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Nationally syndicated radio talk show host Dennis Prager entered public life in 1970 as a lecturer to Jewish groups. Over the next five decades and through three marriages, he published eleven books including The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism (1976), Why The Jews? The Reason For Antisemitism (1982), Think A Second Time (1996), Happiness Is A Serious Problem (1998), Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph (2012) and The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code (2015). He began his broadcasting career over KABC in 1982. 

By Luke Ford

Dennis Prager's Parents

Dennis Prager's father Max Prager (born July 18, 1918, died Aug. 16, 2014) published his autobiography at

Max wrote in chapter one:

...[T]he family name "Prager" was originally established for those who inhabited the city of Prague, the capital of Czechoslovakia. Because of the usual anti-Semitism, the Jews fled to England and to Germany. In the eighteenth century, Poland had a king who looked favorably on the immigration of Jews to his land, partially due to the Jews' expertise in finance. Consequently, the Pragers emigrated from England and Germany to Poland along with their co-religionists.

My father, Beresh, was born in 1878 in Yadow, Poland to Mendel and Chana Prager... My mother Ruchel was born in Ostrawa-Macziwesk in 1878 to Avraham Moshe and Sura Walberg.

On his radio show Apr. 9, 2012, Dennis Prager said in reaction to the murders of blacks in Tulsa by two white men: "My great grandfather, my mother's mother's father was murdered by a black man [burglar]. I never recall anybody in my family thinking that it was then appropriate to kill a black."

On July 16, 2013, Dennis said: "It was a trauma. He was beaten over the head by a lamp and his skull was smashed. They caught the man in Georgia."

In his twenties, Dennis found out that his father’s sister (Irene) committed suicide before Dennis was born. (Oct. 23, 2009)

Max Prager wrote: "After walking one block, they informed me that my sister Irene had taken her life during the night by leaping off the roof of the apartment building in which my family resided; Irene had her birthday that same week reaching the age of 32. Upon hearing this tragic news, I was not able to walk any further and immediately sat down on the stoop of the nearest building in complete shock."

After his death, Max was eulogized by his oldest son Kenneth: "His life was long and rich in meaning, happiness and joy... My father led a truly charmed life... He was blessed with good looks. He was tall. He was very smart. He was athletic. He had an incredible memory. He had a wonderful personality... He was the last of four children born to a very poor family. His father was a tailor. His father was in and out of businesses. The oldest of his siblings couldn't afford to go to college. They had to work. By the time he was ready to go to college, he could go to City College."

Dennis Prager's parents were born and raised in Brooklyn a few blocks from each other.

Max wrote in chapter eleven that he met his future wife at a party in Borough Park:

...I found the mystery woman staring at me throughout the ride home. I must admit that I thought she was lovely but nothing beyond that feeling. I, later on, learned that she told her mother that night that she met a young man whom she would marry, and she did. This occurred in June 1936 when I was 18 and just finished my freshman year.

...On Simchas Torah 1936, I told my mother that I was going to change the place of attendance of hakofes (seven rounds of marching with Torah scrolls) by going to the Hebrew Educational Society. I had never attended hakofes at the HES so perhaps it was berschert (destined) that I do so now. When I entered the lobby, I met Florence Zivits who told me that she is awaiting Hilda Friedfeld for hakofes. I inquired as to who was Hilda Friedfeld. She replied that she was the girl who declaimed in Boro Park and I immediately remembered her. As we walked outside the building, Hilda's sister Esther and her friend Esther Zomick approached us and informed us that Hilda was on her way to the HES.

When Hilda arrived, I was stricken with her class, clothing and demeanor. She was even more beautiful than when I last saw her. We went in for hakofes and, after about an hour, I asked her if she would like to take a walk with me. She said yes and we walked for about 30 minutes and finally sat down on a bench in a little park at the beginning of Pitkin Ave. At the time, I was wearing glasses and after staring at her for several minutes, I removed my glasses and said: "You are a very pretty girl." She began to laugh, which she did quite often. Her laughter intrigued me, as I was accustomed to living in a very serious household.

Max Prager married Hilda Friedfeld on September 14, 1940.

Max wrote:

I, personally, paid for flowers, photos, orchestra and the rabbi. Although both our parents were Orthodox, we had mixed seating for the chupa and the meal. We also had mixed dancing for Hebrew and Yiddish songs; but we had no social dancing.

We never had a honeymoon although we made up for it many times in the future. ...[H]er father could not look us in the face. Evidently he felt I had defiled a daughter of his for the first time since Hilda was the first child who was married. My mother-in-law who always loved me embraced and kissed me. That night we went to Radio City Music Hall and enjoyed for the first time marital bliss. I remember as though it was yesterday that we felt as though we were walking on air. Whether it was our first day as husband and wife or it was the result of our first sexual experience, or both, I really cannot explain. 

...On August 2, 1948, we were blessed with our second son, Dennis Mark. I always wanted a daughter because of the affection that my brother’s daughter displayed towards Murray; more than his two sons displayed towards him. I liked the name ‘Denise” and if we were to have a daughter that was the name we would give her. So when our son arrived I told Hilda that we would name him Dennis. He was a doll from birth, lovable and extremely happy. He did not inherit his brother’s habit of crying constantly; although Kenny did so because of infections in his ears.

In ...1955, Hilda decided to spread her wings and return to a career. When we were going “steady”, she emphatically stated to me that if and when we would marry, she would want a large family and I, of course, agreed with her. After our marriage, she sang a different tune repeatedly informing me that her ideal life would be a career, no children and living in Manhattan. 

...Hilda loved to travel, get out of the house, and especially play the slot machines in various casinos. If I would say to her at midnight or later, “Hil let’s go”, she would reply “I’m already dressed”. We went numerous times to Las Vegas and stayed at Caesars Palace and she would stay at the slot machines to the early hours of the morning. She also enjoyed the shows that the various hotels had to offer. Every time we went to Vegas we visited Dennis and his family in California. We also went several times to the Bahamas while in Florida, to gamble at the casinos. I, personally, was not an avid gambler but went along because I knew that Hilda enjoyed this pastime. It is possible that her desire to gamble was genetic since her father loved to play the stock market and play cards with his friends. Also her sister, Chippy-alias Corinne- played the market and loved gambling. Years later, when we ceased going to Vegas, she would say to me at least twice a year “Mac, let’s go to Atlantic City”. She would play many hours while I would get bored and retire to the bar to smoke a cigar and drink beer.

Max Prager wrote in chapter sixteen:

I remember leaving for work with her every morning, stopping at a diner for breakfast, sitting next to her on the subway, arriving at our respective stations and not a word passed between us. When I returned home after a day's work, I was served my dinner in complete silence.

...Many times I would attempt to begin a conversation and was always rebuffed. Two or three weeks would elapse before we recommenced conversing.

After suffering for about one year and being completely at a loss of a solution to this very grave problem, I turned to her father for advice. I expected him to recognize the severity of our marital discord and tell me that he would speak to her and have her change her ways. He floored me when he laughed and said: "She is the image of her mother; I've been living with this problem all my life." I was in a less jocular mood and replied that if she did not change, his daughter would be returning to his household very shortly; since we were still childless I would not hesitate for one moment in seeking a divorce. In very emphatic terms I repeated this ultimatum to my wife.

Evidently, Hilda realized that Mac was very much in earnest and would not hesitate to enforce his threat. She immediately ceased her childish behavior and became the loving companion that she was prior to the marriage and has never repeated her silent treatment of me regardless of any disagreement or dispute that followed throughout our marriage.

...Fortunately, the episodes of our strong disagreements were very rare and our sons were spared a home filled with discord. In fact, they told us when they were teenagers that they hoped to emulate their parents' relationship when they married.

On his show Aug. 31, 2011, Dennis said: "My father tells the story that when he met my mother, he had a strange form of lisp or some other speech impediment. And one day she made fun of it. And that ended [the lisp]."

April 3, 2008, Dr. Stephen Marmer said: "The only person I know who can so dominate a room that even Dennis can't get a word in edgewise is his father Max."

In a letter he wrote for his wife in case he died before her, Max wrote: "I can never forget what you said to me when you were only seventeen years of age. 'Mac, if we will marry and have children, you will always be number one.' Not many wives feel that way. Most importantly, you kept that promise."

Feb. 14, 2014, Dennis said: "When you have a good relationship with a spouse, that is the relationship that can provide the most happiness. I don't think it is sufficient but it was for my father and mother."

Jan. 5, 2010, Dennis said: "Contrary to Freud, I never had the desire to kill either one of my parents."


Hilda was born October 24, 1919. She died September 19, 2009. She gave birth to Kenneth on January 3, 1943 and to Dennis Mark aka Shmuel on August 2, 1948.

On the day Dennis was born, "Woody Wood-Pecker" by Kay Kyser was America's number one song and Sprinter Mel Patton was on the cover of Time magazine.

No other famous person was born on this day.

According to, in the first quarter of 2023, Dennis Prager was the eleventh most popular columnist and the 2513th most popular person in the world. 

June 18, 2012, Dennis said he did not understand those who booked a photographer to record a birth. "Who do you want to show it to?"

"I did not want to see my birth and I am not interested to see my children's birth."

"There's part of me that rebels against, 'Everything must be recorded.' And I have a video diary."

According to Dennis, his parents gave little thought to his name. "They wanted a girl. They already had a boy. They knew they were only going to have two. They were going to name the girl Denise. That's how I got the name Dennis. There was no other thought." (1995 lecture on Exodus 6)

"I was never read a fairy tale or children's stories. I did read Crime and Punishment at age 11." (Sept. 26, 2013)

"My parents are a fascinating amalgamation of modern American and traditional Judaism," said Dennis. "Both grew up with European Jewish parents. My father's parents didn't even speak English, only Yiddish.

"My whole family was in America during the Holocaust… If my grandparents hadn't moved to this country, I would never have been born. My parents would have been gassed." (C-SPAN Booknotes, Nov. 21, 1995)

Sept. 15, 2022, Dennis said: "My father wrote his [undergraduate] thesis on American anti-semitism. He said he was the luckiest Jew whoever lived being a Jew in America. I was taught to appreciate [America]. I'm sorry to say, most of my fellow Jews are ingrates with regard to America."

According to a family joke, Max joined the Navy during World Way II to get away from the crying of Kenneth.


Max Prager wanted to have more kids but Hilda did not, possibly because of the trauma associated with Dennis’s first two months. (

Dennis said his mother smoke and drank while she was pregnant with him. (May 26, 2011)

Both of his parents smoked. "I would get sick when my father would smoke a cigar in the car with the windows up. I would throw up." (Feb. 27, 2014)

Max Prager wrote about Dennis in chapter 23:

Ten days after his birth, the practical nurse whom we engaged for 2 weeks, Mrs. Lehmann, a refugee from Germany, noticed his penis changing color to blue which, of course, signified a loss of blood flowing to his tiny organ. It seems that the mohel tied the bandage much too tight. We immediately called our pediatrician and fortunately he corrected a very negligent act that occurred at the circumcision.

A much worse and more life-threatening event occurred two days later. Fortunately, Hilda went into the child’s room to check on him and, lo and behold, Dennis’s lips were blue and he was gasping for breath. It seems our nurse was negligent in burping him after he was fed and the milk was closing his small and narrow trachea. Since we had no time to call our regular pediatrician, we called the nearest doctor to our home, Dr. Wollowick, whom we knew from the synagogue and whose office and home was on the next block.

When we informed him of the problem over the phone, he came immediately recognizing the severity of the situation and possible consequences. I remember him driving to our home, parking his car in the middle of the street and running up the stairs to examine our sick child. His next remark completely put us in shock. He stated that only the Police or Fire Dept. Emergency Squad with oxygen could save our son. He called them and in a very short time, the Fire Dept. arrived and placed an adult oxygen mask on our child’s face, not having a mask for an infant. God was good to us at that moment, as He has been to us throughout our lives, saving our newborn son’s life. Dennis immediately began to cry and his lips returned to a normal pinkish color. Kenny, standing outside with his friends kept repeating “That’s my brother.”

The nurse claimed that Dennis was allergic to cow’s milk and had him put on goat’s milk. He lost weight. After a month, he was returned to cow’s milk and thrived, eventually reaching 6’4 and 240 pounds. (Max Prager)

“I imbibed [baby] formula and second-hand smoke,” said Dennis Dec. 1, 2010. “That was my diet as a kid. I get sick every other year for about three days.”

Dennis said Dec. 8, 2010: “When I was a kid, I was taken to an allergist [because of a cough] who gave me scratch tests. I was allergic according to the allergist to 32 different things including milk and rabbits. I never took these things as holy grail. I remember thinking when told I am allergic to milk, if this doctor thinks I am abstaining from cold cereal and ice cream, he’s out of his mind. It turns out I am allergic to one thing only — cats. I just stop breathing.”

Jan. 27, 2011, Dennis said: “Do you know what I had in my childhood that doesn’t exist today? My mother would give her 30 cents and I would buy her Kent cigarettes. I’d be ten years old and I’d walk to the candy store. I loved those stores.”

“She stopped smoking in her fifties.”

Dennis grew up at 2705 Kings Highway in Brooklyn. In 1954, the Pragers moved to 1725 East 27th St. between Quentin Rd. and Avenue R, Brooklyn, NY 11229. Dennis and Kenny had their own rooms.

Max and Hilda moved to New Jersey in 1997.

"My parents did not read to me when I was a kid," said Dennis Feb. 13, 2013, "yet I became verbal. The issue is to be around people who speak intelligently and clearly."

In the summer of 1953, when Dennis was five and Kenneth ten, their parents enrolled them at the sleepaway Maple Lake summer camp. 

"I knew from childhood on, stick to the kids who are decent, otherwise you are going to get hurt... From the age of five, I was away from home for eights weeks [every summer]. I didn't like it at five, but I also didn't like it at home at five." 

"I went against my gut instinct...when I was ten years old... Four in the bunk formed a group called the Eagles. I knew that one of them was not a nice kid but I decided that I would join because it was better to be with the kids who were powerful. I didn't want to get hurt. It was an insurance policy, like paying protection money to the Mafia. I remember thinking, this is a protection scheme for me. If I join the Eagles, then the Eagles won't hurt me, but I remember thinking, I don't like them, particularly the one. The Eagles were not formed to be nice. That was the last time I befriended a not nice person. I've been fortunate that I have never been hurt by a friend... I have built-in antennae for who to trust. I have perfect pitch." (Sept. 26, 2013)

Said Dennis Dec. 22, 2010: “The last time I wrote a letter was in summer camp. I was away eight weeks. On the bus to camp, I would write all eight weeks worth of letters, postcards, to my parents. ‘Having a great time!’ And I would date it for the next week. I assure you I was not the only one to do it.”

February 13, 2023, Dennis said: "I've never had a female friend."

Max Prager wrote in chapter 26: “What enters my mind now is my father-in-laws reaction to our sending Dennis who was not yet five to a sleep-away camp. On one of our visits we drove up to the camp with Hilda’s parents and when we were ready to leave, Dennis started to cry as he wished to leave with us. Papa Friedfeld then berated us in no uncertain terms telling us how cruel we were to ship off such a young child away from home. We, naturally, were not swayed and poor Dennis remained in exile.”

Max calls Dennis “a poor traveler.” (Chapter 26)

Said Dennis in a 1995 lecture on Exodus 2: “My parents spoke Yiddish. They used it for secrets. I didn’t learn to speak almost any Yiddish.”

Moses was Dennis's favorite Biblical character.

He called his parents "mommy and daddy." (May 3, 2012)

Dennis said July 11, 2008: “When I was four years old, I was in a bunk of boys and girls at summer camp. I remember there were girls and boys but it was totally innocent.”

When Dennis was six (according to Dennis) or seven (according to Max), Hilda, who hated housework, left the home to work at Garden Nursing Home. (Max Prager, chapter 27)

Dennis said on his KRLA radio show that he thinks he would’ve been better off if his mother had stayed home instead of going to work when he was young.

Many psychologists note that we obsessively seek in romantic love what we missed out on as a kid from our parents.

On his birthday, Dennis asks on his radio show for people whose lives he has touched to let him know the details.

Loving Parents?

On Sept. 12, 2013, Dennis was asked by the author of The Anatomy of Violence: The Biological Roots of Crime, Adrian Rayne: "Did you have loving parents?"

Dennis: "They were not particularly loving... I felt I was in a secure home. I wanted to leave it..."

Mar. 28, 2014, Dennis said: "My parents were not emotionally expressive toward my brother and me. That created certain very important things in me, a lot of inner strength and ability to have thick skin to criticism."

Feb. 5, 2014, Dennis said: "My parents put each other first. I wouldn't want my mother to love me more than my father."

"When God says it is not good for man to be alone, He does not make a family. He makes one woman. Children do not assuage our existential loneliness, a spouse does."

Dennis Prager felt like an orphan and couldn't wait to get away from his home.

Aug. 2, 2022, Dennis said: "I didn't think they [parents] loved me when I was a kid... I didn't fly once with my parents. I didn't want to do much with my family."

"What I did was develop antibodies. I was vaccinated against emotional problems. Starting in sixth grade, I sought love from guy friends. From sixth grade to today, I've always had guy friends. Love is love. Who it comes from is secondary. Starting at age 14 to today, I've been happy. I didn't have a happy childhood, but I had a happy adolescence."

June 6, 2023, Dennis said: "My parents were not warm to my brother and me. That was not uncommon in the WWII generation. They were transformed when they became grandparents. They became loving and warm."

July 3, 2023, Dennis said: "They were not hugging. They were not verbally warm. At an early age, it was extremely important to me to have children. I wanted to have a loving parent-child relationship and I was right. It filled the hole that I had from my childhood."

June 21, 2022, Dennis said to his Youtube cohost Julie Hartman: "My desire to bring them pride in me was not a big factor. They, like many other people of their generation in ethnic life, the amount of love the child got was in direct proportion to how much pride they brought their parents. I resented that. So I wasn't aiming to bring them pride."

Aug. 29, 2012: "That's the reason I became something, because my parents said at an early age, 'You're on your own. Have a great life.' And I've had a great life. And it wasn't easy." 

In his groundbreaking book on sexual addiction called Out of the Shadows, Patrick Carnes wrote:

Addicts report that as children they felt desperately lonely, lost, and unprotected. Not only was there a lack of nurturing, but also there was no one to show them how to take care of themselves or keep them from harm. Not being able to count on, depend upon, the adults in one's life to meet needs is a key element in addiction. As the child matures, there begins a search for that which is dependable -- something that you can trust to make you feel better. Trust and dependency are the issues that determine personal strength and confidence of vulnerability to enslaving addiction. For in the lonely search for something or someone to depend on -- which has already excluded parents -- a child can start to find those things which always comfort, which always feel good, which always are there, and which always do what they promise. For some, alcohol and drugs are the answer. For others it is food. And there is always sex, which usually costs nothing and nobody else can regulate.

Fear of abandonment is the King Kong of issues said therapist Mark E. Smith, "because when someone is under the influence of fear of abandonment, they become irrational and reactive. Typically their spouse have issues around defensiveness. So you have one person reactively driven by irrational jealousies and the other person is really defensive. It can become ugly." 

"One example would be a husband with abandonment issues doesn't get sex when his neediness demanded it, so he pouts and is very sulky for days on end."

On Sept. 11, 2013, Dennis said: "One of the most famous calls in the history of my show was a female doctor who called in and told me with some degree of disgust that a very old man, a patient, was dying and one of the last things he did was to look down her blouse. I said with all respect, I can think of worse ways of dying. I didn't find it as negative a story as the doctor did. It's so important to know the truth about men and women and it is so easy to live in denial."

On May 24, 2013, Dennis said: "Aunts and uncles played a terrific role in my life. In my pre-teen years, the happiest moments of my life were going to Miami to visit my aunt and uncle Chippy and Al."

This family would give Dennis the affection he didn't get at home. 

"My Aunt Pearl would take me to so many places. My father's sister, Anne, who had no children of her own, I got to go to Radio City Hall thanks to her. My mother's sister, Pearl, would take me to the stamp show, which was one of the highlights of my years as a child. My uncle Murray would visit from Schenectady and I got more love from him than I experienced at home most of the time."

Dennis said Dec. 30, 2010: “How much of my childhood was unprogrammed. I remember visiting my grandparents for the Sabbath. In the afternoon after synagogue, my grandparents would take a nap. I was left with about three hours with nothing to do… I loved visiting them. I wasn’t a reader then. I was eight, nine years old.

“I sat with the chair that was at the piano. I just took the swivel chair and I would imagine I was a New York city bus driver and the seat was the steering wheel. I’d announce what street we were at. I’d open the door for passengers. There was no TV. There was no electronic entertainment.”

“I don’t recall my dad vacuuming or cooking or making the bed,” said Dennis July 6, 2011. “When a woman is 25 and is imagining her husband, does she imagine him vacuuming?”

Said Dennis in a 2008 lecture on Leviticus 19: “My father was the president of the synagogue we attended. I remember only a few things from that period, but one of them was how constantly he would say, ‘It’s the ones we give free memberships to who complain the most.’”


Dennis did not begin to speak until he was almost four. Max remembers a Yom Kippur appeal at synagogue when Dennis was five. “People were giving thousands and hundreds [of dollars]. And this five year old child raises his hand and says, ‘I want to give $5.’ The synagogue broke up laughing. This showed the compassion Dennis always had.” (Prager CD released in 1998)

Max Prager wrote in chapter 26:

I remember Dennis at the age of three sitting next to Gal, Al’s German shepherd twirling the dog’s tail constantly with his mouth wide open. He still hadn’t uttered one word and although Hilda and I weren’t concerned, my father-in-law suggested that we see a “professor” to examine Dennis.
Dennis: "I spoke so late that my grandfather thought I was retarded. Whenever I'm asked how come you spoke so late, I say, 'I was waiting to get paid.'" (Lecture on Lev. 19:12-16)

Dennis said in his January 2002 lecture on his intellectual autobiography:
I was preoccupied by human suffering and the problem of evil from a very young age. I’ll give you an example that drove my mother nuts.

I was about five years old and driving my little tricycle around the block in Brooklyn. And only those of you who grew up in New York, I think, experienced the seltzer bottles. They would deliver cases of these bottles.

Down the block lived a young teenager named Lee. While I was driving my tricycle one day, I saw Lee drop by accident the whole box of seltzer bottles and it tore his leg open. It was a trauma for me. I’m sure it wasn’t even a trauma for him. You take some stitches and you’re fine. But all I could do for the next few days was cry about Lee and ask my mother, go over there and tell me how he is until finally it was clear I was driving her nuts.

From later on, whatever it would be, if it was a cartoon, it gave me great gusto to see the good guy beat the bad guy. From the most primal depths of my being, I have wanted the bad to be punished and the good to be rewarded.

I strongly recommend the film Pay it Forward (2000). It’s a very touching movie.

I remember my earliest memories of the Holocaust — watching the 20th Century television series with Walter Cronkite and then I saw Hitler. We were in the living room. I asked my parents, who is this guy? The answer was the to the effect of how bad he was and how he murdered six million Jews and many other people died as a result. It stayed with me. How could someone be that bad? How could innocent people suffer so much?
Dennis wrote April 18, 2012 in the Jewish Journal:
That [the Holocaust] was my first encounter with massive evil, and I was never again to be the same person. I became obsessed with good and evil — specifically why people engage in evil, and how to fight them.

That obsession has never left me. The only change that occurred did so later, in high school, when I broadened my preoccupation to include why people do good and how to make good people. (I knew from Judaism — and had sensed instinctively — that people are not naturally good.)

That hatred of evil led me, as early as my late teenage years, to hate communism as well as Nazism. And because the Nazis had been vanquished years before I was born, I studied and tried to fight communism. I engaged in the former by doing my graduate work in Communist Affairs at the Russian Institute at Columbia University’s School of International Affairs. And I began the fighting part when I was 21: The Israeli government sent me to the Soviet Union to bring Jewish items to Soviet Jews, to learn as much as I could about their situation, and, most important, to bring out names of Jews who wanted to leave and go to Israel.

This preoccupation with good and evil also led me to fall in love with Judaism. I have always regarded Judaism as, more than anything else, preoccupied with goodness. As the Tanakh tells us, “Those who love God must hate evil.” Judaism, almost alone among religions, believes that all of humanity is judged solely by its behavior rather than by its faith.

As it happened, I never found loving God easy (precisely because of how much evil and unjust suffering there is), but hating evil came quite naturally.

That hatred of evil explains nearly every position I take. Perhaps my biggest difference with the left is over this issue. Whereas I believe we humans should be preoccupied with combating evil (and I believe God, the Bible and Judaism want that as well), the left, from its inception until this moment, has been preoccupied with combating something else: material inequality.

I have never regarded material inequality — unless arrived at immorally, as it is in much of the Third World — as evil. Regarding people’s material status, two things should disturb us: a lack of opportunity to improve one’s material well-being and a poverty that is so bad that it deprives people of all dignity and hope. Neither condition has been prevalent in American life in my lifetime. On the contrary, America has been the greatest opportunity-giving society ever created.

More than that, I came to realize that I was living in the very country that had best figured out how to make a better world. But it was not until midlife that I came to understand the specific values that lay at the basis of this magnificent American achievement.

April 9, 2013, Dennis said: "Because I've felt very blessed much of my life, I felt I could take on the problems of the world. If you have huge personal problems, then you are understandably preoccupied with that and not these big issues."

"The Bronx Zoo had an exhibit once that said, 'The most dangerous animal in the world.' You walked in and there was a big mirror. I agreed with that. And we can be the most beautiful."

Said Dennis in a 2010 lecture on Leviticus 26, 27: “When I was a counselor in Jewish camps, very often there would be Holocaust survivor children in the bunks. We counselors knew… We would often say to each other that kids whose parents were Holocaust survivors had particular issues. 

“I dated a woman in Brooklyn who I nearly married when I was in college. She was the daughter of Holocaust survivors. We were very close. The junior year I went to England, we were corresponding and she wrote me, ‘My father hanged himself.’ He had a tracheotomy and survived but they thought he was dead.”

March 18, 2011, Dennis said: “I hate school bullies so much that I got routinely kicked out of class because I would punch bullies. I hate bullies. Always did. That’s why I hate big government — it’s the ultimate bully.”

July 6, 2022, Dennis said to his Youtube cohost: "I don't know what I have learned morally that I didn't know in fifth grade. I can't think of a single moral insight."

In an April 2010 interview at Stephen S. Wise temple, Dennis said about his obsession with evil: “I take credit for having some courage and for devoting my life hopefully to good things. I don’t take any credit for what is built in. It is utterly built in, my preoccupation with evil.”

June 21, 2022, Dennis said to his Youtube cohost Julie Hartman: "At a very early age, aside from wanting to do good and to influence people to do good, I wanted to understand life. I had this ambition that I would live a long life and would understand at least as well as anybody whoever lived. One of the reasons I thought I had a chance, I have no prejudices. There was no dogma I had to meet. I confronted life straight on. I didn't have to prove anything because I am an American, a Jew, a male, a white. Nothing mattered except what is true. I never read anything with an agenda other than is it true and will it make a good world. I wasn't burdened by [psychological] problems in my thought such as anger at men or anger at women... There was no Dennis for Dennis. My greatest role model was my father. My father was a strong presence. He wasn't a particularly loving presence... My bigggest supporters are individuals, not groups."

Said Dennis in a 2008 lecture on 25 years in broadcasting:

My father was a CPA. On Sundays he would work at home and not in his office in Manhattan. We had a wood-finished basement where he kept his office. Many of his clients would come on Sundays.

Starting in my sophomore and junior year in high school, some of his clients would come an hour early to talk to me. I couldn’t believe this. Why would all these adults want to talk to me? Do I have anything to say of importance? And then at camp, the counselors would come to my bunk…

Dec. 6, 2011, Dennis said: "When I think of my elementary school life vis-a-vis girls, I would be arrested today. Maybe this is telling too much... I remember in kindergarten we had a big flight of stairs from the lunch room to the classroom. I would walk behind the girls because they wore skirts. I was five years old. Today I would be arrested for leering. And it was so innocent. It was the innocence of what's there?"

Feb. 25, 2013, Dennis said: "Showing violence does not rob children of innocence. Children know that there is violence from the earliest age. Showing sex does take away their innocence. Innocence has to do with sexuality.

"Anyone raised with fairy tales knows violence. Anyone who's read the violence knows violence. Anyone who's watched cartoons knows violence."

"There is violence that helps keep kids innocent -- violence against the bad guy. When children see bad guys punished or killed if they're about to kill good people, that's what kids worry about. They don't freak out that bad guys get killed. They worry that innocent people get killed. That's me. I'm innocent."

Said Dennis Mar. 28, 2012: "I am certain that my school would've asked to medicate me under the same rules we have today. And I don't know that I'd be the same person I am today if I had been medicated."

"You couldn't get me to read in elementary school if you bribed me. I'd do anything but read a book. I'd shovel snow. I wasn't a good student. I'd pick up a book and my mind would wander after two paragraphs."

Dennis went to first grade at Yeshiva Rambam. “I disliked school from then until I left graduate school 18 years later,” Prager wrote in his autobiography on CD (available on in 1998).

From an early age, gurus like Dennis know "that they were gifted with special insight from an early age which was often misdiagnosed as learning disabilities. They have a special way of viewing the world and they are special people."

March 11, 20211, Dennis said: “I went to a religious school. There was no bullying.” 

“I was voted president of my class from first grade to the end of high school,” said Dennis in a 2005 lecture on Deut. 30. “What did I have in first grade? I just got up. Three kids would walk outside the door and I was elected every year. I have a presence.”

Aug. 31, 2011, Dennis said: “During recess, the teachers would stand around one corner of the playground talking to each other while smoking cigarettes while we would play catching the girls and putting them in jail. It was the high point of my education career. I lived for that.

“And we would play chicken fights. You’d put a guy on your shoulders against the other guy with a guy on his shoulders and you have to throw him down. I was the designated horse. Aaron Kirschenbaum was the guy on my shoulders. If a kid got hurt, you went to the nurse. If you got really hurt, you went to the hospital.”

