Meet Our Staff
- Leslie Aizenman, Director, Refugee & Immigrant Services
- Brenda Green, Program Supervisor
- Hussein Aladdin, Employment Specialist
- Dawn Brubaker, MSW, Lead Service Coordinator
- Benedict Killang, Employment Specialist
- Michelle Leone, Refugee Intake Counselor & TANF Specialist
- Alla Puchinsky, Refugee Caseworker
- Alicia Quebral, Program Assistant
- Sancha Rai, Service Coordinator
- Rachel Safirstein, Refugee Caseworker
- Alexis Szymanski, MSW, Refugee Case Manager
Director, Refugee & Immigrant Services
As Director of Refugee & Immigrant Services, Leslie Aizenman oversees the activities of the agency’s refugee resettlement program, from pre-arrival through early integration into our Pittsburgh region. Activities for these individuals and families, who have received humanitarian aid from the U.S. government to start new lives in America, include intensive case management, social service and vocational support, cultural orientation and referrals to myriad community partners. Her work also entails extensive outreach and education about refugees and resettlement to the “receiving” community of Pittsburgh residents, service and educational providers of all kinds, and the ethnic and faith-based community. Prior to assuming this position Ms. Aizenman served as JF&CS's grant writer and project developer.
Ms. Aizenman's educational background is in writing. Before joining JF&CS, she held numerous positions in the publishing field including managing editor for the nonprofit literary journal Creative Nonfiction, reporter/research for Inc. Magazine and copy editor for Dow Jones News Services. Ms. Aizenman holds a bachelor's degree in communications from Boston University and a master's degree in Public Policy and Management (MPPM) from the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.
Ms. Aizenman is co-chair of the Immigrants & Internationals Advisory Council, an initiative of Allegheny County Department of Human Services. She is also a member of UPMC’s Inclusion and Diversity Committee, the Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh, the Regional Health Literacy Coalition, and the University of Pittsburgh’s Master’s in Public Policy and Management Advisory Council of the Graduate School of Public & International Affairs.
Ms. Aizenman received the Nelson Mandela Leadership and Diversity Award from Afrika Yetu and the African Community. She is also a recipient of the Humanity Day Award from the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh.
Brenda Green is Program Supervisor with the Refugee and Immigrant Services Program. In her current role, she is responsible for staff supervision and funding compliance for Reception and Placement, Match, Preferred Communities as well as the agency’s new Allegheny County funded service coordination program – Immigrant Services and Connections (ISAC).
Prior to joining the staff of JF&CS, Brenda worked for several public health organizations serving low income health care consumers, including more than a decade as Vice President for Education with Planned Parenthood of Western PA. She has extensive experience in community based programming and grant compliance/quality control.
Brenda has a bachelor’s
degree in Speech Communication and a master’s in Adult and
Hussein Aladdin is an Employment Specialist in the refugee department with JF&CS. He performs employment-related activities, including assessments, job development, resume-writing, application and interview preparation, and post-employment case management; helping refugee clients find jobs and working with them toward the goal of self-sufficiency.
Hussein is originally from Iraq and came to the United States as a refugee in 2010. Prior to this position, he assisted refugee staff as an interpreter and cultural liaison for newly arriving Iraqi refugees.
Hussein has a Bachelor’s degree in physics from Baghdad University. He worked in Iraq as a weather forecaster then as a human resource officer at the same agency. After 2003, he took part in the rebuilding of his country, providing computer support with the American company, Flour Corporation.
Dawn Brubaker, MSW
Lead Service Coordinator
Dawn Brubaker is the refugee and immigrant lead service coordinator and trainer in the Immigrant Services and Connections (ISAC) program at Jewish Family and Children's Service of Pittsburgh. Dawn is responsible for staff training and consultation for ISAC service coordinators across six program agencies and provides professional development training in areas of cultural competence, international social work, and other concepts of diversity and social justice.
In addition to the ISAC program, Dawn implemented programs for immigrant and refugee families integration including, service coordination, cultural orientation, resettlement, financial planning, communication, and employment. Dawn is also a part-time adjunct instructor in social work both in the classroom and as a field instructor for several local universities.
Before starting at JF&CS, Dawn worked with children and adolescents in areas of behavioral and mental health. She also served in the United States Peace Corps providing youth and development support throughout Antigua and Barbuda. Dawn has a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh and is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in the school of social work at St. Catherine University/University of St. Thomas.
As a refugee employment specialist at JF&CS, Benedict
Killang works intensively with refugees to help them find and
retain work so they can support themselves and their families. He
works with them one-on-one and in groups to teach them about the
American workplace and educate them on the skills they need to
secure their first jobs in the U.S.
Benedict is a native of South Sudan and came to the United States as a refugee. Benedict also helps JF&CS reach out to the African community as well as talk about his refugee experience to organizations in the area.
Prior to joining JF&CS, Benedict worked for PNC Bank as Operations Specialist in the department of the Receivables Management Operations (RMO) updating customers account information, data account entry using high speed scanners and managing the work station.
Benedict has a bachelor's degree from Nigeria and an MBA from Point Park University. He is currently President of the Union of African Communities in Southwestern, Pennsylvania, and is fluent in Arabic and several African languages.
