Bono Goes to Shul

Published: February 9th 2010

U2 singer Bono
Pic: Ghila Krajzman
Rabbi Arthur Schneier and U2 singer Bono
Pic: Ghila Krajzman

Park East Synagogue in New York City hosted a special guest recently: U2 lead singer Bono. He was there by special invite of its founder, Rabbi Schneier, who, like Bono, has worked hard in the arena of human rights around the world. The pair developed a friendship through the work of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, originally founded by Schneier in 1965. The foundation is an interfaith partnership of leaders from various worlds (including corporate and spiritual) of mixed religious affiliations who work together to promote peace, tolerance and the resolution of ethnic conflict. Their philosophy is that freedom, democracy and human rights are basic principles, and that granting them offers the best hope for security, shared prosperity, and ultimately, peace.


Similar to this is Bono's ONE organization, which has a wide variety of mandates related to international development and relief issues, including debt relief, clean water, increasing aid efficiency, creating more equitable international trade agreements, and slowing the spread of HIV/AIDS and malaria. Launched in 2004, the organization works with other aid agencies like Mercy Corps, Oxfam America, and World Vision to further its intended goals. Bono himself has a long history in the human right arena, having been a longtime supporter of human rights group Amnesty International. U2 was part of the organization’s 1986 concert tour, Conspiracy of Hope, held to increase awareness of Amnesty on the 25th anniversary of its work for human rights globally.


Bono was last seen with Rabbi Schneier when he attended the Appeal of Conscience Foundation’s Annual Gala Dinner in New York City last September. At the school visit January 29th, Schneier showed Bono around the Synagogue, and the Irish singer was serenaded by Park Day East students. "You know Bono as a great rock star,” remarked Rabbi Schneier in his introduction, ”but he has made it his mission to fight poverty, hunger, injustice... wherever there is a cause requiring a humanitarian response, Bono is there."


Bono himself, wearing a kipa and seeming to be overwhelmed by the jubilant welcome, remarked that “you’ve probably figured out who the real rock star is in this room,” as he looked at Schneier and smiled. “I’m so honoured to be here,” he continued. “My work as an activist is based on the idea that everybody is equal. And this idea (of equality)… you guys kind of invented it.” He went to talk about the Jewish people’s flight from Egyptian Pharoahs, and their relationship to their faith. “My thing is,” he said in closing, “is that where you live should not decide whether you live or whether you die.” Students, parents, and teachers shrieked with delight as he then launched into to a short accapella version of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," the U2 hit from 1987's The Joshua Tree with the audience joining him on the chorus.


The rock star/activist’s visit capped a busy week for our Day School students, who also had the opportunity to meet the Consuls General of Brazil and Austria. 

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