Dec. 10, 2013, Dennis said: "I wouldn't have made it through elementary school [today]. I would've been drugged because I was always fidgeting and talking in class. I would've been given some ADD drug... And I would have been kicked out because I flirted with the girls a lot."

Max Prager wrote in chapter 27:

In this same year, 1954, Dennis started his academic career, starting in the first grade at Yeshiva Rambam. Also, although we were satisfied with our sons’ summer camp the previous year at Maple Lake, we decided to give Shelly Apfelbaum a break by enrolling both our boys at his Camp Winsoki near Renssellaerville in the Catskills.

…Kenny went there through the usual program; camper, waiter and counselor finishing his camping career as life guard; Dennis was a camper. When he arrived at the age of being a counselor, he opted to go to Camp Massad in the Poconos in Pa.

On July 25, 2012, Dennis said: "When I was in elementary school, my parents sent me for four weeks at a time to visit my wonderful aunt in Florida [Aunt and Uncle Corrine and Al Moskowitz]. I missed four weeks of school in fifth grade. So what?"
Dennis Prager wrote June 10, 2008:
When I was a 7-year-old boy, I flew alone from New York to my aunt and uncle in Miami and did the same thing coming back to New York. I boarded the plane on my own and got off the plane on my own. No papers for my parents to fill out. No extra fee to pay the airline. I was responsible for myself…

["My parents got there late [in New York]. Instead of waiting at the gate, I went to get my luggage. My parents tell the story that when they finally arrived, I had gotten my luggage and I was tipping the porter. Since the earliest age, I've wanted to be my own man." Aug. 31, 2012]

When I was a boy, I ran after girls during recess, played dodgeball, climbed monkey bars and sat on seesaws. Today, more and more schools have no recess; have canceled dodgeball lest someone feel bad about being removed from the game; and call the police in to interrogate, even sometimes arrest, elementary school boys who playfully touch a girl. And monkey bars and seesaws are largely gone, for fear of lawsuits should a child be injured.

When I was boy, I was surrounded by adult men. Today, most American boys (and girls, of course) come into contact with no adult man all day every school day…

When I was a boy, we had in our lives adults who took pride in being adults. To distinguish them from our peers, we called these adults “Mr.,” “Mrs.” and “Miss,” or by their titles, “Doctor,” “Pastor,” “Rabbi,” “Father.”…

When I was a teenage boy, getting to kiss a girl, let alone to touch her thigh or her breast (even over her clothes) was the thrill of a lifetime. Most of us could only dream of a day later on in life when oral sex would take place (a term most of us had never heard of). But of course, we were not raised by educators or parents who believed that “teenagers will have sex no matter what.” Most of us rarely if ever saw a naked female in photos (the “dirty pictures” we got a chance to look at never showed “everything”), let alone in movies or in real life. We were, in short, allowed to be relatively innocent. And even without sex education and condom placement classes, few of us ever got a girl pregnant….

When I was boy, people dressed up to go to baseball games, visit the doctor and travel on airplanes.
Max Prager wrote in chapter 27:
On Xmas day, Kenny and Dennis would go with us to the Home to speak to the patients and bring the Holiday spirit to their forlorn lives. The boys would take movies and still photographs and then show them the next year. I can still hear them exclaim when viewing the movies, “Paul is no longer with us; what a pity;” ”Look how nice Mary looked last year, too bad she died.”

Apr. 12, 2010, Dennis said: “One of my favorite things in life, since I was always an amateur photographer, in high school, I would go every Christmas to the nursing home to take photos of the patients. I remember having to adjust my psyche because the next Christmas I would show slides of last year and I will never forget, the patients would say, ‘Oh, there’s Jerry. He died in April. Oh, there’s June. She died in August.’ It was almost like, ‘There’s Jerry. He went to the Yankee game.’”

In his 22nd lecture on Deuteronomy (March 2004), Dennis said: “I’ve been into photography since I was ten years old. My father used to drive me on Sundays to the John F. Kennedy airport in Queens and I would photograph airplanes (because I dreamed of going to foreign countries) with my Kodak box camera.”

“I grew up in a strict home. My mother did not allow me to have comic books. During summer camp, I’d read an entire year’s worth of comic books. But I knew that the Prager home had an elevated standard of literature. It was annoying but I am a better person for having grown up in a home that says this home has good literature and not comic books.” (Aug. 26, 2011) 

Dennis wrote: “I vividly recall the moment when, as a boy in sixth grade, I heard the news that Caryl Chessman was executed. Because Chessman was executed for rape, the notion that rape is a horror stayed with me almost all of my life.” (The Prager Perspective, June 15, 1997)

In a 1992 lecture on Genesis 16-17, Dennis said: “I remember as a kid in yeshiva. You learn Genesis first when you are a child in Jewish school. I remember learning this [Sarai's plan to have a child through Haggah] and thinking, ‘Wow, you can have another wife! It wasn’t even another wife. They brought him a woman?’

“I learned it in fairly innocent times. I hadn’t yet fully eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and bad, but I do remember thinking, ‘Wow, those were better times!’

“I remember thinking that those men in those times had a better life! What a deal! And it was my patriarch Abraham who was not a big sinner. What a thing they had!”

Dennis Prager would grow up to have sex with a lot of women — many of them met through lecturing on Torah.

As a child, Dennis was impressed by the way his father regularly called his mother. “Her toughness strongly contributed to neither of her daughters marrying…and to other problems.

“After she was widowed in 1950, my father took it upon himself to see her every week and to call her every day…

“I vividly recall a nearly nightly ritual. After dinner, my father would call his mother, only to have her yell at him. My father possesses a particularly strong disposition, yet he found these telephone conversations so disconcerting that he would put the phone down on the kitchen table. I would hear the yelling, and watch my father periodically pick up the phone and say, ‘Yeah, ma.’” (Think a Second Time, pg. 47)

“My parents virtually never argued, but on the rare occasions they did, I felt worse than when they were arguing with me. In my home, if one parent said X, it didn’t help to go to the other. In fact, they got annoyed. So what you have to do as a kid is to pick the parents who will give the answer you want. In general, one should do that. Ask people whose answer you want. In Jewish life we were told, go to the rabbi who you think will be most lenient when you want to know if something is permitted.” (Apr. 13, 2010)

Said Dennis in his tenth lecture on Deuteronomy in 2003: “I’m not saying I succeeded with my kids. I didn’t. If I could’ve succeeded, I would’ve gotten them to memorize as much as possible. I remember my teachers tried to make me memorize and I thought it was the stupidest thing. ‘What am I, a parrot?’ That’s the way I would respond. My teachers didn’t have great affection for me, with good reason. I thought it was absurd and yet everything that I have ever memorized, I am thrilled I memorized. It is painful to me that I didn’t memorize more.”

Dennis did not enjoy the circus. "The Lady Gagas of my childhood were in the circus. The tattooed lady. I went as a kid [at age seven] to the Ringley Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus at Madison Square Garden. It was called the sideshow. I was not excited to go. Putting people up to be exhibited like animals, freaks, it was called the Freak Show, because the deepest part of me has been to never humiliate people.

"I got no joy out of getting scared that somebody might kill themselves or get hurt. When people walk on the tightrope or fly in the sky, all I'm doing is sitting there worrying. What if they miss the other person's arms? What if they fall from the high wire?

"I didn't find the clowns funny." (Dec. 19, 2013)

Dennis said he followed sports as much as other kids his age (knowing batting averages and ERAs, 8/6/13), attending New York Ranger hockey games in the cheap seats every Sunday night during high school (5/23/12). When fights broke out on the ice, Dennis stayed seated to show his disapproval.

The Dodgers baseball team left Brooklyn in 1958 and moved to Los Angeles. Dennis was nine years old. “The Dodgers leaving Brooklyn measured on my Richter scale .000001,” said Dennis. “On my older brother’s Richter scale, it is still registering. It was an earthquake.”

Dennis is not a sports fan. He will root for a team but his happiness is not wrapped up in its success. “You’re not a real fan,” Dennis’s producer Allen Estrin told him on air.

“These things have no rhyme or reason,” Dennis said, explaining his affection for the Los Angeles Angels. (April 2, 2010)

“My father took me to two ballgames and once to the Hayden planetarium in New York. That was it. This is not an indictment of him. That was utterly typical of fathers of that generation. This was not something that was expected. The trip to the planetarium was less successful because as soon as the stars came out, he fell asleep.”

“My grandfather never took my father anywhere. If you had said to my grandfather who came over from Russia, ‘Nu, did you take Mendel to the ballgame?’ He wouldn’t have known what you were talking about. You don’t take kids anywhere. You provided room and board and you were lucky if the anti-Semites didn’t have a pogrom.” (March 24, 2008 at Nessah Synagogue)

Sept. 28, 2012, Dennis said: "I had two aunts who never had children. I had one aunt who just loved my brother and I up. She took me to more places than my parents did, which wasn't keen competition. My other aunt who married late also took me to more places than my parents. Both of these aunts desperately wanted children and so the nephew in this case was showered with love."

“When I was a kid, there was a television character named Bret Maverick. I must’ve been eleven years old. I would watch it every other Sunday. I said, I want to be Bret Maverick.” (Dec. 3, 2008)

Dennis never spanked his kids. He later concluded that was a mistake. “I was corporally punished [by my parents] but it was only done once and it was done wrong. And that’s part of the reason I came out against it. I was yelled at and I couldn’t stand that either. I was a good kid. …I was hit by teachers. Every time a teacher hit me, they were right. I knew they were right. It’s a lot easier to be corporally punished by a teacher than by a parent. You don’t expect your teacher to love you.” (Oct. 27, 2009)

“As a kid, I did not want to go to school. The happiest days of my elementary school life were when at night, it started to snow and I would look out the window and I had one prayer — that it sticks. If it doesn’t stick, it doesn’t matter how much it snows, the school bus will pick me up because they can get through slush but they can’t get through a serious snow fall that sticks.” (Oct. 22, 2010)

June 3, 2011, Dennis said: "I rarely had a nickname.

"During recess in elementary school, we used to play a game called punch ball. You’d punch a rubber ball and you’d run to first, second, third or home. It was you against everyone else."

In a dialogue with Adam Carolla Feb. 25, 2012, Dennis said: "I never learned to ride a bike. My parents gave up on me when I fell off the tricycle."

Adam: "Wow. It was the worst 19th birthday that Dennis's parents..."

Dennis: "I finally learned to ride a bike about ten years ago. It's sickening to me that it took so long. That was not one of my gifts."

May 21, 2010, Dennis said: “Whatever gifts I had, they were not obvious when I was a child. When I was eight, people were not lining up to listen to me speak. They were when I was a teenager.” (May 21, 2010)

An awkward kid who resembled the Pillsbury Dough Boy, Dennis was always taller and rounder than his roommates. His parents, by contrast, with their charm and charisma reminded many of the Kennedys. Dennis was a fan of JFK and adopted his accent for a time (Nov. 11, 2013).

July 7, 2010, Dennis said: “I think my parents complimented me three times before I left home at age 21… I don’t know what I would have been praised about as a kid? ‘Hello, Dennis, we like your tummy. It’s really nice to see what a roly-poly child we have. You eat well.’ I think that could’ve been the single biggest compliment my parents would’ve paid me when I was in elementary school. I had no talent. There was nothing impressive about me.”

Dennis was derided by his parents for lack of effort. “My father used to say: ‘If Dennis can sit, why stand? If stand, why walk? If walk, why run?’” (Feb. 4, 2010)

“I am no different from any lazy person, but I was never given a damn thing,” said Dennis Mar. 19, 2010. “Ever. Ever. I was given nothing without working. Nothing except room and board in my parents’ house until I was 20 years old.”

May 16, 2010, Dennis said: “I don’t think so [that a good elementary and high school would motivate an otherwise unmotivated student to become a good student]. I didn’t want to do schoolwork. I wanted to go home and to do what I wanted to do. I was so abnormal… I would listen to short-wave radio broadcasts and learn how to conduct symphonies. The more I look back at my childhood, the more I realize there’s nothing to be learned from my childhood. I was a freak. I’m 15 years old and where’s Dennis? He’s at the New York Philharmonic Library learning how to self-conduct scores… I almost never talk about my youth in that way because there’s nothing to be learned. I was abnormal… But I had a good time. I laughed through three of my four years at high school.”

“I used to call myself Prager,” said Dennis Feb. 10, 2010. “Now I call myself Dennis.”

May 21, 2010, Dennis said to a caller: “Did you say Pragez? I have few very nicknames but that’s one of my favorites.”

April 15, 2011, Dennis said: “I could write a description of my life and you would say, ‘Wow, that guy is a victim.’ And I am the last person in the world who walks around with a victim mentality.”

April 20, 2012, Dennis said: "Why did they drop diagramming sentences? Do you know how much I learned? One of the reasons I speak well and write well is because I learned to diagram sentences in fifth grade. Here's an adverb. Here's an adjective. This modifies the noun."

At age eleven, Dennis spent the sixth grade at Manhattan’s rigorous Rabbi Jacob Joseph School (R.J.J.S.), whose hours ran from 8-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 8-1 p.m., Fridays and Sundays.

Max Prager wrote in chapter 30:

Every morning, including Sundays, I would drive him to the subway station on Kings Highway and McDonald Ave. Lo and behold, after a few weeks at his new school, phone calls would be made to my office by Rabbi Schwartz advising me of his behavior. I really was in a dilemma as to what action to take. When Dennis informed me several months later that students had been beaten by young hoodlums in that area, I decided to reenroll him in Rambam at the end of the year.

Dennis: "I remember the crime rates were horrific. It was frightening to be there. I was frightened as a child. I remember every day the horrible news that would come out." (Nov. 6, 2013)

Dennis was unhappy until age 11, when he discovered he had a destiny.

Dennis: "I remember when I started feeling happy. It was in the sixth grade. I was very unhappy until then. I went on my own every day on the subway and I felt like the captain of a ship."

"I can tap in now to the exhilaration I felt then." (Aug. 31, 2012)

"There is one thing I do frequently think about from elementary school and that was in sixth grade taking the subway from Brooklyn to Manhattan. I went to school in Manhattan that year. That was a statement that I made to myself — I am an independent human being. I can travel for an hour each way in the morning and the evening, go on trains, go on buses, on my own. I thought I could conquer the world."

"Sixth grade is all I remember from elementary school. I don’t remember seventh and eighth. I went back to a school near the house so there was nothing to be proud of." (Nov. 11, 2009)

In a Spring 1999 series on male sexuality, Dennis said: "When I grew up, I had Christian-envy. They're so lucky. They get all the rewards of their religion just by believing in Jesus. I have to keep all these laws. I can't drive on Shabbat. I can't eat half the foods. I have all these prohibitions. They have none of them. All they have to do is believe. I believed that into my mid-thirties. Then I met the people I was ignorant of. I got very involved with inter-religious dialogue. One of the things that I learned was that Christians have it tougher. Whereas Judaism has more prohibitions on behavior, Christianity has far more prohibitions on thought. I can more easily deal with prohibitions on behavior."

November 14, 2022, Dennis said: "I know how much this [course] affected my brilliant wife [Sue] before we married. And it has made for a happier marriage because she understands male sexuality. "

"Lust means what when a man sees an attractive woman, he has an erotic reaction. That is built into me. God made it. I didn't choose it."

Prager's Youtube cohost Julie Hartman: "Why do you think God implanted that in us?"

Dennis: "That's what gives us our energy. If you met a man with a minimal sex drive, I promise you that he would not radiate energy, masculinity. That's me. I have a ton of energy and I am a very sexual being. I am faithful. I've been married before. I was faithful then. That's the vow I take. If you are not going to be faithful, don't get married. That drive is a big part of my own energy... My dark side is in the erotic realm. If I had bad thoughts about torturing animals or abusing children, I would feel plagued by having bad thoughts."

November 7, 2022, Dennis said: "I went to Morocco [1968 for two weeks]. Virtually every woman was completely covered. I didn't see any part of a female for two weeks. I monitored me. I felt deadened compared to the way I was in Europe. Part of me thought this was a healthier thing. I got to Portugal. Girls are in mini skirts and tank tops. I remember thinking this may be too much skin but I'll take this over the alternative. Sex is life. This is life. I came to see and I have never veered from this point -- young women showing their bodies is a life force."

When his parents limited his TV watching, Dennis asked them what he should do with his evenings. They told him to take up a musical instrument. Prager looked up Musical Instruction in the Yellow Pages and settled on the first instrument he saw — accordion. After his parents bought him one for $135, he took lessons from Peter Luisietti whose studio resided under the subway at Kings Highway.

“Accordion has been useless given that my first love is classical music. Bach wrote nothing for the accordion. Mozart, nada. Beethoven, zilch. That’s how life’s forks happen… I wish I had gone down the list and played a classical thing and then joined an orchestra. Maybe my life would’ve been different? Maybe now I’d be in some orchestra talking to the players while I wasn’t playing, while the violins were playing, I’d be giving my theories on life to my fellow trumpeter. Folks, if I weren’t doing this on the air, I’d be doing it privately.” (Mar. 2, 2011)

June 22, 2010, Dennis said: “From six grade on, I always had a best friend and they were always lifesavers. I can name them. In sixth grade, it was Leon Fink. I raised that issue years ago and I found out that he had died in his fifties. It broke my heart. I learned about it on the radio. In seventh and eighth grade, it was Gerald Klein. And then Joseph Telushkin from high school on.”

Jan. 27, 2012, Dennis said: "After playing hockey in our socks in my father's basement, the floor was linoleum so we could slide, he [Joseph] didn't like the fact that I checked him. I was 6'4", even in high school. He objected to playing hockey if checking was allowed. That was our first disagreement and one of our only ones. We talked about girls and hockey and the ultimate issues of life.

"We used to sit in my car after going bowling at midnight and then sit in my car in freezing weather before I dropped him off at his graduate school dorm in Manhattan, and we'd talk about ethical monotheism."

April 3, 2008, Rabbi Telushkin said: "Dennis would always call me rabbi. I was 15. I wasn't even planning to become a rabbi. Dennis would speak of what he would do one day in the Senate. Dennis has done wonderful things, but I look forward one day to calling him, "Mr. Senator', if not higher."

On Dec. 23, 2013, Dennis said: "That's exactly the type of politician I want -- the guy who doesn't want to be in politics and feels drafted by total moral issues, [not] just knows from the age of 12 I want to be a politician. When I meet those kids, I get an eery feeling."

He gets an eery feeling because he's met someone like himself? 

Jan. 10, 2014, Dennis said: "There are people who are to power what the heroin addict is to heroin. They cannot have enough of it. It changes their personality, it changes their demeanor, it changes their values. I don't personally relate to it because I want to have influence, not power. I have no interest in it. I have as much interest in power as I have in heroin."

In the third lecture of his series "A New Pair Of Glasses," Chuck Chamberlain recalled that before sobriety he felt that "anybody with my ability should be at least a senator if not president of the United States and here I was in the fixture business and it was obvious to me that I was the only one around there who had any brains and the boss had all the money and he would tell me what to do and the injustice of the situation would cause me to do a little drinking."

In a 1995 lecture on Exodus 5, Dennis Prager said: "The word for servant and the word for slave is the same [in the Torah], which is probably why to this day that Jews don’t like to be servants because they think it is slavery. Did you ever meet a Jewish waiter? Jews don’t wait. That and the Chosen People notion are the reasons why Jews don’t want to serve anybody."

Anyone who earns a living does it by serving people. 

Big Brother Kenny

Dennis and Kenneth suffered from bronchitis into their teens. (Max Prager, chapter 24)

Nov. 10, 2010, Dennis said: “When I was a kid, I was very scared of monster movies. My older brother said to me, ‘Dennis, you want to stop being scared of monster movies? Go and watch as many as you can.’ And I did. I took his advice. Gradually, monster movies became funny. I was inured. They were no longer monsters. They were a movie. I was seeing the make-up and the sound effects. Most things are not scary once you know them.”

Sep. 22, 2011, Dennis said: “My brother had a very big impact on me. Bigger than he can know. He was a godlike figure. He was six years older than I. He was a moral model. A successful model. There were things I saw that were sad. He has a sadness in him. It’s part of his nature. It spurred me. I’ll never forget my brother announced one day, I just visited my 20th country.

“I was a teenager. I had not been anywhere but Canada and I said to myself, I am going to visit more countries than my brother. I’ve now visited 100. Every time, I say, I beat him.”

Says Dennis: "There's nothing like having an older brother to beat. He was like everything." (Jan. 21, 2013)

Apr. 1, 2014, Dennis said: "I think the ratio of pictures of my older brother to pictures of me was 10-1."

"My brother loves Ecclesiastes. I think that anyone who has read Ecclesiastes and doesn't want to kill himself has not read it carefully." (March 17, 2013 on Hugh Hewitt)

Kenny graduated from Yeshiva University High School of Brooklyn in June 1960. In his senior year, he was class valedictorian, student body president, editor of the school newspaper, and starting center of the school’s basketball team.

“I never competed,” said Dennis.

June 23, 2010, Dennis said: “Until [my brother left for college], everything that occurred in the home, including cleaning the table, who can do it faster, was competition. On the Sabbath, in my home we would sing Sabbath melodies at the table. We’d have a competition to see who could sing faster without missing one word in Hebrew. We had a stopwatch and we’d time it. There was no area of life where there wasn’t competition. And if you lost, you weren’t crushed.”

May 21, 2010, Dennis said: “My brother came home from the first week at Columbia and he was very down. And I said, ‘Kenny, what’s going on?’ He said, ‘Dennis, I just met 700 other captains of basketball teams, valedictorians and editors of high school newspapers. And some of them play the oboe.'”

Controlling Your Emotions

Mar. 15, 2010, Dennis Prager said, “You do a kid a favor [by threatening to hit him if he does not stop crying]. My mother used to say that. It was one of her great lines. Well, I don’t know if it was great, but it was one of her fairly frequent lines — ‘I’ll give you something to cry about’. And I stopped crying. And I learned at a very early age, I can control my emotions. I can control my behavior, which is about the single best lesson you can give a human being in terms of happiness and a good life, that they can control themselves.”

Dennis said that people of lesser fortitude would’ve broken under the rigor of Max’s parentage. "'Taking the easy way out' was a phrase my father frequently used. It was a little overdone in my house. He thought that glasses were the easy way out. I explained that I really need them." (Mar. 15, 2013)

One of Max's favorite sayings was, "It's only pain." (Aug. 30, 2013)

“I went through a period (his teens) where I hated my parents,” said Dennis in a 2009 lecture on “Feelings: Key to the Liberal Mind.”

In a 1994 lecture on Gen. 50, Dennis said: “It is a rare parent who wants to know all the details and it is a foolish child who tells all the details even though they know it is not necessary…and it might hurt them, such as about their sex life. Kids who don’t follow in the exact religious ways of their parents — do they have to announce to them, ‘I run my home differently than you do’ and hurt their feelings? There might be certain acts you put on to make them happy. With a family, ‘Let it all out!’ is a ludicrous principle. It is foolish to live an act but you don’t need to announce who you slept with last night.”

Bar Mitzvah

At his Bar Mitzvah, Dennis recited the Torah portions of Mattos and Masei at the end of the book of Numbers) at Camp Winsoki on July 15, 1961. As a gift, he received the book Great Jews in Sports. He found the topic hilarious. “I didn’t want to be childlike when I was a child.” (Feb. 28, 2011) 

Jan. 22, 2014, Dennis said: "An 18-year old is a role model to a 13-year old. Just remember when you were 13 how you might have looked up to an older brother or older kids. I lived catty corner from a high school when I grew up in Brooklyn. I remember when I would walk home from the bus stop and the high school kids were walking the other way. Those kids were so old. I watched everything they did, every way they behaved. We boys are wild. We watch how older males act. We have no other way of knowing how to act."

Max Prager wrote in chapter 31:

Dennis became a Bar Mitzva in August 1961 while he was a camper at Winsocki. Hilda and I, after getting Dennis’s permission, decided to celebrate at camp. Believe it or not, this was the first of four events which were held to commemorate our son’s becoming a "man."

Unfortunately for Dennis, the portions of the Torah to be read that Shabbat – Matoth and Masse – were the longest in words of the entire Pentateuch and making it obligatory to read both because that year was a leap year in the Hebrew calendar. Despite this difficult task, Dennis’s rendition was excellent in both the pronunciation of the words and the cantillation; his reading of the Haftorah, similarly, was perfect.

Since we were members of two synagogues and Dennis was our last son to be honored in this mitzvah, we felt we could not get enough of celebrating. Consequently, upon his return from camp and after the High Holy Days in October, Dennis again obliged us by consenting to read from the Torah and chant the Haftorahs in Kingsway Jewish Center and Cong. Oheb Zedek. We invited the entire congregations to a large kiddish since all our friends were not invited to the camp festivities.

In November, we held the Bar Mitzva Reception on a Saturday evening at the Fifth Avenue Synagogue in Manhattan inviting our families and close friends.


Under pressure from his father to become more athletic, Dennis joined the Flatbush Falcons basketball team. At 6’4, he was the tallest kid in the school. While looking at Dennis, the coach announced that his new squad “scraped the bottom of the barrel.” He was right.

In a March 17, 2013 dialogue with Hugh Hewitt, Dennis said: "I have no interest in basketball. I love hockey. There was no yeshiva hockey team. The things about basketball I was not good at were dribbling, shooting, passing and rebounding... Bad news. The team is losing by so much [at Madison Square Garden] that mathematically we have no chance to win the game. With 58 seconds to go, the coach decides to put me in the game. I know nothing of what is going on. I whisper to Snack Bar as soon as I get the tap, 'Snack Bar, which basket are we shooting at?' I'm in a slow panic.

"I chose number 13 because I'm a joker. I hear over the Madison Square Garden intercom, 'Now coming in for Flatbush, number 13, Stanley Prager.' Nothing is going right. I get in the game. I'm a little panic struck and sure enough, I run to the wrong side after the tap ball. I'm alone with the referee and he says, 'Hey kid, are you some sort of shmuck?'

"There's always been a part of me that sees me from outside of me and inside thought, 'Yeah, I am some sort of shmuck.'"

"When I ran to the wrong side in Madison Square Garden, my mother was cheering. I remember thinking that my mother would cheer if I sat down and played checkers in the middle of the game. My father thought, 'What's wrong with him? My kid ran to the wrong basket.'"

Feb. 18, 2010, Dennis said: “The thought that my father would’ve showed up to every one of my basketball games, I would’ve been embarrassed. I thought that I was already a man in some ways and mommy and daddy didn’t have to watch me.”

“They came to one game, which is its own story, my embarrassing one minute at Madison Square Garden before a Knicks game [when Prager ran towards the wrong basket] in high school. My mother was yelling the whole time, ‘Dennis! Dennis!’ I hoped that none of my teammates heard this.”

“I had a pop-up hit to me,” said Dennis. “I was about eleven. My brother threw a hard ball high in the air. I didn’t have to run for it. I put my glove up. And it went right by my glove, hit my nose, and I bled more than I have ever bled in my life. On a simple pop-up.” (April 21, 2010)

In a Feb. 25, 2012 public dialogue with Adam Carolla, Dennis said: "You know why they didn't fingerprint parents [who wanted to coach] when we were kids? Because they never came to our games. Why do you have to go to all of your kids' events? I didn't want my parents to come to my events. It made me feel like a man that mommy wasn't watching. That was independence. I was a grown-up."

Adam: "Even when you lost your virginity, you did not want them anywhere around? Even for encouragement? 'Come on, you're a Prager, son!'"

Dennis: "I went to Orthodox Jewish schools until I was 18. It was not an issue."

Oct. 27, 2010, Dennis said: “I remember in camp when I would play baseball and if the girls showed up, I tried much harder than if there were no girls watching. If the girls came, it was like I was Popeye and I had just consumed spinach.”

Not Normal

Nov. 7, 2014, Dennis said the first hardcover book he ever bought was as a teenager -- Soviet Foreign Propaganda by Frederick Barghoom. "I was always curious what the people who don't agree with me think. How do they sell their ideas to themselves and to others?"

A caller to Prager’s radio show Jan. 23, 2009, said she heard that during eighth grade, Dennis brought a ham radio on the school bus and announced to everyone that he would learn Russian by the end of the semester.

“That sounds like me. I was not a normal eighth grader,” Prager said.

April 5, 2013, Dennis said: "Why did I learn to read Pravda in high school? I taught myself Russian and with a dictionary would read Pravda. I loved reading those who told the opposite of truth. It's a strange fascination I have with those who distort reality eloquently, which has been the left's job for over 100 years."

Aug. 30, 2011, Dennis said: “There is a subject that has troubled me my whole thinking life, which began on my 14th birthday. Before 14, I did not think. Not the actual act but the reactions to it have plagued me. I’m talking about the United States decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan. I’ve always been morally at peace with the decision. It is now de rigeur to lump Hiroshima with Auschwitz, as though they are moral equivalents.”

Promoting Goodness

Prager came early to the belief that his life mission was to promote goodness. “When people got hurt, I cried – and still do; it’s as simple as that. I am doing today exactly what I wanted to be doing when I was five: fighting bad people.

“My wife says that I was born mature… I had thought differently early on and always in terms of good and evil. When kids got bullied at school, it bugged me. If an ugly girl was seated on the side in a dance, it bothered me. And I would go over and talk even though I was dying to be with the pretty girls. I can’t stand cruelty. I have a visceral reaction against it.” (C-SPAN Booknotes 1995)

“When he’d go to New York,” remembers Hilda, “and he’d see a man selling pencils, he’d turn to us and say, ‘I wish that I could buy all his pencils so that he wouldn’t have to beg for money.’” (CD)

In a 2006 lecture, Tom Wolfe said: "Each individual adopts a set of values which, if truly absolute in the world - so ordained by some almighty force - would make not that individual but his group...the best of all possible groups, the best of all inner circles."

Yearning to promote God and goodness, Dennis stumbled upon an endeavor where his group were the best because they brought ethical monotheism into the world. As historian Paul Johnson wrote: "Judaism has the most sophisticated system of moral theology, or ethics, of any world religion."