Refugee Intake Counselor & TANF Specialist
Michelle Leone is the Refugee Intake Counselor and TANF Specialist. She provides case management to refugee clients and compliance monitoring regarding all Department of Public Welfare and Refugee Social Services regulations governing the employment training program. She assists in client’s job search activities and other employment placement activities to reach the ultimate goal of self-sufficiency.
Prior to joining JF&CS, she worked at various agencies in Erie, PA since 2005 assisting refugee clients with job readiness and activities related to maintaining mandatory TANF participation. She maintained client files including case narrative notes, mandated activities, and supportive service needs. She also assisted with client’s job search activities.
Michelle received her bachelor’s degree in Marketing from John Carroll University.
Alla Puchinsky was herself a refugee, from Belarus, resettled by JF&CS in 1994.
She helps clients with anchor family issues, provides information and referrals and accompanies newly arriving refugees to government agencies to apply for social security and welfare. She also translates for other staff members who work with Russian-speaking refugees. In addition, she acts as Refugee Medical Caseworker, making doctor, hospital, and immunization appointments for all refugee medical needs and accompanying refugees to many of these appointments.
Alla still takes care of some elderly Russian-speaking refugees who need help with translation services, applications, housing needs, and social or medical issues. She spends one afternoon a week at Forward-Shady Housing, translating at administrative appointments or recreational activities for the Russian-speaking residents.
Prior to emigrating, Alla was a professor at the Minsk Pedagogical University in Belarus, teaching Russian Language and Literature and Russian as a Second Language to students from the Georgian and Turkmenistan republics.
Alicia Quebral joined JF&CS to serve as the Program Assistant for a new collaborative program, Immigrant Services and Connections (ISAC), which consists of six partner agencies in Allegheny County that offer service coordination to immigrants and refugees in need. As Program Assistant, she does administrative work for the partner agencies, assists in reporting and quality control, and completes intakes for ISAC clients.
Prior to joining the Immigrant & Refugee Services team, Alicia served as co-director of PRYSE Academy (Pittsburgh Refugee Youth Summer Enrichment), a free summer camp for local refugee youth run by college student volunteers. She also interned with the International Services department of the Southwestern Pennsylvania American Red Cross, working on outreach and family reunification cases.
Alicia earned her bachelor’s degree in Political Science (International Relations) and a minor in Economics at the University of Pittsburgh, where she also worked as a research assistant on projects concerning Latin American politics.
Sancha Rai assists JF&CS in the capacity of a Service Coordinaotr for immigrant/refugee population in Pittsburgh. This population comes across different problems or issues being new in the society, where Sancha Rai helps them to connect with the existing resources in the city to make their life easier. Thus, he helps and teaches people how to get well acquainted with the social system of the new country and attend their goal of financial self sufficiency.
Sancha was born in Bhutan, but due to political persecution of Nepali ethnic minorities in Bhutan, he and his family were forced to flee to a refugee camp in Nepal where he spent the following 18 years. He arrived in the U.S. in 2009. Prior to coming to the U.S., he was an English and social studies teacher and a school assistant administrator. He served as general secretary of the All Bhutan Artists Association (ABAA) and central executive member of the Refugee Rights Co-ordination Council of Bhutan (RRCC-Bhutan). Sancha is a founding member and regional representative of www.bhutaneseliterature.com, a website that represents Bhutanese writers scattered all over the globe as a result of refugee resettlement.
In Nepal, he was fortunate to secure a graduate-level education.
Sancha holds a bachelor's degree in geography and English
literature; and a master's degree in sociology from Tribhuwan
Rachel Safirstein is a Refugee Caseworker with Jewish Family & Children's Service. In her current role, she is responsible for the successful resettlement of refugees. She assists refugee clients with a variety of tasks, eventually guiding the clients towards self-sufficiency. As a part of the Reception & Placement team, Rachel helps connect clients to all appropriate services, set-up safe housing, and begin cultural orientation.
Prior to joining the staff of JF&CS, Rachel was a middle school history teacher in Providence, Rhode Island with Teach for America. She also previously volunteered with FORGE, a refugee tutoring and advocacy program, and worked with adults and teens with special needs at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill.
Rachel holds a master’s degree in education from Rhode Island College and bachelor’s degrees in history and psychology from the University of Pittsburgh.
Alexis Szymanski, MSW
Refugee Case Manager
Alexis Szymanski works as a refugee case manager, coordinating the arrival of new refugees and their subsequent integration into the community. She collaborates with vocational and medical case management within JF&CS and with myriad outside services to help clients obtain essential resources and develop stability and self-sufficiency. Alexis also will be providing acculturation training and assuming various other tasks within the refugee services department, as needed.
Alexis had completed an internship with the JF&CS refugee services department from October 2007 to August 2008. During that time, she conducted bus trainings, managed clients' participation in the WIC program and their medical appointments, assisted in delivering acculturation and Healthy Family workshops and much more.
Before coming back to JF&CS as a permanent staffer, Alexis worked as a family-based senior clinician at Every Child, Inc., conducting family therapy to help parents provide the care necessary to meet their children's mental health needs. She has also worked in adoption and early childcare.
Alexis earned a bachelor's degree of science in Human Development and Family Studies from the Pennsylvania State University and a master's degree in social work from the University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work.