are usually full of holes.

    Sixth, it is possible to read the statement that the sister and a person at the school are actually the same person, as if it said “with the plaintiff’s sister who is also a person at the school.”

    If this is your only proof, it is miserably inadequate.

    I referenced this and commented on it on my blog:

    http://achaslmaala.blogspot.com/2016/06/mesira-xiv-we-have-to-kill-beastie.html

    Hatzlacha

    Y. Hirshman

    • I went to your link and I found some of these things:

      “The truth is that I honestly feel that there is a basis to these allegations. When eight to ten adult women give similar accounts of molestation, it is hard dismiss it out of hand.”

      Is she a pedophile?

      No. A pedophile is one who has a primary or exclusive seksual attraction toward pre-pubescent children. Nobody has even accused her of abusing anybody under the age of 15.

      Is she a sex offender by Torah standards?

      Ironic as it seems, intimate activity between grown females does not fall under the classification of a seksual act.

      Is she a transgressor of any serious Torah prohibitions ben Adam L’Makom?

      Not really. The Rambam that we quoted in the last post says there is no explicit Torah prohibition for this behavior. Though it does call for makkos mardus.

      Is she a rapist?

      There are two problems with applying the term “rape”. One is that it implies a forbidden seksual act and, by Torah standards, female intimacy does not really qualify. The second is that it implies physical coercion (certainly by the Torah’s definition). Although this case involves unsolicited “touching” and intimidation or manipulation of very naïve and vulnerable teenagers, there was no claim of actual coercion.

      So, is she a “Child sex abuser”?

      Thus far we have established that from a Torah perspective there were no “children” and there was no “sex” involved. Also no physical coercion. So, not really. From a Western standpoint where one can be called a “child” (and thus be absolved from personal responsibility) way past puberty, and where any intimate act is considered “sex”, and where any form of duress is called “coercion”, the term will fit.

      Is she a confirmed or “serial” sex predator?

      As I wrote, I have yet to find a single report of any kind of molestation prior to 2003 nor subsequent to 2008. Until proven otherwise, the answer is no.

      Is she a lezbian?

      It appears that all of this activity happened only in Australia and was very likely a result of unfulfilled intimate urges due to her husband being constantly absent. Thus, it was probably only a substitute for the preferred but lacking heteroseksual intimacy. So the answer is no.

      So, after all this, all of the news reports and blogs that embellish the story with descriptions of Mrs. Leifer as a “pedophile”, “rapist”, “lesbian”, or “child sex abuser” are more or less false. There is no indication that any of these descriptions are applicable.
      ……
      At this stage, I want to stick in one piece of limud zechus. This is a known fact that I wrote about in previous posts. A large percentage of seksual “predators”, if not the majority, were themselves victims of abuse. With this in mind, I have written previously that even confirmed predators need to be treated with this consideration. Of course, we may need to put this consideration on the back burner when the welfare of others is at stake, but to repeat the main point of this entire post: the welfare of others is not at stake in this case.

      After we know all this, we can perhaps shed some light on Mrs. Leifer and this is my personal take. Mrs. Leifer was a tough lady on the outside but a somewhat troubled and very insecure person on the inside. Perhaps she had a history of being abused herself. She probably initially thought she could handle the loneliness of being overseas and of rarely seeing her husband but it eventually overwhelmed her and she was too ashamed to quit or to demand more availability from her husband. The students were indeed naïve and vulnerable and thus she indeed turned into a temporary molester and manipulated them. Still and all, none of this involved transgressing or causing the girls to transgress any severe issurim of the Torah. Also, though legally minors, they were still not children and they were still not forced. They played an active role in this drama. A passive one but an active one nonetheless. I will expound on this part later.

      This obviously does not exonerate her behavior but it is something to consider when we think how appropriate it is to send her back to Australia to be treated like the lesbian, pedophile, rapist, serial sex offender and sinner that she clearly is not……

      Mr. Hirshman, I honestly do not have the time or energy to recapitulate the many points made repeatedly on this blog over some 1,200 posts. I doubt you will get it be persuaded.

      If you care to make a single point, I will try and respond. But also make up your mind if you are contesting her guilt by established Australian legal standards, her guilt by halachic standards (see the Rambam), whether a Jew should ever be turned over to civil authorities, and whether the psak of the Rashba as cited in Bais Yosef applies. You are doing the classic, of she didn’t steal it and besides it did not belong to the other party.

      • I was clearly working on 2 tracks:

        Track 1)
        No whitewash. Every allegation is true to the utmost. She is the biggest rasha on earth. Here I was saying that despite everything there is no heter to extradite her from EY to Chu”L. The only heter for mesira is that one is a rodef or mitzaer ess harabim and this is certainly not applicable in Australia. Also extradition of a Jew outside of E”Y is an extension of Lo Tasgir Eved (YD 267 81-84).

        Track 2)
        With whitewash. I was merely pointing out how much whitewashing (i.e. dan l’kaf zechus, etc.) can be done if one wants to. What you quoted in your comment was from the whitewash section where the classic “she didn’t steal it and besides…” is acceptable.

