Marshall T. Meyer papers, 1902-2004 and undated, bulk 1984-1993
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- Meyer, Marshall T.
- Marshall T. Meyer was an activist rabbi who worked in Argentina during the period of the Dirty War/El Proceso (mid 1970s to mid 1980s). The papers of Marshall T. Meyer span the years 1919-2004. The collection contains personal and professional correspondence from throughout Meyer's career as a religious leader and human rights activist; his published and unpublished writings and speeches; printed material collected by Meyer; Meyer's working and research files organized by geography, organizations, people, and subject; personal files, including appointment books, biographical material, papers from Meyer's school days, photographs, memorabilia, and material documenting his numerous engagements; audio tapes and cassettes of Meyer's services, interviews, lectures, and other events; and Betacam and VHS videocassette recordings of interviews and other public appearances by Meyer.
- 63.8 Linear Feet
Approx. 48,900 Items
- Material in English, Spanish, and Hebrew
- Collection ID:
- Scope and content:
The papers of Marshall T. Meyer span the years 1919-2004. The collection contains personal and professional correspondence from throughout Meyer's career as a religious leader and human rights activist; his published and unpublished writings and speeches; printed material collected by Meyer; Meyer's working and research files organized by geography, organizations, people, and subject; personal files, including appointment books, biographical material, papers from Meyer's school days, photographs, memorabilia, and material documenting his numerous engagements; audio tapes and cassettes of Meyer's services, interviews, lectures, and other events; and Betacam and VHS videocassette recordings of interviews and other public appearances by Meyer.
The collection contains extensive evidence of Meyer's activities and interests, especially those he engaged in during his tenure at Comunidad Bet el in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and then at B'nai Jeshurun in New York City. The files document Meyer's professional activities, including his often over-lapping roles as religious leader, scholar, and human rights activist. Much of the material in the collection reflects Meyer's devotion and commitment to a socially and politically engaged Conservative Judaism and his involvement with Jewish communities around the world. Meyer was particularly involved in calling attention to human rights violations and working with the victims of violent political oppression in South and Central America in the 1970s and 1980s and then in Palestine, Israel, and the Middle East in the 1990s. Meyer's extensive involvement and leadership in national and international religious, peace, and human rights organizations such as the World Council of Churches are also well-represented, as is his life-long association with his alma maters, Dartmouth College and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
The Correspondence Series contains letters in English and Spanish written and received by Meyer (additional correspondence is also contained in Meyer's research files and electronic files). Significant correspondents include Louis Finkelstein, Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Shalom Spiegel.
The Writings and Speeches Series holds Meyer's original compositions in English, Spanish, and Hebrew. These compositions include various literary genres (op-eds, newspaper articles, essays) as well as speeches, addresses, and sermons.
The Research Files Series is subdivided into four categories: Geographic, Organizations, People, and Subject. These files may contain correspondence, notes, printed material, writings, and ephemera. The most common themes that run through this series include human rights, Jewish life, rabbinic education, Latin American Jewry, the Middle East, and Argentina's "Disappeared." The Research Files Series displays a deeper level of intellectual involvement by Meyer (e.g. annotations on printed material, categorizing and filing, integration of correspondence)
The Printed Material Series includes newspapers, clippings, monographs, and serials that Meyer collected over the years. Subjects cover similar territory as the research files. Unlike the Research Files, this material is generally not annotated and was less organized.
The Teaching Material Series contains material from classes taught by Meyer.
The Personal Files Series includes material largely outside the scope of Meyer's professional work: photos, memorabilia, schoolwork, and appointment books.
Video and audio recordings of Meyer's engagements are found in the Audiovisual Material Series. These include lectures, speeches, interviews, television appearances, and religious services. Originals of video and audio tape are closed to use. Patrons must request use copies to access the content of the material.
The Condolences Series contains cards and notes expressing sympathy on Meyer's death. Many of these contain testimonials and reminiscences of his role as rabbi and activist.
