Prager in 2018
|Born||August 2, 1948|
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Alma mater||Brooklyn College|
|Spouse(s)||Janice Prager (m. 1981–1986)|
Francine Stone (m. 1988–2005)
Susan Reed (m. 2008)
|This article is part of a series on|
the United States
Dennis Mark Prager (//; born August 2, 1948) is an American conservative radio talk show host and writer. His initial political work concerned Soviet Jews who were unable to emigrate. He gradually began offering more and broader commentary on politics. His views generally align with social conservatism. He founded PragerU, an American non-profit organization that creates videos on various political, economic, and philosophical topics from a conservative perspective.
Early life and education
Dennis Prager was born in Brooklyn to Hilda Prager (née Friedfeld; 1919–2009) and her husband, Max Prager (1918–2014). Prager and his siblings were raised in a Modern Orthodox Jewish home. He attended the Yeshiva of Flatbush in Brooklyn, New York, where he befriended Joseph Telushkin. He went to Brooklyn College and graduated with a major in history and Middle Eastern Studies. Over the next few years he took courses at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs and at the University of Leeds; he then left academia without finishing a graduate degree. After he left graduate school, Prager left Modern Orthodoxy but maintained many traditional Jewish practices; he remained religious.
In 1969, while he was studying in England, he was recruited by a Jewish group to travel to the Soviet Union to interview Jews about their life there. When he returned the next year, he was in demand as a speaker on repression of Soviet Jews; he earned enough from lectures to travel, and visited around sixty countries. He became the national spokesman for the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry.
The start of Prager's career overlapped with a growing tendency among American Jews, who had been staunchly liberal, to move toward the center and some to the right, driven in part by the influx of Jews from the Soviet Union. In 1975, Prager and Telushkin published an introduction to Judaism intended for nonobservant Jews: The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism, which became a bestseller. Among the questions addressed in the text were: how does Judaism differ from Christianity, and can one doubt the existence of God and still be a good Jew, and how do you account for unethical but religious Jews?
Prager supported Jimmy Carter in the 1976 US presidential election. Prager ran the Brandeis-Bardin Institute from 1976 to 1983; Telushkin worked with him there. It was Prager's first salaried job. He soon earned a reputation as a moral critic focused on attacking secularism and narcissism, each of which he said was destroying society; some people called him a Jewish Billy Graham.
A higher profile
In 1982, KABC (AM) in Los Angeles hired Prager to host its Sunday night religious talk show Religion on the Line, which got top ratings and eventually led to a weekday talk show. He and Telushkin published another book in 1983, Why the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism.
According to a review in Commentary, the book depicts anti-Semitism as a "sinister form of flattery"; the authors wrote that hatred of Jews arises from resentment over Jews' acceptance of the doctrine that they are God's chosen people, charged with bringing a moral message to the world. The book describes Jews as both a nation (stateless for a long time) and followers of a religion and says that this identity is essential to Judaism; the book says that calls for Jews to culturally assimilate as well as opposition to Zionism are both forms of antisemitism. The book describes secular Jews as people who have lost their way, and who generally fall into the error of applying Judaism's mission to reform the world in ways that tend to be leftist, totalitarian, and destructive.
He also wrote a syndicated column for newspapers across the country. In 1985, Prager launched his own quarterly journal, Ultimate Issues, which was renamed to The Prager Perspective in 1996.
In 1986, he divorced and underwent a year of therapy, which the Encyclopedia of Judaism says contributed to his 1999 book Happiness is a Serious Problem. In 1990, he wrote an essay called "Judaism, Homosexuality and Civilization" that argued against normalizing homosexuality in the Jewish community and placed sexual sins on a continuum from premarital sex, celibacy, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, and incest; he argued that confining sex to heterosexual marriage desexualized religion, which was a great achievement of ancient Jewish tradition that was worth fighting to retain.
By 1992, he was remarried. By that time he was, according to the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, a "fixture on local radio" and "a Jewish St. George battling the forces of secularity on behalf of simple 'goodness'", and generally socially conservative, with some exceptions; he supported a woman's legal access to abortion (although he said it was usually immoral), and supported and justified sex between non-married consenting men and women. In 1992, he became involved with the Stephen S. Wise Temple and gave talks there, and got a weekday night talk show on KABC.
I am ambivalent about television as a medium for deep, intelligent programming, but I am not at all ambivalent about this show. This is an incredible opportunity to reach a mass audience with my belief system.
In 1995, he moved the studio audience on-stage with him where they could interact with him more directly.
In 1994 the Anti-Defamation League published a report on antisemitism in the Christian right movement; Prager, who aligned with the social and political conservatism of the Christian right, attacked the ADL and its report. In 1995 he urged conservative Jews to be open to working with conservative Christians, like the Christian Coalition. In 1995 he named Jacob Petuchowski, Eliezer Berkovits, Harold Kushner, C.S. Lewis, Richard John Neuhaus, Michael Novak, and George Gilder as the people who had influenced his theology the most.
In 1995 Prager criticized the Illinois Supreme Court decision in the Baby Richard case that removed a child from his adoptive parents. With KABC he held a "Rally for Baby Richard", where he got support from actors Priscilla Presley, Tom Selleck, and John McCook.
