Leon Charney

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Leon H. Charney
Leon Charney.jpg
Born 1938 (age 75–76)
Bayonne, New Jersey, U.S.
Nationality United States
Ethnicity Jewish
Occupation Real Estate investor, talk-show host, author, cantor, philanthropist
Net worth Steady $1.3 Billion (Sept 2013)[1]
Religion Judaism
Spouse(s) Tzili Doron
Children Mickey Charney
Nati Charney
Website
The Leon Charney Report

Leon Charney is an American real estate tycoon, author, philanthropist, political pundit, media personality, and Jewish cantor. He lives in Manhattan in New York City, dividing his time between his residences in Tel Aviv and Boca Raton, Florida. As of March 2012, Forbes lists Charney as #353 among the wealthiest Americans. He is a graduate of Yeshiva University where he was known as "the gonche." At YU he participated in demonstrations to free Soviet Jewry.

Charney is best known as a New York real estate baron, but in recent years, his role as one of the backdoor players integral to sealing the Camp David Peace Treaty between Israel and Egypt has emerged. In 1979, Charney played an important role as the unofficial adviser to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, most well known for his behind-the-scenes role in the Camp David Accords which created the first comprehensive peace between Israel and Egypt in 1978 and 1979.

In 2008, some thirty years later, Charney, a major real estate owner in New York's Times Square, appeared for the first time on the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans, debuting at #321. The 2009 list[2] - the first to reflect the world financial crisis, indicates Charney's net worth had fallen in the previous year, although his rank had jumped to #296, up 35 notches, indicating that while he lost wealth, he lost comparatively less than other fellow billionaires. For 2010, Charney ranked #308 on the Forbes 400.[3]

Rise to prominence[edit]

At age 36 and a half, Charney, an aspiring entertainment lawyer in New York City, became counsel and adviser to Senator Vance Hartke of Indiana. Through Hartke, Charney became more involved in international politics and diplomacy. He became close to Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel, with whom Charney worked on Israel's initiative to free Soviet Jews and help them migrate to Israel.

That effort saw the emigration of 1,000 Jews from the Soviet Union to Israel. Later, United States President Jimmy Carter asked Charney to help advise him during the Camp David Accords. Charney refers to his efforts as using "back door channels", and he advised President Carter from 1976-1980. In a forward for one of Charney's books, Carter referred to Charney as "the unsung hero of the Camp David Peace Treaty."

In 1986 Charney went to Tunisia to meet with Yasser Arafat in the hope of a possible peaceful resolution of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.

The Back Door Channel[edit]

In 2009, Charney was a featured interviewee in a Harry Hunkele documentary film starring former U.S. President Jimmy Carter entitled Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace which is opening in the heart of the Arab world in Abu Dhabi in October, 2010 at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, also known as the Middle East International Film Festival. The film is the source of much buzz in the diplomatic sphere, as it is rumored that many never before revealed aspects of the original peace process were unveiled, some of which paint a less than rosy picture of American diplomatic efforts at the time. It has only been verified that the movie has been shown once, in Monte Carlo, due to a special request made by Albert II, Prince of Monaco, the President of the Festival, to Arick Wierson, the film's executive producer.

The film itself was a source of some controversy in New York political circles. The film deals with the 1979 Peace Treaty between Israel and Egypt and the real-life behind-the scenes drama that led to the historic peace treaty.[4] The film's title is actually an opaque reference to Charney himself, considered by many to be the "back door channel" that enabled the Camp David peace to materialize. In addition to Carter and Charney, the film features former Secretary-General of the U.N. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Dr. Henry Kissinger, the former U.S. Secretary of State, CNN's Wolf Blitzer, and Senior Adviser to the His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco, André Azoulay and many other international dignitaries who played roles both major and minor in the Israeli-Egyptian peace.

The film has also screened at the 2012 Jerusalem Film Festival[5] and the 2012 Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. [6]

The Charney Report[edit]

Charney hosts a national weekly TV talk show Leon Charney Report which deals with local New York politics, foreign affairs and the Middle East, social issues and popular culture. Although his show has been seen weekly on WNYE-TV for years, in recent years it has gained ground since the station became nyctv in 2005, after New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg took control of the school system and enabled his top media executive Arick Wierson, to merge the stations with the existing nyctv cable channels. Via nyctv The Charney Report began podcasting its audio version on NPR and began a nationally syndicated the audio component as radio programming.

Since February 7, 2010, the Leon Charney Report has only broadcast repeats of previous shows.

As an author[edit]

Charney is the author of four books, his most recent on The Mystery of the kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, which was published in December 2006 by Barricade Books.[7][8] The book is The Mystery of the Kaddish: Its Profound Influence on Judaism, ISBN 1-56980-300-5 (hardcover), ISBN 1-56980-347-1 (paperback).

Personal life[edit]

Charney holds an honorary title as the Chairman of the University of Haifa in Israel. Although not considered to be overtly religious, Charney is a renowned Jewish cantor, singing on Sabbaths and Holy Jewish Holidays at places of worship across the United States. He is married to Israeli-born Tzili Doron and with her he has two twin boys, Mickey and Nati. Doron is a first cousin of Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli. Charney has close ties to Israel through his sister Bryna Blumenreich Dryer, who lives in Raanana Israel along with her children.

Philanthropy[edit]

In 2003, Charney donated $10 million to New York University Medical Center for a new cardiac wing of the hospital.[9] He is also the major benefactor of the University of Haifa's Leon H. Charney School of Marine Sciences,[10] for which he reportedly donated more than $10 Million in 2007.

References[edit]

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