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Granted, Michael Benarroch has enjoyed a top-flight academic career, but surely what is he is best-known for is coaching the Gray Academy varsity boys basketball team in 2010-11. Here he is with members of that top-ranked Gray Academy Varsity squad in January 2011: Seated (l-r): Josh Kerr and Shea Garber. Standing (l-r): Asher Billinkoff, Keenan Benarroch, Griffin Bernstein, Michael Benarroch (Coach), Jeremy Hecht, Max Erenberg, Josh Donen, Avichai Stoller and Ariel Melamedoff. Missing: Raffey Levitt Pinsky, Aden Benarroch (Assistant Coach) and Brayden Bernstein (Assistant Coach).


The University of Manitoba plays a prominent role in the Nov. 27  issue of The Jewish Post & News.
Originally there was going to be only one story centering on that institution – about the Judaic Studies program and the interest that various individuals associated with that program have in bringing new life to it. (See next article.)
But then we received word that Michael Benarroch has been selected as the next president of the University of Manitoba (

It was only two years ago that we bade a somewhat sad farewell to Michael and his wife, Kim Bailey, as Michael took up a new position as provost and vice-president at Ryerson University in Toronto.
As a member of the well-known Benarroch family here, Michael’s name has appeared in our paper quite frequently over the years but, to my surprise, one of the longest articles we have had about him was written by Harvey Rosen in 2011.
At the time Michael was the coach of the very successful Gray Academy varsity boys’ basketball team.
Following is an edited excerpt from that article:



How about Michael Benarroch, the dean of the Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Winnipeg?
“He’s a great guy and a great coach,” said (Jamie) Kagan (the head of phys ed at Gray Academy) enthusiastically. “He’s volunteering his time. The school can’t ask for anything more. He’s a great parent-volunteer. If the school had more like him, it would be an even better place.
“Michael is a grad of Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate. I believe they won a provincial championship when he was there. It was a single-A classification at the time because of its smaller size. He was a very good basketball player in his day - like most of the Benarroch family.”
A phone call to the dean’s Mathers Bay West residence revealed that Michael hadn’t just a passing interest in the hoops game; he was literally steeped in it.
“I have been involved in basketball for a large part of my life,” he confirmed. “I coached after I graduated from high school; then I refereed for a long time. I did senior men and senior women’s and a bit in college while working on my Ph.D in Ottawa.”
He concurred that the sport was not an easy game to officiate and appeared moderately surprised that I suggested that it was. “Yes, it is a tough game to ref because the whistle blows a lot. There are many out of bounds, fowls, and other violations. You really have to understand the game at a different level. You try not to influence the game because it has to be fair to both teams and hope no one is gaining an advantage,” he explained.
A large part of Michael’s interest and motivation for the sport is that he is on the family plan. “I’ve always loved basketball and it turned out that my kids started to play around Grade seven; so I started coaching in the River Heights Community league and a little bit in Fort Garry.
“When my eldest son Aden got to Grade 10 five years ago I started coaching my other son Keenan (now with the team) who also plays with the Manitoba Magic in a Rising Stars league. I started there as an assistant coach and then the last couple years I’ve been coaching that team also. Two summers ago I coached the JCC Maccabi team when they went to New York,” he concluded.
“The game has become much more complex. The coaching is much more sophisticated as are the offences, defenses, and mechanics of the game. The level is much higher. I have to spend a great deal of time educating myself too. I’ve gone to clinics because, luckily, in Winnipeg we have Basketball Manitoba. Slowly, over time, I have been rebuilding my knowledge. It’s pretty competitive now with a lot more university players coaching now.”
When queried as to where he finds the time to be so involved in the hoops game, he related that “When I took this job as dean I said to the vice president that I am willing to give up a lot, but I really want to keep coaching for a few more years.”
I recall Kagan back in 2009 explaining to me that basketball at Gray Academy instills a sense of pride in its players that lasts forever. “Once you play you stay.”
It figures, doesn’t it, Michael?

All right – so the question now needs to be asked: Will soon-to-be president of the University of Manitoba Michael Benarroch return to his prior role as a very successful basketball coach or is he going to be satisfied taking on a much-less challenging role as president of a university?
After all, Mark Treastman graduated with a law degree, but chose to become a football coach rather than practice law. It’s not too late, Michael, to return to your true passion: basketball.
Seriously though, it’s a point of pride for our Jewish community that, in the 140-year history of the University of Manitoba, which has had only 14 presidents in that time, Michael Benarroch will now be the third Jewish president of that university (the other two being Ernest Sirluck (1970-76) and Arnold Naimark (1981-96).
Considering that the University of Manitoba (like many other universities in the 1930s and 40s) for years had a quota (from 1932-45) placed on the number of Jewish students it would allow into the medical school, you can say that particular institution has come a long way.
Beginning with the appointment of the late Samuel Freedman as chancellor of the university (in 1959), the U of M has knocked down all the barriers that used to be in place for both Jewish students and teachers.

At the same time I can’t help but wonder how things are for Jewish students at both the University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg when it comes to either showing support for Israel or wearing a kippah. As our report about a meeting that turned violent at York University this past week shows, it can be dangerous for students at some Canadian universities to do either of those two things.
By the time this appears there will have been a meeting organized by Winnipeg Friends of Israel and Bridges for Peace, the purpose of which is to discuss anti-Semitism on Canadian university campuses. Given what’s just happened at York University, it would certainly be interesting to hear what the situation is like at other Canadian campuses.
I recall attending an event some years ago when a University of Winnipeg student described how uncomfortable she felt when one of her professors was constantly criticizing Israel in one of that student’s classes, but she didn’t know how to react.
To be honest, I haven’t heard much about how things are here in Winnipeg in recent years. I know that, in 2013, largely through the efforts of Josh Morry at the time, the University of Manitoba Students Union voted to ban Israel Apartheid Week, while at the U of W, when Lloyd Axworthy was president, “Middle East Week” was created to serve as a way in which issues relating to the Middle East could be discussed in a collegial manner.
Also, students at both campuses, under the guidance of Hillel, have been holding “Israel Week” programs. We have not heard of any protests having occurred at either university in reaction to those programs.


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