WHO IS MANNY
Manuel Gilman Batshaw was born in Montreal in 1915 to
Russian parents who moved to Canada in 1903. His story is not dissimilar to
those of the many Jewish immigrants who fled Europe between 1880 and the onset
of the Great War, one of great courage, hard work and a driving desire to
survive and succeed.
Manny was the youngest of 4 children. His father Tuvieh,
affectionately known as Moses at the Canadian National Railroad (where he worked
for fifty years), and his mother Golda, known for her community spirit, quickly
became “upwardly-mobile” as they worked, saved and raised their family. Manny’s
oldest brother, Harry, became the first Jewish Superior Court Judge. Manny soon
made his own mark as a soft-spoken and highly determined leader in the field of
Social Welfare. Manny graduated from McGill in 1937 and served in the army as
District Social Service Officer. Manny quickly rose through the ranks to become
captain. In 1940 he married Rachel Lewitt, a fellow social worker. As Manny
recalls, Rachie was the unsung hero of his life and was instrumental in her
support of his career. They had a child together, Mark, who has distinguished
himself in the field of pediatric care and child development.
From 1968 to 1980 Manny held the prestigious post of
Executive Director of the Federation AJCS which in 1992 changed its name to the
Federation CJA of today.
A highpoint of this period, which in child welfare circles
was to become known as the “Batshaw era”, was the preparation, in 1975, by Manny
and his team of the “Batshaw Committee Report’’. This ground-breaking report,
through its innovative analysis and conclusions, was to change the way people
viewed children with problems and the way children in care were treated. For
instance, the Batshaw Report led to a change whereby a child not be placed in an
institution when foster care would be more appropriate. It created more humane
environments too, stipulating that a child not be isolated for days when a 30
minute “time out” would suffice. It emphasized opening institutions up to the
family and community. Taken together the Batshaw Report ushered in an era where
the needs of the child were given more priority, setting aside the old “one
institution fits all” model.
One of the committee recommendations at that time was that
regional authorities be created to look after children and youth in difficulty.
A change to the Health and Social Services Act in 1992 acted on this. In every
region in Québec the child serving institutions were put under the authority of
one board. In Montréal two such groupings were created, one to serve
francophones, the other to serve the English-speaking community. This is how in
1992, Ville Marie Social Services Centre, Shawbridge Youth Centres , Youth
Horizons and Mount St. Patrick Youth Centre became the Batshaw Youth and Family
Centres. The new organization also received the mandate to serve the Jewish
community. The choice of name was obvious: who else to name this new entity
after than Manny Batshaw the man who inspired these changes.
In 1990, after the death of Rachel Batshaw, Manny married
his second wife, Ruth Schleien, a long-time volunteer of the Federation CJA.
Together, they established the annual “Ruth and Manny Batshaw Award of
Excellence” which recognizes a Batshaw employee who has demonstrated excellence
in his or her accomplishments.
Having retired at the age of 65, Manny became a personal
adviser to Charles Bronfman on Jewish affairs; he held that post until 1997.
Manny’s refined understatement proved to be a great complement to the ever
pragmatic philanthropist Charles Bronfman.
Manny has been honoured with numerous tributes and awards
over the years including (and in no particular order) The Samuel Bronfman Medal
for Outstanding Community Service, the Jerusalem Foundation of Canada’s Honoree,
President of the Montreal branch of the National Association of Social Workers,
Honorary Executive Vice-President of Federation CJA, named Hattan Torah by the
Shaar Hashomayim Congregation in Montreal, the Order of Quebec as well as the
Order of Canada and an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by McGill University.
At 92, Manny is still as sprightly and energetic as ever.
At the centennial celebrations for the Boys’ Farm and Training School (Shawbridge),
now an integral part of the Batshaw Youth and Family Centres, Manny gave a
heart-warming speech as he thanked everyone who contributed to the success of
Shawbridge. Manny praised the children at the center, encouraging them and
thanking them for all their hard work. Those present were touched by the energy
and passion of the speech, as evidenced by a fulsome round of applause.
Shawbridge’s centennial was a special day made even more memorable by its
Based in part on the biography “Manny Batshaw: Architect of
a community” by Joel Yanofsky published in 1999.