In a 2008 lecture on Lev. 19:9-11, Dennis said: "The Torah is preoccupied with the issue of not humiliating people and I caught it by osmosis. If there were five things drummed into me in yeshiva, not to humiliate people and to protect their dignity was one of them. And I am not alone. I might have had a more sensitive disposition in that arena, but even the less inclined in that area were also influenced. The humor we had at yeshiva was not of tearing down of others. To this day I'm shocked that a lot of the humor we have in society today is tearing down people. I recoil. The yeshiva boy in me does not get why that is funny... The humor we had was in good taste. It was just real powerful ribbing."

“I had an admiration for Batman,” said Prager June 16, 2006, “because he did not have superpower. I think I liked Green Lantern because nobody read him. I felt sorry for him. And then there was Wonderwoman who visually had a provocative effect on this 13-year old.”


Said Dennis in a 2008 lecture on Leviticus 19: "Ever since I was a kid, there's been this view of the sophisticated, 'What is God? Some sort of accountant?' Yeah, I think God is an accountant. That may be related to the fact that my father is an accountant and people tend to see God as they see their father, but I suspect that if my father wasn't an accountant, I would still feel that way. Why is it sophisticated to believe that God doesn't monitor our behavior?"

Mar. 22, 2013, Dennis said: "I want God judging. If God doesn't judge, I want to be an atheist. The idea that God doesn't judge not only doesn't appeal to me, it is antithetical to everything I believe about God. I am more interested that God judges than that God loves. If God loves and doesn't judge, that's more frightening to me than God judging and not loving. I think He's both."

"This notion of hate the sin and love the sinner has never made that much sense to me. You wipe out whole villages and run a concentration camp and have orgies in Pyongyang while sentencing your people to eat bark, and I'm not supposed to hate you? I think you're scum. How do you love good people if you don't hate bad people? I'm not an air conditioner. An air conditioner blows out cool air whether it is Hitler in the room or Mother Theresa. When religion is reduced to an air conditioner, it is worse than useless.

"But we live in an age that hates only one thing -- people who hate evil. People who judge are the only people who are really hated. Not people who exterminate human beings or run torture mills. Not the guy who raped an eight-year-old girl. We don't hate him. We hate the person who hates the rapist. I hate it when religion is an accomplice to moral imbecility."

May 9, 2012, Dennis said: "I believe in God entirely because of analytic thinking. It is not in my gut at all... My gut instinct is that there is no God... Hello, where's God? I see all these children dying. There seems to be moral chaos in this world. It is my analytic abilities that brought me to God and to religion. I've always envied people whose gut instinct was religious, for whom faith was effortless."

"I don't expect anything from God in this world," said Dennis Sept. 10, 2013."I don't ask God for anything. God will allow a drunk driver to hurt you. God will allow an infection to spread in your body and kill you. I ask myself, 'What does God want me to do?", not, 'What do I want Him to do?'"

"My father is convinced that God willed the Holocaust," said Dennis Jan. 15, 2010. "He said it is crazy to believe that God just watched it... It's a debate I've had with my father my whole life... I am of the position that God does allow these things to happen. I postpone God's interventions to the afterlife. I never try to talk people into my position. I envy those who have my father's position, that whatever happened, God wills. On the other hand, it is logically difficult to hold that position and I am cursed and blessed to be very rational. If I am hit by a drunk driver, it does not make sense that God had me hit by that drunk driver."

In a lecture on Deut. 7:9-26, Dennis said: “Anybody who allows himself to feel everything is sometimes quite angry at God. You see horrible evil and suffering on earth, you don’t get angry at God? It happened to me. I don’t have this as much now, but in my younger day I had a whole panoply of emotions towards God.

“I’ll never forget an afternoon of the eve of Yom Kippur, and I’m thinking about Yom Kippur, and I hear on the radio about some kids who have this syndrome where they just cut themselves. They just mutilate themselves. It hit me terribly. I thought, maybe this Yom Kippur, God should ask us for our forgiveness. And that thought unfortunately did not leave me.”


On Nov. 13, 2013, Dennis said: "I got this attitude I have, this openness, from my father. He was married to my mother for 69 years, faithful for 73. And he was very open about his sexual nature to her because he was open about his sexual nature with all of us, not just to my mother. It was a good model. I am more interested in behavioral fidelity than a saintly mind."

Said Dennis in a 2001 lecture on Numbers 25: "We have a hobby farm in our family. When I see the way the roosters jump on the hens, I understand the roosters. I have more in common with a rooster sexually than I have with my wife."

"My father is 83. I get the ability to speak out loud about sexual matters not often spoken about because he did, not at a microphone but at a dinner table. He's an Orthodox Jew. He would say, 'When I die, I have a question to ask God -- why He made the sex drive as strong as He did?'"

In chapter one of his online autobiography, Max Prager wrote:

There were four shomer shabbos (Sabbath observer) families, including us. One was Pinchas who sported a beard and achieved notoriety by allegedly groping Mrs. Bodner who was well endowed. The latter related this incident to my mother within earshot of me. Many evenings she would come into our apartment to spend hours with my mother while her husband was working nights at the restaurant. While listening, she had a habit of placing her right hand into her dress and touching her left breast.

Max attended ninth grade at public school:

I was now blessed with one lady instructor, Miss Dalrymple, my English teacher, who came from the South. She, in my eyes, personified everything a Southern gal was supposed to look like. Possessing a beautiful face with a body to match, she aroused Mendel who had now reached puberty and whose hormones were working overtime. I sat in the rear center of her class and had a perfect vantage point in staring at her legs underneath her desk. This was my first sexual infatuation with a woman.

A plain girl named Dotty lived on top of Max's building. He taught her to swim. "She would lie down on her chest across my outstretched arms and my feeling her tiny breasts gave me quite a charge..."

At age 16, Max stopped wearing a yarmulke outdoors. He "went bare headed for the first time in my life. My sexual aggression that followed was a direct result of this incident."

Max got a girlfriend named Esther and when "her parents retired for the night, we would engage in 'heavy' petting."

At age 20, Max became the manager at Auerbach's Hotel in Spring Valley, N.Y. There were lots of opportunities for fooling around. In particular, there was one wife who was about 35 with four kids.

She always eyed me up and enjoyed speaking to me. On one particular weekend, her husband did not show up. While dancing with me at our Saturday night dance, she asked me to please come to her room to fix the window, which, supposedly, was not functioning properly. Whether I was still a yeshiva bocher (boy) and unsophisticated or scared to lose my virginity, I said: "I'll be glad to send up the maintenance man;" her reply was immediate: "Don't bother." She never had a broken window again.

...Another experience that I had was with another woman who was very attractive with a body to match. I would say she was in her early thirties and married to a dentist who came out weekends. During the week she and I would sit at night after dinner in a swing for two and indulge in light petting.

Things got interesting when this woman's pretty younger sister came up and repeatedly tried to seduce Max.

When there were a lot of guests, the workers had to sleep on couches in the lobby. Max wrote: "I remember vividly moans and groans emanating from the many liaisons between the waiters and guests."

Despite these opportunities to wander from his girlfriend Hilda, Max indicates that he retained his virginity until his wedding.

During a debate with Shmuley Boteach on Jan. 13, 2010, Dennis said: "My father was in the Navy during WWII, three years in the Pacific, claims he was never with any other woman. He's no saint. He just didn't. He said, the guys loved their wives, but years away. These were prostitutes. This is male nature."

Around 1960, Max served as president of his Orthodox synagogue [Kingsway Jewish Center]. During his tenure, he regularly purchased Playboy magazine. 

“My father has always been open about his sexual nature. He’s been Orthodox his whole life. He got Playboy in the house. It didn’t seem to corrupt his marriage to my mother. He was totally open. 'Hill, look. Do you like Miss November?'

“Until her death at age 89, he said she was the most beautiful woman in the world. And he looked at Miss November too. He was a good normal male.” (January 2010)

June 10, 2010, Dennis said: “Whenever you get somebody at the airline after pressing 11 different numbers, do you imagine how the person looks? I do only with women. I don’t care how the guy looks. I imagine that every woman taking my reservation is Miss Arizona.”

“The normal male will go into a living room, spread his buttocks and toot. There’s an act of self-suppression that each of us engages in not to do that… Men have to be manufactured or we stay boys forever.”

In a 2010 interview at Stephen S. Wise temple, Dennis said: “One night [on KABC radio in the 1980s], the topic I chose for the evening was lust. What does your religion say about lust? The minister quoted Jesus that a man who lusts after another woman it is as if he has committed adultery in his heart. How wrong it is to lust. How it is a sin. The Catholic priest said essentially the same thing. They both spoke beautifully.”

“That week, was not only an Orthodox rabbi, but a bearded right-wing Orthodox rabbi. He had a yiddish accent. He said, 'Dennis, lust, shmust.'

“It was my proudest moment as a Jew in my life. I still have a slight scar from biting my lip.”

In a speech Jan. 24, 2007, Dennis said: “About eighth or ninth grade, the rabbis in my yeshiva took the boys aside and said, ‘Boys, you shouldn’t go to dirty movies, but if you go, take your yarmulke off’.”

“So we took our yarmulkes off. We followed advice number two,” said Dennis in a 1998 lecture on Exodus 32.

Said Dennis in a 1996 lecture on Exodus 12: “I remember as a teenager when I first came across one of my favorite sections in the book stores — sex manuals with titles like, ‘How to Have Better Sex.’ And I thought, I can’t believe people need books on how to have better sex. What is more natural than having sex? Gorillas know how to do it. People need a book?”

In a 1997 lecture on Exodus 22: 18-24, Dennis said. “The pursuit of pleasure for its own sake, unless it has parameters and is deep, it doesn’t give the same thrill as the last time. The first time you kissed a girlfriend, bells were going off and the world was splitting and you were having a Sinaitic experience, but unless you love somebody, kissing loses that power… The human being wants more… If the pursuit is pleasure, then intercourse is not enough. You want three people. That may well be why there is a pursuit of bisexuality. Maybe people will not suffice. There must be a thrill available to [bestiality]. That you can’t relate to it and I can’t relate to it, most perversions I can relate to, this is not one of them, that is irrelevant. Perhaps not doing it, but watching it. There are porn films of bestiality right now at your local porn shop. That is available for $49.99.
“It’s really not appropriate for a chumash class but the Torah is open so I will be open, but I once saw years ago in New York on 42nd Street, a video titled Three Nuns and a Donkey. Somebody bought it.”

Dec. 3, 2009, Dennis Prager discussed sexting (the sending of explicit images via cell phones). “What happens to people who are thrust into a world of pure sex at an early age? My prediction? Vast numbers of females will not enjoy sex in their marriage…based on talking to women on the radio precisely about this. The earlier and the more extensive the sexual behavior of the female, the less she identifies sex with joy and more she identifies it with being used, which she is. Whatever feminism has taught about male and female being the same and sex is as meaninglessly joyful to a female as to a male, the victims of that feminist idiocy have been female. The guys are scratching their heads about how lucky they got that a generation of females was raised to believe that they could enjoy sex without commitment like guys can. I don’t think this is good for the guys either. One of the great joys of growing up is to work your way into sex and romance. To win over a female is the biggest single reason men achieve. If you can win over females by doing nothing, which is what is done when you are 15, you will not be ambitious. That will be one of the never-mentioned bad consequences to boys. When I was in high school, I believed I had to become something to get a pretty girl. I had to be a man in some way. I recall very vividly as much as I love music, I wanted to be good at piano to get a girl. Anything that made a girl go wow, I pursued. That’s been true since caveman. Look at me, I killed lion better. And he got the women. The klutz who couldn’t kill a lion engaged in auto-eroticism.”

“This is a generation that has no thrill from the things that thrilled generations passed… If I got a telescope or electric trains, I was tremendously excited. Or a stereo. Or got a chance to go to a restaurant. That was a big deal when I was a kid. Or to go to a baseball game. Big deal. It’s not such a big deal anymore.”

“I am very aware of how I come across at any given moment… I was realizing as I said it that I sounded like one of these adults, not with it, you’re just hung up about sex.

“Anybody who knows, who has read me, who has heard me, who has my four CDs on male sexuality, if there is anybody who is not hung up about that subject is yours truly. What I am hung about is protecting kids’ innocence. I think it stymies the growth of kids to sexualize them so early.

“The hyper-sophisticated will say that even five year olds according to Freud play with themselves and explore and have sexual feelings. I’m talking about a consciousness in the mind. When I looked up girls skirts when I walked up the steps in kindergarten, I was not thinking about sex. I was thinking what’s under that skirt. It was as innocent as it gets. Obviously it has sexual overtones but I didn’t know that and that’s what matters. The thought that when I was 14, a girl in my class would send me a naked picture of her, it’s a new world, and it’s not a better world for it.”

Said Dennis March 23, 2011: “Well into college, just the thought of kissing a girl was so exciting.”

Said Dennis April 20, 2011: “I remember in high school and college and I thought, why am I doing all of these things? And then I realized, it was to impress a woman.”

Dennis did not experiment with drugs. "There's some inner boredom in one's soul that seeks this excitement. What do you learn from a psychedelic experience? Not to mention that it's Russian Roulette. How do you know it won't permanently destroy parts of your brain? For what end?"

"The more a kid is excited by things in life, the less likely they are to look at this. What I didn't understand, there was so much. I didn't understand why girls weren't enough to provide excitement? I don't mean just sex. Just girls. Just chasing girls. Trying to get a girlfriend. It was unbelievable. But it's not true today. There's such jadedness." (April 23, 2012)

Dennis said Nov. 30, 2010: “I remember in high school thinking that the boys who were unbelievably confident in their dealings with girls were not the finest of the guys. I was very nervous about asking a girl out for a date, so much so that I would sit by the phone with prepared notes so that I wouldn’t grope for words and I would have a handkerchief to wipe the sweat because I was so nervous.”

On Jun. 8, 2013, Dennis said: "That's why I was sweating while making the call. The parent would pick up the phone and I'd go, 'Can I speak to Michelle?' And they'd always say, 'Who is this?' I always felt like a rapist calling in. 'Who is this? What are your intentions,you no-good male animal?' I never got that, but that's what I imagined was going through his head."

"I have too much pride. That's why I've never been able to push myself aggressively professionally as others have, and I've been wrong. I have too much pride and dignity. If the girl said, I'm busy Saturday night, I would not have offered another time. She would've had to have said, 'So let's do it next Saturday night.' I would not be the injector of the next possible date. I would not say, 'When are you free?'"

"I had a blessed track record."

"Blessed" is one way of looking at it. Prager's total number of female conquests is surely a larger number than that of most of his Orthodox-for-life peers who tended to marry but once. People who are constant in their religious observance tend to be constant in their mating.

Psychology Today noted Dec. 20, 2019:
For adults, their sexual strategies appear to determine their level of commitment to religion. People who are inclined toward monogamy choose to be religious, because traditional religions provide support for a family lifestyle, and discourage promiscuity.

...people tend to become especially religious during the years when they have children, and then to become less devout later in life.

Our ancestors’ reproductive success depended not only on finding a mate, but also on maintaining a long-term relationship with that mate, caring for their children, developing a network of friends and relatives to protect and assist one another, and winning the respect and trust of those friends and relatives. And religion has intimate connections to every one of these fundamental human goals.

There are no victims in relationships, says family systems therapist Mark E. Smith. You pick one person to love you and meet your needs and then find that you instinctively chose someone who will suck at meeting your needs and will instead re-enact your childhood trauma. This gives you the opportunity to learn about yourself and to get healthy.

On Nov. 12, 2013, Dennis said: "I'm a very serious man, but not in demeanor, in thoughts. That's why dating was a little hard in high school because I wanted to talk about heavy duty stuff... I wanted to get into heavy stuff immediately. Stop that... I'm talking in a nicer way. Well, the other one is nice too."

June 11, 2014, Dennis said: "This was a major factor in my own ambitiousness as a young man. I didn't think that I could get a girl if I wasn't superman so I tried to be superman and I did a lot of things. I would try to dazzle girls with, for example, my piano playing. I remember girls I used to invite over to my apartment in Manhattan when I was in graduate school and I would play Mozart and they would fall over, or so I believed. Whatever I could do to impress women."


The proverbial “Why?” child, Prager was sent to the principal’s office so often that they named a chair “The Dennis Prager seat.”

“If I had the sense of parenting that I have today,” said Max, “I could’ve spared myself an awful lot of anguish because in most cases Dennis was right.” (CD)

Max said he’s a perfectionist, and that he was too tough on his kids. He said that as he ages, he becomes milder and more accepting.

“Dennis’s behavior in school was horrible,” said Max. “He was extremely bright and found school boring. I should’ve been more accepting and forgiving. He went to four elementary schools.

“Dennis always knew what he wanted. And this is difficult for parents who usually want to discipline or guide the child. He was always respectful, but Dennis always did things his way.” (Dennis Prager’s CD ROM released in 1998)

Dennis: “I talked in class… Took the girls’ briefcases without permission and passed them around my room.

“I didn’t feel secure enough at home to act out, so I did my acting out at school.” (CD)

On March 17, 2013, Dennis said to Hugh Hewitt: "I said, 'Rabbi, what happens in Olam Haba (the next world)?' I was dead serious. I wanted to know, much more than what the Chief Priest wore. He said, 'We spend eternity studying Torah.' I was traumatized because I thought of being in this man's class forever. I remember thinking, 'What happens in the alternative?'"

On April 16, 2010, Dennis said: “I used to think I was bullied by the teachers because I was thrown out of class on a very regular basis. And I would go home and if my parents found out about it, and that was the only thing I worried about, I said, ‘They pick on me because I am the tallest kid in the class’, which is a non-sequitar, but that’s what I believed, ‘I just stick out because I’m so big’. The truth is, they threw me out because I was the most disruptive and my parents knew that and they didn’t let me believe that nonsense and it was a great cure in my life.”

Hilda: “He was a rough guy in school. He’d read The New York Times [in class] and do other things that he shouldn’t… After the PTA meetings, I’d come home and want to kill him because I heard some bad things. The poor kid was shivering…absolutely miserable when it came time for the PTA meeting.

“He was always a good kid. He never fought with his older brother. They wrestled a lot in the basement.” (CD)

In a lecture on Lev. 14 circa 2009, Dennis said: "Is school a dictatorship? Yes! That's exactly what a school should be. That's the whole point. You don't have the same rights in fifth grade as an adult in school. That's the whole point of school. That's why you can't curse a teacher. You can curse a teacher in the street but you can't in school. I don't care if you want to stand or not [for the pledge of allegiance], you stand."

Max Prager wrote in chapter 30:

When Dennis was 9 years of age in 1957, he became extremely bored with his academic career at Yeshiva Rambam and created an atmosphere in his classroom which was not very conducive to learning. He would crack jokes and make his fellow students laugh and his Rebbi or secular teacher exasperated.

…When parent-teacher evenings occurred each semester, we did not look forward to these events as the reports were always depressing. Also, my poor son went into a fearful state a few days before the meeting. When he reached the 7th grade at the age of 12, Hilda and I felt that, perhaps, a change of venue would rectify the situation. Since Dennis would always be greeted by a new teacher with the words “Oh, you are Elimelach’s brother. I am sure that you will equal his accomplishments.” They surely did not take Education 101. The worst thing a teacher can do is to compare his pupil with his sibling.

I certainly do not absolve myself for the gross error in placing Dennis in the same school as Kenny. I should have been wise enough to realize that since Kenny was an exceptional student and athlete, he should have gone to a different yeshiva. To compound my stupidity, I enrolled him in Winsocki where Kenny was the lead actor in the annual plays and the best athlete.

…Hilda and were at wits end and completely lost as to what options we had in raising our son. I have heard Dennis remark many times on his radio program, when speaking of this episode in his life, that a teacher at Rambam advised me as to the course of action that I eventually took. I dislike correcting my son, but his statement is erroneous.

The truth is as follows: since I always have a brief conversation with my spiritual Father before falling asleep, one night full of anguish and pain, I implored him to guide me in the correct parental path I should take with Dennis. Believe it or not, I awoke the following morning with a modus operandi. A day or two later, I sat Dennis down in my home office and the two of us were alone. I remember, as though it happened yesterday, the exact words that poured from my mouth.

I told him that, as his father, I loved him and will always love him. However, respect has to be earned and I could not respect his actions. I then took a risk in informing him that from that moment on, the word “school” would be taboo in our home. I would never ask him if he had homework, what his grades were, and, in fact, did not have to attend school.

From that moment on, he made a 360 degree turn in his academic life. What he needed was a hands-off approach from his parents that automatically eliminated the severe tension that had been building up throughout his school years. His grades improved substantially, he was elected president of his senior class and was editor of the yearbook.

Not being a psychologist, I cannot state definitely why Dennis behaved in the manner that he did. However, my guess is that since he feared not living up to his brother’s achievements, he preferred attributing any low grades that he may receive in the future to his poor behavior rather than being accused of stupidity.
Dec. 12, 2003, Dennis said that at age 13, in eighth grade, he met with a school psychologist, who asked him what he wanted. Dennis said he wanted his parents to never ask him about school. The psychologist relayed the request to Dennis’s parents and they lived by it. Often they did not even look at Dennis’s report card, which was usually bad.

Young unhappy Dennis felt the need to violate the rules of his home, of his school, and of his religion. While many of his peers would marry the first person they kissed, Dennis needed to experience more of life than that.

In his January 2002 lecture “Personal Autobiography,” Dennis said:
I can’t say that my childhood was particularly happy. I didn’t like school. My parents were not happy that I didn’t like school. I got thrown out of class so regularly that there was a chair in the elementary school office [at Yeshiva Rambam] that was called the Dennis Prager chair. I got thrown out for very valid reasons. Most of the time I would just talk. I was practicing for my profession. I’d write notes and send them to other kids. I’d play tricks on the girls.

When I was a kid, we all came into class with briefcases with all your supplies. So you’d keep your briefcase by your desk. It was a source of awesome pleasure for me to arrange with a couple of the guys to switch the girl’s briefcases who were sitting in the front because I thought of them as goody two-shoes and I had a hatred for goody two-shoes. I thought they were just trying to show the teacher they were terrific so I would just try to get them in trouble as much as possible.

I would frequently beat up bullies. That was a hobby of mine. There’s a big residue of that in me today. I am for beating up bullies. I hate bullies. If they were picking on some kid… I was always the biggest in the class. It’s not like I was Mr. Courageous but I couldn’t stand what they did.

My parents would get called very regularly and they would get very upset that I wasn’t a good kid at school. I was an angel at home but I was a devil at school.

The nadir came in eighth grade when I signed the report card. And I was proud of my abilities in script writing. I remember thinking, yeah, this looks pretty genuine. I would’ve gotten away with that except that when I was sick one day, my mother looked through my drawers and found all these report cards she hadn’t seen.

I also went to sleepaway camp for eight weeks a summer from the age of five. Frankly, that was too long. My grandfather would come on my birthday in the middle of summer and I would scream and cry to go back with him. They were a great source of love for me, my grandparents, in particular my mother’s parents.

High school was much more pleasant for me though things at home got tougher and I threatened to run away. But I was serious about running away. It wasn’t the typical kid threat.

My older brother was always good in everything. My parents couldn’t believe how two kids could be so different.

My brother interceded. I knew he was my last chance. He said, mom and dad, you have to listen to Dennis or he’s going to run away.

I even knew what I was going to do. I was going to go to Idlewild Airport. That’s before it was John F. Kennedy. And I was going to work in the luggage area for one of the airlines and get myself on it, or so were my dreams. I’m sure my wanderlust was shaped in part by my visits every Sunday to the airport just to photographer airplanes. I dreamed about airplanes. I collected time tables.

He told my parents, you’ve got to leave him alone. You can’t bug him anymore about grades or about school. They said, parents can’t do that. We’re abdicating our role. And he said, you have no choice. You’re going to lose your son if you don’t leave him alone.

My father said he actually spoke to G-d. He said, G-d, what am are we going to do? We’re tried punishment. We’ve tried yelling. We’ve tried discipline. We’ve tried notes from school. Nothing has worked.

The school psychologist and my brother prevailed upon my parents to leave me alone and let me raise myself. And they agreed. And from the age of 14 on, they never asked if I got a report card. They never asked if I had homework.

I lived at home the first two years of college. One day I said, ma, I’m off this week. And with a totally straight face, she said, I thought you were off last week, which shows you how much class I didn’t go to. There was no way to know when I was off and when there was school.

This was very dramatic in my life because from age 14 on, I was a happy person. I needed to be left alone. I know that my loathing of controls by government over people, even in America where we are putting more and more laws on people, they actually unnerve me. I can only thrive in freedom. I’m very good at imposing laws on me but I don’t want them imposed by others.

My parents gave me money to eat supper out. They gave me $1:50 a day to eat dinner wherever I wanted.

After school, I’d take a subway into Manhattan and go to museums and concerts and plays. I didn’t do any homework.
Eating out has never ceased being a good psychological feeling for me of freedom. I still love to eat out. It is a credit to the home Fran has made that I am now happy to eat at home. To this day going to Denny’s and getting a tuna melt is fun. It’s still exciting. Anything I want! I’m not restricted to the menu at home. There’s no chance I’ll have liver.

[Sept. 1, 2010, Dennis said he has not had a $200 restaurant tab in his life.]

Once a week, my mother would serve a food that should not be eaten by humans — liver. I like anything but I hate liver. I’d find out when liver would be served and I’d make sure not to be home that night.

Who would tell me when we had liver? We had a housekeeper, a black woman. Ethel was my confidant in life. I told Ethel everything. Ethel loaned me money to buy hockey magazines. I don’t know if I ever paid her back. Ethel was my surrogate mother. I am convinced that this had an effect on the ease and comfort I have always felt with people of any race. The profound role an African-American woman played in my upbringing. When I had a bad report card, I went to her.

I am thoroughly abnormal. Never in my life have I liked parties. I didn’t understand. What do you do at a party? It was very loud. My mode of communication is to speak. Anytime there is loud music, I can’t speak. I’ve lost all of my interest and my powers. I was as interested in girls as any of the guys who went to parties but party wasn’t going to be my method of meeting anybody.

What was my method? It was not a successful one in high school I had these dreams of meeting a girl who loved music like I do at Carnegie Hall. It didn’t happen.

I had a hobby called short-wave radio listening. I got for my bar mitzvah from my grandfather a great short-wave radio — the Zenith Transoceanic. For me to pick up Radio Moscow.. Starting my second year of high school, I became transfixed by the enemy (communism). I listened and I was intoxicated. Not persuaded. Not for a second. I’ve always loved propaganda. It fascinates me how people try to sell what is not true.

I would listen to Radio Moscow in English [while smoking a pipe]. They said, if you will write to us, we will send you a complete set of books on how to learn Russian. So I sent away. I will never forget the thick packet filled with Soviet stamps arrives at my parent’s house in Brooklyn. It was so exciting. I looked at it. Somebody licked these stamps in Moscow!

It was also exciting unfortunately to the government. My next batch of mail was from Radio Peiking. We had no relations with communist China. People get packs of things from China were suspect in the eyes of the Post Office and they tore my mail open.

I wrote a letter to the then senator from New York, Robert F. Kennedy, saying to him what happened and that I should be allowed to get unmolested mail from communist China. And he wrote back. It’s one of the many things that I regret throwing away.

I did start learning Russian.

I’ll never forget when my parents went to a parent-teacher meeting, the nadir of my existence. I hated when my parents went to talk to my teachers because none of them said what a wonderful student we have there. It was always a bad report. It was not a happy night when they went.

One night they went and met my close friend Joseph Telushkin’s parents. My father said to the Telushkins, ‘We should’ve sent Dennis to a Russian school. Then he’d be studying Hebrew.’

It was a good line and very true because under my desk I read two things during classes — the New York Times and Russian. The Herald-Tribune had closed by then. It was my first paper of choice. The rabbis of the school were not happy that I was not studying their holy subjects. One teacher said to me, and it was all in Hebrew, I did learn Hebrew rather well, because all these teachers came from Israel and didn’t speak English, and he said to me, ‘No New York Times? Go back and bring it in and then you can come back in.’ That’s how bitter he was.

I remember the Torah portion then was the ten things the Chief Priest wore in the holy Temple. And I could not think of a more boring thing to study.”

I did get to speak at graduation even though I graduated 92nd in a class of 110 because I was president of the class.

They were very grade conscious in my school and they divided us A, B, C, D. A = very bright. B = pretty bright. C = a little stupid. D = very stupid. I started in the D class and graduated in the C class. Telushkin went from moderately smart to moderately stupid. He’s now the most prolific author in Judaism in America.

I spent most of my four years [of high school] laughing. It was a very happy hilarious time.

My parents every so often very gingerly raised that however much I enjoyed learning Russian and conducting symphonies, the world was not going to grade me on that. How was I going to get a job?

November 14, 2022, Dennis said that when he was a sophomore in high school, he turned in a composition on "The Tyranny of Marksism."


“I don’t have many memories before I was 13,” Dennis said Dec. 14, 2009.

“It’s largely just a cloud. I think that my happiest single memory is the day at twelve that I got paid for three hours of work shoveling Mr. Klein’s driveway. I got $8. It was a fortune of money. I think I got a herniated disc as well. I remember I immediately went and bought the board game 'Clue' and two Hardy Boys books. I remember I never owned anything that brought me as much pleasure as what I bought on my own.”

“I loved being 14,” said Dennis. “I hated being 13. Fourteen started a happy period in my life.” (Dec. 17, 2010)

Jan. 25, 2011, Dennis said: “The single funniest story from all of my childhood — in eighth grade, one of the kids tooted in class. The rest of the class laughed. The principal was walking by and the door was open and he passes by and sees the kids laughing. He gets very angry. He walks in and yells at the class, ‘What’s the big stink about?’

“It was the only time in my life I laughed so hard, I thought I might choke. I fell off my chair. It was pandemonium. The teacher knew what was happening and he was stifling laughing.”