Finally, the Electronic Files Series contains transcriptions of documents authored by or related to Meyer, many of which overlap with the content of and the Correspondence, Writings and Speeches, Teaching Material, and Audiovisual Materials Series.
- Biographical / historical:
Chronology List Date Event 1930 Born in Brooklyn, raised in Norwich, Conn. 1952 Graduated from Dartmouth College 1958 Ordained rabbi at Rabbinical School of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America 1959 Appointed rabbi of Congregacíon Israelita in Buenos Aires, Argentina 1962 Founded Seminario Rabinico Latinoamericano in Buenos Aires 1963 Founded Comunidad Bet El in Buenos Aires, Argentina 1983 Awarded medal of San Martin by Argentine President Raul Alfonsin 1984 Appointed to National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons (CONADEP) 1984 Returned to New York City to head congregation B'nai Jeshurun 1993 Died of cancer in New York City at age 63
Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer was a progressive and activist rabbi who expounded a politically engaged Conservative Judaism. For Meyer, religion was inseparable from his politics, which spanned the breadth of local, national, and international arenas.
Meyer received his education from Dartmouth and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where he came under the influence of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. After being ordained rabbi in 1958, Meyer and his family moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1959, where they were to stay until 1984. During his tenure as rabbi of Comunidad Bet El, Meyer led the reinvigoration and renaissance of Argentina's Jewish community. He also lived and worked through the political upheavals and turmoil of the 1970s and 1980s, openly speaking out against the human rights abuses perpetrated under the rule of the military junta, and visiting and attempting to secure the release of prisoners ("the disappeared") in clandestine jails. Meyer was instrumental in negotiating the release of Jacobo Timerman, who later dedicated his work, Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number to Meyer. After the return of democracy to Argentina in 1983, Argentine President Raul Alfonsin recruited Meyer to serve on CONADEP (National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons), which led a national investigation to establish the extent of the abuses suffered under the military junta.
Meyer returned to the United States in 1984 and took over the helm of congregation B'nai Jeshurun, reviving the decaying New York City synagogue and transforming it into a dynamic center for Judaism in the United States. Meyer advocated for intra-religious dialogue and peace efforts, the plight of marginalized groups within the United States, human rights abuses in Central America (El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala), and for peace and respect for human rights in Israel and Palestine.
- Acquisition information:
- The Marshall T. Meyer Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as a gift in 2004.
- Processing information:
Processed by Loren Crippin, Christian Ferney, Maria Perales, and Patrick Stawski, May 2008
Encoded by Loren Crippin, Christian Ferney, Paula Jeannet, Maria Perales, Patrick Stawski, May 2008
Accessions 2004-0336 and 2006-0103 were merged into one collection, described in this finding aid.
Accession 2011-0005 processed and encoded by Jen Snow, 2012
Videotapes processed and encoded by Clare Callahan, July 2012
Electronic records reprocessed by Matthew Farrell, March 2015
- Rules or conventions:
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Click on terms below to find related finding aids on this site. For other related materials in the Duke University Libraries, search for these terms in the Catalog.
- Restorative justice -- Argentina
Judaism and social problems
Judaism -- 20th century
Victims of state-sponsored terrorism -- Argentina
State-sponsored terrorism -- Argentina
Human Rights -- Middle East
Human Rights -- Palestine
Human Rights -- Religious aspects -- Judaism
Human Rights -- South America
Disappeared persons -- Argentina
Human Rights -- Argentina
Human Rights -- Israel
Human Rights -- Latin America
Jews -- Argentina
Human rights workers
- World Council of Churches
Seminario Rabínico Latinoamericano
Dartmouth College -- Alumni and alumnae
Argentina. Comisión Nacional sobre la Desaparición de Personas
Jewish Theological Seminary of America
Human Rights Archive (Duke University)
Meyer, Marshall T.
- Latin America -- Politics and government -- 20th century
Argentina -- Politics and government -- 20th century
South America -- Politics and government -- 20th century
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[Identification of item], Marshall T. Meyer Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University