Meet the Friendship Circle Team


Rabbi Mordy Rudolph

Executive Director

Rabbi Mordy graduated high school at Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh, and studied in London, England, and Tzfat, Israel, before receiving his Rabbinic ordination from the Rabbinical College of America at Morristown. He initiated The Friendship Circle together with his wife Rivkee, in September 2006.

Rivkee Rudolph


Rivkee graduated high school at Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh, and continued studies at Seminary Chaya Mushka in Tzfat, Israel. She taught several years of pre-school both here in Pittsburgh, and in Brooklyn, New York, before initiating The Friendship Circle of Pittsburgh together with her husband, Rabbi Mordy Rudolph, in September 2006.


Sara Pelikan Cato

Director of Operations

Sara joined The Friendship Circle in 2018. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and her Masters of Education in Early Intervention with a concentration in Special Education from the University of Pittsburgh. Sara is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Her primary responsibilities include programming and administrative support as well as staff development and overseeing daily operations. Sara is excited to be a part of the Friendship Circle family and looks forward to supporting its mission within the Pittsburgh community.

Adina Waren

Program Director

Adina graduated high school at Yeshiva Schools and continued to study education at Beit Chana Teachers Seminary in Israel. She has much experience coordinating programs for summer camps and Hebrew schools before joining the Friendship Circle team in 2013.

Julia Averbach

Member Relations Manager

Julia is a Pittsburgh native and 2015 graduate of Ohio University. Her passion for The Friendship Circle began during her teenage years as a volunteer and continued to grow as she worked as part of our Program Staff. As a teenager, Julia served on the Teen Leadership Board and participated in many programs such as Friends at Home and Creative Arts Club. After graduating from college, her passion for The Friendship Circle family and our mission led her home to Squirrel Hill.

Gila Zimbovsky

Office Manager

Gila joined The Friendship Circle of Pittsburgh in 2016 to continue her passion for social service. Before moving to Squirrel Hill in 2013, Gila worked in various communities in states such as Illinois, Florida, and New Jersey. Previously, she has worked for various organizations, including the University of Illinois Chabad Center for Jewish Life, The Friendship Circle of MetroWest New Jersey, and the Haifa Rape Crisis Center in Israel. Most recently, Gila has served the Pittsburgh Jewish Community through the Chabad of Fox Chapel. With The Friendship Circle of Pittsburgh, Gila is excited to be a part of our growing family and continue working to serve the local community.

Paige Eddy

Friends on the Town Coordinator

Paige recently moved to the great city of Pittsburgh from her hometown of Mount Laurel, NJ. In August of 2018, she graduated from Temple University with her Master’s Degree in Recreational Therapy. After interning for Baltimore City Recreation and Parks and co-leading a recreational group for Temple students with autism, she felt inspired to continue work in an inclusive community setting. Paige believes that people of all abilities should be brought together in their community through fun times and friendship.

Ann Grandinetti

Development Associate

Ann was born and raised in the Pittsburgh area. She completed her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Pittsburgh, and her master’s degree is in Public Administration and Non-Profit Management. Working at an organization like the Friendship Circle, which serves the community in such a vibrant way, is why she went to school for non-profit administration in the first place. She is ecstatic about this amazing opportunity!


Leighann Calamera

Development Associate

Leighann grew up in the South Hills of Pittsburgh and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor’s degree in English Writing. She worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for nine years before ultimately deciding to pursue a new worthwhile career. Leighann joined our team in 2018 and is thrilled to combine two passions of hers – writing and community service – in her grant writing and development position. She is thankful to be able to contribute in part to the incredible work FC does for the community and help support its mission of inclusion.

Emily Vogt

Friends on the Town Associate and Clubs Coordinator

Emily graduated from Goshen College in August 2017 with a degree in P-12 Education. She moved to Highland Park in September as part of the PULSE program, spending a year serving the city of Pittsburgh. Emily is so excited to serve at The Friendship Circle and to help further their mission of enriching the lives of all participants through mutually advantageous interactions.

Hayli Firtell

Teen Member Coordinator

Hayli graduated from Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh and continued studying at Machon Shoshanat Seminary in Jerusalem. She volunteered for Friendship Circle while being in High School. After a year spent in Israel she decided to come back to her hometown and give back to the community. Hayli is so excited to be part of this incredible team at Friendship Circle.


Alexa Dines

Program Coordinator

Alexa grew up in Squirrel Hill and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg with an undergraduate degree in Psychology. She is attending Saint Vincent College to obtain her master’s degree in School Counseling. She began her journey with Friendship Circle in high school as a volunteer and attended programs such as Cooking Club, Winter Camp and Sunday Circle. She is thrilled about returning to the Friendship Circle Family!


Cara Paolicelli

Program Associate and Office Assistant Coordinator

Cara is placed at The Friendship Circle through an Americorps program called Pittsburgh Public Allies, which is sponsored by CORO Pittsburgh. She is from Chapel Hill, North Carolina and she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in May of 2018 with a Bachelor’s degree in Recreation Therapy. Cara is very passionate about working with people of all abilities, and is motivated to work toward decreasing stigmas and advocating for inclusion in her community! Cara loves to eat sweets, shop at Tj Maxx, and hang out with her friends! She is planning on getting her Master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh. She is looking forward to what is to come while she is the Office Assistant Coordinator at The Friendship Circle!


Esti Weiss

Front Desk Associate


Our Board of Directors

Professional Advisor

Dr. Laura Marshak


Dr. Tracy Prizant-Levy


Amy Spear


Alan Gordon


Dorothy Pollon


Michael Bernstein
David Goldberg
Ina Gumberg
Lee Hurwitz
Kathy Klein
Mollie Hanna Lang
Aaron Morgenstern
Natalie Moritz
Andrew Rabin
Geri Cohen Recht
Steve Silverman
Cindy Vayonis




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Recent blog posts

And You Shall Live

A WEEKLY TORAH THOUGHT FROM RABBI MORDY No amount of Rabbinical School training prepares you for a week like this past one. The amount of numbness, emotions, sadness, love, shock, awe, mourning, and support has been overwhelming for many and the days ahead will likely prove to be overwhelming as well. In truth, I should leave it this week saying… Read More

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FOTT Art Night by: Mark Sulkin

Last night at Friendship Circle, we did, FOTT Art. It was a lot of fun. We learned how to make sculptures out of aluminum foil and different colored fabric. A woman named Teresa talked to us about an artist who made sculptures like that. The sculpture I made was a worm. I started rolling the aluminum foil into the shape… Read More

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Our Mission

The Friendship Circle of Pittsburgh was established in 2006 with the intention of creating a more inclusive community. Our programs engage youth and adults with diverse abilities in a full range of social activities; we aim to enrich the lives of all participants through mutually advantageous interactions, creating lasting friendships that strengthen both the Jewish and greater communities.

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