As a young girl growing up in a strict ultra-Orthodox family, Dassi’s life was preordained – marry young, live a devout life and raise children within the Adass community’s religious rules. This righteous path would keep her safe from the immodest, secular world just a few blocks away in suburban Melbourne. But the Adass community was not safe for Dassi.
Dassi was fifteen when her revered school principal, Malka Leifer, started to single her out. Dassi’s cloistered and harsh upbringing meant she didn’t have the words for what was happening to her, but she knew it was very, very wrong. It would take her years to break free of the secrecy which pervaded the community and tell the police of her betrayal. And only then would she find out others, including two of her sisters, had also been abused, and would learn some in the Adass community had helped Leifer flee to Israel. With the only world she knew crumbling around her, Dassi found the strength to fight, leading a brave fifteen-year campaign to bring Leifer back to face Australian courts.
In this episode Gregory Dobbs chats to Dassi Erlich about the foundation and teachings of the Adass Jewish community and her terrible childhood experience, the decision she made to leave the sect and her fight to bring her sexual abuser Malka Leifer to account, and the support she received in writing a difficult memoir.