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.

Sally and Howard Levin Clubhouse Welcomes New Director

The Sally and Howard Levin Clubhouse welcomes its new director, Dr. Chrissy Whiting-Madison. Chrissy graduated with her BA in Psychology from Saint Vincent College, her MS in Rehabilitation Counseling from Langston University and her doctorate in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of Arkansas. She currently maintains a CRC (Certified Rehabilitation Counselor).  Chrissy has worked in the Clubhouse world previously and also held the position of clinical director at a counseling agency in Tulsa, Oklahoma for many years. After spending several years in academia at Rogers State University, she is happy to return to her roots in the Clubhouse world here at Sally & Howard Levin Clubhouse. 

When she is not at the Clubhouse, Chrissy enjoys writing. She is the author of two books, Choosing Happiness and Even Happier (available anywhere books are sold), and numerous articles on humor, joy and positivity. She also enjoys traveling, thrift store shopping, and spending time with her husband, Matthew, daughter, Carina, and her cats!

Chrissy is thrilled to watch the Clubhouse grow and evolve into
the exemplary Clubhouse it is meant to be. She is looking forward to
expanding our social rehabilitation program, employment program, and so much
more.  “The incredible team here at SHLC (both members and staff alike) are
truly rock stars who all believe the sky is the limit for how much we can
accomplish together,” says Chrissy. 

Click here to learn more about the Sally and Howard Levin Clubhouse.

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Mental Illness Depicted in the Arts

Popular culture has an important role to play in the public’s opinions and understanding of mental illness.  According to a source for entertainment news, “…having accurate portrayals of mental health in movies and TV shows can show people that they are not alone”.   Below are some examples of movies and TV shows that do a good job of reflecting reality:

What About Bob?  (1991) This film tells the story of Bob (Bill Murray) who has a massive list of phobias that interfere with his everyday life. Bob’s experience of experiencing such heavy anxiety that it impacts his daily life is relatable to anyone who has experienced something similar.

Girl, Interrupted   (1999) The autobiographical story of Susanna Kaysen’s experience of being hospitalized, and subsequently diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.  Borderline Personality Disorder is still poorly understood, and frequently stigmatized. The fact that this was discussed so openly and in such an honest way in 2000 is a credit to Kaysen. The movie captures the sobering reality of hospitalization for mental illness.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) A film adaptation of a best-selling young adult novel depicts the main character Charlie’s depression in a nuanced, genuine way. Charlie’s romantic relationship with Sam (played by Emma Watson) doesn’t magically save him, but is one part of a support system that helps him navigate his mental illness.

BoJack Horseman, (2014-2020) an animated show that Time magazine called “the most important animated series since The Simpsons” shows both mental health struggles and moral dilemmas. Helmed by has-been actor Bojack, who suffers from a slew of addictions, his struggles are exacerbated by his off-the-rails drinking and self-destructive behavior. BoJack’s behavior isn’t simply the result of his alcoholism, but of neglectful and abusive parenting; inherited trauma is also illustrated poignantly in this series.

This is Us (2016 – 2022)  A television series which follows the lives of three siblings and their parents across the decades from the 1980s to the present day. The portrayal of mental illness through the character of Randall has been met with widespread praise from critics and fans alike. The show highlights Randall’s ongoing struggle with panic attacks and anxiety, as well as themes of addiction and grief through other characters. 


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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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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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