The Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center hosts fundraiser for disaster relief in Nepal

A night of authentic Indian food and jazz music will benefit the stricken country.

Island photographer Edward Keating is also lending his hand to help those affected in Nepal. Mr. Keating is offering an 11x17 inkjet print of this photo and several others from a 2007 trip to Nepal, in exchange for a $100 donation to a relief fund. Contact — Photo by Edward Keating

This April, Nepal was rocked by two devastating earthquakes. More than 8,000 people were killed, and tens of thousands were displaced as the dual quakes destroyed homes, facilities, and historic buildings. Entire villages were flattened. Some of the hardest hit were the most impoverished Nepalese people.

This coming Sunday, May 31, the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center will host a benefit for earthquake victims. The event will feature an authentic Indian meal, followed by a performance by acclaimed jazz musician Stan Strickland with a jazz trio. Everything for the event has been donated, and all proceeds will go directly to the efforts in Nepal of American Jewish World Service (AJWS).

Post-earthquake, while many aid organizations set up their own relief programs, the AJWS has been dedicated to identifying local groups dealing with disaster and funneling funds directly to where they are needed most. Hours after the first Nepal earthquake on April 25, AJWS launched an emergency relief fund, and they continue to support four Nepal-based initiatives.

“They [AJWS] are a very unique organization,” says event organizer Kanta Lipsky. “A high proportion of the money goes directly to the people. They don’t rent offices. They don’t have much overhead. They just fund organizations that are already doing the work.”

In the past, the Hebrew Center, under the direction of the center’s Social Action Committee, has hosted fundraisers for victims of the 2005 Pakistan earthquake and the conflict in Darfur. The Nepal disaster inspired Ms. Lipsky and her co-organizer Zee Gamson to act. “She shot me an email,” says Ms. Lipsky. “We both wanted to do something to help. The Hebrew Center was 100 percent supportive.”

So were others in the community. Cronig’s donated all of the food. Seaside Celebrations will provide tablecloths. The Bodhi Path will lend assistance. The musicians are all performing free of charge. “Stan Strickland was already planning on being on-Island,” says Ms. Lipsky. “Greta [Bro] and Stan went to graduate school together. It all came together. It was one of those perfect storms.”

Uma Datta, who teaches cooking classes on-Island, along with her sister-in-law Priya Datta and Kim Hilliard, will be preparing a traditional Indian meal. After dinner, Stan Strickland on sax and flute, vocalist Greta Bro, and Steve Travis on piano will provide entertainment.

Throughout his long and illustrious career, Boston-based singer, saxophonist, flutist, and actor Stan Strickland has performed all over the globe, including at some of the world’s most prestigious concert halls, including Symphony Hall in Boston, Carnegie Recital Hall and Town Hall in New York, and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Strickland has opened for a number of big names in music, including Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, and Barenaked Ladies. He toured South Africa with the Village People, and was a featured soloist with Take Six and the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall. He has performed and collaborated with over a dozen choreographers, including Alvin Ailey, Jose Limon, and Bill T. Jones.

Vocalist Greta Bro performs often in and around the Boston area. Her stylistic range is broad; along with more traditional music, she continues to explore inspirational music genres such as sacred jazz, bossa nova, Hindustani, kirtan, Latin, reggae, island and world pop.

Where else on the Island can you enjoy some of the perks of city living — ethnic food and live jazz? All while supporting a good cause. Not bad for $20.

Nepal Benefit, May 31 from 6 to 10 pm, at the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center. $20 in advance; $25 to $50 donation at the door. To make a reservation, email If you’re unable to attend the fundraiser but would like to make a donation, visit

The road to recovery

According to the AJWS website, aid initiatives in Nepal are facing a number of challenges including the difficulty of reaching remote areas in the rural mountainous regions, discrimination against the lower castes, and government corruption. By providing aid directly to community based organizations, the AJWS is, in many cases, filling in crucial gaps in the relief efforts.

The four Nepalese based organizations that will benefit from AJWS funding are:

Tewa, the Nepal Women’s Fund is providing food, clean water, blankets and medical care to pregnant women and women who have recently given birth. Tewa is also working to prevent water-borne diseases.

Himalayan Healthcare is providing medicine and supplies to survivors in the hard hit Dhading district. The organization also plans to construct homes, schools and health care facilities.

The Blue Diamond Society is providing rescue, relief and rehabilitation support to HIV-positive LGBT people affected by the disaster.

International Medical Corps is transporting healthcare workers to especially hard-hit areas and evacuating injured people to Kathmandu by helicopter. They are also operating two mobile medical units in an area at the earthquake’s epicenter that is receiving little international aid.