By Stacey Dresner
SPRINGFIELD – Michael Paysnick, who has spent 32 years at the Springfield Springfield Jewish Community Center – the past 12 of them as chief executive officer — has announced his plans to retire.
Paysnick, 67, originally hoped to retire by Sept. 30, but in light of Covid-19, he says he will be staying around as long as he is needed, until a new CEO is hired or until the end of the year.
A committee has been formed to assist in the search for a new CEO, chaired by Richard Goldstein and vice-chaired by Sally Schneider. The committee also includes Jonathan Goldsmith, Sue Kline, Betsy Bertuzzi, Harvey Schrage, Amy Anderlonis, Liz Cohen Rappaport, Lindsey Pratola and Adam Deutsch.
“We are confident that we will situate an effective CEO to lead us in the years to come,” said Jonathan Goldsmith, president of the Springfield JCC board of directors. “We are fiscally solid, known for our amazing programs, services and staff, as well as situated in a wonderful geographic location. As such, we are confident we will be hearing from many qualified applicants.”
Paysnick, who is a native of Cambridge, was actively involved in BBYO youth group, and that was one of the things that spurred him on to do Jewish communal work.
“I think it was my participation in BBYO and the people that I came in contact with there, and my mother, who was the president and interim executive director at our JCC in Cambridge, that really inspired me to go into this field.”
He attended Clark University, where he majored in psychology and education and got a masters degree in social work at University of Chicago.
Paysnick arrived at the Springfield JCC as assistant executive director in September of 1988. In 2008, he succeeded now executive director Emeritus Mark Dindas. During his tenure, Paysnick helped establish the J as the central meeting place of the Jewish and general community.
“Michael was instrumental in expanding existing programs as well as overseeing the initiation of new and creative programs and services, in a fiscally responsible manner,” said Goldsmith. “He successfully achieved the creation of the special needs program, Kehillah. He oversaw the expansion of the after school program and infant program in the Early Learning Center. In 2011, he achieved the successful hosting of the 2011 JCC Maccabi Games held at the Springfield JCC. During his time at the helm, Michael presided over numerous renovations and infrastructure improvements to the Center’s facility.”
The Springfield JCC received several recognition awards under Paysnick’s leadership, including one from Human Resources Unlimited (now Viability) who recognized the J for its employment practices of hiring individuals with special needs. The J also received the Brianna Award for its commitment to providing quality programs and services for individuals with special needs and their families. Michael is only the fourth executive in the J’s 65 years on Dickinson Street.
“I am truly honored to have been included in this incredible group of leaders who have helped to create a center of excellence and stability,” he said.
Paysnick also helped set the J on a path to financial sustainability, a goal achieved by working closely with the board of directors.
“My work with the board has always been a partnership in which our vision and goals have been developed together and shared,” Paysnick explained. “Their passion, support, and commitment to the J have inspired my work.”
Paysnick’s formula for accomplishing his leadership goals included a solid support staff.
“I believe in hiring the best people, giving them space to create, challenging their ideas, and then providing the support they need,” he said. “Involving stakeholders in the decision-making process is critical to success.”
While the tenure of many of the staff at the J is long, the tradition of the Springfield JCC serving as a launching ground for young professionals continued under Paysnick’s leadership. Many of those professionals who he supervised are now executives and leaders in not-for-profit agencies across the continent.
He further reflected on the timing of his retirement during “The Great Pandemic” – Covid-19 — a moment in history that could not have been imagined just a few months ago.
“I’m proud that the staff was able to make a huge transition quickly to continue serving our community in meaningful ways,” he said. “I am so appreciative that many of our members and those in the community continue to provide positive feedback about our efforts and financial support. The lay leadership and staff worked together beautifully to ensure our financial sustainability.”
“In addition to dutifully shepherding us through the Covid-19 pandemic, Michael also successfully led the J through the financial crisis of 2008-09,” added Goldsmith.
As a devoted volunteer himself, Paysnick has been honored by the Jimmy Fund with the Bob Cheyne Lifetime Commitment Award. Anyone who knows Michael Paysnick is aware of his dedication to the Jimmy Fund’s Pan-Mass Challenge. The 2020 bike ride from Sturbridge to Provincetown, his 23rd year, will be reimagined due to the pandemic.
“The ride is always the highlight of my summer,” Paysnick said. “As a cancer survivor, the ride provides an opportunity for me to support a cause I feel deeply about, to remember and honor so many family and friends who have had a cancer diagnosis and hope that my efforts in some small way will help eradicate this disease.”
When Paysnick officially retires, he plans to spend more time with his family — wife Beth, their three children, and two grandchildren – enjoying hobbies and travel.
Interviewed last week, Paysnick was planning the reopening of the J, following Gov. Charlie Baker’s Phase 3 of the reopening of the state. The staff was set to be trained on new protocols that week.
They announced the reopening on the evening of July 8.
“We are so appreciative of your support during this pandemic and excited to see you again,” Paysnick said in a message to members. “As with everything else in our lives, however, things will be different. Our leadership has carefully reviewed the guidance provided by the CDC, our state and local health departments and consulted with local physicians to prepare the protocols for the safe opening of our J. Our staff have been training to make your return safe and enjoyable.
“Likely, there will be bumps in the road as we open our J again. Thanks in advance for your patience and understanding,” Paysnick added. “We can’t wait to see you again.”