The Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl branded a female panel host “anti-women” and “rude” in an astonishing confrontation at this year’s Limmud festival, the JC has learned.
Multiple witnesses described how Mrs van der Zyl rounded on former Jewish Labour Movement director Ella Rose at the end of a panel session she had moderated between Momentum founder Jon Lansman and Luke Akehurst, the director of Labour First and We Believe In Israel.
After the debate ended, sources say Mrs van der Zyl angrily challenged Ms Rose, chair of catering at Limmud 2018, accusing her of deliberately ignoring her request to ask a question.
A source told the JC: “Marie definitely called Ella 'anti-women'.
“She did it quite publicly. She was furious that Ella hadn’t picked her to ask a question – but there were lots of people raising their hands seeking to take part in the question and answer bit at the end of the session.
“To be fair to Ella, Marie was actually standing just behind where Ella was sitting so it was difficult for her to see everyone who was wanting to take part.
“It certainly looked as though Ella did at one stage nod at Marie as though she was acknowledging seeing her hand up in the air.
“But then it became apparent there was only time for one more question before time ran out on the debate."
The source said Ms Rose picked a question from Andrew Gilbert, one of the Limmud organisers, which "seemed to really anger Marie”.
Another witness said: “Marie absolutely screamed at Ella. She called her 'anti-women' and 'rude'.
“Ella was in the middle of the room trying to go off to do catering duties when Marie stopped her midway down the room as other people were leaving."
The witness said around "20 or 25 other people" saw what happened.
“Some people were surprised the Board President would behave in such a way,” they said.
The confrontation took place on the Sunday evening of the festival, which took place in Birmingham.
Mrs van der Zyl, a solicitor specialising in employment and equalities law, was elected Board president in May last year.
She appeared on another panel at this year’s Limmud discussing what the Jewish community can learn from other ethnic communities, alongside Labour Ilford North MP Wes Streeting and Jewish Leadership Council chair Jonathan Goldstein.
Mrs van der Zyl also took part in a solo session discussing what the future held for the community in the UK.
Ms Rose refused to comment to the JC when asked about Mrs van der Zyl’s behaviour. It is unclear if she now plans to make a formal complaint about the incident.
The JC has contacted the Board of Deputies for comment.
Ms Rose has been an outspoken campaigner on women’s issues. In an interview with the JC in April 2017, she said:” I firmly believe the community is 20 years behind the rest of the world when it comes to feminism.”