The Blue Dove Foundation at The Branch 2023 Annual Meeting

All are welcome to The Branch (formerly Jewish Residential Services) as we explore the topic of traditional Jewish values – or middot – as a guide to eliminate the shame and stigma around mental illness. We welcome Justin Milrad, President and co-founder of the Blue Dove Foundation as our keynote speaker.

When it comes to mental health and addiction, no individual or group is immune. The Jewish community wrestles with these problems as much as the rest of society does. Through program, promotional, and support partnerships, The Blue Dove Foundation strives to transform the way the Jewish community understands and responds to mental illness and addictions. Both the Blue Dove Foundation and The Branch provide a mental health approach that combines dignity with awareness to move closer to a stigma-free environment and become sources of health and healing.

You can learn more about the Blue Dove Foundation here

Please join us for the 2023 Annual Meeting of The Branch at The Sally and Howard Levin Clubhouse on October 26, 2023 at 7:00pm.

Dessert will be served. Dietary laws observed.

Please RSVP to or call 412-325-0039 by October 19, 2023.

Fighting Stigma: Breaking Down the Walls

See how members of the Sally and Howard Levin Clubhouse are fighting mental health stigma by sharing their experiences in the evening of storytelling “Breaking Down the Walls: building Empowerment”. Clubhouse member Heidi Morris shares her insight in this video.

Upcoming Events Supporting Mental Health In Our Area.

May 25- Join the 8th Annual Mental Health Recovery Fest 2023 to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month! Learn more.

May 31- (For Parents) Supporting Kids With Anxiety: A Jewish Approach-The Annual Alex Seed Memorial Lecture. Learn more.

June 7- Trauma-Informed Yoga at 10.27 Healing Partnership

Gentle yoga with a skilled and caring yoga instructor experienced in trauma-informed care. Free of charge, registration required.

June 12- Community Building and Expressive Drum Circles

Healing Partnership hosts drop-in community drum circles on the 2nd Monday of each month. Free, no registration required, no skill needed to participate, instruments provided. Learn more.

Ongoing- Drop-in Therapy

The 10.27 Healing Partnership will be providing drop-in counseling in both the Squirrel Hill and South Hills JCCs. The drop-in counseling is fully free, no insurance or appointment needed. Learn more.

Mental Illness in the Media

Media portrayals of those with mental illness often skew toward either stigmatization or trivialization. Consequently, all forms of media—including television, film, magazines, newspapers, and social media—have been criticized for disseminating negative stereotypes and inaccurate descriptions of those with mental illness. Learn more.

February is Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month

Held every February, Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month (JDAIM) is a unified effort among Jewish organizations and communities worldwide to raise awareness and foster inclusion of people with disabilities. There are several opportunities for members of the Jewish community and beyond to learn more about current issues facing people with disabilities, barriers to opportunities, and best practices for disability inclusion in faith communities and daily life.  

Throughout the month, The Branch will hold events to highlight the importance of inclusion when it comes to those living with a mental health diagnosis. Event Attendees will hear first hand from people in our community and beyond.

“As a local leader in services for people with disabilities, The Branch is looking forward to exploring the ways having a mental health diagnosis impacts the lives of people in our community. Our goal is to ensure that disability inclusion is the norm in  Pittsburgh’s Jewish community, not only in February, but throughout the year”, said Nancy Gale, Executive Director of The Branch.

Click here to learn more about JDAIM.

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Breaking Down the Walls: Building Empowerment

On February 23rd from 5:30pm – 7:30pm, the Sally and Howard Levin Clubhouse will be holding “Breaking Down the Walls: building empowerment” for a night of spoken storytelling by Sally and Howard Levin Clubhouse members aimed to break down the walls around mental illness. Community leader, Robert Levin will be presented the Shore Whitehill Award at the event. This annual award is given to a disability inclusion champion in the Jewish community.

The event will also raise crucial funds for the Sally and Howard Levin Clubhouse, a licensed psychiatric and social rehabilitation program of The Branch (formerly JRS) located in Squirrel Hill. The Clubhouse provides a warm, welcoming community where adults whose lives have been disrupted by mental illness come together to discover and develop their strengths and abilities, build self-confidence, and gain valuable social and vocational skills that prepare them for more productive, rewarding, meaningful lives. 

“Everybody at the Clubhouse works together. Everybody has a say in what we do. The Clubhouse means a lot to me. I consider it my second family,” said Mike, a Clubhouse member and a presenter at the “Breaking Down the Walls” event. 

The event is being held during the month of February aligns with Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month. As a local leader in services for people with disabilities, The Branch, along with other organizations, is holding events to educate the community about how to foster a sense of belonging for people with disabilities. 