Feb. 24, 2011, Dennis said: “I was never bored, not even as a child.”

In a 1994 lecture on Exodus 2, Dennis said: “Stories never moved me as a kid. Maybe because I was never read any. It was a home that was very clear and talked about moral issues, but we weren’t story oriented. As I get older, the stories not only mean more to me, they mean more than anything to me.”

In his 2008 lecture on Leviticus 19, Dennis Prager said: “I am writing my autobiography. Tentatively, it’s about my three journeys — as a man, as an American and as a Jew. I’m writing the Jew part right now.

“Part of the reason I have such a powerful association with the Sabbath was that it was the only family time we had. That was the time we ate together — Friday night and Sabbath afternoon.

“When I would make a family, I had only one image — the family at the Shabbat table because that was our only family time.

“To this day, when I visit my family in New Jersey, we’re together on Shabbat. We’re not together on a Monday. We’re busy.”

Dennis Prager’s best friend, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, wrote three paragraphs in the Summer 2001 issue of Olam magazine that seem to be about Dennis:

I have a friend who grew up harboring deep resentment toward his parents. He often lamented, “They never really cared about me. They had little time for me, they didn’t take my ideas seriously, and they were always getting angry at me.”

But one day, his attitude started to soften. It all happened when he became a parent, and found himself getting up at 3 a.m. to bring a bottle to his crying daughter.

“I realized then that my parents probably devoted far more hours to me than I had ever previously thought. The fact that I survived to my teenage years with all my fingers and toes intact means that they were watching me far more than I realized.”
Oct. 15, 2009, Dennis said: “My earliest years were strained with my mother. After late teens, it just got better and better every year until they were just wonderful. And that’s why I miss her. Thank God she and I had all those years.”

“My mother told me that I would be in reform school forever.” (Nov. 11, 2009)

“I had a short skinny rabbi in eighth grade throw me over two desks and then continued to puff on a cigarette. I remember thinking that I deserved it.” (Dec. 17, 2010)

“I was never little and he was. That’s how annoyed he was with me. I remember thinking, I’m sure as hell not telling my parents that my rabbi did it because then my father would’ve thrown me over two desks. I would’ve been thrown over four desks in one day. I wasn’t a masochist, so I said nothing. I came home black and blue and that was it. It was a different world. I’m a better man for it. I didn’t come home and think, ‘I was physically abused by my rabbi.’

“I remember writing an apology note. I went to the boys’ room and I wrote an apology note on toilet paper because I thought I was wrong.” (Jan. 17, 2011)

In an April 3, 2011 lecture, Dennis said: “My rabbi was not Sam. If anybody called my rabbi Sam, he wouldn’t even have turned around because only his wife called him Sam. Nobody referred to him as Sam behind his back. It was the rabbi, but with the sixties, they became Sam. They became what God became — your buddy. In mainstream Judaism and Christianity, God became your buddy.”

Nov. 11, 2009, Dennis said: “I was quite unhappy at 13. It was my unhappiest year. Almost overnight, I know why, my parents stopped intervening in my life. I was an abnormal child. I taught myself Russian and how to conduct orchestras… To their credit, not only did they not ask me if I had homework, they didn’t ask to see my report card. They allowed me to sign it for them…. They had no choice. I was going to leave the house. They knew it. I was always strong-willed.

“Around fourteen-and-a-half, fifteen, I blossomed. That blossoming is very powerful now in my remembrance and how it was in daily life. College is a blur compared to high school.”

“High school [meaning tenth grade] was my turning point.”

“High school was transformational for me in my last three years. I am who I was then. Massive details changed in my life since high school but not Dennis.”

“I’ve had a very exciting post-high school life… It got more exciting. There was nothing exciting that happened to me in high school but it was transformational that period of time. I began to know Dennis and be who I am.”

“There were a fair number of years when I was truly unhappy,” said Dennis Nov. 12, 2010. “It did inoculate me [from future unhappiness]. I became an unbelievably grateful human.”

As a child, Dennis thought about what people would say about him at his funeral. (Dec. 13, 2010)

“My goal in life since high school was to influence as many people as possible.” (Jun. 21, 2011)

Dennis was raised to not take the easy way out. “I didn’t like this idea when I was a child, and my family sometimes carried it to an extreme, but this principle has served me well as an adult.”

One day when he was 15, Dennis decided to be happy. “I was on a New York subway train. I remember it vividly. It was a fairly empty car. My arms were outstretched on the two sides of me, leaning on the backs of the row. I remember saying to myself, ‘It is very easy to be unhappy. Any jerk can be unhappy’.” (Dec. 6, 2009)

“I don’t get despondent over the bad stuff,” said Dennis. “I am very touched by people’s kind words to me but I don’t let it go to my head and I don’t let the insults go to my heart. It’s a great equilibrium to have. I trade in feeling great over the compliments for not feeling hurt over the insults.”

“My temperament is even-keeled. And I thank God for it. I think people enjoy being with people who are even-keeled rather than being with people on some sort of emotional rollercoaster.”

“As my wife puts it, ‘I know how you’ll be tomorrow.’” (Jan. 22, 2010)

“I was raised by my society,” said Dennis Mar. 18, 2010. “I was raised by my teachers. I was raised by my rabbis. I was raised by my parents’ friends.”

“If my parents micro-managed my life, I would not be Dennis Prager. I’d be a wimpier guy.”

“I didn’t think my parents understood me. I’m sure my teenage kids said the same thing about me.” (May 21, 2010)

On March 20, 2013, Dennis said: "When I was a student, the last thing that we thought of was expressing ourselves. We believed that society, named the school, had certain principles that we conformed to or left the school or embraced those differences as adults."

The blind men and the elephant — the only poem I ever really enjoyed.” (May 20, 2010)


Dec. 23, 2013, Dennis said: "Gays should never be harassed. I have always supported that. one of the reasons that I didn't become a Republican until the Reagan era was what happened. It seared me. When some people in the Goldwater campaign outed a gay advisor to Lyndon Johnson and ruined his life. Some people followed him into a men's room. I thought that was so despicable that I couldn't become a Republican, even though I was always anti-left." 

Like Jordan Peterson, Oprah Winfrey, Reverend Sun Myung Moon, and other such gurus, Dennis Prager has a gift for assembling and delivering words in a way that makes people feel amazing.

Upon examination, however, many his claims fall apart.

Prager's teachings fall into a modern variant of the ancient literary genre of wisdom. Pragerisms feel profound but they are rarely empirically testable. 

The Bible website,, notes: "Wisdom literature deals with the way the world “works.” This is not lofty, academic philosophy, but it is philosophy of sorts."

December 4, 2020, psychologist Allen Berger said: "There was a psychologist at Harvard University, Jerome Frank, who did an interesting study and he wrote a book called [Persuasion and Healing: A Comparative Study of Psychotherapy]. He wanted to understand what are the therapeutic forces operating in psychotherapy. So he compared three different healing activities to see if he could find some commonality. He looked at western medical doctors, shamans, and therapists. The commonality in all of these practicioners is that they instilled hope in the people who came to see them. The installation of hope mobilized certain forces within that person that heretofore they were unable to mobilize. Now you feel like there is an explanation for why you are suffering and that there is a path to resolve the problem."

October 3, 2022, Dennis said to his Youtube cohost Julie Hartman: "Early on, I said to myself, wow, your instincts are identical to the Torah's. And it blew my mind. My natural mode of thinking was the Torah's mode of thinking. That's why I feel such a moral obligation to get it in print.  Because if you take those five books seriously, you will think clearly about everything."

Julie: "And you will be so much happier."

Dennis: "You can testify to that."

Julie: "Society will run better. Your life will run better... I think it's the answer to everything."

Dennis: "I know it is the answer to everything. That's why it is frustrating that it is not out there more... This is the answer to evil. To unhappiness."

Apr. 10, 2014, Dennis said: "I get my values from the Bible."

I've never heard any other Jew say this.

In the summer 1988 edition of his journal Ultimate Issues, Dennis Prager wrote an essay entitled "Beyond Reform, Conservative and Orthodox: Aspiring To Be A Serious Jew."

The serious Jew meets four criteria:

1. This Jew is committed to each of Judaism's three components: God, Torah, and Israel.

2. This Jew attempts to implement the higher ideals of each of these components.

3. Whatever Jewish laws this Jew does or does not observe is the product of struggle.

4. This Jew is constantly growing in each of these areas.

Somehow the Torah and the ongoing rabbinic tradition forgot to instruct Jews to ponder whether or not they should observe the Law. It's inconceivable that Jews would have survived as a distinct people for thousands of years if they kept asking themselves whether or not they should follow the Torah. Prager's approach is only for intellectuals and even then it doesn't work, hence Prager's description of himself as "lonely" in Jewish life, hardly a recipe for a good life.  

It is easy for the Jewishly illiterate (those who can not pick up a Talmud and read it in its original languages) to assent to Prager's thinking. Nobody can convince you that you're wrong because there is no code in Pragerism (the Pentateuch, which Dennis believes is uniquely divine, is not a code that can govern life without a binding tradition to interpret it). By contrast, defining the good Jew as one who is Orthodox dramatically reduces the room for fooling yourself. Orthodox Judaism has thousands of books filled with specific behaviors and a community committed to this observance.

Pragerism is an intellectual black hole, “a bubble of belief that, while seductively easy to enter, can then be almost impossible to think your way out of again.” (Stephen Law)

What makes Prager's belief bubble so seductive? I think it is these components:

* The feeling that Dennis uniquely understands your pain and that by joining his fight for good values, you can be a hero. 

* Belief that without God, murder is not objectively wrong. 

* Belief that without God, you can't produce a good society.

* Belief that people aren't basically good. 

* Belief that the most important thing in life is to develop good people. 

* Belief that God gave the Torah, the divine recipe for goodness. 

* Belief that Judaism embodies ethical monotheism.

* Belief that hatred of Jews represents hatred of God. 

* Belief that God rewards and punishes, not just in this life, but in the world to come. 

* Belief that the United States is great because of its Judeo-Christian values and that it represents the best hope for humanity. 

* Belief that if academic studies contradict common sense, you can ignore them. Like presidents George W. Bush and Donald J. Trump, Prager prefers to go with his gut rather than with the experts. 

* Belief that the bigger the government, the smaller the citizen

* Belief that IQ doesn't matter while character does. 

Philosopher Stephen Law writes in his 2011 book Believing Bullshit: How Not to Get Sucked into an Intellectual Black Hole:

Cosmologists talk about black holes, objects so gravitationally powerful that nothing, not even light, can break away from them. Unwary space travelers passing too close to a black hole will find themselves sucked in. An increasingly powerful motor is required to resist its pull, until eventually one passes the “event horizon” and escape becomes impossible.

My suggestion is that our contemporary cultural landscape contains, if you like, numerous Intellectual Black Holes —belief systems constructed in such a way that unwary passersby can find themselves similarly drawn in. While those of us lacking robust intellectual and other psychological defenses are most easily trapped, we're all potentially vulnerable.

If you want to achieve the status of a guru, it helps to have some natural charisma and presentational skills. Sincerity and empathy, or at least the ability to fake them, can be useful...


“My father baked challah, the special Friday night bread, on his ship,” said Dennis. “And he was one of a tiny number of Jews on his ship fighting the Japanese. That ability to bake challah on your Navy ship, I think, I’ve translated into my own life with a very great deal of openness about my Judaism and yet an immersion in the larger world.”

“Within Jewish life I’m in the no-man’s land, denominationally. I am equally comfortable, and yet not fully a member, as it were, although I attend, of course, services each week." (CSPAN, 1995)

Dennis: "When people find out that I won’t broadcast on a Jewish holiday or — in fact, it was a very powerful thing — the night of the O.J. Simpson verdict, I was invited to be one of only two people on Nightline, and I had so much passion about that verdict and I was so dying to talk, essentially, to a country. But it was Yom Kippur night, the holiest night of the Jewish calendar, and I turned it down. I don’t broadcast on Jewish holidays or Saturday.” (C-SPAN 1995)

In a 2010 interview at Stephen S. Wise temple, Dennis said: “A week after my bar mitzvah, I stopped putting on tefillin. To do that in my home was so against how I was raised that I didn’t want my parents to know lest they be hurt. I didn’t do any of it out of rebellion since I hid all of my sins from my parents.”

“I would take the back of a comb and make little lines on my arm [before going down to breakfast] so that my mother thought I had put tefillin on that morning.”

“I don’t believe that rabbinic law is binding. Rabbis today can change rabbinic law, not Torah law.”

“Also, I found services way too long. I love musical instruments. Why the rabbis would ban musical instruments when God wanted us to use musical instruments in the temple [on the Sabbath and holidays], I can not understand.”

“I wanted the answers. I wasn’t given them. What is the Jewish role in the world? In 14 years in yeshiva, I never learned the Jewish role in the world. I learned how to build a sukkah. I learned you can eat an egg born on yontif (Jewish holiday).”

“Since going into the diaspora, Jews have been preoccupied-occupied with surviving, not influencing. Jewish life exists to exist. We feel like an endangered species… I don’t care if we survive. If we don’t influence the world, Jewish survival is of no interest to me. We have a task [to bring the world to God and His moral demands]. If we don’t do the task, we have no reason to live. We should assimilate. That’s why Jews do assimilate. Nobody gave them a task. I said that to audiences when I was 23 years old. I have not changed an iota. Where there is a why, there is a how.”

“I don’t care about Jewish culture. That’s why the board at Brandeis[-Bardin Institute] got angry at me. They were very into Jewish culture. I was very into Judaism. It was a conflict from the time Shlomo Bardin appointed me and then died that week until I left. I don’t care about Jewish dance. That’s not a reason to be Jewish any more than Albanian dance is a reason to be Albanian. The reason to be Jewish is to take Torah to the world.”

“Why stay Jewish if you’re secular? For what? Jewish culture? European culture dwarfs Jewish culture. Christian music is fifty times more beautiful than most Jewish music. We don’t have instruments [on Shabbat and holidays]. What kind of music could we have made? The rabbis [of the Talmud] did us an injury with that. I can have Handel’s Messiah or Adon Olam? Gee, that’s a toughie.”

“Jewishly, it’s been a lonely journey. That’s not a complaint. I go through my days profoundly grateful.”

“I left the two things that I was raised. I was raised religiously Orthodox and I am not. I was raised liberal and I am not.”

“I am thrilled that I was raised Orthodox… I saw it all. I got a phenomenally good education. The Torah is much more familiar to me in Hebrew than it is in English.” (2010 at Stephen S. Wise)

In a lecture titled "My Jewish Intellectual Biography" delivered  circa 2003, Dennis said: "I was never Orthodox, but I've always been orthodox... I was about ten years old. I grew up in an Orthodox home. We did not pick up the phone on Shabbat. One Shabbat afternoon it rang and it kept ringing. I remember thinking, 'Why doesn't anyone pick it up?' It didn't strike me as sinful as it would a typical kid at yeshiva. It was unnerving. We thought maybe somebody had died or someone was in terrible trouble. So my family sent me to pick it up, almost as if they had read my mind. The member of the family who cares the least. Their reasoning was that I was not bar mitzvah yet. I didn't take it that I wasn't bar mitzvah yet, I took it as they knew I didn't care... So I picked it up and someone asked for Fernando."

"What brings us to where we are Jewishly is not just intellectual conviction. From the earliest age, my older brother [Kenneth] loved davening. He loves it today... From the same earliest age, [davening] drove me crazy. I remember when I was about ten, it was in the succah of my uncle and aunt in Irvington, and everybody benched (the grace after meals). And after the first paragraph, everyone [recited] it to themselves. I just yadadabba. My father looked at me and said, 'You're not benching.' I said, 'Of course I'm benching.' 'But you don't have a bencher.' 'I know it by heart.' So I recited it by heart. And from then on, I just went yadadabba. I'm saying this in front of my son David. David, I'm not proud of this."

"I have always identified Judaism with goodness, the thing that I most value in this world. I'm not certain as to why... I met dummies who were religious, crooks who were religious, but I don't remember meeting cruel religious Jews."

"My brother loves halacha. My brother loves observance. I don't have that... I am convinced that is the way people are made. That is why we need different vehicles to God and Judaism because we are not all made the same."

"I am prepared to reform halacha. I am not prepared to reform faith [in the Thirteen Principles of the Jewish Faith according to the Rambam]."

"My brother frequently says to me, 'You are a religious party of one.' Thus far, he has a lot of credibility. That doesn't change my life but it does disturb me."

"When David, my oldest son, was born, I said to myself that I have to raise him Orthodox and for a while, we went to an Orthodox shul, virtually never drove on Shabbat, and lived the life I was used to in my home where I grew up. Eventually, I realized I wasn't true to me. When David was eight, he asked me if he could use my tape recorder [on Shabbat]. I said, 'Sure, if you record Shabbat songs.' Technology to honor Shabbat, I am prepared for, that's while I'll drive to synagogue on Shabbat or drive to lunch with fellow Shabbat observers."

Rabbi Nachum Braverman wrote to Dennis in the second edition of Ultimate Issues in 1985: "I find, however, that people's frustration with the 'tyranny of the law' is often merely their own unwillingness to inconvenience themselves."

Aug. 23, 2022, Dennis said to his Youtube cohost Julie Hartman: "The typical response from a non-Jew, and I've always had non-Jews come to my Shabbat table, was, you have this every week?"

Julie: "It's Christmas and Thanksgiving every week."

Dennis: "I learned a lot of my ability to think and to speak from the Shabbat table. My father and brother would talk and talk and talk. And I would listen to them. And then around eighth grade, I started to chime in. My father looked at me one time, very early on in my speaking up at the table, and said, 'Dennis, that's nonsense.' And I remember thinking he's right. My father's voice, when I spoke publicly, remained in me almost my entire life. 'Dennis, are you speaking anything that is nonsense?'"

Sept. 28, 2012, Dennis said: "I have the training of a rabbi but I never sought ordination."

This is a dubious claim. Dennis never had a year of training equivalent to the work in the Yeshiva University rabbinic curriculum

Dec. 19, 2011, Dennis said: "I did think about being a rabbi. I studied to be a rabbi but I decided I preferred the title of "Mr" to "rabbi" because people expect the rabbi to say certain things and I wanted the freedom to say anything." 

People not only expect a rabbi to say certain things, they also expect him to not do certain things, such as the sexual experimentation before marriage that Prager enjoyed.

In fifth grade, Dennis asked his rabbi what Heaven would be like. The rabbi said that they would study Torah all day long. Dennis decided he did not want to go to Heaven. (Adam Carolla dialogue, Feb. 25, 2012)

I sometimes hear something different in Dennis Prager’s voice when he’s attacked by Orthodox Jews. His normal command becomes occasionally strained. While he’s rarely rattled by attacks from the left, attacks from Prager's religious right bring out his anxiety. His three marriages make his moral leader perch unsteady.

A search for “Dennis Prager” in Google during 2010 revealed the first suggested term to add to the search was “divorce.”

Christians and Christmas

In December of 2016, Dennis said that if he were born a Christian, he would "probably" have stayed a Christian. "I don't know if I would have been an orthodox Christian... Unless you are born into a religion that you determine makes the world worse, you should probably stick to it... Or you cannot believe any of its distinguishing tenants and you find a more rational vehicle to God and goodness... Modern Muslims have a unique dilemma because the Islamic world today is a net moral deficit."  

Dennis Prager never heard about “unconditional love” from his rabbis. He wrote April 21, 2009: “In 15 years of study in a yeshiva I had never heard the phrase, and it would have struck me, as it still does, as quite odd.”

Said Dennis in a 2000 lecture on Numbers 6: “If my rebbe had said in yeshiva, ‘Dennis, you have an individual relationship with God,’ I would’ve had a heart attack. I would’ve thought he had become a Christian.”

In a 2005 lecture on Deut. 24:5, Dennis said: “I’ve read Christian theologians since college. They made me aware of the battle with secularism. My yeshiva didn’t make me aware of these things. My yeshiva taught me how to build a succah and how to keep kosher and that was great, but the great over-arching concerns about how to battle the false gods of modern life, Christians opened my mind to that.”

March 24, 2008, Dennis said: “I have a relationship with God, but it’s not the way people often use the term. My relationship with God is that I want to do what He wants to do. It doesn’t go much beyond that. We don’t talk a lot. He doesn’t answer a lot. There are people like my father who talk to God every night of their lives. I envy him.”

“Before I give a lecture and before my radio show, I [say] a little prayer. 'God, I would like to do what You would like me to do. Thank you. Just give me the strength to do what You would like.' That’s it. It makes me not nervous because I am not there for me… It’s a very centering thing. Am I in line with what I believe God wants me to do with my life? Will I meet my Maker and be able to say I did what You wanted?”

In his lecture on Gen. 41-42, Dennis said: “You’re a lot more confident in life when you think you are doing God’s work. Take it from someone who thinks he is doing God’s work.”

Dec. 15, 2009, Dennis said: “I was 20 years old when I went for my junior year to England. During the Christmas break, which was about three weeks, like most students in England, I left England for warmer weather. I crossed the English channel, took a train down the western part of Europe, then to the bottom of Spain and then took a boat to Morocco. This was on my own. This was a very adventurous trip. I was in Morocco for Christmas that year. To my amazement, because I monitor my own emotions a great deal. I have a lot of feedback. I’m very fortunate in that way. I realized what’s troubling me. I’m missing something. To my amazement, I didn’t immediately realize it, but I was missing the Christmas season. It was not Morocco’s fault. It’s a Muslim country. I couldn’t believe how I missed it.

“I was two years away from immersion in Jewish education. Of course I never had [Christmas], but it permeated my life. My parents, both Orthodox Jews, would watch the Christmas mass from Rome every Christmas eve. I loved it. My father, I and the Pope were all wearing yarmulkes.”

Dec. 20, 2011, Dennis said, "It had a big impact on me which eventually expressed itself in such a wonderful relationship with Christians and to be the best I could a bridge between Jews and Christians... I miss this time so much that I do my best to not miss this time. I've been offered many times the opportunity to take listeners on a cruise during Christmas week but I don't want to miss this time."

Dennis Prager wrote in the Dec. 17, 2010 Jewish Journal:

How could I miss something that I never had? And being so Jewish, how could I miss the quintessential Christian holiday? It seemed religiously wrong, maybe even sinful.

…I subsequently spent a lot of time reflecting on this. It made little sense to me: Why would a yeshiva boy miss the Christmas season?

I came to two life-changing realizations. First, though my yeshiva world did everything possible to deny the existence of Christmas — for example, we had school on Christmas Day, and “midwinter vacation,” as it was called, was at the end of January, not at the end of December — this yeshiva boy really liked the Christmas season.

And, second, this Jew, whose yeshiva upbringing taught him to think of himself only as a Jew, was in fact an American as well.

…My youth in New York had consisted of an Orthodox home, Orthodox shul, Orthodox yeshiva, Orthodox friends and Orthodox Zionist summer camp in which only Hebrew was spoken and which was entirely Israel-oriented. Of course, I was an American, but how was I supposed to feel American?

…In that Orthodox world, American identity was not denigrated, just ignored. Anything Christian, however, was sometimes denigrated and always avoided…

…As the years passed, I not only made peace with my American identity and with my enjoyment of the Christmas season, I came to treasure that season and to fall in love with America and its distinct values (what I call the American Trinity: Liberty, In God We Trust, and E Pluribus Unum). While director of a Jewish institution — the Brandeis-Bardin Institute in Simi Valley — I volunteered to be a Santa Claus for the Simi Valley Rotary Club, of which I was a member. So, during the same week that I led Shabbat activities for a thousand Jews, I also went to my Rotary Club meeting (what is more American than the Rotary Club?), and I played Santa Claus at a local department store.

…When my yarmulke-wearing children were younger, I used to take them to see beautiful Christmas lights on homes.
Dore phoned Dennis Prager’s radio show Dec. 24, 2010: “Dennis, you love the holiday [of Christmas] so much, do you have a Christmas tree in your house?”

Dennis laughs.

Dore: “You are so enamored with it. Why? Do you get enamored with Easter?”

Dennis: “No. I am enamored with Christmas.”

Dore: “Why don’t you become a Christian? You don’t like Chanukkah, right?”

In the past, Dennis described Chanukkah music as “pathetic” in comparison to Christmas music.

Dennis: “Why does liking Christmas as a Jew mean I don’t like Chanukkah?”

Dore: “Why is it so important? If you take away the shmaltz, the music, the tree and everything else, you’ve got a religious holiday?”

Dennis: “Yes. I love the religion of my neighbors. For me, it is not a religious holiday. I don’t believe in Jesus Christ. Is it a national holiday?”

Dore: “Yes. Unfortunately, it is.”

Dennis: “The vast majority of Americans do [observe Christmas]… It is a meaningful day [for most Americans] and I like that and that’s why I live here. I love this country and I love its holidays including Christmas. My colleague Michael Medved is an Orthodox Jew and he plays this Christmas music [on his radio show]. My brother is Orthodox and he sang Christmas carols with a yarmulke with the Columbia’s Glee club. You are insular, we are not… You live in a tiny little ghettoized mind. I don’t.”

Dore: “Do you know the only day that Jews weren’t killed in the concentration camps? Christmas day.”

Dennis: “You’re an ingrate. How many Jews are living in the freest country on earth thanks to American Christians… You are an ingrate, sir.”

Dore: “No, I’m not.”

Dennis: “You are living in the best country Jews have lived in and you are crapping on the Christians who made this country. Why do you continue to live here if you have such a contempt for the Christians who surround you?”

Dore: “I have no contempt for non-Jews. I have contempt for Christmas day.”

Dennis: “Your entire call has been how crappily Christians have treated Jews. Why do you continue to live among Christians when you could live in Tel Aviv among Jews?”

Dore: “If I had the money, I would make aliyah to Israel.”

In a May 1, 2012 speech, Dennis said: "I text my rabbi (Orthodox), 'Merry Christmas.' And he texts back, 'Gut yontif.'"

Dec. 25, 2023, Julie Hartman asked Dennis: "What do you do to celebrate Christmas?"

Dennis: "On Christmas day, I don't listen to classical music. I listen to Christmas music. I revel in the ambience of the day. My wife converted to Judaism. She is as Jewish as I am from the perspective of Judaism, but she comes from a Christian home and we have all of her family over and we have a big Christmas dinner, which I love. I even wear my kipa at the dinner. It's my way of both reminding everyone that it is the Jew in your family who's enjoying this with you, and while it is not my holy day, it is their holy day. I open up with a prayer."

One Muslim scholar wrote in 2015: "If saying “Merry Christmas” implies belief in Jesus’s status as son of God, the same would apply to many other things e.g. saying ‘Goodbye’. Goodbye was coined from the longer phrase “God be with ye.” Though I believe we all have the same one God, those who immerse themselves into meaningless intricacies should know that this God (originally in Goodbye) is the God that most Christians believe begot a son."

On Dec. 24, 2013, Dennis published an essay sure to make most Orthodox rabbis wince. Titled, "Most Jews Wish You a Merry Christmas," the essay said: "It doesn’t matter with which religion or ethnic group you identify; Christmas in America is as American as the proverbial apple pie. That is why some of the most famous and beloved Christmas songs were written by guess who? Jews."

Dissident intellectual Steve Sailer wrote:
The Christmas songs that Jews wrote seldom involved religion...

But this long, amiable tradition of Jews helping to enliven a Christian feast day seems, sadly, to be drawing to an end. American Jews, those exemplars of successful assimilation now seem to be de-assimilating emotionally, becoming increasingly resentful, at this late date, of their fellow Americans for celebrating Christmas...

Considering that thousands of Jews chose death rather than to confess Christ, you won't find much support in the Jewish tradition for a Jew to say "Merry Christmas." It's about as Jewish a thing to do as eating ham. Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, who is Messiah and God according to those who celebrate Christmas for religious reasons. The word "Christmas" originates from the compound "Christ's mass" meaning the eucharist (the ritual drinking of Christ's blood and the eating of his flesh through consuming wine and a wafer).

Dennis Prager wrote in 2014:
I believe it is significant that three of the four dissenting justices are the three Jews on the Supreme Court — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan. So, too, one of the two women (the “respondents” at the Supreme Court level) who filed the original lawsuit against the town of Greece is a Jew. And Jewish organizations, including the American Jewish Committee, the Union for Reform Judaism, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Anti-Defamation League, had filed amicus curiae briefs in support of the women.

This is all significant because the Jewish justices, the Jewish woman who brought the suit against the New York town and all the Jewish organizations that filed briefs in support of the two respondents represent a battle that many American Jews and Jewish organizations have been waging for decades against public expressions of God and religion.

American Jews have become the most active ethnic or religious group in America attempting to remove God and religion from the public square. Why is this the case? Why have American Jews been so active in fighting any expressions of God and religion in the country that has been the most hospitable to us in our long history?

Nearly every Jew who does so will give this answer: In order to fight for the separation of church and state in America.

But let’s be honest. If there were no such concept in America — and in fact, the phrase “separation of church and state” never appears in the Constitution — most American Jews would be just as opposed to public expressions of faith.

So, then, once again: Why are American Jews so opposed to public religious expressions? Moreover, this opposition exists not only to government-sponsored religious expression. For example, many Jews are avid supporters of substituting “Happy Holidays” for “Merry Christmas” or “holiday party” for “Christmas party.”

I think there are four reasons.

One is antipathy to Christianity. Most Jews just don’t like Christianity. They associate it with centuries of anti-Semitism, and therefore believe that a de-Christianized America will be a much more secure place for them.

Second, many American Jews feel “excluded” when Christianity is expressed in public.

A third reason is antipathy to religion generally. Most Jews are little more positively disposed to Orthodox Judaism than they are to traditional Christianity.

That leads to reason four: a fervent belief in secularism. Most American Jews believe in secularism as fervently as Orthodox Jews believe in the Torah or traditional Christians believe in Christ.

On December 13, 2014, Dennis conducted Christmas music for the LA Premiere Orchestra.

Said Dennis in his 2007 lecture on Leviticus 4: “I love good religious services whatever the religion.”

