When Do We Stop Defending the Indefensible? – Malka Leifer and Adass, when Will Adass be Accountable?

Government-funded chaplaincy organisation will offer services to Malka Leifer

A Jewish charity will offer chaplaincy services to alleged paedophile Malka Leifer when she returns to Australia, a decision that has angered some members of the religious community.

The Age has confirmed Ms Leifer will be offered support from the charity Jewish Prison Chaplaincy Victoria, a group contracted by Corrections Victoria to assist every Jewish person in the state’s system and support prisoners “to observe and grow while in prison”.

Corrections Victoria appointed the chaplain, independent of the organisation.

The charity’s role is controversial because it is led by Benjamin Koppel, the president of the Adass Israel Congregation, part of a small ultra-orthodox group of about 150 families based in Elsternwick and Ripponlea where Ms Leifer worked.

Mr Koppel was president of the Adass Israel Congregation when Ms Leifer left Australia in 2008, 24 hours after she was accused of sexually molesting some of the students and sacked by the board.

He [Mr. Koppel] was questioned in the Supreme Court in 2015 about the decision to hire Ms Leifer amid allegations she travelled to Israel with the assistance of the Adass board. However, there is no evidence or allegations to suggest Mr Koppel helped Ms Leifer, or knew about plans to help her leave for Israel.

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14 thoughts on “When Do We Stop Defending the Indefensible? – Malka Leifer and Adass, when Will Adass be Accountable?

  1. I must be circumspect on many if not most of my war stories on account of client confidences, and gag clauses in the case settlement agreements.

    These include one where my client had been employed by a certain organization whose guiding light had a sweetheart deal with certain New York City officials, which conflicted with my client’s job to help other clients of that organization. My client came across some documents which, shall we say, hinted at some untoward backroom deals, and when my client tried to move forward with what he had been led to believe was his mission, his employment was terminated. My client made clear that he would sue his former employer but the former employer insisted that they go to a Beit Din.

    The Beit Din rabbis were obviously in the pocket of my client’s former employer. I was threatened with a boycott of my law practice (to which I laughed, because I was out in Suffolk County and most of my clients were non-Jewish or non-religious Jews. The resolution suggested by the Beit Din was very problematic because it ran potentially afoul of certain laws regarding government contracts (so-called “wrong color of money” problems). We finally came to a second agreement, which was workable and legal.

    There was another one where my client was told that he could not bring his attorney (me) with him, notwithstanding that parties to arbitration have the absolute right to legal representation; this one I was able to get around by speaking to some people who in turn spoke with the Beit Din rabbis and set them straight, meanwhile, my client and the other party came to a settlement deal on their own.

    One case that is a matter of public record is where a Beit Din made an award against my client which I successfully overturned when the opposition brought an action to confirm the award; the award was defective for many reasons, including that it purported to determine ownership of real property without all interested parties being given notice and opportunity to be heard:

    Anyway, here is my latest Times of Israel blogpost:



  2. Whatever wrongs a Jew has committed do not constitute an exemption from their performing other mitzvos. A murderer still is forbidden to eat chametz on Pesach or to break Shabbos. If the chaplaincy assists Jews with respect to religious matters, why do you have a problem with that? If on the other hand the chaplaincy are literally defending their actions (once they are found guilty by due process), then I might agree with you.


    • Sorry this response has taken so long. The chaplaincy has a conflict of interest. If Leifer is found guilty, it will be proof, prima facie, that the chaplaincy failed to protect children. Her guilt is their guilt. They should remain distant from the process. By defending her, they are also defending all that has followed. Perhaps instead, their time might be better served protecting the girls who have made claims against Leifer. They took the wrong side.


  3. I am all for availing Jewish prisoners support in prison, if only because the antisemitic inmates (and corrections officers no less) need to see it. But Malka Leifer is still entitled to due process. If she gets convicted and sentenced, then she should get the same assistance from JPCA as any other Jewish prisoner. For Pesach, she should be availed her ration of matzah and water.


    • Professor, Malka Leifer spent years and years in Israel pretending to be mentally ill. She had finances and support and everything she needed. All the while, her victims lived the nightmare over and over. It is about time that Leifer provide for herself and that Adass, which covered up for her years of abuse was held accountable. The decision to assist her in her defense by the same organization that ignored the abuse is like throwing salt in the wounds. As we see it, years and years ago she might have been entitled to assistance and the best legal advice SHE could afford. She went AWOL and as such should have waived her rights to the help you suggest she is entitled to. As far as Passover, whatever the appropriate rules are in Australia should be abided by. She should be offered no special privileges because she can feign mental illness and avoid prosecution. Reparations should be paid to her victims. Where is the assistance offered to them?