To purchase tickets to “Breaking Down the Walls: a storytelling event” click here or call 412.325.0039.

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The Intersection of Race, Disability and Religion: A First-Person Experience

Join The Branch and webinar speaker Asha Chai-Chang as she talks about the growing community of Jews who identify as Jews of Color. Born in Long Island as the Jamaican/Cuban/Chinese/Jewish daughter to immigrant parents, Asha is an Actuary by Trade turned Award-Winning Director/Writer with invisible disabilities.

Asha will create an open dialogue about being a person of color with multiple disabilities and speak about the intersectionality of being a Jew of Color with disabilities. She will also explore ways Jewish communities can increase visibility and create safe spaces for Jews of Color. Attendees will learn informative statistics and factual findings, have an opportunity to connect within the webinar, and walk away with new tools and best practices. 

Asha Chai-Chang is the Co-Founder for Slamdance Unstoppable, a program for disabled talent and filmmakers that educates through films, panels, and partnerships on ways we can address DEIA issues concerning participants, audience members, and submitters. Additionally, Asha is a Production Accessibility Coordinator, which often highlights the importance of disability accommodation requests in the entertainment industry. Her work in this industry informs practices that can be applied to organizations, businesses and communities.

Webinar date TBD. To register or for more information, contact

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The importance of altruism in our community

Many people served by JRS give back to their community by volunteering. JRS staff encourages those it serves to volunteer to be involved in the community, socialize, build confidence, and learn new skills applicable to everyday life. 

JRS places importance on volunteerism among those it serves because it offers a deeper understanding of the lives of people with disabilities and the value they bring, just as every individual brings, to the life of their community. This understanding encourages greater acceptance of diversity, greater compassion for people of all abilities, and greater cooperation in solving local as well as global challenges that affect us all.

Many organizations in the Jewish community have inclusive volunteering programs that make it possible for everyone to have an opportunity to give back: the Jewish Community Center (JCC), Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, JFCS, the Friendship Circle and Repair the World. Several JRS participants volunteer at various organizations throughout the community. 

Caryn (pictured above) has participated in the Supportive Living Program at JRS for 20 years. This program provides her with comprehensive individualized support based on her specific needs.

Every week for seven years, Caryn and her JRS direct support professional venture to the JCC to volunteer at the JCafe, a program of AgeWell Pittsburgh. The program was designed to ensure that everyone age 60+ gets a nutritious meal at no cost and that they don’t have to eat it alone. Instead, they socialize with their peers as part of a community. “Everyone who works at the JCC makes sure I have what I need in order to do my job well,” Caryn explained.

On a typical volunteer day, Caryn helps participants get their lunch, carries their trays to their table, and cleans up. She is attentive to all aspects of her job, whether it be restocking items the staff or diners need or thoroughly cleaning before lunch begins. 

“Caryn greets everyone with a smile and learns their names. She is always the first volunteer to arrive and immediately gets to work,” explained Caryn’s supervisor, Amy Gold.

Caryn also meets many people while she volunteers. “It is nice. When I walk around the area or take the bus, I will see people I know. We usually smile and say hello. It is a nice feeling,” Caryn said. “Volunteering makes me feel good. If I am having a bad day, I leave the JCC feeling good; feeling happy.”

Gary is also a long-time participant in JRS’ supportive living program. His volunteer work with AgeWell is slightly different than Caryn’s. Each week, Gary volunteers for the CheckMates program which is a volunteer peer-led telephone reassurance program. 

Volunteers who are 60+ make weekly phone calls to other older adults with the goal of offering a connection between volunteers and people in the community who may be homebound, isolated or lonely. Confidential phone calls are made once a week by volunteers at the JCC of Greater Pittsburgh in Squirrel Hill and in the South Hills. 

Gary has volunteered his time to the CheckMates program for 12 years. “I think volunteering with CheckMates helps me more than it helps the people I call. I feel better helping people out there who have issues and problems. I can help talk through whatever they want to. When you help others, you help yourself,” said Gary,

His supervisor is also Amy Gold from the JCC. She speaks highly of his commitment and natural ability to connect to the people he contacts. “He does a great job and is reliable. The people he checks in with really enjoy talking to him. They rely on and look forward to his calls every week.”

Amy explains that there are many benefits to the AgeWell volunteer program for both volunteers and participants. 

“I love what AgeWell does as a whole and that it is a collaboration between the JCC, JFCS and the Jewish Association on Aging as well as volunteers. We can help older adults remain independent, connecting them with the resources they need,” explains Amy. 

And, as Gary says, “When you help others, you help yourself.”

If you are interested in learning more about the volunteer program at the JCC, please contact Amy Gold at or 412.697.3528.


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