Jo Ann’s earliest memories involve sitting with her grandmother Ida, in an over-sized chair in her living room, being read to from the Bible. When WWII began, they’d listen to the war news together and pray. Gram would turn to little Jo Ann and say, “G-d has a covenant with the Jews that will last as long as the sun, the moon and the stars. This is a terrible war, but Hitler will be defeated and the Jews will be back in their ancient land. We must pray for that.” Ida died in 1947, leaving her granddaughter her old Bible, underlined at all the points of promise to restore Israel. So JoAnn was thrilled, but not too surprised when in May of 1948 the State of Israel was declared. JoAnn remembers thinking, “Wow. Gram knew this was going to happen because she read the Bible. It set me on a path that led to a life-long involvement with Israel and the Jewish people.”
Jo Ann Magnuson is an educator. At home in Minneapolis, Minnesota her children and even grandchildren are involved in discussions about Israel. “I believe that they are fortunate to have family members who steer their thinking, and one of my grievances is that there is not enough focus on getting to the young people while their thoughts are still being formed.” Jo Ann has been spending years molding the thinking of the Christian world and encouraging them to have more respect for their Jewish forbearers. She maintains that Christians know their Bible, but many, only superficially. Jo Ann explains that in the outskirts of Middle America, there are small Christian towns which have never seen a Jew. “I want to teach them so they can help spread the word. We don’t have enough good advocates for Israel. We need a larger network to lobby effectively. I want to get grandmothers to be educators, to get communities organized to influence the world around them.”
Jo Ann is unstoppable. She was part of the original leadership of Bridges for Peace and helped found the International Christian Embassy. For many years, Jo Ann worked with the Christian Embassy and networked with CUFI. She has put together seminars on the Israeli modern, political and social scene, created wonderful reading materials, and has developed an effective Power Point presentation to aid her in her educational programming.
Over the past thirty years, Jo Ann has accumulated an incredible library and now wants to put it to its best use. Jo Ann is seeking ways to make her library available for a larger audience, guided by her own experience and wisdom in teaching Christians about Israel. The local Jewish community is very interested in the Holocaust section of her library. Jo Ann dreams of partnering with them and creating a Mobile Holocaust Museum. She has amassed a tremendous amount of information about the Holocaust, through her trips to Eastern Europe, bringing Christian groups to Auschwitz, and through her readings and interviews with survivors.
Jo Ann first came to Israel in 1977 and has since led 62 trips to the Holy Land! She describes herself as a connector. “Technically, I’m an amateur, but as I sit in suburban Minneapolis, in front of my computer screen, I run air traffic control. I plug myself into churches, keeping databases of people who have been to Israel, those who are interested in returning and those who have never been. She encourages her groups to visit Judea and Samaria and has cooperated with CFOIC for years in educating Christians about the settlement movement.
Jo Ann advises: “Be willing to get educated. Believe that ordinary people can start out with no experience and just the willingness to work hard… and get things done. I am 72 years old and I’m just getting started!”