“I was raised in an Orthodox home and with yarmulkes on, we watched the mass from the Vatican every Christmas eve (except for Shabbat). I loved it. The ceremonies. I loved it. When I visited the Vatican and I was taken to the inner parts by a major monsignor from Argentina who I was friendly with, I felt religious.”

In a lecture on Leviticus 14-15, Dennis said: “It was almost halacha in our house [to watch]. I’ve always been enthralled with all religions. What I really loved was the clothing, the pomp, the incense, the holy water, the sprinkling of water, the giving of the wafer. I didn’t know what anything meant. He could’ve given the people french toast and I wouldn’t have known the difference, but it didn’t matter to me. I was moved.”

On Jan. 16, 2014, Dennis Prager said: "The American Protestant produced the greatest society ever produced by any religious group." 

"If I had been talking 2,000 years ago, I would've said Judaism."

Dennis told Hugh Hewitt about Hasidic hats: "The big-rimmed hat is merely a carry-over from Eastern European life. There are parts of Jewish life that are extremely traditional. I am not that traditional. I like American garb and modern Western garb. But so be it. They have chosen to wear the clothing that was worn at the time in Eastern Europe, and to…there’s a certain nostalgia for the shtetl, the insulated Jewish religious village. I don’t have that particular yearning."

While teaching the five books of the Torah at American Jewish University between 1993 and 2011, Dennis Prager wondered aloud why so few Orthodox Jews came. In his fifth lecture on Numbers circa 2006, Dennis said: “That’s amazing. More Mormons than Orthodox Jews. That’s fascinating. I love it. It cracks me up. How do you get Orthodox Jews to attend non-Orthodox?”

The lack of Orthodox interest in Prager's Torah teachings is akin to the lack of Christian interest in Muslim teachings. In-groups aren't much interested in out-groups. 

In a lecture on Deut. 22:1, Dennis said: “I’m very unhappy that you asked that question because it may invalidate a certain community [Orthodox] from buying these tapes and listening to them. Your question, was I taught these things at yeshiva? Some things I was. Most of the things I am conveying to you I was not taught in my traditional upbringing. I’m doing something with this that is very different.”

“When I meet learned Jews who find out that I am teaching the Torah verse-by-verse, they will say, ‘Oh, so you teach it with Rashi?’ And of course I have studied the Rashi but I don’t teach it from Rashi for while he is invaluable, if I need to learn how to live today, he’s not the best source now. From the filter of my background with these rabbis but living in the modern world, what I am working out is is this book rationally morally applicable to your lives. It is an original attempt to make that clear. I don’t know of another attempt like this. It is easy to say, he is really arrogant. He thinks he understands the Torah that well to teach that way. I can’t defend against the arrogance. Why would I do this? It’s not for the money. It’s very hard. I wish that I had been taught these things.”

“I am very moved that wherever I go to speak in Jewish life, very often, Orthodox rabbis, Chabad rabbis, will tell me that they use these tapes when they teach Torah. Not to mention Reform and others. That says to me that they know that this comes from a good place.”

“I picked up a lot of it from great scholars. Very often they were Christians who taught me these things… I obviously don’t use the parts where they say, ‘This shows that Christ…’ That’s not my faith.

“Irving Greenberg, an Orthodox rabbi, wrote in his book on Christianity that he has been deeply influenced by Christian thinkers. He said that from an early age, when he read Christian thinkers, when he read ‘Christ’, he substituted ‘God’ and it worked perfectly. I cracked up when I read it because that’s exactly what I do.”

“That’s how I know Judeo-Christian is a legitimate term. I did learn a lot from these [Christian] people who do relate it to life today. I learned things [in yeshiva] that I knew were not going to help me deal with life. Moses was caught by Pharaoh and his neck turns to marble when he’s about to be killed. Or the reason that Moses had a speech impediment was that when he was a baby on Pharaoh’s lap, they put before him gold and hot coals, and he was about to reach for the gold and give away how brilliant he was, but he reached the hot coals and burned his tongue forever. I don’t mind those stories but they don’t help me understand what the Torah really wants to teach. And those are some of the things I learned at that time. I’m fighting for the belief that this is a divine text.”

“I respect the notion that God gave us laws that we can’t understand, but I don’t think He did.”

In a lecture on Deut. 22:15, Dennis said: “I am versed in the sources like Rashi, Rambam and so on. They have helped shape my understanding but I believe that we need to dust off a lot of the traditional coloring of our view of the Torah to make it understandable for modern men and women. Many Orthodox rabbis get these tapes and have no problem with anything I have said, even though I am not making reference often to Orthodox sources. I’m being as true to the Torah as possible. It almost comes as a relief to many Orthodox Jews that an honest reading of the peshat plain reading of the text without commentary leads you to an elevated view of the Torah.”

“On Deut. 22:16, Rashi says this teaches us that the woman has no permission to speak in the presence of her man, i.e. her husband. What am I going to say? Is this really what the Torah teaches? That a woman in the 21st Century should not speak in front of her husband?”

In his lecture on Lev. 14, Dennis said: "It is not the specific act of ritual [in the Torah] that is of interest to me as what is it aimed to say. Of course it will be time-bound... When people bring a turtle-dove after menstruating, I don't relate to that... The message has to be eternal or there is no message."

"I believe that a lot of people confuse 'divine' with 'eternal.' It should not be. I believe the Torah is a divine text... 'Divine' does not mean that every detail is eternally the same. The message and the values are eternal. Some of the laws are clearly eternal, but the idea that the priest will come to your home when it suffers from skin disease, obviously that will not take place today. With the end of the temple, the whole concept of tame and tahor (purity and impurity) has evaporated. It is our task to figure out what is eternal without just choosing what we are comfortable with."

In his 2009 lecture on Leviticus 21, Dennis said: “The Talmud is about the rabbis debating how a Jew should live. I admit there were times when I studied these debates, I got so bored that I learned how to say words in English backwards. It happened in sixth grade in yeshiva when we spent an entire year on whether or not one could eat an egg laid on a Jewish holiday. My favorite word backwards is Republican.”

“Some of the [Talmudic] rabbis’ debates are profound and some of them are not. Sometimes you just feel that they have a lot of time on their hands.”

In a June 2011 lecture, Dennis said: “The rebbe’s [Menachem Schneerson] emphasis on happiness is so big. It’s as big as the non-judgmental attitude is big.”

“In my elementary school yeshivas, all the rebbes were from Eastern Europe. They either escaped right before the Holocaust or right after the Holocaust. They radiated misery. I don’t remember them smiling. I don’t remember if they had teeth. I remember thinking that to be frum (religious) meant to be unhappy. It was almost an aveira (sin) to laugh too much. What are you laughing about? You could be studying another blatt (page) of gemara and you’re telling a joke? It’s wrong.”

“Nothing alienates the non-religious from God and religion as unhappy religious people. I remember Phil Hendrie, the talk show host, he used to imitate people. He has a very narrow but true gift of genius to do this.

“He was once ribbing Muslims. It was a fair rib. His whole routine was that if you laugh or smile, you’re not a Muslim. Have you seen imams laughing? The laughing imams? It’s almost a self-contradictory term. Can you imagine Khameini back-slapping and laughing and having a great time? Another l’chaim!”

“If Judaism doesn’t make you happier, either the religion is a failure or your practice of it is a failure.”

“We over-emphasize brilliance in Jewish life. When I was a kid, the best student was the one who memorized the most blatt gemara. The kid was an idiot but he memorized blatt gemara. So what?”

“A third aspect (after non-judgmentalism and happiness) of the Chabad revolution was to go into the world. This was my biggest problem with the Orthodoxy of my youth. It was too insular.” (COTV Chabad Banquet Gala 2011)

Unlike most Orthodox Jews, Dennis Prager does not wear a kipa (skullcap) out of the house. He wears one at home and in shul and when he’s reciting blessings and teaching Torah.

Unlike Orthodox Jews, Dennis Prager has no concern about whether or not the plate he eats off of is kosher. He eats vegetarian food in non-kosher restaurants and he prays in non-Orthodox synagogues. He drives on the Sabbath.

Unlike Orthodox Jews, Dennis Prager does not believe in the divinity of the Oral Law.

Speaking October 28, 2010 at Temple Israel Ner Tamid in Mayfield Heights, Ohio, Dennis said: “Why didn’t I accept full Orthodoxy with the oral law? When I was in yeshiva, I asked my rabbis in sixth grade, if God gave a written and an oral Torah, why didn’t He write it all? Why was some written? It can’t be because of significance because there are parts of the written Torah that are incredibly over-detailed and there are things in the Oral law of tremendous significance. It seems capricious and God doesn’t seem capricious. Second, it doesn’t say anywhere in the written Torah that God gave an oral law. It’s an oral tradition that I should believe that an oral tradition was given at Sinai.

“Maybe God wanted there to be an oral tradition so that it could change and the written Torah was the constitution that doesn’t change.

“I believe the oral law developed the most humane way of killing an animal devised in history… This is all wonderful, but now that we have stunning where an animal doesn’t know what is bout to be done to it, why don’t we stun animals in kashrut and then kill them ritually? Because the answer is that the oral law says that the animal has to be fully conscious. In my opinion, in this case, the oral law undermines its own brilliance. If there was stunning 3,000 years ago, the Talmud would have said there could be stunning.”

No important rabbi in the Jewish tradition prior to the 19th Century held that while the written Torah comes from God, the oral Torah does not. Such a Sola Scriptura position is uniquely Protestant. The only organized group of Jews who've held to Sola Scriptura over the past 1,800 years (prior to Reform Judaism in the 19th Century) are the tiny Karaite sect (there are about 50,000 Karaites in the world).

Reform and Conservative Judaism reject not only the divinity of the oral Torah but also of the written Torah, particularly when it conflicts with modern mores (such as homosexuality).

While rejecting the divinity of the Oral Torah makes Dennis Prager's life easier by permitting him to do what he wants, it separates him from the Jewish tradition. 

There's no way to organize Jews according to Dennis Prager's teachings. His principles are too elastic. They're a variant of Judaism for people who can't read Hebrew.

Wikipedia says about the minor Jewish holiday of Chanukkah: "The story goes that there was only enough oil to burn for one day, yet it burned for eight days." 

Dec. 23, 2011, Dennis Prager said he believed that that miracle historically happened. 

Sept. 19, 2012, Dennis said: "I've had no miracles in my life."

July 13, 2001, Dennis said: “I did however try Orthodoxy once again after my first child was born (1983). For a number of years [until 1991], I lived an Orthodox life to try it again as an adult. I’m quite observant but I always announce that I am not Orthodox because I never want to mislead anybody.”

Caller: “What about kosher? Is that important to you?”

Dennis: “Yes. But my level would be different from yours if you are Orthodox. I don’t care, for example, about dishes at a restaurant. If a dish has touched bacon and then was washed, I will have food off of it.”

Caller: “What would you advise young people, especially Jews, aged 12-25 about whether they should follow what you’re doing?”

Dennis: “I am proud to say that I have brought a lot of Jews to Judaism. And they know, as my own children know, that I do not give a hoot if my children or any Jew I influence expresses a serious Judaism as an Orthodox, Conservative, Reform or Hasidic Jew. I am just as happy. I have zero preference.”

Caller: “What happened after your Bar Mitzvah?”

Dennis: “I don’t have an Orthodox temperament."

On Oct. 23, 2013, Dennis published seven reasons for why Orthodoxy is growing:

Second, the more Orthodox one is, the more he or she is likely to live among Orthodox Jews. One’s entire social life (outside of work) revolves around fellow Orthodox Jews. That makes it, to put it gently, very difficult to leave Orthodoxy. If you do, you are likely to lose your whole support system and probably most of your friends, as well. You may even risk alienating your family.

Third, the great majority of Orthodox Jews send their children to Orthodox Jewish day schools — usually through high school. The Orthodox child rarely has close non-Orthodox, let alone non-Jewish, friends, thereby reinforcing Orthodoxy both experientially and socially from the earliest age...

On Oct. 25, 2013, Dennis said: "I believe in the 13 Principles of the Jewish faith as enunciated by Maimonides, but there are many rabbinic laws I don't find rational. The practices that man made should be rational. The adding of a day to the list of days you have to keep for Passover... God wanted it to be seven days [not eight days as the Orthodox keep it]... That stuff drove me crazy intellectually."

In a March 10, 2009 lecture on Leviticus 19: 26-28, Dennis Prager said: “When I was in yeshiva, [I was told about] a very very pious rabbi who on Yom Kippur was so careful not to drink that he would not even swallow his own saliva. He would spit it out. I remember thinking the man was an idiot. The thought of a guy spitting all Yom Kippur, what’s so pious about that? I would leave shul.”

In a 2009 lecture on Leviticus 22-23, Dennis said: “Shinui is the notion of doing something different on Shabbat. I had an uncle, may he rest in peace, who was right-wing Orthodox. He loved playing chess. The vast majority of Orthodox Jews see nothing wrong with playing chess on Shabbat, but he would say you would have to move the chess pieces with your left hand on Shabbat. To me that is excessive.”

Many people influenced by Dennis to take Judaism seriously end up Orthodox (if you want high-intensity Jewish religion, that’s usually your only choice) and many of them come to despise Dennis for not being religious enough. In a column Sept. 5, 2006, Dennis wrote: “I recall a young man who attended a Jewish institute I used to direct. When he first arrived at the institute, he was a particularly kind and nonjudgmental individual — and completely secular. After his month-long immersion in studying and living Judaism, he decided to become a fully practicing Jew. When I met him a year later he was actually less kind and was aggressively judgmental of the religiosity of fellow Jews, including me and others who had brought him to Judaism. In one year he had become in his eyes holier than the teachers who brought him to religion in the first place.”

Dennis Prager’s eloquence inspires such fervor in some people that it is impossible for him to live up to their unrealistic expectations. Thus, many fans who idealized him come to despise him.

Secular moral philosopher John M. Doris writes in his 2005 book Lack of Character: Personality and Moral Behavior: "Commitment to [moral] globalism threatens to poison understandings of self and others with disappointment and resentment on the one hand and delusion and hero-worship on the other."

What is the alternative? Doris suggests: "Behavior is – contra the old saw about character and destiny – extraordinarily sensitive to variation in circumstance."

Dennis said in a March 24, 2008 talk at Nessah Synagogue: “I grew up in an East European Hasidic shtible in New York. The rabbi was from Romania. Ultra-Orthodox. In order to do Maftir Yonah, the greatest honor of the year was to recite maftir and the book of Yonah on Yom Kippur, you bought it… You bought every single honor at the shul. No dough, no go up to the Torah. No one resented it because it was the only way this poor rabbi could support this little nothing shtibl on East 17th Street in Brooklyn.

“My father bought Maftir Yonah every year. He wanted that kavod (honor). God bless him. He installed the air conditioning at that shul.”

In a 1998 lecture on Exodus 28, Dennis said:

We do not associate Judaism and Jews with the aesthetic. The Greeks honored beauty, so there was a Jewish reaction to the worship of physical beauty. It’s only the life of the mind that matters. You had in the yeshiva world that I know very well an anti-aesthetic thing. It didn’t matter if your clothing was rumpled. It was almost considered in the yeshiva world of Eastern Europe, and though I didn’t grow up in Eastern Europe, I grew up in an Eastern Europe-type yeshiva in my elementary school, it was almost considered a virtue that the the boys would have a sheen on the seat of their pants. It meant that they almost never moved. They sat and studied all the time.

Do you know what yeshiva means? It means seated. If I had said to the rebbe, I need to go out to lift weights, he would’ve looked at me, how did he get in to this school, let alone my class? The rebbes were not Jack Lalane imitations. There would be recess but you can waste your time running around, real life is study.

Mar. 21, 2013, Dennis said: "I never ever think about whether God loves me and I am deeply God-centered. I have taught the Bible my whole [adult] life. All I ask is what does God want from me."

In 1955, when Dennis was seven years old, sociologist Marshal Sklare described the American Orthodox as “a case study of institutional decay.” Its rebirth has taken place with Prager outside its fold.

History professor Marc B. Shapiro wrote April 13, 2010:

On the internet there are loads of sites devoted to aspects of Orthodox life and culture from all different angles. Even though the Orthodox are significantly smaller than the other denominations, the amount written about them in recent years dwarfs what we can point to with regard to the Conservative and Reform movements. In terms of blogs and other Internet sites, there also is no comparison. How to explain all this?

When it comes to the blogs and more popular sites on the Internet the answer is not hard to find. It is true that the other denominations have more “members” than the Orthodox. Yet if we are talking about those who are educated Jewishly, and interested in Jewish matters, the Orthodox unquestionably outnumber the other denominations. Since the Internet is the great equalizer, with everyone able to set up his or her soapbox, it is no wonder that it is crawling with Orthodox sites. Furthermore, average Orthodox Jews, by which I mean those who are not in the rabbinate or the academy, buy books of Jewish interest to a much greater extent than other laypeople.

Between 1934-1950, many Haredim (fervent right-wing Orthodox such as rabbis Aharon Kotler, Moshe Feinstein, Joel Teitelbaum) moved to America and by the 1980s the right-wing Orthodox dominated Orthodox life.

As opposed to the modern Orthodox, the traditional Orthodox generally scorn university education for any other purpose than earning a living. They generally refuse to cooperate with non-Orthodox forms of Judaism and they don’t identify with Zionism.

Until 1992, Dennis had his membership in Modern Orthodox shuls such as Young Israel of Century City on Pico Blvd in Los Angeles (with several people from his childhood). From 1992 until about 2016, he’s belonged to the Reform temple Stephen S. Wise. Around 2016, he formed his own Sabbath morning minyan in the San Fernando Valley. 

“I’m orthodox, not Orthodox,” said Dennis in his first lecture on Deuteronomy (2002). For many years Dennis said that he belonged to a Reform temple, sent one child (Aaron) to a Conservative day school, another child (David) to an Orthodox day school (Shalhevet), and served on the board of the Chabad day school in Conejo Valley. "They had no building of their own for the first years. It began in the back of my own home and then moved to a church property. A woman we hired sued within the first couple of weeks under the Americans With Disabilities Act because she had to walk up the hill to the bathroom. Precious funds we had to pay out to settle. We were always on the brink." (Jan. 16, 2012)

Dennis said in a January 2002 lecture “Personal Autobiography”: “Modern [Orthodox] meant we kept kosher, we kept the Sabbath strictly, but outside the house we didn’t wear a yarmulke. We’d eat in any restaurant though we wouldn’t eat non-kosher food. We wouldn’t eat meat out, but we’d eat fish out.

“In Brooklyn, it was very possible even in a Modern Orthodox home to lead a very insular life. I never met Reform Jews. I never met Conservative Jews. I met more non-Jews than I met non-Orthodox Jews.”

In a 2008 lecture on his 25 years in broadcasting, Dennis said: “I ached to meet non-Jews. I remember talking to the mailman as much as I could. I wanted to know what do you eat?”

Apr. 11, 2014, Dennis said: "In my synagogue, I would tie the men's prayer shawls together, so that when they separated from each other, all of their prayer shawls would fall off. I thought it was the funniest thing of my childhood. It still makes me crack up."

Dennis wrote Aug. 10, 2010:
When I was a kid in yeshiva, we played a game during davening (prayer services) called siddur (prayer book) baseball. We mostly played this at Orthodox summer camp during Shabbat services — because it was baseball season, and because Shabbat services were much longer than the daily service.

It was a game that demanded no skill. When it was your turn to bat, you closed the siddur and opened it up to any page. If the first letter on the page was an aleph, you had hit a single; if the was a bet, it was a double; a gimmel meant a triple; and a daled was a home run. Entire rows of kids — we sat on long benches — could be seen opening and closing their siddurim and mumbling something like “man on first, two out.”

We did this because we were bored out of our minds. And remember, we knew what the words meant. We had studied the siddur and Hebrew all our lives.

We were bored for a number of reasons, chief among them being that the davening was so long — usually more than three hours.

“I didn’t care that in school they didn’t ask me, how do you feel? One of the great moments of my life, it helped shape who I am, was in fourth grade. The rabbi announced it was time for the afternoon prayer. I walked over to the rabbi [Fastag] and said, ‘Rabbi, I’m not in the mood for mincha.’ The rabbi thought for a few moments, looked up and said, ‘Dennis Prager is not in the mood for mincha? So what?’ It was one of the great moments of my life that my mood did not matter.” (Oct. 12, 2009)

April 29, 2011, Dennis said: “I am not good at petitionary prayer and rarely make it [on behalf of myself]. I’ve done it maybe twice in my life. I don’t like using God as a celestial butler.”

“The type of prayer that is meaningful to me is two things: A very beautiful service at a house of worship — and they are not common — with beautiful music in a beautiful environment. That can be uplifting to me if it is brief… After a certain period of time, you have the law of diminishing returns with prayer. I particularly like when a benediction or invocation or some sort of prayer is made at the beginning of the meal. That is the one that most moves me — a brief spontaneous prayer at the beginning of a meal invoking God and uplifting eating from that of biological necessity to something higher. The purpose of prayer is to elevate the moment.”

“In my religion, there’s too much prayer and it’s too long and it has not had good effects within religious Jewish life.”

April 13, 2010, Dennis said: “Are Orthodox Jewish women subservient? Boy, my mother was an Orthodox Jewish woman. The idea that she was subservient would make one laugh. It would create levity in the Prager home. She loved it. She loved the idea that there were specific obligations that fell on men and fell on women.”

On Jan. 11, 2012, Dennis Prager wrote in the Jewish Journal:

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the chief rabbi of Efrat, ...was still living in the United States and was looking for a rosh yeshiva (a dean) for a yeshiva he was starting. When the selection process had narrowed the applicants to 10 highly learned young talmidei chachamim (scholars), he interviewed each of them. First, he had them read and explain a particularly difficult portion of the Talmud. Each one passed that part of the interview handily.

Then he asked them a question: Suppose you ordered an electric shaver from a store owned by non-Jews, and by accident the store sent you two shavers. Would you return the second shaver?

Nine said they would not. One said he would.

What is critical to understand is why they answered the way they did. The nine who would not return the second shaver were not crooks. They explained that halachah (Jewish law) forbade them from returning the other shaver. According to halachah, as they had been taught it, a Jew is forbidden to return a lost item to a non-Jew. The only exception is if the non-Jew knows a Jew found the item and not returning it would cause anti-Semitism or a Khilul Hashem (desecration of God’s name). The one who said he would return it gave that very reason — that it would be a Khilul Hashem if he didn’t return it and could be a Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God’s name) if he did. But he, too, did not believe he was halachically bound to return the shaver.

The nine were not wrong, and they were not taught wrong. That is the halachah. Rambam (Maimonides) ruled that a Jew is permitted to profit from a non-Jew’s business error.

This same subject came up recently in talking with a rosh yeshiva of a “black hat” yeshiva, a good and decent man, who defended this halachah in order to make the point that it is halachah — not “humanity,” as he termed it, or common sense, or conscience — that determines what is right.
On Dec. 25, 2006, the Orthodox Union in Los Angeles hosted a debate about Orthodox Judaism between Dennis Prager and Rabbi Yitzhok Adlerstein (The two have been friendly since the 1980s, Dennis often refers to Adlerstein as his “right-of-center Orthodox rabbi friend” in speeches, the friendship has waxed and waned over the years, with the men sometimes going years without talking). I was there and wrote the following:
People are upset about [Prager]  being invited to an O.U. event.

Rabbi Korobkin says the O.U. got a telephone message from a local leader of left-wing Orthodoxy complaining about Prager's inclusion. That Prager was intolerant of other religions because he wants Muslim congressman Keith Ellison to take his swearing in oath on a Bible (in addition to the Koran).

Dennis: "If we Jews think we are secure in America because of the constitution and not because of the Bible, we are fools."

"Of all the ethnic groups in America, we are the most foolish."

"The great majority of serious Jews are Orthodox."

"On the great moral issues of life, you and I are in agreement 99% of the time... Because we both believe the Torah comes from God."

"The average Orthodox rabbi and Reform rabbi share almost nothing [in values]."

"You turned out to be right... I could not argue against it -- the ordination of women. The adding of vast numbers of females to the Jewish and Christian clergy has not helped those religions. Women bring gifts that are different than what clerical leadership need. Women prefer compassion to standards and clergy have to prefer standards to compassion."

"Faith matters a great deal. When I grew up [in Orthodoxy], everything was halakah. About once a year, one of the rabbonim might have a hashkafa [worldview] shiur where God might be mentioned. In my Orthodox world, the question was never what does God want. It was, what's the halakah?"

"It's hard to argue that God does not women to be able to marry if their husbands refuse a get [divorce]. Why even ask what does God want if my only question is, what is the halakah?"

"The eruv is baloney. It is a legal fiction. We're going to fool ourselves that it is ok to wheel our kids to shul."

"I can't believe that God wants a woman [a mother of young children on Shabbos] to be under house arrest because there's not a string around the city."

"I believe that God doesn't want us to look silly in the eyes of the nations. The L.A. Times article [on the Venice eruv] makes Orthodox Judaism look silly. You can't blame the L.A. Times."

"I believe that God wants Pesach [Passover] to be seven days [rather than the eight days now observed by traditional Jews in the diaspora]. That's what he wrote. The Torah's from God."

"The siddur [prayer book] is too long. The mahzor [High Holiday prayer book] is too long. Nobody understands the piyutim [which make a Rosh Hashanah morning prayer service last over six hours]."

"Then I have Orthodox friends tell me, 'Dennis, at our hashkama minyan, we do everything in 90 minutes.' Then you have to say the prayers so fast they become gibberish. Evelyn Wood [speed reader] grew up Orthodox."

"I believe that the Torah wants Pesach to be seven days because it recreates creation. Judaism stands on two pillars -- creation and the Exodus from Egypt. When you make it eight days, you lose the whole point of what HaShem wanted."

"Are we a Kiddish HaShem in the way we kill animals? We had the most humane way to kill animals...but do we today? I don't think so."

"Kosher veal? It's killed in a painless way but it is raised in a painful way."

"I wish I could say that halakah [Jewish law] makes people good."

"My dad has been Orthodox his whole life. Even though he enlisted in World War II, he noticed all these yeshivot popping up in New York during World War II so Jews could avoid service in the armed forces by studying to become rabbis. All these goyim are fighting Hitler and all these frum Jews are enrolling in yeshiva to not fight Hitler."

"The finest Jews I have known have tended to be Orthodox."

Dennis complained about Orthodox Jews who don't greet gentiles on the Sabbath.

"When I first met Rabbi Adlerstein, he was not the same. He had to get halakic permission to go on Religion on the Line (KABC) and dialogue with non-Jewish clergy. Today he's a leader in Jewish life in talking to Christians and meeting with them and hugging them."

Rabbi Adlerstein: "Just the men."

Dennis: "The problem with Conservative Judaism is not the non-fidelity to halakah. They [the rabbis] are overwhelmingly faithful to halakah... The problem with Conservatism is that they don't believe the Torah is divine."

Dennis says it is wrong that we have to stand during Neilah (and much of the High Holiday prayer services). "If you had to stand during my talk, all you'd think about is when you could sit down."

"We're stuck with standing up more than any other religion."

"You can't say anything in Orthodox life that something rabbinic is a bad idea."

Dennis says that only two or three people in his yeshiva class did not cheat.

"Joseph Telushkin was a Republican ten years before I was."

A young man gets up and says how disgusted he is that Prager was invited to speak and to criticize the Orthodox. About 15 people applaud him.

Dennis: "Reform does not invite me (because of my politics). Conservative does. I spoke at the Rabbinical Assembly convention."

"My parents went to my Stephen S. Wise minyan Saturday morning for my youngest son's bar mitzvah. They loved it."

Rabbi Korobkin says Dennis Prager thinks more like an Orthodox Jew than most Orthodox Jews.

At the end of the program, a man loudly pleads with Dennis to daven mincha with them. Prager agrees.

Getting ready to run his sixth straight high holiday service, Dennis wrote in the August 28, 2013 Jewish Journal:
I believe that study can bring many modern Jews closer to God and to Judaism than prayer does. Therefore, in our services, there is less prayer time and more study time. By study I am referring not to Torah study, but to studying the prayers that we do say (all from the traditional machzor, the High Holy Days prayer book), to the talks I give, and to a two-hour question-and-answer session on Yom Kippur afternoon.

I regularly explain a prayer that the chazzan is just about to recite: What does it mean that “God revives the dead?” If “God loves His people Israel,” why have His people suffered so much? Virtually every paragraph in the machzor offers the leader of the services a chance to speak on a great theme...

Music, too, brings many of us closer to God and religious feeling than prayer alone. Of course, many prayers are sung by cantors and/or the congregation. And I find the distinctive High Holy Days melodies extraordinarily uplifting. This is especially so with musical instruments. As I noted in a previous Jewish Journal column on musical instruments on Shabbat, God obviously knew the power of musical instruments to bring people closer to Him. He ordained their use in the Holy Temple on Shabbat and holidays. It was the rabbis who forbade their use after the Temple was destroyed.

I well recall the first time I attended a Reform Yom Kippur service — at Stephen S. Wise Temple — and heard the Kol Nidre played on a cello. I had tears in my eyes...

In our services (, the goal has been to shorten prayer time, but not necessarily the length of the service. Between listening to beautiful liturgical music sung and played, regular commentaries on the liturgy, and a sermon on a religious or ethical Jewish theme, the percentage of time during which the congregation prays is relatively small. In addition to holding people’s interest, this has another benefit: the prayers we do recite take on added meaning.

Keeping the services interesting and, hopefully, inspiring, has yet another benefit: people come on time...

The screenwriter and novelist Roger Simon attended our services last year and afterward wrote a column on how the services motivated him to fast for the first time since he was a child.

In order to encourage nonobservant Jews to fast on Yom Kippur, the best thing one can do is figure out how to keep them in shul all day. So this is what we do:

First, we start Yom Kippur services at 11 a.m. This late beginning is enormously helpful. For one thing sleep gives you strength to fast. For another, we reach the afternoon break after only about four hours. Instead of going home, the attendees are then encouraged to stay for an open discussion with me (and sometimes a guest) on any subject except politics for two hours. By the time that ends, we are within about two hours of the fast ending.