      • LM,

        (Almost) totally agree!

        But I am looking at the big picture, and I see governmental abuse as a larger problem than Malka Leifer or any other criminal.

        I know that the evidence is overwhelming, but note that Malka Leifer has yet to be duly convicted; until an actual conviction is secured (which should not be too difficult for the prosecution), Malka Leifer is presumed innocent.

        I have seen governmental abuse when I was a Contracting Officer and Analyst for the US Department of Defense. I have seen governmental abuse when I was an attorney for the IRS.

        I have seen governmental abuse when the FBI refused to give my client (who was an innocent victim of an international fraud scandal, and whose testimony and accompanying documents enabled the US Attorney to send the perpetuator to the slammer) information which would have greatly aided her civil suit against the perp and the krum rabbis who facilitated the perp.

        Due process is the antidote to and shield against governmental abuse.

        Please consider that the main problem in the Jonathan Pollard affair was the failure of due process [I have already expounded at length on Jonathan: https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/a-contrarian-perspective-to-jonathan-pollard ].

        Government bureaucrats, including and especially criminal prosecutors, need checks and balances to keep them from going too extreme. Which is why I believe most strongly that the prosecution should be compelled to dot every “i,” cross every “t,” jump through every hoop, and skate around every barrel in obtaining a conviction. The job of the criminal defense attorney, then, is to defend the U.S. Constitution (or, in the Malka Leifer case, the Australian equivalent thereof).

        Liked by 1 person

        • You and I agree on a lot of things. Due process should, indeed, be protected. But the religion that shut its eyes to Leifer’s crimes (whether simply alleged or proven) should remain at arms length from the process of ascertaining what happened. There is an inherent conflict of interest here.


    • Sorry for the time that has lapsed. Malka Leifer should have been dealt with on an entirely secular level. She used her position of protection under Jewish doctrine to abuse young girls. She used her religion in Israel as a shield against accountability. She is now using her religion as a shield in Australia. She was never mentally ill enough to not know right from wrong. She has been free for years and years. Isn’t it time that the religious step back? The religion and her crime should be quite separate. And, you raise the anti-Semitism problem. In this case the optics are terrible. If we are, indeed, to be called pious, should there not be a strict level of discipline in that piousness? Is sexual assault within that which is a protected act because one can claim one’s religious belief as more important than all else? There is something very wrong with that. People view her as a beacon of the way in which Judaism deals with sexual assault. That is not protecting Jews from anti-Semitism, quite the contrary. Once she was accused of a heinous crime, alleged to have occurred within a religious Jewish organization, her religious belief should have been separated from her crime. The same should be true of priests and any other religious persons who are accused of abusing children. There should be lines that religious governing organizations don’t cross.


      • Some years ago I had a convo with a blackhat relative of my wife’s (she has many of them). I asked him why everyone in his social circle put so much credence in wearing the black hat. He replied to the effect that his people (I do not like to use terms such as “Haredi” or “Ultra-Orthodox) are like an army under the command of G-d, and that the black hat and black jacket and white shirt was their uniform.

        My response to him was that the US Army and other nations’ armies discipline those of their numbers who violate the regulations, and that I have not seen or heard of any blackhat “court martials.”


        • I am thinking that “black hat” might be a bit derogatory. Having said that, they have their Beit Din which is like a military court. Their version of discipline is quite different. Where the military has one place to address its grievances, the ultra-Orthodox choose the civil court or the Beit Din at their leisure even though they do not believe in the civil law. It is a sick irony, really. On the one hand they live under the rule of a given country and to a large extent, manipulate the elections systems of those countries by bloc voting. On the other hand, they don’t believe in the rule of law of the country in which they reside, for many though not all. At some point the clash between secular and non-Jewish and the ultra-Orthodox is one one of anti-Semitism. It is one of genuine resentment for a group not because of its religious belief or practice but because of its behavior.


          • Perhaps “blackhat” may be a bit derogatory.

            But, as noted in a Times of Israel blogpost:

            “I have significant reservations about using terms such as “Haredi” or “ultra-orthodox” because men who wear a black hats but who submit false claims for government funds, bribe government officials (including bribes to cover for insurance fires in which responding firefighters are injured), commit tax fraud, and/or cheat on their wives are not more religious than I, and using such terms only perpetuates The Big Lie that they are.”


            How should I refer to such individuals?

            {And please do not get me started with my Batei Din war stories.}.


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