The first time Jason Kunzman moved to Pittsburgh, he was struck by how his fellow Jews welcomed him and his family with open arms.

“We managed to find our way not only because of who we were but in large part because of how supportive the Jewish community here was for us,” he told the Union Progress.

That was 2001. Fast forward to 2017, when Kunzman was given the opportunity to be the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh’s new chief program officer. He was living in Washington, D.C., at the time, but his desire to repay a “community that had given so much to me and my wife” led him back to Pittsburgh.

Kunzman is now on the verge of taking on even more responsibility at the JCC when he becomes its new president and CEO effective Sept. 1. Brian Schreiber, who has served in those positions at the JCC for almost 25 years, will transition into his new roles as chief external affairs officer and special adviser to the CEO.

“Jason has played an integral role in our growth at the JCC over the last six years,” Schreiber said in a statement to the Union Progress. “He has been an intelligent, inspirational leader, and thought and execution partner with me during his tenure as chief program officer.

“Jason’s enthusiasm for the JCC and close relationship with our staff, members and community made him a clear choice to carry this organization’s legacy into the future.  Jason’s proven track record will serve the community as he takes on this new role.”

Brian Schreiber, left, Meryl Ainsman and state Rep. Dan Frankel at the 2008 ribbon cutting for the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh’s new centerfit facility. (Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh)

Kunzman’s path to the JCC was far from linear. He earned his MBA from the University of Baltimore and began his career in 1994 as a police officer in Baltimore County, Md. In 1997, he moved to New York City for a forensic accounting job before relocating to Pittsburgh in 2001 to do similar work for Schneider Downs. About seven years later, he left Pittsburgh for D.C. and some health reform projects at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Kunzman was working in the private sector before the JCC came calling in 2017.

“I’ve done a little bit of a lot,” he said. “It never ceases to amaze me how bits and pieces of those previous roles and responsibilities come in handy on any given day [and] at any given time within an organization such as the JCC.”

Two major events have defined Kunzman’s tenure as the JCC’s chief program officer: the 2018 synagogue shooting in Squirrel Hill and the COVID-19 pandemic. On Oct. 27, 2018, Kunzman came out of a JCC spin class to find that Schreiber was blowing up his phone. He immediately became “deeply involved” in transforming the Squirrel Hill location into a “community and family reunification center.”

Over the ensuing weeks, Kunzman worked with the FBI to set up a family assistance center in the JCC and establish the 10.27 Healing Partnership, an organization founded to support Pittsburgh synagogue shooting survivors and victims’ loved ones that recently announced its intention to operate through 2028 despite its federal funding being set to expire in September.

As for the impacts of COVID-19 on the JCC, Kunzman said the JCC’s membership base shrunk by 52% at its lowest point. Three years later, the JCC is currently back to about 85% of its pre-COVID membership, according to Kunzman. He is worried, though, that even those previous membership levels “will not be sufficient” to keep the JCC firing on all cylinders given the “high inflationary environment we are facing right now.”

Jason Kunzman, left, the future president and CEO of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, poses with JCC staff in 2019. (Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh)

At this point, Kunzman is in “learn as fast as I possibly can mode” so he’s fully up to speed come Sept. 1. There are a few tall tasks he’ll have to address right away as president and CEO, but he derives confidence from his six years working closely with Schreiber and observing how he goes about performing the duties of such a demanding job.

“The partnership that Brian and I have forged exceeded my wildest expectations,” Kunzman said. “Brian leads humbly, graciously and transparently. … It is always community first with Brian, and I think it is why the JCC has become perceived to be such a valuable community resource not only for the Jewish community but for the broader greater Pittsburgh community.”

Some of Kunzman’s early goals as president and CEO include forming a “more explicit relationship” between the JCC’s fitness center and Pittsburgh’s health community; taking advantage of the JCC’s Center for Loving Kindness to help engage members in larger conversations; and ensuring all JCC-run sites are equipped to best serve the city’s neurodiverse population, such as the improvements being made to its Family Park in Monroeville thanks to a $2 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant.

Kunzman believes that an “engaged and inspired staff” is the most integral way to ensure the JCC continues to thrive as an institution. Ideally, he would love the JCC to be considered “the best place to work in all of Pittsburgh.”

Overall, he expects that there is “going to be a lot more of the same” going on at the JCC under his regime. Kunzman sees the JCC as being “in the business of building community,” and he’s ready and raring to continue that mission as president and CEO.

“I’m jazzed,” he said. “I am 100% committed to doing the very best that I can each and every day. … The JCC has been around for 128 years. We plan on being around for at least another 128 years.”

Joshua covers pop culture, media and more at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Contact him at

Joshua Axelrod

Joshua covers pop culture, media and more at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Contact him at