FRIDAY’S CHILD - JO BIRD

Jo Bird.
Jo Bird.

This week’s Friday’s Child is Jo Bird. Jo moved to from Manchester to Derry for love a few years ago. She is a founder member of Jewish Voice for Just Peace – Ireland. Her day job is promoting and developing democratic businesses with Co-operative Alternatives.

How would you describe yourself?

Jo Bird addresses Co-op Congress

Jo Bird addresses Co-op Congress

Part of a long line of Jewish socialists and radicals. My mother’s grandparents were Jewish refugees from Poland and Russia. After an uncle was killed in a pogrom attack (ethnic cleansing), the family fled to Manchester in 1905, following older brothers who travelled first. In the 1930s, my mum’s dad, Bernard Barry, was arrested fighting Mosley’s fascists. My mum’s uncle, Woolfie Winnick, fought fascism in the Spanish civil war with the International Brigade 1936-39. Contact was lost with extended family that stayed in Europe - we assume they were killed in the holocaust. My mum ‘married out’ with my dad who is from a long line of working class English socialists.

Prime ministers of Israel make out they speak for “the Jewish nation”. But most Jewish people choose not to live in Israel. I come from an outward looking, internationalist community, and I am one of many that actively oppose Israel’s abuses of human rights. Judaism is a 4,000 year old religion and culture. Zionism is a political ideology around 150 years old.

Happiest childhood memory?

Giggling with my sister Emma, like in this photo of a family camping holiday.

What was your first job/role?

Disrupting assembly at school. Me and my best friend were kicked out for not pretending to pray, hahaha.

Favourite book?

From Manchester to Spain, by Bernard Barry, published by the Working Class Movement Library, 2009. The book gives “a fuller picture of Manchester Brigaders and the material support from the people of Manchester to Spain in its struggle against the fascist Franco.”

Favourite film?

The Hunger Games

Favourite television programme?

Scott and Bailey, because the stories are about feisty, smart and tough women in a male dominated workplace.

Favourite expression?

Enough already! Oy va voy!

Favourite method of relaxation?

Breakfast in bed. And a spa day if I’m very lucky.

Favourite holiday destination?

For a while my favourite destinations were Jerusalem and Bethlehem, but not for a holiday. I led hundreds of people in study groups around Palestine/Israel. We went to learn from many perspectives including young Israeli men and women who bravely refuse to serve in the Israeli Defence/Offence Force, and the Bereaved Families Forum of Palestinians and Israelis who struggle to uncover the truth about the deaths of their loved ones.

Who would you most like to meet?

Yasser Arafat, oh I’ve already had pizza with him. I would like to meet the thousandth refugee to find safety in Northern Ireland.

What makes you angry?

Injustice and lies.

What makes you happy?

The rise of fair and socialist policies, such as Jeremy Corbyn’s election victories with a transformed Labour Party.

What human quality do you most admire?

Solidarity, such as Dunnes workers refusing to handle products of Apartheid.

What human quality do you least admire?

Cruelty, like Ireland denying entry to Jewish refugees throughout the holocaust, and now the heartless policies towards refugees from the governments of the UK and Ireland.

What has been the most embarrassing thing to happen to you?

This interview!

What was the worst thing to happen to you in your life?

Being shot at by the Israeli Defence Force while on a peaceful protest against curfew in Bethlehem. Luckily no-one died that day. My friend was treated (like a heroine!) in a Palestinian hospital for two weeks.

What is your greatest fear?

Fascist and racist policies, especially in Europe and Ireland, like detention without charge nor trial.

What has been the high point of your life to date?

Meeting nuclear weapons whistle blower, Mordechai Vannunu, upon his release from Israeli prison. It is a privilege to live, work and be friends with champions of human rights and justice, in L/Derry, Manchester and Israel/Palestine.

How would you like to be remembered?

When enjoying home-made pancakes.

What is your most treasured possession?

A Hannnukah candlestick brought by my family all the way from Poland.

If you won the lotto what would you do with it?

I have saved a fortune by not playing the lotto. If I won it’d be a miracle like the immaculate conception! After buying essentials like pancakes, I would give it away to campaigns for justice.

If you could be granted one wish in life, what would you ask for?

Three more wishes, heeheehee.