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Friedberg JCC's SPEAC continues talent shows on Zoom

Oceanside-based group supports differently-abled adults


When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, members of the Friedberg JCC’s Special Advocacy Coalition (SPEAC) were disappointed about canceling the group’s May talent show, dubbed the Red Carpet Event.

So naturally, the event moved to a virtual format — Zoom.

“People are in their houses and can’t really go out,” said Ashley Gazes, who started SPEAC three years ago. “So we thought we should give them a little entertainment. We started having them on Zoom monthly.”

SPEAC is a community group that encourages differently-abled adults to become their own advocates. At a typical monthly meeting, roughly 15 people with special needs gather at the Friedberg JCC in Oceanside to discuss issues they’re facing, such as housing, transportation, employment, social opportunities and inclusion. Those meetings are now being held via Zoom.

“These meetings give attendees the chance to talk about their concerns and fears about the pandemic,” said Marcy Hallerman, senior program director at the JCC, “as well as to sort through things that are going on in their lives.”

At the second virtual talent show on Aug. 5, the advocates showcased a variety of talents, including comedy, singing, poetry reading and dancing. One member even completed an entire Rubix cube puzzle in a matter of minutes. “Everybody did a great job,” Gazes said, “and I’m glad I got to be there to support everyone.”

During performances, members used the chat feature on Zoom to send words of encouragement to their peers. And they made sure to vocalize their support after each performance, as well.

Hallerman noted that the show helps to raise community support for SPEAC, as well as funds for a scholarship to send self advocates to the Self Advocate Association of New York State (SANYS) Long Island Regional Conference. Anyone who wants to attend a future talent show or support SPEAC can visit at friedbergjcc.org/giving.

In addition, anyone who would like to join SPEAC can send an email to speaclongisland@gmail.com or to Hallerman at mhallerman@friedbergjcc.org. They can also joined the SPEAC Facebook group, “SPE*A*C Special Advocacy Coalition.”