Jewish Journal

Celebs Draw Crowd for ‘Second Aid’ to Haiti

by Ryan Torok

Posted on Feb. 10, 2010 at 2:30 am

A private musical benefit for Haiti featuring recording artists Dave Koz and Deniece “Niecy” Williams at American Jewish University (AJU) raised more than $200,000 for the country, whose capital, Port-au-Prince, was devastated by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake on Jan. 12.

Proceeds from “The Haiti Food Project: A Second Aid Benefit Concert” are intended to help provide Haitians with a sustained supply of food, clean water, shelter and medicine as the country rebuilds.

“This gives us an opportunity as Jews to unite around the bigger issue ... toward sustainable second aid that will uplift [Haiti],” said Eric Schockman, president of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, which organized the Feb. 4 concert. Standing backstage, he referred to the evening as “cross-denominational, cross-ethnic bounds.”

Funds raised during the Thursday event, which included support from AJU, The Board of Rabbis of Southern California, The Chopra Foundation and others, will be given to the Albert Schweitzer Hospital of Haiti, Lambi Fund of Haiti, International Medical Corps and Friends of the Children of Lascahobas, Haiti.

The semiformal concert drew more than 400 people, who heard the same message repeated throughout the evening: Spread the love.

Actress Beverly Todd and comedian Michael Colyar hosted the event, which included speakers such as New Age guru Deepak Chopra; Geri Benoit-Preval, Haiti’s ambassador to the U.N. World Food Program; Vice President of The Board of Rabbis of Southern California and Kol Ami’s rabbi, Denise Eger; and AJU President Robert Wexler.

Jacob Dayan, the consul general of Israel, highlighted the Israel Defense Forces’ rush to establish a field hospital to treat Haitian victims, and 13 firefighters from the L.A. County Fire Department’s Urban Search and Rescue team in Pacoima were feted onstage for being among the first responders in Haiti.

Saxophonist Koz performed in front of a large screen that played footage of the grueling relief effort in Haiti.

The crowd awarded standing ovations to Grammy award-winning soul singer Deniece Williams’ vocally stunning performance of “God Is Amazing” and former “American Idol” contestant Frenchie Davis’ powerful rendition of “I’m Changing” by Whitney Houston.

Scherrie Payne and Lynda Laurence, formerly of the 1960s Motown group The Supremes, and R&B singer Freda Payne, best known for her 1970 hit “Band of Gold,” also performed.

For the finale, the First Baptist Church of North Hollywood’s gospel choir, several R&B singers and a big band jazz orchestra brought the crowd to its feet one last time with a cover of Michael Jackson’s “We Are the World.” The performance solidified the evening’s aim: to re-contextualize the hardships gripping Haiti into a celebration of unity.

According to Steve Addison, the show’s producer-director, 235 people, onstage and off, helped put together the MAZON-organized event in 17 days.

“It had heart, substance and warmth,” Addison said after the show.

Chopra noted how impressive it was that such an event could be planned so quickly.

“If all this could happen in 17 days — if all these different people can come together — why don’t we do it all the time?” Chopra said. “Perhaps the gift of Haiti is that we will see the start of a global movement of compassion.”

For more information or to contribute, visit HaitiFoodProject.org or call (310) 442-0020.

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