In a 2008 lecture on Lev. 19:19-25, Dennis said: "Over time, Jewish law exponentially increased beyond Torah and even rabbinic law, became burdensome, and that's why you had the Sabbatai Zevi phenomenon in the 17th Century. One half of the Jewish people including many of its greatest rabbis believed that a man called Sabbatai Zevi was the Messiah. He was a Turkish Jew. It's one of the most interesting religious stories. It's never taught in yeshiva. 

"Jews were so embarrassed by their belief in Sabbatai Zevi that when it ended, it entered the memory hole of Jewish history. I went to yeshiva until 18 and never heard his name. And that included years of study of Jewish history. I learned about it in college. Nobody talks about it because it is so embarrassing. It wasn't a goofy movement."

"Sabbatai Zevi had a motto -- 'the annulling of a commandment is its fulfillment'. He changed a blessing from 'He who frees the bound' to 'He who permits the prohibited.' Two basic statements of his that were anti-law. It was an antinomian movement, which religious Jews bought into. That's my argument that over time, the law did become too burdensome, and when given a theological out, many Jews jumped on that bandwagon."

Dennis wrote in the Jewish Journal Nov. 6, 2013:

Many Orthodox Jews think that observance of halachah, more than faith, is what ensures Jewish survival. Every yeshiva student is taught the famous line from the Midrash: “It would be better that the Jews abandoned Me [God] but kept my commandments.”

But Conservative Judaism provides a nearly perfect refutation of this idea. Many Conservative rabbis in the past, and many today, have led thoroughly halachic lives, virtually indistinguishable from many modern Orthodox rabbis. If halachah is what keeps Jews alive, the Conservative movement should not be in decline — and it should certainly attract more Jews than Reform, the least halachic of the major denominations.

Furthermore, if halachah is the single most important thing to the Orthodox, why has Orthodoxy been so opposed to Conservative Judaism and to Conservative rabbis who have been scrupulously halachic? The answer is that the Conservative movement dropped belief in a God-given Torah. (Jewish Theological Seminary Web site: “The Torah is the foundation text of Judaism ... not because it is divine, but because it is sacred, that is, adopted by the Jewish people as its spiritual font.”) And it is that, not lesser observance of halachah, that is the primary reason for Conservative Judaism’s decline.

Judaism cannot just be a commitment to the Jewish people, love of Israel or even just ritual observance. As important as each is, none will ensure Jewish survival as much as belief — belief in the God of the Torah and in the Torah of God.

In 1989 in a lecture series on the 13 principles of the Jewish faith according to Maimonides, Dennis delivered what he then described as the most difficult lecture of his life — whether or not God wrote the Torah. “My attitude is that I live as if [the Torah] is true while my brain retains its intellectual honesty and just doesn’t know.”

Yeshiva of Flatbush

Dennis attended the coed modern Orthodox day school Yeshiva of Flatbush (“one of the two most modern and sophisticated Orthodox Jewish day schools in America” according to Dennis) with such classmates as the writer Leon Wieseltier, composer Michael Isaacson and journalist Stuart Schoffman.

Said Dennis in a 2007 lecture on Leviticus 8: “I went back to the yeshiva high school I graduated from, which became more Orthodox. They had cheerleaders for the basketball games when I was there. Cheerleading ended a few years after I left because it wasn’t considered modest dress. And it wasn’t, which was one of the reasons I liked that yeshiva.”

In another lecture, Dennis described his yeshiva’s cheerleaders as “a bit zaftig.”

Screenwriter Robert J. Avrech went to Flatbush with Dennis:

Back in the 50's and 60's there were quite a few violent teachers in the Yeshiva of Flatbush. Mrs. Katz, a nasty piece of work, used to make us lay our hands palm up and she would take her wooden ruler and WHACK us with it. Mr. Zilber would take an eraser and throw it at us, usually aiming for our heads. Mr. Weinstein would grab us by the neck and squeeze until it felt like our neck was breaking. We thought that this was normal behavior. It was not until I was much older–actually not till I got to college and had the chance to speak to kids who went to public schools–that I learned how backward my Yeshiva was. I make no excuses for these people. None of them were traumatized Holocaust survivors. They were just a bunch of nasty creeps who hated children. How Yeshiva Flatbush ever got its stellar reputation for excellence is something of a mystery. My years were positively Dickensian. I still have nightmares that I’m back on East 10th street.
Nov. 11, 2009, Dennis said: “I can’t believe…how often my high school years come to my mind. I’m amazed. I almost feel silly. That is not yesterday. It’s almost as if my life is high school and today. I’ve gone from high school to right now. I know there are decades intervening but it beats me what happened. Oh yeah, I had kids. I’ve been married. I’ve got a radio show. I wrote four books. None of that. High school!”

In tenth grade, while walking to a bookstore about half a mile from Flatbush, Prager met Joseph Telushkin. They became best friends.

“Neither Joseph nor I actually did school work. But we read all the time, and became inseparable, as we talked and talked about God, evil, Judaism, the Holocaust and girls.” One day Joseph told Dennis, “I’ve done a survey and found that one out of every ten thoughts a guy has isn’t about girls.” (CD)

April 3, 2008, Dennis said: "I was more Americanized than his parents. Joseph's mother's reaction to me when we first met, she said to him [privately], 'He's very charming but is he deep?' I am Mr. Enthusiast and conquer the world."

Flatbush put an end to mixed-sex dances in Prager’s 10th grade. Still, they had a senior prom, something no yeshiva would have today.

“I took the salutatorian to the Senior prom,” said Dennis Jan. 5, 2010. “And I finished in the bottom 20% of my class, which shows you how far charm can get a guy.”

“I was blessed with wisdom at an early age,” said Dennis June 28, 2010. “I knew at an early age that doing well in high school would not amount to a hill of beans. On the bulletin board, they would publish the rankings. They didn’t care about humiliation. The guy who finished 120th out of 120 ended up as the head of the Miami Board of Education.”

“I have a strong sense of dignity. I did in high school too. The biggest reason I didn’t cheat on tests was dignity. I felt like I was groveling to ask another kid.”

In the 2011 movie Baseball, Dennis and the French, Dennis said: "I had one notebook for all four years of [high school], which I never filled with a single homework exercise."

The Yeshiva of Flatbush divided its students into four tracks. Prager and Telushkin were assigned to the C-student track because, though smart, they wouldn’t do homework.
Since the age of 14, I have had a lifelong love affair with books and learning, but this was always despite school. I loathed my elementary school, I read non-school books underneath my desk all through high school, graduated 92nd in a class of 120 [Joseph finished 88th], and I skipped the majority of my classes in college. (Ultimate Issues, Jul-Sep. 1989, pg. 16)

“Grades don’t mean crap later in life,” said Dennis Dec. 3, 2010 (he had a B average in high school).

“The more parents point out to their kids in a loving way what you need to do to be a better human being, the less narcissistic you will be. To this day, I hear my parents voices in me, ‘You’re lazy!’ ‘You didn’t pick that up!’

“I am obsessed with leaving my radio studio exactly as I found out for the next guy who broadcasts because my parents pounded it in to me to leave it the way I found it. I was a typical boy happy to leave towels on the floor, underwear strewn all over the place, and my garbage all around.

“I am who I am because I did not have high self-esteem as a kid.”

On March 8, 2011, Dennis said: “Every kind good adult I know was not raised with self-esteem, including me.”

Dennis wrote Feb. 27, 2013: "The truth is that I never suffered from high self-esteem. I have long had self-confidence with regard to specific abilities. But I had little self-esteem as a child, and as an adult, I have earned whatever self-esteem I have. Moreover, in the depths of my soul I believe that the janitors in my building are not one whit less worthy or valuable than me."

On May 7, 2010, Dennis said: “I’m memory-challenged. I always have been... I can not remember the simple one-sentence prayer from the 1962 [Supreme Court] ruling.” 

Joseph struck his classmates as smart and articulate. Descending from a long line of rabbis, Telushkin surprised no one by becoming an Orthodox rabbi.

Dennis, by contrast, was considered a loudmouth by his schoolmates, who, by and large, haven't changed that evaluation. He did not strike his classmates as particularly religious and few thought he’d go on to be a moral leader. They saw that he desperately needed female attention. They were not surprised when he bounced from girlfriend to girlfriend and from marriage to marriage.

Jan. 15, 2024, Dennis said: "My parents had two sons. I have two sons. My son David had two sons. My [third] wife has two sons. My parents were pre-occupied with each other. They paid little attention to me. They paid more attention to my older brother because he was the first born and he was a tremendous pride-provider. He was the best at everything. Valedictorian. Captain of the basketball team. Editor of the school newspaper. Got into Columbia. He was a nachas machine. They didn't shower me with love. They didn't hug me. They didn't say I love you. They were not coddling or warm... My parents did not live through their kids... I started living in high school not to make my parents proud. I didn't want to make them ashamed. It was so liberating."

"I hate to be told what to do unless it has a divine source," said Dennis. "I don't want morons telling me what to do." (May 7, 2010)

July 17, 2023, Dennis said to Julie Hartman: "I realized at an early age what I was going to bring differently to the religious-secular discussion. I am quite religious but I don't wear it heavily. It drove me crazy that most religious people smack you in the face with their religiosity. It's not good for religion and it is not good for them. On one of my first trips to Israel, I was about 20 years old, I was at the army headquarters in Tel Aviv, and all these soldiers were my age, and we were talking and this female soldier said to me, 'Are you religious?' In Israel, [asking] if you are religious means are you Orthodox. I said, I don't know if I am religious, I only know that I am not secular. She said, 'If you are religious, why aren't you wearing a kipa?' I said, I don't think religion needs a uniform... That's why I didn't become a rabbi. I could've gotten religious ordination... I learned more than most rabbis do."

February 6, 2023, Dennis said: "I was [22]. I broke up with an Israeli woman. One of the brightest and kindness human beings I knew, but I wasn't attracted to her physically. It was one of five times in my life that I cried."

In a Feb. 17, 2009 lecture on Lev. 19:17-18, Dennis said: “I remember when I was in high school and college, I used to say to my best friend Joseph, ‘Sometimes, Joseph, I am overwhelmed by the fact that you are as real as I am.’”

Oct. 28, 2011, Dennis said: "My purpose for being in the public sphere is to influence. If I were to run for public office, it would not be for the power but for the influence. I'm not power hungry in the least. I just want to touch lives. That's been my ambition since I was 15. I wrote it in a diary I kept in high school."

Oct. 22, 2010, Dennis said: “I remember when I was a kid, a left-wing magazine had a headline – '250 Psychiatrists Declare Barry Goldwater Mentally Ill'.

“I remember thinking, isn’t that an abuse? How do these psychiatrists know his mental state? Has he been a patient of theirs?”

“I’ve never written G-d in my life. I even wrote an essay against it in a big Jewish magazine. I think it is utterly irrational. God’s name isn’t God. It’s Jehovah.

“It’s another one of these added stringencies that I don’t support."


Aug. 14, 2009, Dennis said: “When I was in high school, most of the kids in my class, virtually, cheated on tests. In a class of 120, 117 cheated. By the way, Joseph Telushkin was one of the others [who did not cheat]. I remember that one of the reasons I didn’t cheat on tests was self-image, not morality.”

In his junior year of high school, Dennis founded The Hendryx Society (named after a large stuffed frog), which regularly published The Hendryxian. Prager used his newsletter to campaign against cheating on tests, which he said was widespread at his school. “It didn’t work,” said Dennis, July 9, 2010. “I didn’t get one convert.”

In a Feb. 17, 2009 lecture on Lev. 19:17-18, Dennis said: “I had an advantage over my classmates. I didn’t care what college I got into. Many of them were aching to get into the Ivy Leagues.”

“I started a campaign against cheating. I learned to my great amazement and happiness that I had the ability to criticize without being hated. They elected me president of the graduating class. I remember being shocked that I won given that I thought that a lot of them thought I was some holier-than-thou guy. I learned there are ways to reprove and not be resented.”

The desire to get into an Ivy League school is rational. As Steven Pinker wrote in 2014:

The economist Caroline Hoxby has shown that selective universities spend twenty times more on student instruction, support, and facilities than less selective ones, while their students pay for a much smaller fraction of it, thanks to gifts to the college. Because of these advantages, it’s the selective institutions that are the real bargains in the university marketplace. Holding qualifications constant, graduates of a selective university are more likely to graduate on time, will tend to find a more desirable spouse, and will earn 20 percent more than those of less selective universities—every year for the rest of their working lives. These advantages swamp any differences in tuition and other expenses, which in any case are often lower than those of less selective schools because of more generous need-based financial aid. The Ivy admissions sweepstakes may be irrational, but the parents and teenagers who clamber to win it are not.

JFK Assassination

Dennis Prager was 15 years old when JFK was shot on Nov. 22, 1963. Fifty years later, Dennis said: "I was in tenth grade. My principal announced it on the loudspeaker at my school and I was certain that the president would live... And then I got on a bus to go home and a stranger said the president was dead.

"That weekend was a somber weekend in the Prager household... That was the only Friday night that my parents watched television. That's how overwhelming it was for us."

"I was walking by the subway that Sunday and I remember seeing a train coming into the Kings Highway station and the thought going through my mind was, 'What? The trains are running? You're going back to normal? Things have changed.'"

"The meaning is that this nothing could alter history."

Summer Camp

Prager spent the summer of 1965 as a waiter and assistant counselor at Camp Massad in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains. “This camp provided the most positive Jewish experiences in my life. In addition, it was a Hebrew-speaking camp, and I became fluent in Hebrew. This began a lifelong love of languages.” Dennis had his “first serious romance. Life was getting better.” (Prager’s CD)

Said Dennis in a 2008 lecture on Leviticus 18: “In the religious camp in which I was a counselor, the boys were taught they were murdering if they masturbated. They didn’t stop masturbating. They entered a world where they thought they were murderers.”

In a 1994 lecture on Gen. 38, Dennis said:

There is a clear bifurcation between the Torah’s view of sexual matters and the rabbinical view of sexual matters…

It is clear to me that Onan did not get killed by God because he masturbated. If God killed masturbators, there would be nobody left… Why would God kill a masturbator?

It is sad that religion in the western world has become so associated with suppression of sex.

…Immoral is if I coerce you. Pre-marital sex falls short of the holiness ideal Judaism has for sex, which is in marriage, but that is not the same as immoral.

By labeling every unholy act immoral, religion has done a great disservice and caused a lot of people to reject religion. In their hearts, the vast majority of people who have engaged in pre-marital sex in a consensual manner, do not think they have engaged in an immoral act. When you tell people they have done something and in their gut they know they didn’t, you are going to get a reaction. And you’re going to lose credibility. Religion has lost a lot of credibility in the West because of sex. 
Sept. 17, 2009, Dennis said: “When I was a camper, about ten years old, there was a boy (Robert) in my bunk who had a problem urinating while sleeping. And instead of gaining any sympathy, four kids one night, I was the bystander, they went over and put sheets over their heads like ghosts to wake him to induce him to urinate. And then thinking it was a great victory… I’ve been atoning for that my whole life. Part of the reason I fight evil is for what I did not do that one night.”

“The first day of camp [when Dennis was a counselor], the public address system at 7 am would play. These are 12, 13 year old boys. The first day of camp, nothing happened. There was no stirring. They just stayed asleep.

“I then said, ‘OK boys’, in the sweetest way possible, ‘It’s time to get up.’ What I then got…was not exactly screw-you, but in that framework. ‘He’s going to get me up? Who’s he kidding?’

“I’d say, ‘Boys, I want you to be out of your beds in a minute.’

“They’d snicker.

“I’d go to the boy who’s bed was next to mine and say, ‘Barry, I’ll give you five seconds to get out of bed or you will be under it.’

“Nothing happens. I count to five and I very sweetly turn the cot over on top of him so Barry is now on the floor and the bed is on Barry. A real 180 turn on poor Barry.

“I went to the next guy. I said, ‘I’ll give you five seconds or you will be under your bed.’

“He didn’t quite believe me. Five seconds later, he is under his bed.

“Third guy, I give you five seconds, and amazingly, he got out of bed.

“The next day, the same thing. I walk over to Barry and give him five seconds and he gets out of bed.

“By the third day, I lay in bed and said, ‘Everybody up.’ And everybody got out of bed.

“I was known for having the easiest time getting my kids up than any other counselor from camp.”

“I wonder if I would be prosecuted today for flipping a kid over in his bed. The notion that all physical interaction with kids in your charge is one of the many foolish notions that developed in the last generation.”

Said Dennis July 6, 2010: “I gave full permission to the counselors of my kids to give my kids a well earned smack. There was no counselor in the history of my kids’ camping who abused my kids with smacks.

“I used to give Richie a noogie if the clouds did not cover the sun in time for a photo I wanted to take… I’d go, Richie, you’ve got ten seconds to get a cloud.

“For those of you who know photography, you never take a photo in bare sunlight.

“A noogie is with your knuckle a good one into the shoulder.

“Richie thought it was hilarious. He was making all these incantations to make the clouds move. This is how guys horse around until the 1960s decided to make guys into girls.”

One summer evening, Dennis got into a bad car accident. He and his girlfriend were hospitalized for a day or two, and Max Prager — the owner of the demolished car with the possibly faulty brakes — was sued by the girl’s father.

Max Prager wrote in chapter 27:
When Dennis was a counselor at Massad one summer, we received a phone call around 1 a.m. one night informing us that our son was in a bad auto accident not very far from the camp; the call was from a hospital in Scranton, Pa. You can just imagine our fear of not knowing the condition of our son.

We immediately left in our car with much trepidation, again not knowing what is awaiting us. Arriving at the hospital about 4 a.m., we asked the nurse on duty for the room number where Dennis was lying; she replied that she would escort us to visit him. Instead of being in a room, he was lying on a gurney in the hall. The gurney next to him was occupied by a lovely young lady who was his passenger. His face was covered with bandages as he suffered a broken nose; the girl also suffered facial injuries.

Fortunately, despite his condition, he was able to relate to us in detail all the facts of the accident. The car he was driving was an old car that Hilda had given him when she purchased a new one. Perhaps the brakes were bad and that may have caused the accident. Dennis and his companion were counselors at Massad and on their day off decided to go visit the areas around the camp.

They were returning to the camp in the late afternoon and, at a very sharp turn on a narrow road, the car hit a concrete wall. We were not interested as to whether Dennis or the car was at fault; we simply were concerned with the health of Dennis and the girl. He told us that the car was totaled-completely destroyed. He also told us that he picked up a young couple who were hitchhiking. Fortunately, they were let off a few minutes prior to the accident. Had they still been in the car, they would have been killed since the rear seats of the car suffered the most damage and the entire roof was shorn off and landed on those seats.

Dec. 15, 2011, Dennis said: "I was in a terrible accident my first year of driving. I was driving with a girlfriend. That was part of the reason. I was not responsible. I was more interested in her than in the road. She was sitting right next to me. That's when there were bench seats in the front. I had one hand on her and one hand on the wheel. This was in rural Pennsylvania in the Pocono Mountains. And I had just dropped off a hitchhiker, a young guy. And about a minute later, or five minutes later, the road going downhill steeply narrowed into a little drawbridge. I put on the brakes. I smacked right into the back of the bridge. The entire back of the car was demolished. The hitchhiker, had he stayed on, would've died."


On Nov. 18, 2009, Dennis wrote in the Forward:

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite national holiday. In fact, although I am a religious Jew (or rather, because I am a religious Jew), it rivals my favorite Jewish holidays for my affection.

It does so because it is quintessentially American, it is deeply religious without being denominational and it is based entirely on one of the most important, and noble, traits a human being can have — gratitude.

...American Jews should celebrate Thanksgiving with particular enthusiasm.

First, and most obvious, nowhere in Jewish history have we had it is as good for so long as we have had it in America. No individuals or groups have better reason to celebrate Thanksgiving in America than we Jews.

Second, Thanksgiving is the one day of the year in which we Jews celebrate the same religious holiday with the rest of America. By definition, Jews do not share a religion with the non-Jewish majority of Americans. But we do share our God (the God of Creation and the God of Israel) with the Christian majority. And this holiday alone affirms that.

...I recall with pride that in my Orthodox parents’ home on Thanksgiving we ritually washed our hands before the Thanksgiving meal and sang the Birkat Hamazon — the grace after meals — afterward as if it were a yom tov meal.

Nov. 28, 2013, Dennis said: "Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday in many ways. There is no American by group or by individual -- and this is a favorite theme of mine -- who should not be able to have a Thanksgiving."

Summing up the post-WWII attitude to nationalism, John Derbyshire wrote: "To cherish one’s country was acceptable, but to regard it as the organic expression of a particular people was frowned upon."

American Jews most observant of Torah don't observe Thanksgiving because their religion commands that one not follow non-Jewish customs (Leviticus 18:3). "Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner argues that it is obvious and apparent that--whatever the merit of celebrating Thanksgiving the first time in the 1600s--the establishment of an annual holiday that is based on the Christian calendar is, at the very least, closely associated with idol worship and thus prohibited."

John from Queens, New York, called Nov. 28, 2013: "I grew up in a pretty Orthodox Jewish family and we never celebrated Thanksgiving and neither did anyone in my community because it was considered a non-Jewish holiday and if anyone did celebrate Thanksgiving, that was frowned upon."
Dennis: "Is that still the case?"

John: "Yes... I remember bringing up to a member of my community several years ago that there was a certain rabbi, Joseph Solveitchik, who used to eat a turkey on Thanksgiving, and they scoffed at me and laughed me off, and said, 'Huh, he's not a legitimate rabbi.'"

Dennis: "He was the leading halakhist of his generation along with Moses Feinstein."

John: "For the more modern."

Dennis: "Yeah, well, he was the rabbi of the Yeshiva University. So they discounted him? Do they discount Chabad, because they are fervent observers of Thanksgiving? I think it is the insularity of New York. I don't think that was true of Orthodox Jews in Nashville."

Dennis is wrong. Most Orthodox Jews in America don't celebrate Thanksgiving. Joseph Solveitchik wasn't a halakhist. He made few rulings on Jewish law.

On Nov. 25, 2013, Dennis said: "The Hebrew calendar simply went wild this year with everything [such as Hanukkah] super duper early."  

The Hebrew calendar wasn't early with its holidays in 2013. Hanukkah began on the 25th of the month of Kislev just like it has for millennia. Hanukkah in 2013 was only "early" if you consider the Western calendar the ultimate real. For one rooted in Torah, the Hebrew calendar is reality and the Western calendar is just another custom of the Gentiles like hunting, Christmas, and saying, "Have a nice day."

On Nov. 28, 2013, Dennis said: "There are sacrifices you make for your religion. Our religion in America is Americanism... We believe we have a value-system that is God-based that is worthy of living for. I'm not asking you to die for, how about keeping your store closed one day a week [for Thanksgiving]? I come from a tradition that has always said you make sacrifices for your religion. I grew up in a world and still do where you honor the Sabbath. I take pay-cuts for that reason... It hit my bottom line tremendously."

In a 2013 speech to National Religious Broadcasters, Dennis said: "When a 15-year old, when a 12-year old calls me up on my radio show, I know within 20 seconds if the kid was raised in a religious home. I'm batting a thousand because they actually have learned what the secular baby boomers taught to be untrue -- don't trust anyone over thirty."

Keeping Kosher

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin wrote on page 35 of his book A Code Of Jewish Ethics:

My friend Dennis Prager told me that when he was six years old, the first words he learned to read in English were “pure vegetable shortening only.” He added, “It was good training to learn at the age of six that I couldn’t have every candy bar in the candy store.”
Professor Marc B. Shapiro wrote April 13, 2010:
After all, it wasn’t too long ago that for most products one determined if they were kosher by looking at the ingredients. Yet the consensus today in the United States, even among the Modern Orthodox, is that a product cannot be kosher without rabbinical supervision (and the supervision itself has to be regarded as reputable). Kosher consumers are now told by the various kashrut organizations that canned vegetables, which contain only vegetables and water, need supervision, not to mention mouthwash, tin foil pans, and a host of other items. They are further told that some fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries and broccoli, can’t be eaten at all, or at least not without a cleaning regimen (complete with liquid soap) that would discourage most.

Dennis Prager wrote: “I left keeping kosher after yeshiva precisely because no reasons were given. I returned to kashrut after reading an article on the ethics of the Jewish dietary laws written by an observant non-Orthodox rabbi, Prof. Jacob Milgrom of Berkeley, in a non-Jewish philosophical journal.(Ultimate Issues, Summer, 1985, pg. 10)

Dennis loves the taste of bacon and shrimp but hasn't eaten them since his 20s. (Aug. 3, 2012)

In his third lecture on Deuteronomy in 2002, Dennis Prager said:

“The rabbis [of the Talmud] distinguished between chukim (laws between man and God) and mishpatim (laws between man and man) as chukim are laws we can not understand and mishpatim are laws we can understand.

“There is a real problem asserting at the outset that there are laws we can not understand. If you believe that there are many laws that you can not understand, then you will never seek to understand them. That ends intellectual inquiry into their purpose.

“I grew up in the world that learned this way. It was the most difficult aspect of the thinking of the Judaism I was raised in, that there were laws I can never understand. There may well be, but to declare it at the outset means that it is pointless to try to understand.

“That leads to some terrible consequences — to an unintellectual observance of rules.

“For example, the law in Judaism of how you slaughter an animal. You take a blade that is extremely sharp, can not have any nick in it, and you have to be able to slice the animal’s throat in one cut across the neck.

“Everybody I know understands this as a way to minimize the animal’s suffering. Presumably the shochet (slaughterer) does it quickly.

“I was explaining this to a group in Halifax, Nova Scotia, about [1973]. In the audience was a newly ordained Orthodox rabbi who was trying out for his first pulpit.

“After I spoke about this, he politely raised his hand and said, ‘I disagree with Mr. Prager. We do not know why Jewish law ordains a sharp knife without a nick in it. He proclaims that it is to reduce the animal’s suffering but we don’t know that. The proof is that under Jewish law I can take a very long time in the speed with which I cut the animal’s throat, and then the animal will suffer.’

“I wanted to punch him. It was so painful to hear this was what he believed and this is what he was telling Jews, none of whom kept kosher.

“I believe you have to do things because God said so, but even if God said so, why did God give me a brain if not to understand why he said so?”

“Deuteronomy 4:1 said that these are the laws ‘so that you may live.’ So we’re told there is a purpose. Moses himself is giving a whole series of purposes to Biblical law. Do this so that you may live. If you don’t do this, you’ll die.”

“God is saying, I took you out of Egypt so that you could lead a holy life in the holy land.”

“This is how I justify God’s periodic decimation of the Jews when they leave the covenant.”

“If you don’t lead a holy life, I will have nothing to do with you and if I have nothing to do with you, you will die.”

Deuteronomy 4:6: “Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these chukim (decrees) and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’” (NIV)

Dennis: “This sentence is the basis for my outlook on the purpose of Judaism.”

“The purpose of following chukim is so that the nations of the world look at you and be impressed that these are wise people and that these are wise laws that govern their lives. How could chukim mean laws we can’t understand if the rest of the world is supposed to understand them?

“They’ll just think, what a weird people! They observe laws we can’t understand.

“That is what the nations have often said about Jews. What a weird people. Why can’t they do this on Saturday and why do they dress like this?

“There’s nothing more tragic — aside from the loss of Jewish life — that this has not made sense to the world. The purpose of the Jewish people is to bring the world to God. How can you bring the world to God if you do things that the world can’t understand?”

“Because Jews can’t eat chicken with milk [thanks to rabbinic strictures], the whole lesson [that meat represents death and milk represents life and there should be no mixing] has been killed because chickens are not mammals. No mammaries, no mammals. Originally, there were rabbis of the Talmud who ate chicken with milk.

“God wants us to look wise… When you can explain what you do, the goyim find you more wise. And so do nonobservant Jews.”

Deut: 4:7 “What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him?” (NIV)

Dennis: The Torah says that greatest does not come from great numbers or from great power, but from wisdom and understanding. “That’s exactly where Jewish greatness has come from. When people are impressed by Jews, it has been for wisdom and understanding or related to the intellectual or moral realm. Jewish greatness has never relied on power. Jewish greatness relies on the quality of life it leads and on their being intelligent.”

Deut: 4:8 “And which is a great nation that has righteous decrees and ordinances, such as this entire Torah that I place before you this day?” (Artscroll)

Dennis: “Laws can be unrighteous, so Moses adds an adjective about the type of laws we have. If chukim mean laws we can’t understand, how can he call them righteous? Adding that that they are righteous, it means you can understand.”

“The Torah is clear that how you look to the other nations is the whole point of this. God is interested in everybody. He has chosen a people to do something for the rest of humanity — to bring a message to them about God and holiness.”

“What is the argument that Moses uses to God to not kill the Jews? What will the goyim say if you kill the Jews? God cares about His image but the Jews shouldn’t care about their image?”
In his circa 2006 lecture on Deut. 27, Dennis said:
I went back to my yeshiva high school in Brooklyn. Once you become somewhat well-known, your alma maters all of a sudden take interest in you.

My high school said, oh Dennis, if you are ever back in Brooklyn and you have time, come speak to our classes.

So I thought that would be a great idea and I went there and I spoke to the six senior classes.

It’s a very prestigious yeshiva high school in New York. Bright kids. Of the yeshiva high schools, it’s among the most prestigious in the country.

I went in and I said, how many of you keep kosher?

It’s like asking, how many of you breathe? It’s a yeshiva. I wanted to set the stage. They all think I’m nuts but they all raise their hands.

How many of you think it is important to get other Jews to keep kosher?

Virtually every hand goes up.

I go, OK. Imagine I’m a Jew who doesn’t keep kosher. Raise your hand and I’ll call on you to explain to me why I should keep kosher other than God said so.

Not only did not one of six classes give me a reason, in each class they were offended by the question. They said to me, we were told by our rabbis that you don’t seek reasons for the commandments. That that is against the Torah to do that.

