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.

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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Temple Sinai to Hold JDAIM Event

Temple Sinai is teaming up with Positively Painting Program, an organization started by parents who lost their very creative daughter to suicide. Their mission is encouraging and facilitating positive mental health with beautiful art. They aim to increase the conversations, decrease the stigma, and provide opportunities for everyone in the community to create art that is a part of that effort.

During Temple Sinai’s program, attendees will have lunch followed by painting on canvases. From there, the canvases will be taken to the Positively Painting Program where they will be overlaid with messages of inspiration and hope. The art will become an installation at Temple Sinai. The goal of the program is to help destigmatize mental health issues and talk about the importance of mental health.

People of all artistic abilities are welcome to the event which will be held Sunday, February 19, 2023 at Noon. Click here to learn more and register.

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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 clasky@thebranchpgh.org

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Interview with the Co-Founder of JDAIM: Shelly Christensen

Shelly Christensen, MA, FAAIDD, is the Senior Director of Faith Inclusion at RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.

Shelly is a pioneer and leader in the faith community disability and mental health inclusion movement. Her passion for this work is anchored by her experiences as the parent of a child with autism. Long before she was an emerging leader in the field, Shelly was trained as a parent advocate, unwaveringly holding the school accountable for her son’s rights to a free appropriate public education as mandated in the IDEA.  

After publication of her book, The Jewish Community Guide to Inclusion of People with Disabilities, she was in demand as a keynote speaker, trainer, and consultant for other communities. She founded Inclusion Innovations to expand her capacity to work with diverse faith-based organizations.

In 2009, Shelly co-founded Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month (JDAIM). Through Shelly’s leadership, JDAIM is recognized around the world by local, national and international organizations.

Click here to see an interview about Shelly, how JDAIM came to be, and how you can get involved.

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I Volunteer program

The Friendship Circle, JRS, Repair the World, Chabad Young Professionals, and Chabad on Campus are partners in the I Vounteer program; an inclusive volunteer program that happens about four times a year for adults 18-45 years old. The program’s goal is to bring together young adults in the Pittsburgh community to volunteer in an inclusive way. 

The program connects young adults from various partner organizations to socialize while giving back to their community. When we give back together, we build community. I Volunteer also helps the community by supporting local businesses and organizations and uplifting community members. 

Below are the tentative dates for upcoming I Volunteer programs: 
-September 12th 6pm-7:30pm
-December 12th 6pm-7:30pm
-April 4th 5pm-7:30pm
-June 22nd 6pm-7:30pm


For information on how to get involved with I Volunteer, contact Paige Eddy, Adult & Partnerships Coordinator at The Friendship Circle of Pittsburgh at 412-224-4440 ext. 111 or paige@fcpgh.org


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Call for Nominations: Do you know a champion of disability inclusion?

The Shore-Whitehill Award, named for Barbara Shore and Robert Whitehill, celebrates those who are dedicated to disability inclusion in the Jewish community.

Do you know someone who is a champion of inclusion of people of all abilities in the Jewish community? Do you want to celebrate their contributions? We are looking to celebrate their accomplishments and passion for inclusion.

Who can be nominated?

• A volunteer working in the Jewish community.

• A paid professional working in the Jewish community who has gone above and beyond to support inclusion outside of their working hours.

• An individual who promotes inclusion within the Jewish community but is not associated with a specific organization (i.e., landlords, caregivers, first responders, business owners).

• A person who is Jewish or non-Jewish.

Who can nominate a champion?

Anyone! Nominations can come from an individual, on behalf a congregation, organization, business, or group.

What do I need to do to nominate someone?

It’s easy, just complete this brief online form.  Nominations must be received by September 30th.

What happens next?

The recipient of the 2023 Shore Whitehill Award will be honored at an inclusion event to be held during Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month, February 2023. This event will be organized by Jewish Residential Services with input from the nominator(s).

Click here to nominate a champion of disability inclusion!


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Mental Health ACTION Day

In partnership with more than 1600 brands, nonprofits, government agencies and cultural leaders, Jewish Residential Services is proud to be a partner in Mental Health Action Day this Thursday, May 19th. On this day, we will encourage and empower people to take the next step for #MentalHealthAction. Go to MentalHealthActionDay.org to learn more and join our effort to shift from awareness to action on mental health.

Head to thebranchpgh.org/action to get started with ways that you can take action for yourself or a friend on Mental Health Action Day. There is no-one-size-fits-all action, but rather, this is an open source effort for all who want to use their megaphones to drive our culture of mental health from awareness to action.

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Webinar: The Impact of COVID on Teen Mental Health

COVID has forever changed our lives and the effect of COVID on the mental health of teens and young adults has been particularly acute. Join us virtually on Tuesday, May 31st from 5:00-6:00 PM for a candid conversation with Erin Barr, Clinical Coordinator for UpStreet, JFCS Pittsburgh’s innovative mental wellness program for teenagers and young adults. Learn the difference between “normal” teenage behavior and behavior that requires intervention, the unique challenges in teen mental health, and where to turn for help.

Closed captioning will be provided. Click here to register.

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