Re­silient Jewish Labour chief: ‘You don’t solve any­thing by walk­ing away’


A LAP­TOP, a pair of black, strappy stilet­tos and smart trousers are strewn across Ella Rose’s clut­tered desk. In the Hen­don Labour Party of­fice where she works, un­opened let­ters lie in the door­way, and the toi­let would be in dark­ness if not for a makeshift switch made from string and rub­ber bands.

“I have the UJS awards later and I don’t think I can get away with my club­bing dresses any more so I keep these clothes with me just in case,” ex­plains the 23-year-old direc­tor of the Jewish Labour Move­ment (JLM), who is wear­ing skinny jeans and a leather biker jacket.

Ms Rose scoffs at my re­quest for herbal tea. “You’ve never been to a lo­cal Labour Party of­fice be­fore, have you,” she says, open­ing an empty fridge.

Ms Rose, a former Union of Jewish Stu­dents pres­i­dent who stud­ied history and pol­i­tics at Not­ting­ham Univer­sity, is from the next gen­er­a­tion of po­ten­tial po­lit­i­cal lead­ers of the com­mu­nity. She is keen to talk about the role of women in com­mu­nal or­gan­i­sa­tions.

“I firmly be­lieve the com­mu­nity is 20 years be­hind the rest of the world when it comes to fem­i­nism,” she says.

It was dur­ing her first week at UJS that she was ap­proached by “a very se­nior per­son in the com­mu­nity” who sug­gested she “would get dou­ble the op­por­tu­ni­ties” of her male pre­de­ces­sor. She im­me­di­ately re­alised the com­mu­nity had a prob­lem.

“It re­ally irked me, and still to this day I get calls say­ing ‘we need a woman on this panel’, or ‘we need a woman’s voice on this’, or ‘Ella, you’re a woman, get in this photo’. It drives me up the wall, be­cause it is ar­ti­fi­cially ram­ming up the num­bers and it is to­kenis­tic.”

Ms Rose praises ini­tia­tives such as the Jewish Lead­er­ship Coun­cil’s Women in Jewish Lead­er­ship pro­gramme, but says “there is so much more we need to do”.

She be­lieves a good place to start would be with the an­nual JLC trip to Down­ing Street and cites the meet­ing of Jewish lead­ers and the prime min­is­ter as a per­fect ex­am­ple of the com­mu­nity fail­ing to rep­re­sent women prop­erly.

“I think at the next one we should only take women be­cause there are some bril­liant women in this com­mu­nity who we don’t get to hear from enough.

“You don’t need to take Jonathan Arkush from the Board of Deputies, you take Gil­lian Mer­ron in­stead; you don’t take Mick Davis from the JLC, you take Debbie Fox.”

The former Hab­er­dash­ers’ Aske’s School for Girls pupil is aware she had a priv­i­leged up­bring­ing. “I didn’t have a choice,” she says of her pri­vate ed­u­ca­tion, “I’m grate­ful for it but I don’t agree with it in prin­ci­ple.” She lives at home with her par­ents (she says she is keen to move out) and has had to learn the hard way about the po­ten­tial pit­falls that come with a job in the pub­lic eye.

She is still re­cov­er­ing from be­ing filmed in tears fol­low­ing an en­counter with Jackie Walker, a Labour ac­tivist twice sus­pended over claims of an­tisemitism, as part of an un­der­cover pro­gramme made by Al-Jazeera.

“It’s been a dif­fi­cult few months for me and that has been no se­cret,” she says.

“My grandma died just after ev­ery­thing kicked off and it was a re­ally hor­ri­ble time. I have only just re­turned to feel­ing my­self.” A reporter used a false iden­tity to film Ms Rose while work­ing on The Lobby, a doc­u­men­tary on Is­rael’s al­leged in­flu­ence in Bri­tish pol­i­tics.

A JLM com­plaint about her treat­ment in the pro­gramme is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by broad­cast watch­dog Of­com.

“I worry about the ef­fect my job has on my fam­ily,” she re­veals, while show­ing off mes­sages of en­cour­age­ment from rel­a­tives. “They have been a huge sup­port to me and I cer­tainly couldn’t have got through it with­out them.”

She says that wise words from ex­pe­ri­enced com­mu­nity lead­ers such as Rabbi Laura Jan­ner-Klaus­ner, and JLM chair Jeremy New­mark have helped her de­velop a thicker skin. And Ms Rose, stand­ing as a Labour can­di­date in next month’s lo­cal elec­tions, hopes to bring that strength to her cam­paign in Bushey South, in one of the coun­try’s safest Con­ser­va­tive con­stituen­cies.

How­ever, she is un­sure if her Con­ser­va­tive-sup­port­ing father, John, will vote for her. “I hope he will,” she laughs. “My fam­ily has very shar­ing, so­cial­ist val­ues. I just don’t know if that is trans­ferred into which po­lit­i­cal party we go Ella Rose in tears filmed by Al-Jazeera for. None of us are con­fronta­tional. We have re­spect­ful dis­cus­sions and then move on.

“I can ac­cept Theresa May is do­ing a good job as a Con­ser­va­tive leader, even if I don’t agree with her poli­cies. We can be prag­matic and look at things like that.”

It may not be a dif­fi­cult stance for Ms Rose to adopt when Jeremy Cor­byn faces con­stant crit­i­cism.

“I think peo­ple un­der­stand,” she says. “They might not like the cur­rent lead­er­ship, but the Labour Party will al­ways be worth sav­ing. We are the anti-fas­cist, anti-racist party.”

On the out­side Ms Rose ex­udes fierce fem­i­nist val­ues but she ap­pears to bal­ance these with her fam­ily’s more tra­di­tional be­liefs.

She be­longs to Bushey United Sy­n­a­gogue to please her mother, she says, de­spite be­ing “un­com­fort­able” with some of its less fem­i­nist tra­di­tions.

“My mum says she doesn’t mind where I’m a mem­ber as long as I get mar­ried in an United Shul. But it’s not nec­es­sar­ily where I feel most com­fort­able.”

And de­spite her ca­reer, she re­veals that her grand­mother wor­ries she’s “too busy” to meet some­one and get mar­ried.

Her fo­cus right now is the Labour party and she de­scribes the re­la­tion­ship be­tween JLM and the party as “func­tional… we’re not best friends, but we are not en­e­mies.

In the mean­time, she needs to con­vince her fel­low Jews that the Labour Party is a place for them.

“JLM had 200 new mem­bers in 24 hours after the Ken Liv­ing­stone case. Peo­ple might have left the Labour Party, and I un­der­stand that, but I think peo­ple also un­der­stand JLM is here to fight. You don’t solve any­thing by walk­ing away.”


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