In a few of the classes, they said does rabbi so-and-so [head of Jewish studies] know what you’re saying here? I said, Rabbi So-and-so asked me here, but no, I don’t think he knows what I’m saying here.

They said to me, if we have reasons, Dennis, then the next person will come up and say, that’s not a good reason and then reject the commandment.
In his fourth lecture on the Chatam Sofer, historian Marc B. Shapiro said:
For the most part, the medieval [Jewish] philosophers accepted that there was natural law. The Chatam Sofer said that if you follow these so-called natural laws, you are following other gods...

In the first [Commentary magazine] symposium, for some reason, they asked Rabbi Moshe Tendler. He's not really a thinker, he's a scientist, a halakist. He said that we give tzedakah (charity) because it was commanded to give tzedakah. I remember reading that and thinking, none of the philosophically inclined would say that. That's a divine-command way of looking at matters.

According to Yeshaya Leibowitz, if you do a mitzvah to get close to God, you're serving yourself.

Jews & Blacks

Max, who worked as a CPA, wrote in chapter 27:

Since Dennis was now 7 years of age, his mother felt it was time to go to work. She hired a wonderful Negro woman named Ethel who had 3 sons; Dennis adored her and the feeling was mutual. In fact, until his teenage years, she was his confidante through his troublesome period at school…
Max wrote in chapter 29: "She really was the surrogate mother to Dennis for many years. Since he was a problem child in school and a doll at home, he conveyed his most private feelings to her."

Like many American Jews, Dennis Prager has warm feelings about blacks. He practices affirmative action on his radio show, bending over backwards to be particularly kind to his black callers. On Jan. 19, 1998, Dennis said that if he had to choose between two equally qualified potential employees, he'd probably choose the black. A caller reminded Dennis of his stand that race doesn't matter. Dennis replied that he didn't live in theory.

Jul. 12, 2013, Dennis said: "There's an affirmative action program on this program for black conservatives." 

Apr. 7, 2014, Dennis said: "There are times when a person's views are so horrific, it is hard to understand how a company could continue to employ someone. If a guy is in the Ku Klux Klan, if a guy is in a white supremacist fascistic group, I understand it. If you deny the Holocaust and you deny it publicly. There are a few [beliefs a person can hold that make him worthy of being fired] because you're talking about freaks. Freaks are in the KKK."

According to Dennis in 2014, "Corruption is Africa’s greatest problem. The word corruption does not arouse the moral revulsion that it should. We think of it as more a nuisance than a great evil. But corruption kills societies every bit as much as murder kills an individual. Moreover there is no hope for any society in which corruption is endemic."

Dennis said Mar. 17, 2014: "Tribalism is racism. Tribalism is a curse for modernity... You cannot build a successful nation state if tribalism is strong."

Political scientist Robert Weissberg gave a talk in 2000 on "The Relationship Between Blacks and Jews":

If you looked around our cultural landscape and tried to find two groups with different values that venerate different things, who worship at different altars, it is hard to find two groups more different than blacks and Jews. Jews are obsessed with education, blacks destroy it. If you've gone to school in the inner city, you know that not only do they hate the idea of learning, but they assault their teachers and physically destroy their schools.

When blacks move into a neighborhood, the first people out are Jews. Jews did not invent white flight but we perfected it. As far as intermarriage and social exchange, there's almost zero. They just don't mix. Jews are not into crime. The sorts of things that blacks specialize in -- muggings, assaults, rapes -- are not a Jewish predilection.

How Jews really relate to blacks is something Jews hardly talked about except when they are amongst themselves. When Jews get together in a safe place and talk about blacks, they will use the term "schvartze." When you go to Leo Rosten's Joys of Yiddish, he's very careful in what he says. With "schvartze", he becomes tight-lipped. "A black person, a negro." That does not begin to depict what the term means among Jews. There may be a degree of affection, as in, 'I hear Mrs. Schwartz got a new schvartze.'

It is not necessarily a negative word. It's not the same thing as nigger. If you inserted the word 'nigger' to achieve some lexiconic variety, Jews would be genuinely offended. There can even be a degree of affection in schvartze. As in, 'Ahh, I heard Mrs. Schwartz got a new schvartze. Oh, how nice.'"

When you use the term 'schvartze', it always implies cognitive inferiority. The mental picture of a stupid black embedded in the term schvartze is true even with pro-civil rights [liberal] Jews... Adding the phrase 'dumb schvartze' is superflous, reserved only used for the most egregious stupidity. Invisible baggage likewise includes gullibility, emotional excitability, and a weakness for here-and-now conspicuous consumption. Violence, especially inter-personal, alcohol-induced mayhem, is also associated with schvartze. The image that comes to the mind with Jews when you say 'schvartze' is simple-minded, impulsive, easily seduced by trinkets. This is extremely close to the traditional Southern image of blacks, almost identical to what many Southerners would privately say about blacks... This is continually reinforced by daily experience, such as in integrated public schools.

We had a procession of cleaning ladies [in New York]. Growing up, I honestly believed that all black people come from a thing called The Agency. We'd hire black cleaning ladies and invariably they'd steal and drink the liquor and my mother would come back and say, 'I'm calling up The Agency and getting another.' Very few Jews of my generation had any other contact. We had a procession of handymen and cleaning people come to my house.

It was always believed that any Jew can ultimately out-smart any schvartze except save being confronted by a demented gunman. Despite immense cultural chasms, Jews held themselves as innately capable of finessing blacks thanks to their superior wits, verbal talent, and a mastery of black psychology. The unmatched success of Jewish ghetto merchants and Jewish civil rights leadership positions proclaim this truth. Even today Jews may secretly brag about their success in beguiling blacks in contentious interpersonal relationships. People sometimes ask me, 'What did you do when they showed up as a demonstration to your office?' This happened to me one time. A bunch of angry young blacks came to my office... I said, 'I just relied on the wisdom of my ancestors. I gave them a little rope-a-dope. I moved around. I said this, I said that. Within half an hour, they were fine. I sold one a suit and several new jewelry and they were happy. They got a deal from Mr. Weissberg.'

Where personal manipulation might fail, the storehouse of survival tactics sufficed exceedingly well. Black pathologies were bearable, especially since most black mayhem was self-inflicted. Jews might even profit from these disorders as merchants or nanny state therapists. Threatened Jews can flee deteriorating neighborhoods, enroll their children in private schools, hire security guards, co-opt black leaders financially, or otherwise escape.

Jews see no conflict between righteously defending black criminals as political prisoners and living in fortress-style buildings.

On the one hand, Jews dread blacks physically. When Jews see blacks walking down the street, they feel tremendous fear. Yet they dutifully pay the danegeld (extortion money).

For most Jews, it is the white goyim who pose the most threat. Contrary fact-based argument fall on deaf ears. Like the schvartzes, the Chinese [and Japanese] are never called goyim.

Blacks are incapable of such well-organized horror [as the Holocaust] unless directed by nefarious whites... A full-scale pogrom is beyond their capacity. Can you imagine blacks systemically rounding up thousands of Jews or even keeping tabs on Jewish neighborhoods? Assess enemies by capabilities, not intentions... The schvartze pose minimal risk. They're too stupid.


Oct. 12, 2010, Dennis said: “I was in eighth grade. I did not follow the news very much, but I lived in New York, which had nine newspapers. I think I could name them. That’s how excited I was to see them on the newsstand every day.

“The printers union struck against the newspapers. It dragged on so long that it was clear that many newspapers would not survive the strike if it dragged on. What were they striking against? Not wages. They were striking against bringing in more automated machinery to make it cheaper to produce a newspaper so the papers could survive. The unions decided it was better to lose jobs and to lose newspapers than to lose the strike. So they lost six newspapers, including the New York Herald-Tribune, one of the world’s greatest newspapers.

“And it was known that would happen. I remember James Reston, the most prominent New York Times reporter, went on the radio and said please stop the strike. The Times will survive but the Tribune won’t.

“Under selfish, there’s a picture of union bosses.”


Dec. 27, 2010, Dennis said:

This is one of the pet horror stories of my childhood. My father would come in my room every week and see that the turtle hadn’t moved. The lettuce is still there. “Dennis, he’s dead.”

“Dad, I don’t think he’s dead. They just don’t do much.”

“Dennis, he’s dead. We don’t need a dead turtle in the house.”

“Dad, dad, that’s the way turtles are.”

“Dennis, he’s dead.”

All right. I believed my dad. I flushed him down the toilet and then he started crawling.

Every pet we had came to an [unfortunate end].

As the flushing started, no, he didn’t get out. He can’t escape a flush. It’s a terrible story.

Then we had a bird. My father looked at the bird and said, “I feel sorry for him. We should let him fly.”

“Dad, dad, you can’t let him out of the cage.”

“Let him fly! The animal is suffering.”

“Dad, I’m telling you, these birds, it’s not a good idea.”

“Dennis, it’s not right the way we are treating him.”

“OK, dad.”

So we let the bird. He sees a mirror. He flies to the other bird.
He cracks his skull. Dead bird.

We had another one. Something tragic happened.

Dec. 6, 2010, Dennis Prager said that he inherited two tortoises when he married Sue (his third marriage). “One day, we saw that one of the tortoises was very lethargic. He had something hanging out from the back of him. My wife tried to nurse him and to medicate him. He was going to die. It turns out, his penis stuck out and wasn’t going back. It would’ve gangrened and he would’ve died. There was a veterinarian in Santa Monica who knew how to treat a gangrenous tortoise penis but it was a lot of money.”

During his public dialogue with Adam Carolla Feb. 25, 2012, Dennis said the tortoise penis repair cost just under $2,000 and that his home spends more on the dog than on his wife's clothes.

Social Capital

April 6, 2011, Dennis said: “I’ll never forget when I was a kid [nine years old]. There was a man who was a high school math teacher, Mr. Joe Salts. What a sweet man. A member of the synagogue. He was hit by a hit-and-run driver on the West Side highway. He was blinded. The synagogue took care of this man for the rest of his life.

“The impact it made on me watching my father have people over to the house to see how much will you give, how much will you give. I have tears in my eyes. But as the state gets bigger, he just applies at some agency and has a bureaucrat take down the details.”

“Here’s another victim of the big state in terms of goodness because they say, why should I take care of my neighbor? The government will.

“This man blinded in the auto accident. The man was a member of the synagogue. The biggest thing DeTocqueville noted was how many free associations Americans made. Because the government was weak, people had strong civil society.

“I remember being a member of the Simi Valley Rotary Club. It was all men. They would get together every week. These guys, almost none of whom were wealthy, they were hard-working middle class. And you know what they devoted every meeting to? What charity they would engage in. But as government takes over more and more of charitable work, what need do you have for these charities? But we need people to join societies. The bigger the government, the more atomized the society.”

Feb. 6, 2012, Dennis said he is the only person he knows who was a member of Rotary. "I have the values of guys who drink mass-market domestic beer."

In a lecture on Leviticus 16, Dennis said: "We today have retreated further than ever from a sense of collective responsibility. The most obvious example is kids. Kids used to be raised by every adult on the block. If I acted out in front of any adult who didn't even know who the hell I was, he would say something.  'Hey kid, you don't talk like that.' If I had cursed at the local candy store in Brooklyn, some adult would've said, 'Hey kid, we don't talk like that.' Today kids curse freely in line in front of you and you even fear reproving them. We fear that they might hurt you. And we fear what the parent might say. 'It's none of your business. I'll raise my kid.' The sense that the collective is responsible is a Torah idea."

Dennis Prager wrote Dec. 18, 2013 in the Jewish Journal:

I don’t think that Jewish neighborhoods are always a good thing for Jews or, for that matter, for our fellow Americans who are not Jewish. In fact, committed Jews living among non-Jews often does more good — for Jews, for Judaism, for Kiddush HaShem and for relations with non-Jews.

Having lived much of my life in Jewish neighborhoods, I think I am well acquainted with the arguments for many Jews living in one area of a city.

...And for Orthodox Jews, there is simply no choice. If you don’t live within walking distance of a synagogue, you simply cannot attend a synagogue on Shabbat or any of the other Torah holy days. And you will be very lonely on Shabbat, as there will be no one with whom to share Shabbat meals...

But there are also powerful arguments against Jews congregating in one area.

One argument is that Jews (and any other ethnic group) often become better people when they live among those who are not members of their ethnic/religious group.

Most people grow — intellectually and morally — when they have to confront outsiders. There are, of course, wonderful people who never leave their communities. But they are the exception. Most people do not grow when they lead insular lives.

In my travels through the 50 states, my favorite Jews have disproportionately been those who live in small Jewish communities.

Having grown up an Orthodox Jew in Brooklyn — having only Orthodox Jewish friends, and having attended Orthodox schools and Orthodox summer camps through high school — I know what insular ethnic/religious life is like. And I didn’t find it healthy. Among many other reasons, the non-Jew (and even the non-Orthodox Jew) wasn’t real.

I first seriously encountered Jewish alternatives to my insular upbringing in my early 20s, when I drove from New York to Texas with my dear friend Rabbi Joseph Telushkin. Thanks to the “Jewish Traveler’s Guide,” we found the name of a Jewish doctor in Alexandria, La., who listed himself as providing a place for Jewish travelers in central Louisiana to have Shabbat meals and kosher food...

It can’t be a coincidence that virtually every great Jewish religious work was composed outside of Israel, when Jews lived among non-Jews. We have, for example, two versions of the Talmud — the Babylonian and the Jerusalem. And it is the former that we study. Maimonides’ works were all written outside of Israel, sometimes in Arabic.

My wife and I live in a non-Jewish suburb of Los Angeles — so non-Jewish that it doesn’t even have a Chabad House. The closest Chabad House, in Glendale (not a major Jewish metropolis either), is run by the inimitable Rabbi Simcha Backman. He has “appointed” me an honorary shaliach (Chabad emissary) in La Canada.

I think I build the only sukkah there, and when we opened our home one Sukkot, I recall the wide eyes of all the children of Jewish parents who had never seen a sukkah in their lives. Introducing Jews who have had little or no contact with Jewish life to Judaism is another mitzvah that a committed Jew living outside a Jewish neighborhood can engage in.

I live in a cul-de-sac, and my immediate neighbors are an Arab-American couple, whom my wife and I adore. The other neighbor is Korean. My cul-de-sac is what America is supposed to be about. It’s still a good idea.

Jan. 2, 2014, Dennis said: "I don't like any ethnic neighborhood. I don't think it's the American ideal."

"I don't think black neighborhoods are healthy for blacks. I don't think Mexican neighborhoods are healthy for Mexicans. They're comfortable."

Feb. 13, 2014, Dennis said:

A lot of people feel more comfortable with one of their own, unfortunately, racially, ethnically, whatever, I understand that, but that's where the mind must conquer feelings, particularly if you are religious. Religion must conquer all other feelings or else religion is crap. Either we are all God's children irrespective of our race or we are not.

That you feel more comfortable with people who look like you may well be your human response but it should not be your God-centered response... If religion doesn't teach us values, it is utterly worthless... Values should always trump feelings. 

If you see another person, you should see another one of God's children [first]. You shouldn't see a white or a black.

If you oppose interracial marriage and you are a religious Christian or a religious Jew, then you are not religious. You are convenient. You're comfortable with your culture. If people state I want my children to marry someone of my faith, I understand that. I want my children to marry somebody who is conservative politically. I understand values-based desires for your children. I don't understand race-based.

Doesn't love trump race?

I didn't expect this [stand for pro-interracial marriage] to be controversial. I expected to do one segment and move on.

This notion about we want to preserve the culture. That's a very dangerous idea that race and culture are identical. Race is race and culture is culture. What culture does a black atheist and a black evangelical share? Recipes?

Either we believe we are all God's children and character matters infinitely more than skin color or we don't.

According to Dennis, "Racism — the belief that people of a certain skin color are inherently different (and inferior or superior) — is not only evil; it is moronic. Racism is in equal amounts stupid and vile."

Apr. 11, 2014, Dennis said: "There is more racism proportionately in the black community than among whites. To deny that is to deny that the sun rises in the east. Just look at the opposition to a black and a white marrying, how intense that is. You are considered a traitor to the race. If a white thinks you are a traitor to your race for marrying a black, you're considered a white supremacist."

Jan. 10, 2014, Dennis said: "Crime causes poverty... Crime is the greatest predictor of poverty. There is no commerce where there is crime. People stay home for fear of being hurt. People don't build if they think they will be hurt violently."

Scholar James Q. Wilson noted: "Black men commit murders at a rate about eight times greater than that for white men. This disparity is not new; it has existed for well over a century."

Close-knit community is in inverse proportion to racial diversity noted Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam, who was so upset by the results of his study that he didn't publish it for a decade and only then with a pro-diversity spin. Putnam found that Los Angeles, the most racially diverse of America's cities, had the least trust, meaning that people in such a racially mixed community tend to pull their heads in, go out less, cooperate less, and watch more TV. By contrast, the whitest cities had the most neighborliness.

Steve Sailer (highly regarded by psychometricians) asked in 2007: "Can you guess which two cities lead the list of top 50 metropolitan areas in terms of the highest percentage of adults volunteering for charity? And which two cities came in last?" Lilly-white cities Minneapolis-St. Paul and Salt Lake City came in first, while diverse cities Miami and Las Vegas came in last.

A resident of Chicago for more than a decade, Steve Sailer worked with his community to do good, but concluded:
Multiculturalism doesn’t make vibrant communities but defensive ones...

Putnam’s discovery is hardly shocking to anyone who has tried to organize a civic betterment project in a multi-ethnic neighborhood. My wife and I lived for 12 years in Chicago’s Uptown district, which claims to be the most diverse two square miles in America, with about 100 different languages being spoken. She helped launch a neighborhood drive to repair the dilapidated playlot across the street. To get Mayor Daley’s administration to chip in, we needed to raise matching funds and sign up volunteer laborers.

This kind of Robert D. Putnam-endorsed good citizenship proved difficult in Uptown, however, precisely because of its remarkable diversity. The most obvious stumbling block was that it’s hard to talk neighbors into donating money or time if they don’t speak the same language as you. Then there’s the fundamental difficulty of making multiculturalism work—namely, multiple cultures. Getting Koreans, Russians, Mexicans, Nigerians, and Assyrians (Christian Iraqis) to agree on how to landscape a park is harder than fostering consensus among people who all grew up with the same mental picture of what a park should look like.

The high crime rate didn’t help either. The affluent South Vietnamese merchants from the nearby Little Saigon district showed scant enthusiasm for sending their small children to play in a park that would also be used by large black kids from the local public-housing project.

Exotic inter-immigrant hatreds also got in the way. The Eritreans and Ethiopians are both slender, elegant-looking brown people with thin Arab noses, who appear identical to undiscerning American eyes. But their compatriots in the Horn of Africa were fighting a vicious war. Finally, most of the immigrants, with the possible exception of the Eritreans, came from countries where only a chump would trust neighbors he wasn’t related to, much less count on the government for an even break. If the South Vietnamese, for example, had been less clannish and more ready to sacrifice for the national good in 1964-75, they wouldn’t be so proficient at running family-owned restaurants on Argyle Street today. But they might still have their own country.

In the end, boring old middle-class, English-speaking, native-born Americans (mostly white, but with some black-white couples) did the bulk of the work. When the ordeal of organizing was over, everybody seemed to give up on trying to bring Uptown together for civic improvement for the rest of the decade...

But what primarily drove down L.A.’s rating in Putnam’s 130-question survey were the high levels of distrust displayed by Hispanics. While no more than 12 percent of L.A.’s whites said they trusted other races “only a little or not at all,” 37 percent of L.A.’s Latinos distrusted whites. And whites were the most reliable in Hispanic eyes. Forty percent of Latinos doubted Asians, 43 percent distrusted other Hispanics, and 54 percent were anxious about blacks.

Sociologist Linda S. Gottfredson wrote: "Humans are not promiscuous altruists, of course, but favor persons genetically similar to themselves."

Steve Sailer wrote:

Periclean Athens wasn't as cosmopolitan as Alexandria or Rome, and Fourteenth Century Florence was full of Italians but not much else, and so forth. Right now, America is more diverse than ever, but it sure doesn't seem as creative as it was for most of the 20th Century...

Why go through the hard word of creating when you can just borrow? Necessity is the mother of invention, and diversity reduces the necessity of inventing your own amusements. 

Consider racially homogenous Liverpool, England in the early 1960s. Some Liverpudlian youth loved this new-fangled rock 'n' roll music invented in the Mississippi River Valley in the 1950s. If there had been an African-American community in Liverpool, the white kids would have employed the black Americans to play music for them to dance to. But there weren't any African-Americans in Liverpool, so the white kids had to make their own.

Nuclear War

Mar. 24, 2012, Dennis said: "Did I ever think during the Cold War that a hot war was inevitable? Never. Not for a day. I was young during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I had zero fear."

"I remember we had exercises in school to protect us in case of a nuclear attack and I remember laughing myself silly when I would be told to go under the desk now. I thought, 'You've got to be kidding. There's going to be a nuclear attack on New York and my desk will protect me? There were some people who built fall-out shelters. I thought they were eccentric."

"I never worried for a day because mutual assured destruction works with people who enjoy life and the communist leaders enjoyed life. They had periodic orgies. They drank themselves silly. They had gorgeous homes called dachas on riverbanks. These people didn't want to die."

"I do fear a war from an Islamic country [because they don't fear dying]."

"I fear ascetics more than I fear hedonists."

"I fear nuclear war today."


On May 30, 2013, Dennis said: "I played with water guns and toy guns [as a child]. I'd stand in front of the mirror and draw against myself like a cowboy and see who won each time. I actually thought I could beat the mirror if I went fast enough. I would never have confused a toy with a real gun."

"I was witness at age 24 when I lived in Queens to a bank robbery. Joseph Telushkin and I were the last two people to leave a bank as guys in ski masks came in. I thought it was odd. It was a Spring day. I heard, 'OK, everybody, hands up.'

"The FBI came to my apartment and brought real guns and I was shaking. I had never touched a real gun. I had never seen a real gun."

April 16, 2012, Dennis Prager said: “The Secret Service has a wonderful reputation for protecting the president and going after counterfeiters… I think every high school kid, if they read, picks a crime that fascinates them. For most, it’s murder. Not for me. I read book after book about counterfeiters. My wife was into crime. She definitely read the crime books, the murder books. She still is.”

Talk Radio

“I was a big talk radio fan during the beginnings of this thing,” Prager said on his Feb. 1, 2007 show. “I would call in and get on pretty much when I called in. I would be in the upstairs and they’d [Prager's parents] be down in the basement and I’d scream, ‘I’m going on the radio.’

“I wonder what I talked about? I have no recollection.”

On June 15, 2012, Dennis said: "I was mesmerized. I never thought I'd be one, any more than if I went to the movies, I thought I'd be John Wayne."

“I went to bed at night with a transistor radio under my pillow and listened to Jean Shepherd. He never took calls. Just talked for three hours.” (Dec. 21, 2010)

“I began calling talk radio in mid-high school. Was I nervous! I remember when the guy would say, ‘Dennis in Brooklyn.’ I was dripping with perspiration.” (Dec. 17, 2010)

Dec. 17, 2013, Dennis said: "Transistor radios. They were all made in Japan... I would go to bed at night and take my transistor radio and put it under my pillow. Until high school, I had a bed-time. It was so strictly enforced. I had to be in pajamas and brush my teeth by that time. I think it is a good idea. I don't think I had one for my kids quite as much.

"Is that why I stay up late now? That might be the case. I think of it as liberty."


Dennis wrote Dec. 21, 2004: “I received the biggest gifts of my childhood on Passover. My grandfather gave me expensive gifts (like a portable typewriter [and a short-wave radio said Dennis 12/20/11]) for “stealing the afikoman,” a ritual of sheer bribery devised by the rabbis many centuries ago to keep children awake as long as possible through the lengthy Passover Seder. Believe me, I thought a lot more about what I would get if I stole Papa’s “afikoman,” the matzo set aside for dessert, than I did about God liberating the Jewish slaves. But the “commercialism” of the Seder eventually worked, and I came to love Passover and believe that God took the Jews out of Egypt.”

In a 2009 lecture on Leviticus 25, Dennis said: “The Torah says you have to take care of people you don’t like. It is easy to be nice to friends. It’s your crappy sibling or or kid or parent or nephew. That’s the hard one to be nice to. People never have a hard time getting together with friends for dinner. It is on holidays when the family comes together that there is tension.”

“I remember Passover seders when extended family came to our home. It was a conglomeration of humans who would never be together if you threw darts at a phone book. People who were Orthodox. People who thought religion was idiocy.

“I had one uncle, may he rest in peace, as soon as he walked in, he would just start asking my mother when food would be served, which always cracked me up as a kid because my parents were Orthodox, there was a long ritual before dinner on Passover. Two hours at least. And about every twenty minutes, ‘Hilda, when’s the food coming out?’

“I loved it. It was the highlight of my seder. But he was family. So he had to be there.

“It’s an interesting point — treat your relative like he’s a stranger.”

Nov. 24, 2010, Dennis said: “My mother would say before Passover — ‘Only the men got out of Egypt.’ It was the wittiest line she came out with. My mother had many great traits, witty was not one of them.”

In a speech to Christians United For Israel in April 2010, Dennis said: “There is a phrase in the Passover Haggadah — in every generation, somebody arises to annihilate us. I remember as a child thinking that the rabbis of 2,000 years ago got it wrong. After the Holocaust, we’re not going to have anybody else try to annihilate us. The world has learned how terrible that is.”

The Rich

In a May 14, 2012 speech, Dennis said: "To this day, I don't remember my next door neighbor's first name because when I grew up, you knew adults by 'Mr.' I still know him as Mr. Klein. Mr. Klein had a Cadillac. I remember staring at that thing. I remember which one -- the one with the rocket tail-lights. It was so long that you would take a walk just to get across it... We had an Oldsmobile. We were two levels below Mr. Klein because in between was a Buick. You were ranked accordingly. It was Cadillac, Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and Chevrolet. Everybody knew your income by which GM car you drove... Mr. Lupkin, a friend of my parents, had a Buick. I thought he was very wealthy. Until I went to college and learned about social inequality, it never occurred to me to resent the fact that they were much richer than me. I just thought that Mr. Klein has a better-paying job and he deserves it."

Said Dennis June 28, 2010: “I remember only one emotion towards my neighbor [Mr. Klein] — I hope that one day I can own a Cadillac.”

May 18, 2012, Dennis said: "I grew up thinking we were rich. Boy, were we not. If we could afford an Oldsmobile, it was a big deal. When I went back to visit the house I grew up in, I thought, it's so narrow. There's no back yard."

Classical Music

In 1962, Dennis began listening to pop music, enjoying such songs as “Battle of New Orleans.” (July 23, 2010)

In late 1963, bored with school, Dennis explored Manhattan’s cultural attractions. One day he bought a $1 ticket to hear Alexander Schneider and his chamber group play Handel‘s Concerti Grossi at Carnegie Hall. Prager fell in love with classical music. The next day he spent two weeks lunch money and allowance ($32) to buy concert tickets at Carnegie.

Said Dennis in a 1995 lecture on Exodus 3: “The first time I heard Handel I was a sophomore. The next day I spent my entire two weeks allowance on concert tickets. Do you know what I ate for lunch for the next two weeks? I went to yeshiva high school where they had netilat yadayim, where you would wash your hands before making hamotzi after washing your hands, there would be little pieces of rye bread so you could make hamotzi immediately after you washed, I would wait for all the kids to do it, and then ate all the bag of hamotzi scraps.”

“I tried ballet for two seasons and all I did was to look at the orchestra pit.”
For the rest of high school, Dennis spent two-to-three evenings a week in Manhattan, going to plays, concerts and book stores. He often ate his dinner (tuna fish salad plate, apple pie and coffee for $1:50) at Dubrow’s Cafeteria by the subway station on King Highway. 

"I grew up eating tongue, but I couldn't do it today." (Dec. 31, 2013)

In his January 2002 "Personal Autobiography" lecture, Dennis said: “New York City was a great place to grow up in but not a great place to stay in. I used its facilities. If you use its culture, there’s no parallel. I conduct orchestras. Do you know how I learned to do that? Instead of doing homework, I prided myself on not doing a single homework through four years of high school, I am probably the only person you’ll ever meet who was rejected from Queens College, I would go to the New York Philharmonic Library and take out a score. I got quite adept. I would conduct at my father’s stereo system. Everyone thought I was just waving a baton but I knew that everyone was listening to me.”

“One of my fantasies…in the realm that I can speak to you about is conducting an orchestra and going to Antarctica.

“One day somebody called me up and said, Dennis, do you have any dreams not yet realized? I said, yeah, I’d like to conduct an orchestra.

“The next day, the president of a local orchestra said we’ll try you out. The conductor came and he said, wow, he knows how to read music. They gave me a Mozart piece. It was the most nervous I’ve been since childhood because these were all pros and I’m an amateur but it worked out and I went to other things.”

On May 17, 2012, Dennis said he did not major in Music at college out of fear it would destroy his love of music.

Why would the study of a subject destroy his love for it? Because it would remove illusions. Dennis loves his illusions and he hates academia for destroying what he loves.


“The ability to read how others react to you is about as important a subject as there is in life,” Dennis said Dec. 11, 2009. “I think I am very aware of this. I think it was something I was aware of at an early age. I was always very sensitive to whether or not I was boring anybody. One of the reasons I was able to become an interesting speaker was that I was very aware even in private conversations in high school, whether or not I was boring the person I was with, I would see their face, whether they had stopped concentrating.”

Empathy requires abstract thought. The measure of one's ability to conduct abstract thought is measured by IQ. Not all high IQ people engage in  deep empathy, but the capacity to empathize correlates with IQ. According to this 2019 study "Why are smarter individuals more prosocial? A study on the mediating roles of empathy and moral identity": "Highly intelligent children are more likely to develop higher levels of empathic skills because they are more sensitive to other people's emotional cues, and are better able to understand other people's thoughts and feelings."

