Director Eric Meyer of Duke’s Center for Jewish Studies remembers his uncle Marshall as the babysitter who would take him to the Dartmouth campus, where Meyer was finishing his undergraduate degree. But thousands of Argentines remember Marshall Meyer as a man who stood up for their rights and saved hundreds of lives in the 1970s.
One such person is Débora Benchoam, the second-youngest person to be arrested by the Argentine security forces during the so-called Dirty War. In 1977, Argentine soldiers killed her teen-aged brother and took Benchoam, then 16, prisoner. In a 2009 panel discussion at Duke to celebrate Meyer’s life, Benchoam recounted her experiences with rape and physical abuse while she was in prison. Meyer, then the rabbi of the Comunidad Bet El, visited her often and advocated for her release.
Benchoam said that when she was free and prepared to leave Argentina, Meyer gave her the advice that changed her life. “As we waited to board the airplane, he told me to tell my story as a way of making sure that people knew what had happened in Argentina and who was responsible,” Benchoam said. Benchoam is now a lawyer with the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights and works to protect human rights in the Americas.
Through the generosity of Naomi Meyer, Marshall’s widow, Rabbi Meyers’ papers were deposited at the Duke Archive for Human Rights, a 47,850-item collection that includes personal and professional correspondence, writings and photos, as well as audio and videotapes.