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Accused pedophile Malka Leifer finally facing justice after extradition from Israel

How Jewish American pedophiles hide from justice in Israel
How Jewish American pedophiles hide from justice in Israel 11:21

Israeli authorities extradited a woman to Australia this week where she's facing 74 counts of rape and child sexual abuse. Malka Leifer is alleged to have committed the crimes while she was the principal at a Jewish girls' school in Melbourne between 2004 to 2008. 

"The victims are absolutely relieved and are ecstatic to achieve their goal," Manny Waks, CEO of VoiCSA, an Israel-based organization dedicated to combating child sexual abuse in the global Jewish community, who is working with Leifer's victims, told CBS News. "But let's not forget that this is just start of it. Now their case really begins in Australia." 

ADDITION Israel Australia
Israeli-born Australian Malka Leifer is brought into a courtroom in Jerusalem in a February 27, 2018 file photo. Mahmoud Illean/AP

Leifer fought against her extradition for six years. The 54-year-old's defense team claimed she wasn't healthy enough to endure a trial. But last year, an expert panel of Israeli psychiatrists determined Leifer was lying, which triggered her extradition.

Leifer's long legal battle included more than 70 court hearings, says Waks. But on Monday, local media showed her boarding a plane in shackles at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport. 

"Her extradition sends a strong message of hope and encouragement to survivors all over the world," Shana Aaronson, Executive Director at Magen for Jewish Communities, an Israeli organization that tracks American pedophiles and works to bring them to justice, told CBS News. "I think it's so important that other victims see that and are motivated and inspired to fight for their own rights and justice." 

Malka Leifer Arrives In Melbourne After Extradition From Israel
A Victoria Police van is seen leaving Melbourne Airport, believed to be transporting former school principal Malka Leifer, who is accused of child sexual abuse, after she was extradited from Israel, January 27, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. Darrian Traynor/Getty

Israel has become a haven for Jewish sex offenders around the world. A CBS News investigation last year found the problem is widespread. Bringing the wanted to men and women to justice can be difficult, as they often exploit a process called Law of Return, whereby any Jewish person can move to Israel and automatically gain citizenship. 

Since Aaronson started tracking accused pedophiles, she says more than 60 have fled from the United States to Israel. She says that because her organization is small and has limited resources, the actual number is likely much larger. 

"The same thing that is going on in the Catholic Church right now around the world, the exact same thing is happening in our (Jewish) community," Meyer Seewald, the founder of Jewish Community Watch (JCW), an American organization that tracks pedophiles, told CBS News during our investigation. "The cover ups are the same, the stigma, the shame." 

Jimmy Julius Karow Via Interpol

CBS News was there as JCW helped track down convicted pedophile Jimmy Julius Karow in Israel. He fled from the United States after being accused of sexually assaulting a 9-year-old girl in Oregon. Once in Israel, he continued his abuse and in 2002 was convicted of child molestation. We were there when JCW confronted him with Israeli police. In September, he pleaded guilty in an Israeli court and was convicted in other cases on multiple charges of rape, sodomy and indecent acts.

Karow is awaiting his sentencing. 

Months after the investigation aired, Israel changed its procedures to require all Americans immigrating to the country to undergo an FBI background check. 

But activists like Aaronson, Waks, and Seewald all say there's an endemic problem that helps these perpetrators get help from within their communities to flee and then evade justice. 

"There was a mechanism behind this campaign to prevent Malka Leifer from ever being extradited to Australia," says Waks. "What we saw in her case is many senior Rabbis going to bat for her." 

Aaronson says a lot of hard questions now need to be asked to make sure this never happens again. 

"How was she able to manipulate the court system by claiming mental illness? Did anyone in a government role play a role in protecting her and, if so, what kind of transparency and oversight is needed to make sure something like that can never happen again?" she told CBS News. "What can be done to streamline this process, so victims are not required to wait so many years simply for the opportunity to face their abuser and put this difficult chapter behind them?" 

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