In 1996 Prager testified in Congress in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act. Prager testified that "the acceptance of homosexuality as the equal of heterosexual marital love signifies the decline of Western civilization." Prager worked with Bob Dole's campaign in the 1996 presidential election; when polls prior to the election showed that the Dole campaign did not have much Jewish support, Prager said this was because "American Jews are ignorant regarding the anti Israel aspects of the current Democrat Party."
Since 1999, he has hosted a nationally syndicated talk show on the socially and politically conservative Christian radio station KRLA in Los Angeles. KRLA is part of the Salem Media Group that carries other conservative hosts, including James Dobson, Randall Terry, Janet Parshall, Sebastian Gorka and Larry Elder; it is a key voice of the Christian right that seeks to change American politics as well as the way that individual people live.
In 2006, Prager criticized Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, for announcing that he would use the Quran for the reenactment of his swearing in ceremony. Prager wrote: "Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress." In response, former New York City Mayor Ed Koch called for Prager to end his service on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Council.
In 2009 Prager joined other Salem Radio Network hosts to oppose the Affordable Care Act. In 2014, while same-sex marriage in the United States was in process of being legalized, he wrote that if that were to happen, then "there is no plausible argument for denying polygamous relationships, or brothers and sisters, or parents and adult children, the right to marry." In 2014, he also said that the "heterosexual AIDS" crisis was something "entirely manufactured by the Left".
Prager endorsed Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, but said that Trump was his "17th choice out of 17 candidates". He clarified that he "was not a Trump supporter, when there was a choice" but added, "There is no choice now." Prager had previously said that Trump was "unfit to be a presidential candidate, let alone president". Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic described how Trump's adultery, character assassination of others, embrace of torture, bad behavior, whining, and use of profanity violate values and principles that Prager has upheld as essential to civil life and noted that Prager had said that endorsing Trump was in line with his principles because "[w]e hold that defeating Hillary Clinton, the Democrats, and the Left is also a principle. And that it is the greater principle". Friedersdorf wrote, "[I]f that's all principle means now, we haven't much need for public moralists to write weekly columns with appeals to Judeo-Christian ethics and the importance of good character. Just pick the political party you like best and let the ends justify the means on its behalf."
In 2017, Prager was invited to be a guest conductor for the volunteer orchestra of Santa Monica, California, as part of a fundraising concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Some of the orchestra members protested the invitation, which they considered promoting bigotry. The orchestra leader had invited Prager because he admired him, as Prager often discussed and promoted classical music on his shows and had guest-conducted a few times in the past, and because he thought Prager's presence might help raise more money. Guido Lamell, music director of the Santa Monica Symphony, in spite of the controversy surrounding Prager's presence, called Prager "a great man, leader and friend".
In February 2020, he told a caller: "Of course you should never call anybody the n-word, that's despicable," but complained about the word itself being considered unacceptable. In April 2020, Prager said of social distancing measures during the coronavirus pandemic, "The lockdown is the greatest mistake in the history of humanity." He was subsequently criticized in the media for misrepresenting the seriousness of the pandemic.
In 2009, Prager and his producer Allen Estrin started a website called PragerU, which creates five-minute videos on various topics from a conservative perspective. According to Prager, he created the site to challenge the "unhealthy effect intellectually and morally" of the American higher education system. BuzzFeed described PragerU as "one of the biggest, most influential and yet least understood forces in online media." As of 2018[update] it spent around 40% of its annual $10 million budget on marketing; each video is produced according to a consistent style. Videos cover topics such as "racism, sexism, income inequality, gun ownership, Islam, immigration, Israel, police brutality" and speech on college campuses. BuzzFeed wrote that "the biggest reason PragerU has escaped national attention is that it mostly doesn't do Trump," or engage with the political news cycle. Some of its videos had restricted viewer access by YouTube in 2017.
Prager's columns are handled by Creators Syndicate. He has been published in The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times and Commentary. His weekly syndicated column appears on such online websites as Townhall, National Review Online, Jewish World Review and elsewhere. He also writes a bi-weekly column for The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.
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- Think a Second Time (44 Essays on 44 Subjects) (1996) ISBN 0-06-098709-X
- Happiness Is a Serious Problem: A Human Nature Repair Manual (1999) ISBN 0-06-098735-9
- Why the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism (with Joseph Telushkin) (2003) ISBN 0-7432-4620-9
- Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph (2012) ISBN 0-06198512-0
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- The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Path to Follow (2015) (for children) ISBN 9781511317092
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- The Rational Bible: Genesis (2019) ISBN 9781621578987
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- No Safe Spaces, 2019
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"Our nationally syndicated hosts — Bill Bennett, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved and Hugh Hewitt — reach millions of Americans every week. I come to work every day thinking about how we can move those folks online to Townhall.com so they can voice their opinion through blogging, pod-casting and interacting with other conservatives." DeFeo is excited about the opportunities he has using Townhall.com and Salem's radio to reach members of the conservative movement and involve them in policy battles and political campaigns.
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The videos are mini-lectures on topics from feminism to religion to foreign policy, presented from a conservative point of view.
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- For goodness sake II. World cat. OCLC 370275688.
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