Prager speaking at CPAC in March 2016.
|Born||New York City, New York, U.S.|
|Alma mater||Brooklyn College|
Dennis Mark Prager (//) is an American nationally syndicated radio talk show host and writer. He is Jewish and deeply religious, and his views generally align with the Christian right. 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 New York City 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 met Joseph Telushkin. He went to Brooklyn College and graduated with a double major in history and Middle Eastern Studies. Over the next couple of 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 abandoned Modern Orthodox Judaism but maintained some of its practices; he remained deeply 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. Older Jewish conservatives who were active at that time included Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, and Gertrude Himmelfarb. Along with Prager a group of younger conservatives were emerging, including William Kristol, John Podhoretz, Eliot Abrams, and David Brooks. Conservative talk show host Michael Medved was another.
In 1975, Prager and Telushkin published an introduction to Judaism intended for nonobservant Jews: The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism, which became a best-seller. 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 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 narcissicism, each of which he said was destroying society; some people called him a Jewish Billy Graham.
He and Telushkin published another book in 1983, Why the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism. According to a review in Commentary, the book depicts antisemitism as a "sinister form of flattery"; people hate Jews due to envy over Jews' being chosen by God to bring a moral message to the world, and to the higher quality of Jewish life, which, in turn, is due to Jews living as God wants them to. 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 Prager Perspectives in 1996.
In 1986, his wife divorced him, and his daily talk show was shut down. He went through a year of therapy. His book about happiness was the product of that work.
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 forcing men out of homosexuality and into marriage 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 right to have an 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.
In 1994 the Anti-Defamation League published a report on antisemitism in the Christian right movement; Prager, along with fellow Jewish conservatives who were generally aligned with the social and political conservativism 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 1996 Prager testified in Congress in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, alongside Jay Sekulow, who was formerly with Jews for Jesus and was then counsel for American Center for Law & Justice; Prager testified that "the acceptance of homosexuality as the equal of homosexual marital love signifies the decline of Western civilization." Prager worked with Bob Dole's campaign in the 1996 presidential election to rally the Jewish vote for Dole, who had a strongly pro-Israel platform; when polls prior to the election showed that Prager's efforts had failed, he said this was because "Jews are ignorant." Public interest in Prager was part of a wave of interest in religion in the US in the mid-1990s that included the rise of megachurches, New Age spiritualities, and TV shows and books about religion like Touched by an Angel; the number of people who were religious was declining, but religious people became more vocal and intensified their religious-based activity.
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 broadcasts James Dobson, Randall Terry, and Janet Parshall, along with Prager and Medved; 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 made the incorrect assertion that an oath on any book other than the Bible would be unprecedented. 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 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, noted that Prager had said that endorsing Trump was in line with his principles because "We hold that defeating Hillary Clinton, the Democrats, and the Left is also a principle. And that it is the greater principle.", and concluded that "Attitudes like that are not uncommon in U.S. politics, but if 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, for a fundraising concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Some of the orchestra members protested the invitation, which they considered promoting bigotry. The leader of the orchestra had invited Prager because he admired Prager, because Prager often discussed and promoted classic 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.
In 2009, Prager 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 it spent around 40% of its annual $10 million budget on marketing; each video is produced according 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 were restricted 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.
He is also the author of eight books:
- The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism (with Joseph Telushkin) (1986) ISBN 0-671-62261-7
- 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
- The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code (2015) ISBN 978-1621574170
- The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Path to Follow (2015) (for children) ISBN 9781511317092
- The Rational Bible: Exodus (2018) ISBN 9781621577720
- For Goodness Sake, 1993
- For Goodness Sake II, 1996
- Israel in a Time of Terror, 2002
- Baseball, Dennis, & the French, 2011
- No Safe Spaces (in production)
- Karesh, Sara E.; Hurvitz, Mitchell M. (2006). Encyclopedia of Judaism. Facts On File. pp. 402–403. ISBN 978-0-8160-6982-8.
- Baker, Bob (August 5, 1979). "Self-Worship and Secularism Called Greatest Enemies of Today's Society". Los Angeles Times.
