Manuel Gilman Batshaw (Manny) was an influential and well-respected Montreal social worker, who helped found Batshaw Youth and Family Centres.
Batshaw’s parents, Tuvieh Batshaw and Golda Batshaw (née Gelman), immigrated to Montreal from Russia in 1903. He was the youngest of four sons, and the family had a very limited income. While his father worked outside of the home, Batshaw’s mother ran a small grocery store from their living room.
In 1942, Batshaw volunteered for the Canadian Armed Forces, where he attained the rank of Captain. After the war he was invited to become the Executive Director of the Red Cross in Montreal. Between 1947 and 1968, he lived in Philadelphia, Hamilton, Atlanta, Newark, New Jersey and New York. Then, the Allied Jewish Community Services (AJCS) asked him to return to Montreal to be their Executive Director; Batshaw agreed, remaining in that position until 1980.
During the AJCS’s “Batshaw Era,” fundraising increased five-fold, the organization expanded and many buildings, such as Cummings House, were built. Following the implementation of Bill 65, Batshaw made it his personal mission to look after his people and to reassure the community about their place in Montreal. He insisted on making it the right of all Jewish children to have a Jewish education, he helped to integrate the Francophone Sephardic population into the AJCS, he organized trips for students to visit Israel, and in the face of possible Quebec separation (when many Anglophone Jews were leaving the province), he fought for French immersion education in Jewish schools. His compassion was felt far beyond the walls of AJCS.
In 1974, following The Montreal Gazette’s story detailing the maltreatment of children in a welfare institution in La Prairie, Batshaw’s recommendations on institutional change were published in the local newspapers, and soon after, almost all of them were implemented. Batshaw was then asked to spearhead a thorough examination of the province’s other institutions, which culminated in an 11-volume report informally titled The Batshaw Committee Report. This led to the enactment of Bill 24, Quebec’s Youth Protection Act. In 1993, when the five Anglophone child welfare institutions of Quebec amalgamated, the new name was an easy choice: Batshaw Youth and Family Centres.
After his retirement from AJCS in 1980, Batshaw joined Claridge Inc. at the request of his friend Charles Bronfman, as the Consultant on Philanthropy and Jewish Affairs. He retired from this position in 1998. Batshaw was honored for his trailblazing career with the Order of Quebec, as well as the Order of Canada, and an honorary degree of Doctor of Law by McGill University.