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Our Town by William Kelly: Palm Beach Fellowship honors William Meyer with Randolph Award

The Palm Beach Fellowship of Christians & Jews has recognized William A. Meyer, a prominent business executive, philanthropist, and community leader, with its John C. Randolph Award for 2024.

Meyer, a longtime resident and a Palm Beach Civic Association director since 2014, received the honor at the Fellowship’s Annual Dinner Thursday at The Beach Club. About 180 people attended.

Meyer is a past chairman of the Quantum Foundation and past chairman of the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, where he has been a member of the Board of Trustees for 18 years.

He is chairman of the investment and fundraising committees of the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County, where he is leading an effort to raise $250 million.

Meyer is on the board of the Arthur I. Meyer Jewish Academy, a preparatory school he co-founded with his father.

Margaret Zeidman, vice chairwoman of the Fellowship of Christians & Jews, said Meyer is a pillar of the community, a friend, and an inspiration to others.

“This man is immeasurably accomplished, admired by all who know him and know of him,” Zeidman said. “He is the person you go to for advice. The person who gets things done.”

Meyer has worked to ensure that the Anti-Defamation League’s No Place for Hate program has a foothold as an educational model in more than 1,800 schools, Zeidman said.

“Describing Bill’s achievements in a few minutes is like trying to summarize “War and Peace” in a Tweet,” she said. “It can’t be done.”

A second-generation hotelier with more than 40 years of experience, Meyer is chairman of Meyer Jabara Hotels, headquartered in Danbury, Connecticut, and West Palm Beach.

Meyer grew up in New York’s Westchester County. He graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the London School of Economics and Georgetown Law School. He became a member of the New York and Florida bars and a specialist in real property law with a New York City law firm. He later graduated from Harvard Business School.

Meyer said he is deeply grateful to be presented with the Randolph Award, which is named for the chairman and founder of the Fellowship of Christians & Jews. The award has since 2004 honored people who exemplify the mission of the fellowship, which was established in 1993 to bring people of different faiths and cultures together for a better understanding of one another.

As a resident of Palm Beach County for 45 years, Meyer said he has seen changes in how Christians and Jews interact on the island, a period when segregation has given way to greater acceptance and understanding.

“We have come from a very dark place in the 50s and 60s to a recognition that there is much more that binds us together than that which would pull us apart,” he said. “What I have witnessed is an acknowledgement that the Jewish residents in our community have made enormous contributions to the institutions that are part of our daily life. Among them are the Civic Association, the Citizens’ Association, the United Way, the Norton Museum, and the Kravis Center.”

The Fellowship has devoted 30 years to bringing Jews and Christians together. “It has let us get to know one another as individuals, rather than as stereotypes,” he said.

Despite the progress that’s been made, Meyer said Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel was a wakeup call for Jews everywhere.

“The aftermath of October 7 completely changed the psyche of every Jew in America,” he said. “The antisemitism that we all thought was subsiding became all too real. I became fearful for the first time in 40 years as a Palm Beach resident.”

Meyer said he asked fellow Jewish community leaders if it was safe to continue to have their names and faces published in the local newspaper in support of Jewish causes. He feared that they and their families could become targets for hatred and violence.

“The leaders of the local Jewish community decided we had to stand up to hate and extremism and call out the violence and antisemitism,” he said. “For 30 years, the Fellowship has felt that same way.”

The United States has reached an inflection point in its long battle against bigotry toward minorities, Meyer said. Jews and Christians should tell our political leaders, university presidents, local school boards and clergy to speak out against antisemitism.

“Organizations like the Fellowship need to modernize their approach,” he said. “They have to realize that social media is where the battle will be won and lost with the youth of today and tomorrow.”

During her introduction of Meyer, Zeidman said Christians and Jews can’t be silent and must continue to stand side by side.

“That is a commitment that this organization makes,” she said.

 

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