        If you care to make a single point, I will try and respond.<<

        Excuse me, I was making a single point:
        Your contention of proof that the school had advance knowledge of the problem is full of holes.

        And I promptly listed six holes.

        You are invited to try to respond.

        But also make up your mind if you are contesting her guilt by established Australian legal standards, her guilt by halachic standards (see the Rambam),<<

        Definitely by Halachic standards. This is why I wrote the preamble post: Thinking Like a Jew (http://achaslmaala.blogspot.com/2016/06/mesira-xiii-thinking-like-jew.html) which I assume you did not read.

        By Australian standards (and any secular standards) she is already guilty. What’s to contest?

        whether a Jew should ever be turned over to civil authorities,<<

        I wrote an entire series of 12 posts devoted to this topic. The upshot was to follow the seven conditions of the Chofetz Chaim.
        (http://achaslmaala.blogspot.com/2016/02/mesira-xii-no-chochma-no-tevuna-and-no.html)

        and whether the psak of the Rashba as cited in Bais Yosef applies.<<

        Please source me on this and I will tell you.

        Hatzlacha

        Y. Hirshman

  4. It’s in Choshen Mishpat 388, not 386 (you may want to fix it on your post). It applies in some cases under some conditions. You have to study the Teshuva to understand it.

    It definitely does not apply in the Leifer case because there are no witnesses at all (a victim/plaintiff is not a witness). This was one of the points that I brought out in my post.

    Incidentally, it looks like you wrote that post in light of the Weberman case. For the record, I spoke out against Weberman in 2013 (http://achaslmaala.blogspot.com/2013/03/anticipating-geula.html paragraphs 5-7) primarily because his case has three factors that Leifer’s doesn’t:

    He admitted to violating Halachic yichud between a man and woman.
    The victim testified to his face under intense cross-examination.
    She had no monetary interest and, in fact, turned down a bundle offered for her to back down.

    Kol Tuv,

    Yechezkel

  5. Simply clearly, a victim can do whatever the Halacha allows. A perpetrator has no say in the matter.
    In the Leifer case, there is nobody to protect by way of criminal prosecution so the Halacha doesn’t allow it. Simply. Clearly.

    Your response about Halacha, love ,and R. Soloveitchik, ZTL is not worth replying to.

    I would still like your email. You may email me at: 1a7b.author@gmail.com

      • Would you stop trolling for page views and just do something simple like pasting over ” Author’s note – This post speaks candidly about some very mature topics. It is still a kosher l’mehadrin post. Nevertheless, I needed to purposely misspell some words so the post will not be blocked by content filters.” and adding, “I posted it at the top of my article.”

        You see how easy it is.

        What is sad is that mehadrin content filters block words like sexual and lesbian.

        BTW, will you revise your claim that there is no public safety purpose in prosecuting her because according to you she only molested Australian girls because she missed sex with her husband who was in Israel. According to this story she is abusing her own children in Israel http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/malka-leifer-former-adass-israel-principal-and-alleged-child-abuser-now-living-free-in-israel-20160708-gq1d1o#ixzz4DozUJPdK

        • Would you stop trolling for page views and just do something simple…”<<

          Why waste an opportunity?

          What is sad is that mehadrin content filters block words like sexual and lesbian.<<

          No, I am talking about commercial filters like K9 and ISP provided filters. I think these systems use algorithms that take into account how often “bad” words are used in a given piece of text.

          BTW, will you revise your claim that there is no public safety purpose in prosecuting her because according to you she only molested Australian girls because she missed sex with her husband who was in Israel. <<

          What I wrote in the article about missing her husband was clearly marked as pure conjecture and a “Limud zechus”. If it happens not to be so, then so be it.
          Everything I wrote was based on the information presented in the Internet up to that point. If there is updated information, then we can re-evaluate.
          Personally, I never take anything I read at face value. I also make an effort to read between the lines. This particular article that you linked to is clearly on a vilification rampage. Of course it quoted people who vilify her – as well as Manny Waks. If it interviewed people who say she’s an angel would it quote them as well?
          I never made a judgement whether she is a good person or not. My mission is to stand up for Kavod HaTorah and kedushas Eretz Yisroel. The Halachos of mesira forbid it no matter how evil the person is unless they are a menace to the society that wants to be moser them. There is a special Halacha of not extraditing people out of E”Y, even criminals.
          Despite the above, it looks clearly to me that you and The Age and many people are bending over backwards to make a case to justify a mob lynching.

          I will not be a party to it.

          Y. Hirshman

          • As always, you find every possible reason to believe she is not a risk to others, and every halachic angle to argue against prosecuting her, in spite of the terrible toll of her molesting. Will you now correct your claim that she is not a risk because she is not a lesbian who only groomed and molested a number of girls cause she was missing her hubby?

            • I am not sure what it is that you are referring to as a “claim”. Please quote the exact text from my post (or posts) that is bothering you and I will, bl”n respond.

              Incidentally, do you know what the term “pure conjecture” means?

              YH

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