- "Kallah participants to hear Dennis Prager". The Jewish Press [Omaha, Neb]. December 11, 1981.
- Friedman, Murray (2003). "The Changing Jewish Political Profile". American Jewish History. 91 (3/4): 423–438. JSTOR 23887289.
- Kirsch, Jonathan (May 16, 2018). "A Rational View of the Torah". Jewish Journal. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
- Oppenheimer, Mark (March–April 2018). "Inside the right-wing YouTube empire that's quietly turning millennials into conservatives". Mother Jones.
- Charen, Mona (October 1, 1983). "Review: Why the Jews? The Reason for Anti-Semitism, by Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin". Commentary Magazine.
- Boyd, Malcolm (August 28, 1983). "Anti-Zionism vs. Anti-Semitism: the Dejudaization of Jew-hatred". Los Angeles Times.
- Margolis, David (December 1992). "Dennis Prager: A Profile The man behind the golden voice". Los Angeles Jewish Journal.
- Balch, David L. (2007). Homosexuality, Science, and the "Plain Sense" of Scripture. Wipf and Stock Publishers. pp. 292–293. ISBN 9781556355387.
- Dershowitz, Alan M. (2000). The Vanishing American Jew: In Search of Jewish Identity for the Next Century. Little, Brown. p. 158-159. ISBN 9780446930505.
- Barnes, Fred (November 1995). "The Orthodox alliance". The American Enterprise. 6 (6): 70.
- Kessler, E J (November 24, 1995). "The Lord's Prager: Talking to 'Our Jew on the West Coast'". Forward. p. 1.
- Stoll, Ira (May 24, 1996). "The Stoll Report: News From the Nation's Capital". The Forward.
- Stoll, Ira (November 1, 1996). "Donkeys Jockey for Credit As Clinton Victory Looms". The Forward.
- Ferguson, Tim W.; Lee, Josephine (January 27, 1997). "Spiritual reality". Forbes.
- Piore, Adam (December 2005). "A Higher Frequency". Mother Jones.
- Stoltzfus, Mandy (May 8, 2006). "Conservative Spotlight: Chuck DeFeo". Human Events.
“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.
- Pershing, Ben (February 3, 2003). "Radio Days in California? ; As GOP Searches for A Senate Candidate, Two Syndicated Talk Hosts Are Mentioned". Roll Call.
- Robin Marty (November 28, 2006). "Dennis Prager - Hateful and Wrong – Updated". Minnesota Monitor. Archived from the original on January 9, 2007. Retrieved December 4, 2006.
- "Koch Calls for Pundit's Ouster from Shoah Council". The Jewish Daily Forward. December 8, 2006.
- Gilgoff, Dan (September 8, 2009). "More Christian Conservatives Against Healthcare Reform". US News & World Report.
- Lulu Garcia-Navarro. "Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra Confronts Controversy Over Right-Wing Guest Conductor". NPR.org. Retrieved 2017-08-27.
- Deb, Sopan (2017-08-07). "Santa Monica Symphony Roiled by Conservative Guest Conductor". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-08-27.
- Carter, Evan (September 8, 2016). "Q&A: Dennis Prager off the air". The Collegian.
- Bernstein, Joseph. "How PragerU Is Winning The Right-Wing Culture War Without Donald Trump". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 2018-03-12.
- Friedersdorf, Conor. "Dennis Prager Puts Defeating Clinton Ahead of All His Other Principles". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2017-08-27.
- "YouTube restricts access to Alan Dershowitz video". Boston Globe, Hiawatha Bray October 14, 2016
- "YouTube restricts access to Dershowitz video - The Boston Globe". BostonGlobe.com. Retrieved 2017-08-27.
- Hallowell, Billy. "Radio Host Dennis Prager Has a New Online 'College' to Combat Liberal Bias and Teach Judeo-Christian Values". The Blaze.
- Gardner, Eriq (January 2, 2018). "Conservative Video Producer Suing Google Over "Censorship" Pushes for Injunction". The Hollywood Reporter.
- "Dennis Prager Warns Conservatives About Defeating Themselves". NewsMax, Brian Freeman | 18 Oct 2016
- "For goodness sake II". World cat.
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