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July 13, 1984 - Image 20

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-07-13

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

20t- Friday, July 13, 1984'

I 1 (at

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS'.

"

BY HENRY SREBRNIK
Special to The Jewish News

He is a forceful, robust man, an
American rabbi, trained at the
Jewish Theological Seminary in New
York, someone seemingly no differ-
ent from his comfortable audience at
Cong. Shatirey Zedek recently. But
he speaks about incredible atrocities
committed thousands of miles away,
and the large crowd knows he has
seen things they are lucky never to
have witnessed. The man is Marshall
Meyer, and he has come from Argen-
tina, another world.
He has lived in Buenos Aires,
that highly cosmopolitan city of 12
million with its spacious boulevards
and beautiful statues patterned after
Paris, with its 60 legitimate theaters
and world-famous opera house, since
1959. He has been ministering to the
Jews of the city, and of Argentina,
indeed of much of Latin America, on
behalf of the Conservative move-
ment.
.Rabbi Meyer, now 54 years old,
has much to be proud of: he has just
about single-handedly revitalized
the spiritual life of Argentine Jevvry.
This dynamic rabbi is the founder of a
rabbinical seminary training Con-
servative rabbis for the entire conti-
nent, the Seminario Rabinico
Latinoamericano; a Jewish day
school and Hebrew high school; and a
local Camp Ramah.. In a Jewish
community noted for its lack of re-
ligiosity, his synagogue, the.. Com-
unidad Bet El, has three rabbis and a
membership of 1,000 families. Dur-
ing the last Yom Kippur services it
attracted 3,000 predominantly
young people, with hundreds spilling
out into the streets. His youth move-
ment, he proudly notes, •has sent
more than 2,000 people on aliyah.
The seminarians and graduates of
his rabbinical academy last year led
services for 100,000 Jews in 50 com-
munities across South America at
the High Holidays; 30 other kehillot
are clamoring for rabbis, he adds.
Quite a record. And yet this is
not the reason Rabbi Meyer has ap-
peared in the New York TiMe.13,. the
Jerusalem Post, Hadassah Magazine,
and on CBS-TV's "60 Minutes." It is
not the reason he is addressing this
attentive audience.
The real reason he is here, and
will speak wherever there are those
willing to listen, is summed up in the
dedication at the front of Prisoner
Without. a Norne,', .0ell. , Without a

Number, Argentine newspaper
editor Jacobo Timerman's famous ac-
count of his 21/2years of jail and tor-
ture under the notorious military re-
gime that ran the country from
March 1976 to December 1983. It
reads: "TO Marshall Meyer. A rabbi
who brought comfort to Jewish,
Christian and atheist prisoners in
Argentine jails." And Timerman was
one of the lucky ones — he got out
alive and went to Israel. About
15,000 desaparecidos — missing per-
sons — disappeared without a. trace
during the military junta's "ditry
war" against what they considered
"internal subversion" and "interna-
tional Marxism." At least 1,500 of •

won, somewhat unexpectedly, by Dr.
Raul Alfonsin;a lawyer representing
the Radical Party. He defeated the
Peronistas, whose ties with the mili-
tary and anti-Semitic history made
them suspect, and to prove his good
faith Alfonsin appointed a national
commission to investigate the disap-
pearances. Though Rabbi Meyer is a
Jew, a rabbi, and not even a citizen of
the country, he was one of the ten
people selected by Alfonsin last De-
cember to investigate the crimes of
the previous regime. (There have al-
ready been some results: General
Roberto Viola, a member of the rul-
ing junta from 1978 to 1981, has re-
cently been arrested for his part in

Though a Jew, a rabbi,
and not even a citizen of
the country, Rabbi
Meyer was one of ten
people selected by
Alfonsin to investigate
the crimes of the
previous regime.

these unfortunates were Jews, in a
country where the entire Jewish
population now stands at • about
233,000 (Out of 28 million people).
Without defenders of human rights
like Rabbi. Meyer, that figure might
have been much higher.
It has been said that it is better
to light one candle than to curse the
darkness. Marsha! Meyer lit a large
candle in Argentina, in thP days
when darkness reigned, and people
were afraid even to curse. He has
seen some of his efforts bear fruit:
disgraced following the disastrous
Falklands war in 1982 and riddled
with corruption, the Argentine niili
tart' last October allowed free
presidential elections. They

the mass killings of the period.)
In a lengthy interview with The
Jewish News and in his speech at
Shaarey Zedek, Rabbi Meyer, his
voice often tinged with emotion, de-
scribed the barbarities perpetrated
by the military authorities before
1983.
"Hundreds upon hundreds of
young Jews were tortured to death,
cremated, dropped alive from.
helicopters over the Rio de la Plata.
There were over 300 concentration
camps, common graves with
thousands of bones. What do you tell
a mother 'or a father? Argentina
entered the jungle — a land with no
due process of law.
"A family could be having.

dinner, 10 o'clock at night. Suddenly
there is a banging on the door, six or
seven armed, non-uniformed men
break in, strike the husband and wife
with their rifle butts, blindfold them,
and wait for their son to come home
from an evening class at law school. ,
"Can you imagine the pain, the
indescribably agony, of not knowing
until today what happened to that
son? What do you do? Where do you
scream?
"Your brother doesn't want to
hear from you — he's got three sons of
his own, he's afraid. You go to a
lawyer. The lawyer says, 'Get out of
my office, or I may disappear.' Even
the psychiatrist or priest or rabbi is
unhappy at your presenee — you
might bring trouble. You have be-
come a pariah.
"So you start marching every
Thursday in front of government
house." Meyer was referring to the
Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo who
were "not only effective, but moved
the world. Many are Jewish. They
have traveled the world, they have
seen the Pope, President Carter and
others. They are heroines of the
entire repressive period. They, .along
with other battlers for human rights,
are responsible• for the Alfonsin
miracle."
Rabbi Meyer sees the roots of
what he 'termed "the military-
fascist-Nazi dictatorship" of 1976-
1983 in the return of the aged former -
dictator Juan Peron and his wife
Isabel in 1973. Peron had been ousted
in a coup. in 1955 but, incredibly,
managed to remain a moving force in
Argentine politics while in exile in
Madrid. "He opened hip umbrella so
wide, and promised everything to
both left and right," explained
Meyer. "But he was a dying man who
couldn't deliver the goods, and 'died
soon afterwards. His wife became
president, but the extreme left and
right started killing each other to see
who would get the spoils. The left ---
the Montoneros and the ERP
(People's Revolutionary Army) —
were anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist;
many had been trained by the PLO.
In 1974-1975, in my, synagogue, we
buried six killed members by ter-
' rorists of the extreme left."
As a countermeature,, the right
formed the Argentine Anti-
Communist Alliance, the "Triple A."
These were "abaoluta downrightidl ,

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