Jan. 14, 2010, Dennis said: “When I am with boys and I love being with boys, I do, I always have, I have an affinity, even an emotional affinity, little girls are cute but I must admit that if I could spend a weekend with ten-year-old girls or ten-year-old boys, I’d opt for the ten-year-old-boys because I feel like I have more to say to them… When I meet boys, I am extremely aware that I want to come off to them as an adult and not like a boy. We did this many years ago — do you high-five a kid? And a lot of you who are wonderful parents and wonderful people say it’s not a problem. And if the kid raises his hand for a high-five, I gave in on that, but I never initiate a high-five. I shake kids’ hands, certainly when I meet them, I shake them, ‘How do you do?’ If they ever say Mr. Prager, I never say, ‘Call me Dennis.’ Never! If they call me ‘Dennis’, I never say ‘Call me Mr. Prager’. I allow either way. I don’t say to anybody except a peer. I don’t insist on Mr. Prager at all, but if people call me ‘Mr. Prager’, I never correct them.

“It is something we have lost in society. Every friend of my parents was Mr. and Mrs. When I finally called them by their first names in my mid-twenties, I can’t tell you how awkward it felt… Even 20 years later, I wasn’t fully comfortable. Of course I did because it would’ve seen ridiculously removed from them and I was very close to some of the friends of my parents. And seeing these males was good for me.”

The Road Less Traveled

Max Prager wrote in chapter 32:
In June 1966, Dennis graduated Yeshiva of Flatbush and being the President of the senior class, he presented a gift to the school on behalf of his class at the commencement exercises. In May of 1965 and 1966, he was admitted to “Archon”, the honor society at the Yeshiva. Also, he received good grades in his Regents exams and was able to obtain a Regents Scholarship. Evidently, the advice I received from the Almighty paid off in dividends.

In his senior year, he applied to several colleges, including Columbia and one or two other Ivy League schools. His principal, whom I will not name, refused to forward his applications to any of the prestigious colleges. I was quite aware of the reason for this action since Yeshiva of Flatbush had an exemplary record of having its graduates accepted to these ivory towers. By refusing its students who did not have a high scholastic standing to apply to these colleges, it was able to retain this high record and used this as a vehicle to encourage elementary school graduates with high grades to enroll in Flatbush.

When Dennis informed me of the principal’s action, I saw red. I called the principal for an appointment to lodge my complaint. Incredibly, he refused to see me. I did tell him that if he continued to refuse to send my son’s application to whichever school Dennis wanted, I would be sure to disseminate his refusal to all newspapers in the city and his beloved Yeshiva would suffer the consequences.

I don’t remember whether he hung up on me; but I do recall that he did not reply. A few days later, Dennis told me that all his applications were forwarded. I knew quite well that because of his grades, other than the Regents grades he would not be successful in being accepted to any of the Ivy League colleges. However, no school official has the right to deny a student an opportunity to apply to any college he desires. Since he was not accepted by these schools, he went to Brooklyn College.

“I have never taken safe routes,” Dennis Prager said. “Sometimes I’ve fallen off the mountain, but you get up.” (April 2, 2010)

In a Feb. 25, 2012 public dialogue with Adam Carolla, Dennis said: "I haven't watched the Academy Awards in many years, but I did for many years, and it drove me nuts when an actress would get up, she grew up in rural Montana and now she's getting an award, and she'd say, 'I have a message for all you young girls out there. All you have to do is follow your dream and look at where I got.' Of course there are 86,000 waitresses to the one woman who got the Academy award and they're also following their dream. Maybe it is better to have parents saying you're a loser."

"When I was in my early 20s, I started getting paid to give lectures. And my mother said to me, 'They're paying you? I can hear you for free and I don't listen.'"

In a July 12, 2012 dialogue with Carolla, Dennis said: "The Irish Day Parade in New York was the biggest parade. I was curious to know what is it like. I went in line and I marched with them and the line wobbled. At each bar, a certain number would leave the line for the bar and then come back and join the line."

At the end of high school, Dennis abandoned keeping a diary. He would forever regret it. (Lecture in 2008 on 25 years in broadcasting)

“There is a girl named Dina. I was 18. She was 19. We went out the whole summer. We were counselors at a summer camp. She set my life on its course because she listened to me and affirmed what I believed.” (Jan. 6, 2011)

“I’ll never forget the guy when I was 21, a [non-Jewish] friend of mine from rural Canada, came out of the photo store with me and said, ‘Dennis, I really Jewed him down.’ And I remember thinking, ‘Should I be offended?’ And of course I was not offended. He didn’t do that to hurt me because I was a Jew.” (Feb. 25, 2011)

Dennis told the guy this was inappropriate speech.

"I am unoffendable unless there's malicious intent, which I have not encountered." (Mar. 14, 2013)

Jan. 2, 2012, Dennis said: "People strive for too much. There's a great Hebrew saying -- if you grab too much, you haven't grabbed anything. We don't raise our kids with wisdom aphorisms any longer. I learned so many in my religious school upbringing, every one went into my brain and stayed until this day and they have all affected my behavior. I'll never forget one -- let your ears hear what your mouth say. It has affected everything. It has probably helped me become a talk show host and a speaker."

Kenneth Prager Marries

On July 18, 1965, Kenneth Prager met his future wife Jeannie Gronich at Harvard. “I remember the transformation of my brother’s wife [in my mind],” said Dennis in a 1997 lecture on the Tenth Commandment. “I was a teenager when my brother was dating the woman he’s still married to. I remember reacting like a normal guy. She’s attractive. I’m attracted. The day they got engaged, I snapped. It was all of a sudden my sister-in-law. Certainly at the wedding. I observed the transformation in myself. It was now family and it entered an icky realm.”

Max Prager wrote in chapter 32:

It seems that Kenny inherited a Prager syndrome which prevented our males from leading a girl into a false illusion that we are serious in the relationship when we are not ready to make a commitment. Thus, Kenny made it clear to Jeannie that, although he liked her, he was still a medical student and marriage was not yet in the cards.

Consequently, they stopped seeing each other for a few months and Jeannie resumed dating other young men. However, Kenny, being Mac’s son, repeated his father’s dilemma when I was courting his mother. …Kenny, who was hesitant in committing himself, discovered that he was in love with Jeannie and called her for a date. From that moment on, neither one dated others.

Kenneth and Jeanie married in 1967.

Brooklyn College

After high school, Dennis attended Brooklyn College. He graduated in 1970 with degrees in History and Middle East Studies. 

On Feb. 18, 2013, Dennis said: "In freshmen English, the teacher was one of these progressive teachers, but she was very pretty, so I went to class every time. She said, 'Students, I want you to look out the window and write what you see.' I looked out the window and saw an apartment building, that's all there was, so I knew what would get me an A, if I wrote that I see the vapidness of modern life, the anonymity and atomization through each window, and I got an A, but it was baloney, all I saw was an apartment building."

Dennis said in his January 2002 autobiography lecture: “One day a guy named Mark Rudd, who was the head of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), was at Columbia where he led all those terrible demonstrations, he came to Brooklyn College to do the same thing. Students at Brooklyn College pelted him with tomatoes and eggs when he tried to organize students against the government and the war. We were a working class college. They were an elite college. I realized that a lot of this stuff against the country from the left came from kids from Scarsdale and kids from much wealthier homes.”

Apr. 20, 2012, Dennis said: "For every one of you who went to college and graduated, what did you learn? I don't mean chemistry and pre-med [and the sciences]. In the United States for three of my four years, I learned Russian and I can't think of much more... I learned Arabic. In most other areas, it was the books that taught me."

"My year in England, I had two wonderful professors."

July 16, 2012, Dennis said that none of his college teachers were instrumental in him achieving professional success.

Dennis was not thrilled to get the right to vote at age 18. “I thought 18 was too young and I was 18 at the time. I said to my girlfriend [second serious one, said DP 9/13/11], ‘Anna, why are they giving me the vote? I don’t know anything.’ I knew that I knew more than most kids but I still didn’t think that I knew anything to make an intelligent vote. But I was raised in a religious world, which almost inherently gives you some insight into how little you know because of how much they knew in the past.” (May 11, 2010)

“I didn’t bother to attend my college graduation,” said Dennis on Sept. 4, 2009. 

June 24, 2010, Dennis said: “When I wrote my finals in college, in the middle of my long essay, I’d write, ‘And the Yankees won 6-2.’ I was born with a chutzpah gene. They never caught. Not one of my college teachers read my entire essay. That’s the proof. The guy would’ve flunked me for having the audacity to write that in the middle of an essay on the papacy’s decline in the 12th Century.”

Mar. 22, 2010, Dennis said: “When I knew that I had to get my own health insurance at age 21, I did. I had the non-left-wing view that it is good to be an adult.”

Dennis wrote Jan. 19, 2010:

When I was a boy in the 1950s, without anyone expressly defining it, I knew what a man was supposed to be. And I knew that society, not to mention my parents, expected me to be one. It went without explicitly saying so that I would have to make a living, support myself as soon as possible and support a family thereafter.

When I acted immaturely, I was told to be or act like a man.

I recall Dennis Prager saying on the radio that in Holland during college, he took advantage of some of the freedoms offered there (a prostitute, not drugs).

Jan. 17, 2014, Dennis said: "If they have marijuana for health, why not prostitution for health?"

On June 7, 2013, Dennis said: "I went to Syria in my mid-20s, but I didn't announce. When they asked religion, on one of the Arab countries visa application, and I wrote, 'Orthodox.' While I wasn't an Orthodox Jew...

"This was a life-changing moment. I was on a bus from Beirut to Damascus. I was seated next to a man, the first Iraqi I had ever met. I talk to everybody. I love talking to strangers. This is why I didn't think it was necessarily a good idea to invade Iraq.

"I said, 'Sir, could you summarize the Iraqi people in a sentence?' He said, 'No problem. Iraqis are the most barbaric people in the world.' You can imagine how I felt. That was chilling. But it got worse.

"He then said, 'What's your name?' I said 'Dennis.' He said, 'What's your last name?' I said, 'Prager.' And he said, 'What are the origins of your last name?' I knew what he was getting at. I said, 'It's a German word, which means from Prague. I assume I have German and Czech ancestors.' He said, 'Maybe so, but I think Prager is a Jewish name.' There are many Pragers who are Jewish and many who aren't, but he was obsessed with finding out if I was a Jew."

Trip To Israel, Europe

At the end of his first year of college, shortly after the Six Day War of 1967, Dennis made his first trip abroad, touring Israel and Europe.

“I first went to Jerusalem three weeks after the Six Day War in 1967 [staying with Pinchas H. Peli and his feminist wife],” wrote Dennis Prager for Olam magazine in 2001. “I was just under 19 years old. For a Jewish boy from the New York yeshiva world, one who moreover also attended Zionist summer camps in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, the experience was, not surprisingly, overwhelming. It is difficult to separate the power of Israel, the power of that uniquely heady time in Jewish history, and the power of Jerusalem. Each merged into the other to create a permanent impact on Jews such as myself.

“So deep was the impact, in fact, that I was certain that I would one day in the not too distant future make aliyah (live in the Jewish state). Indeed, three years later, after graduating from college, I applied to and was accepted by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem to study for a Masters Degree at its Institute on Contemporary Jewry.

“For various reasons, I enrolled instead at Columbia University, at its School of International Affairs, and consequently ended up staying in America. That decision came to be one of those life-shaping forks in the road that all of us at some point experience. Had Columbia not accepted me, this American patriot might well have ended up being an Israeli.”

On his January 9, 2023 Youtube show with Julie Hartman, Dennis said: "So one summer [during college], I said to a friend or two, 'How you would like to go with me to Europe this summer? I'm going to Bulgaria.' They thought I was out of my mind. I did it so often I can tell you how it works -- Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, that's going south to north. Another summer I'd go north to south. I'm sorry to say this because the people were suffering but I had an amazing time. They loved Americans and the women from Eastern Europe loved Americans too. I won't go further."

June 25, 2010, Dennis said that if he did not live in the United States, he would most likely live in Israel. Other possibilities were Canada, Australia and India.

Mar. 21, 2014, Dennis said: "I was changed the first time I visited India. I was in my 20s. I was not changed by seeing abject poverty. The biggest impact was seeing how many happy children there were in India. I thought poverty was co-extensive with great unhappiness.

"I remember going to outside Calcutta and kids were naked and they were just running around, laughing themselves silly, kicking balls and playing. It shook me up. I remember thinking that we have so many kids in our country who don't have the innocence and kids can't be happy if they're not innocent. Children depend upon innocence because it gives them security."

"What makes people happy are attitudes and cultures. There are certain cultures that don't produce happy people and there are others that produce a lot of happy people."

"India has huge problems, not least of which is the class system. I remember the kids came begging seeing Westerners and if you didn't give them anything, they'd just wave bye bye, while in other cultures, they got very angry."

The most consistent phone call Dennis received in his 40 plus years of broadcasting was, "Is it safe to visit Israel?" (Mar. 24, 2012)

Said Dennis in a 1998 lecture on Exodus 34: “I did a report on Egyptian art while I was in college. I remember one where you had the god Horace having anal sex with an Egyptian. There was a prayer to it — spread your buttocks.”

Said Dennis in a 2008 lecture on “Why Have Our Universities Gone So Wrong?”: “There was one insight I’ve never forgotten over one of the urinals at Brooklyn College — Jesus saves, Moses invests.”

Said Dennis July 14, 2010: “I graduated high enough to get into Columbia for graduate work. I got a D in Geology. Well deserved. We had all these requirements. I had to take three semesters of college science — Geology, Physics and Biology. I am a character today and I was a character then.

“During Geology lab, I went out of my mind. In Geology lab, you have a partner who depends upon you to scratch a rock and figure it whether it is igneous, metamorphic or sedimentary. I did not care. It held no significance to me. Will it make my life better? Deeper? Kinder? Finer? Wiser? It didn’t.

“I have a much better view of Geology today but I was close-minded then. I drove my Geology lab instructor a little nuts because I would fool around like throw a rock at another kid. I didn’t know if I threw an igneous, metamorphic or sedimentary rock.

“And he’d throw it back. And that would bring me joy the likes of which I have never experienced.

“And I got a D. They used to send you postcards. You’d give your card and it would be mailed back to you.

“Underneath my grade, the instructor wrote: 'Dear Mr. Prager, I would’ve given you an F but I felt sorry for next term’s instructor.'"

Dec. 21, 2010, Dennis said: “I’ll never forget my first Philosophy class at college and the professor began with, ‘Do we really exist?’ I remember thinking, ‘I’m going to go punch the professor in the nose and ask him if he thought I exist or not?’ Whack! Was that real, professor? The amount of nonsense that has pervaded the secular world is overwhelming.”

Said Dennis in a 2008 lecture on universities: “Had I gone to Columbia for undergraduate, I would’ve dropped out. I was not ready as an undergraduate to do the work necessary for an Ivy league college.”

Said Dennis Sept. 3, 2010: “I just assumed life was going to deliver some very rough blows. You’re unbelievably lucky every day you don’t have anything bad happening. I said that to my dear friend Joseph in college and he said that it profoundly affected his life. I said, 'Joseph, I expect nothing good to make me happy. I am happy as long as nothing bad happened'.”

In a 1994 lecture on Gen. 32, Dennis said: “From an early age, I was content if I could buy all the records and books I wanted. That struck me as a millionaire’s life. There were times — very few — when I couldn’t buy records and they were very painful.”

Said Dennis Nov. 30, 2010: “When I was a kid, I had a Dutch pen pal – Steineka Deuze (sp?). I corresponded with Steineka for one year thinking I was corresponding with a boy. Then I went to Amersfoort, Netherlands, and found out that my pen pal was a girl. It was very disorienting and very pleasant.”

We Have Reason To Believe

At age 21, Dennis Prager was impressed by the Rabbi Louis Jacobs book We Have Reason To Believe. “I thought, wow, we can use the faculty of reason to believe in God? Just the title alone changed my life.” (Aug. 3, 2010)

Dennis never finished reading the short book. 

“I was enthralled by [the 19th Century Jewish philosopher] Hermann Cohen in college because he combined reason and Judaism.” (2003 lecture on Deut. 10)


In 1968, Dennis Prager won a junior-year-abroad scholarship after impressing interviewers with his skills in English, Hebrew, Russian and French. 

Sept. 26, 2002, Dennis said: "I had a choice in high school between learning Spanish and French. I chose French because it was harder. And it ended up saving my life [in Morocco]."

Max Prager wrote:

While Dennis was in his sophomore year at Brooklyn College, Marvin Kratter, a real estate developer who built apartment houses at the site of the old Ebbets Field, former home of the Brooklyn Dodgers, created an annual scholarship for ONE student of the sophomore class at Brooklyn College called the Gideonse Foreign Study Scholarship...

In addition to having good grades, and being held in high esteem of some of the teachers, students had to be interviewed by a panel of professors. Dennis, always having charisma and eloquence, was chosen to receive the $2,000 scholarship which covered sea transportation to and from any college in the world, tuition, and room and board.
Dennis wrote: “During the first week of September, 1968, I set sail from New York to Harwich, England. If the day I won the Junior Year Abroad Award had been the happiest day, this week on board this student ship was the happiest week of my life. Free, independent, living on my own, far from home!” (CD)

Said Dennis in his January 2002 autobiography lecture:

I spent the first two years at Brooklyn College and I decided that now I will do schoolwork. I just had a feeling that it would be important for me to get decent grades at college. Well, this is the turning point of my life. They gave an award each year at Brooklyn College for one student for the junior year abroad scholarship.

You had to have a 3.0 GPA and I had a 3.01. Then you went through interviews. As soon as the interviews started, I knew I had a good chance because that was always my strong point, selling snow in winter.

Ohmigod, I’m going to have these professors interview me. When the final interview came about, there were about five candidates left. The heads of all the departments [were there]. That was to intimidate you but I loved it. I loved the attention. I remember sitting in a swivel chair and saying, yes professor, yes professor. I was eating it up.

They said, it says on your application that you speak Russian, French and Hebrew. Is that true?

I said yes, of course. So the head of the Russian department spoke to me in Russian and the head of the French department spoke to me in French and the head of the Hebrew department spoke to me in Hebrew. And then they said, tell us what they all said to you.

So, totally matter of fact as though it wasn’t effortful even though I was sweating inside, but I got it right and I knew I was going to get the award and I did.

We took a boat about a third the size of this on September 10, 1969. I was leaving Brooklyn for a whole year. There are no words to describe the joy on that boat.

I went to the University of Leeds in England. I would’ve gone anywhere.

Talk about seasick. The first day. It was very rough. It was like a giant ferry of a thousand students on it going for cheap to Europe. Everybody was nauseous. That was a lousy first day. Aside from that, it was a lot of fun.

Then romance began. I met a German girl on board [from Kiehl]. She became my girlfriend for much of that year in some ways which brought my home great joy. Dennis is dating a German girl. Bad enough that I was dating a non-Jewish girl. A German no less!

I visited her in Germany about five times that year. It was emotional. This was only 23 years after the Holocaust. I’m walking around Germany and I’m thinking about all the adults and wondered where were you? Who did you gas? Who did you round up?

Dennis regularly took a boat from Harwich, England, to Bremerhaven, Germany, to see his girlfriend. 

In his "Jewish Intellectual Biography" lecture, Dennis was asked if getting a German girlfriend was like trying ham. "I have so many answers. It was a lot easier."

Questioner: "More delicious."

Dennis: "I was torn. Yeshiva boy. With blonde Aryan Brigitta. I was a junior in college. I called her into my cabin one morning to see me put on tefillin. It was less dramatic than I thought because she had never seen it before. I wanted her to know that I was no different than the Jews who were butchered by the Nazis. I may look All-American, I may talk All-American, but I am no different than those German Jews that the Nazis would cut their beards off and kill them. She didn't care. I thought it might shake her. I did it for me. Even though I wasn't putting on tefillin every day but I did for her."

"I went to a camera store in Hamburg in 1969. We got to talking and somehow, I mentioned I had just been in Israel. The guy asked me, 'Are you a Jew?' I said yes. He said, 'I want to give you this Leica M4 at cost. It is my little way of saying we're sorry.' Maybe this is why Brigitta was sent into my life so that I would visit Germany a lot."

Said Dennis in a 1996 lecture on Exodus 20: “I was 21 years old. It was 1969. I had an atheist British roommate at the University of Leeds. The guy lived with his girlfriend all year. I had this huge flat to myself. One day the guy shows up to do his laundry. It’s a Saturday afternoon. I’m lying in bed resting and reading. He comes in, ‘Hey, Dennis, how are you? Are you sick?’ I go no. ‘Then why are you lying in bed in the afternoon?’

“The guy was in Physics. I said, well, it’s my Sabbath. ‘Do you believe in religion?’ Yep. ‘Do you believe in God?’ Yep. ‘What is God?’ Knowing his field, I said, ‘God is the only absolute in a universe of relativity.’”

On Sep. 23, 2011, Dennis said: “From when I was in my early twenties and really began thinking about these issues, I did flirt with becoming irreligious but my alternative was never to go to another religion but hedonism.”

Prager studied international history, comparative religion and Arabic at the University of Leeds. The climate aggravated his asthma. “I remember one day the professor announced, ‘The sun is shining. Class dismissed’.” (Feb. 4, 2010)

“England was going through a social upheaval as represented by the micro-skirt, which made studying difficult.” (Jan. 2002 lecture on ideological autobiography)

“I remember living in England for a year stunned at the material conditions of the middle class in Britain, incomparably lower than in the United States.” (Oct. 6, 2010)

"I booed a piece at Royal Albert Hall in England when I was a student. I used to go down to London for concerts. Some modern composer had a vocal piece which was disgusting. It was like Jackson Pollock in song. I booed when the composer came out and everyone turned around and looked at me. How do we register what we thought of the piece? I didn't want him shot. I just wanted to tell him I thought it was crap." (Nov. 15, 2013)

Circa 2002, Dennis gave a lecture titled, "A Life of Travel." He said: "I have had culture shock on only a few occasions. The first time I ever went abroad at age 20 (aside from Canada), I went to Belgium and all the signs were in Flemish. French would have been OK because I learned it in high school. I went with a friend. He had relatives in Antwerp. I remember seeing all the signs in a foreign language and I got antsy. It was over in a couple of days. The next time I experienced it was when I went to Morocco. That was very difficult."

"The moment I got off the boat in Algiers," Dennis said, "there are few places on earth that are as different as Europe and North Africa... It's an Arab country, a Muslim country, but that didn't get me. Tangiers is a particularly rough city. The moment I was off the boat, I was constantly descended upon by people offering me men, women, sheep. Watches. I felt terrible. I was alone and I felt like everybody was trying to get me... I spent two weeks [in Morocco] alone, but it was hard in Algiers that I sat on my bed and cried that I was in Tangiers alone and why didn't I go with my German girlfriend to Scandinavia."

During Christmas vacation 1968, Dennis traveled through Spain, then Morocco, where he said he encountered anti-Semitism for the first time in his life. In Marrakech, he saw four Moroccan thugs on motorbikes beat Jews leaving a Jewish home after the Sabbath. Prager intervened, kicking the leader of the thugs so hard they he lifted off the ground. As they gathered to attack him, calling him a Zionist Prager yelled in French that he was an American, a friend of King Hassan, and that the thugs would be hanged if they hurt him. It worked. (6/7/13 & CD)

In a 1994 lecture on Gen. 34, Dennis said: “When I was in Morocco in 1968, four American women bumped into me and said, ‘Could you please pose as our husband?’ I thought they were joking but they just wanted a man to whom they belonged to travel with them. With great great deep deep difficulty, I acceded to their request only because I am so chivalrous.”

Said Dennis Dec. 15, 2010: “I’ll never forget when I was smoking my pipe in Morocco during Ramadan, I was in my early 20s, and a man came over to me very respectfully and said you will have to stop smoking. You can’t smoke during Ramadan. It seemed obvious that I wasn’t Muslim.”

During my junior year in college, which I spent in Europe, and during which time I traveled from the Arctic to Morocco, I decided to experience life without the Jewish religious practices with which I was raised.

…I did not long for many of the observances. I hardly missed keeping kosher; being able to order and eat anything on a menu was a semi-ecstatic experience. And being able to do anything I wanted on Friday nights and Saturdays — go out, eat in restaurants, travel, shop — also seemed exhilarating and liberating. (Ultimate Issues, Jul – Sep, 1990, pg. 16)

On Friday night, August 1, 1969, Prager’s life forever changed. He’d ridden all day on a train from Lapland to Helsinki, the capital of Finland. He arrived around 11 p.m. As he got off the train, he realized it was Friday night. “…I felt as though I was losing the rhythm of life that I once had… Life was becoming biological; the holy and the distinct, and the day that let the other days have meaning and rhythm, were all disappearing.” (Ultimate Issues, Jul – Sep, 1990, pg. 16)

The Soviet Union

After his tenure at Leeds, Dennis visited a friend on a kibbutz in Israel. He was introduced to a wealthy man who sponsored brief trips by young non-Israeli Jews to the Soviet Union to smuggle in Jewish religious items like prayer shawls, and smuggle out information about Russian Jews. It was 1969, two years after the USSR had broken off relations with Israel. 

Dennis said in his January 2002 autobiography lecture:

I went to Israel in the Spring of 1969 for Passover. People who heard about me through friends, I was not famous at all, they heard he’s this Jewish boy who speaks Russian, Hebrew, English, let’s send him to Russia to bring in religious items for Jews since they’re all banned in the Soviet Union and let him bring out information such as names of people who want to get out, which was a risky thing to do under communism but when you’re 20 you think you’re immortal.

To make it even more alluring, not only were they going to pay for me to go to Russia to do this for four weeks, it was the longest four weeks of my life, they were going to send me with a girl from England. With my luck, she was very religious and believed there should be no touching prior to marriage. I had no chance.

I cried the whole flight on Pan Am coming from Moscow back to New York in October 1969. I’ll never forget the stewardess coming over and saying, ‘Can I help you? Did you just break up with a girlfriend?’ I said 'No, it’s OK. I can’t explain.'

The explanation was that I had just spent four weeks in a totalitarian state and because I had this blue passport I could get out and I met all these people who couldn’t. And I was crying for all the people who couldn’t get out.
In his 2012 book Still the Best Hope, Dennis wrote on pg. 208: "I visited authoritarian fascist Spain and the totalitarian Soviet Union in the same year, 1969. There was no comparison between the two. For example, in Spain, I was allowed to stay at any hotel I wanted, and to receive Spanish guests (though they had to leave by midnight). In the Soviet Union I was told what hotels to stay at, and no Soviet citizen (except for Soviet officials) was allowed inside the hotel. In Spain, I could purchase and read publicly just about any foreign newspaper. In the Soviet Union I could purchase and read only Soviet and other Communist Party newspapers. The list of differences between life in fascist Spain and life in the Soviet Union is endless."

Dennis Prager wrote April 19, 2011:
I became the national spokesman for the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, one of the most effective organizations for Soviet Jews in the world.

As such, I spoke before synagogues of every denomination, Hadassah groups, Jewish federations, Jewish groups on college campuses. If there was a Jewish organization, it cared about the plight of Soviet Jews. For decades, virtually every synagogue in America had a “Save Soviet Jewry” sign in front of it.

Over time, the plight of the Soviet Jews awakened me to the plight of all Soviet dissidents, whether secular ones — such as that great man, the physicist Andrei Sakharov — or Christian.

The latter were particularly persecuted. Though my work was with Soviet Jewry, I had no trouble acknowledging that Soviet Christians often had it worse. Few Soviet Jews were killed or locked away in dungeon-like conditions by the Soviet authorities, but Soviet Christians were.

At some point in my early years, it dawned on me that I had not seen a single church with a “Save Soviet Christians” sign. Even more amazingly, I encountered Christian clergy — Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox — at every one of the scores of Soviet Jewry rallies at which I spoke. But while these wonderful Christians were outspoken on behalf of Soviet Jews, they were nearly all silent regarding — or even simply ignorant of — the dire plight of Soviet Christians.
“Seeing the world [kills] naiveté,” said Prager Dec. 1, 2009. “Seeing life under communism. Reading about it is very important but experiencing it… When I had to meet dissidents in the Soviet Union, they would tell me at which tree in which park to meet them, to then continue walking. They would walk behind me, catch up, and we will only talk while walking, because if we stop to talk, it will be clear that they are talking to a Westerner. And any other kind of conversation could be recorded, so we never met indoors. I lost 14 pounds in four weeks in the Soviet Union. Biggest chunk of change I ever lost. Because of that. I never sat. To see the fear in people’s faces. To experience Checkpoint Charlie where the East German police would slide mirrors under your car to see if you were smuggling out a human. These things made indelible impressions on my life.

“When I was in Syria and a woman in Damascus walked toward me completely covered head-to-toe, the only thing I saw were hands, that was a very early experience in the degradation of women that takes place in parts of these worlds.”

Apr. 21, 2010, Dennis said: “I could not visit people in their apartments in the Soviet Union because it would’ve been obvious I was a Westerner. Even though I spoke Russian, they knew I was a Westerner. Not by my accent. They usually thought I was from the Baltic states. The reason they knew I was a Westerner — I was dressed better. And folks, if you knew me, you’d know I did not step out of Gentleman’s Quarterly. Dressed better meant a Lands’ End shirt. That’s what better was.”

In his 14th lecture on Deuteronomy (2003), Dennis said: “I have a very innocent face. I know I do because I got through communist customs all the time because I was bringing in bad things from their perspective.”

Dennis lived like a spy in the former Soviet Union, meeting with Jewish dissidents in parks at midnight and climbing over walls to avoid the cops. Until the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Dennis kept this information secret to protect the ongoing information network.

In a 2005 lecture on Deuteronomy 17-18, Dennis said: “It was hard to smuggle in religious items into the Soviet Union because they wanted to make an atheist state and obliterate religion. On one of my trips, I went into the Soviet Union from India, I flew in from Delhi to Tashkent. I had come from Australia earlier on my trip where I gave some lectures to the Jewish community and when they heard I was going to the Soviet Union, they said, could you bring in this shofar? There weren’t many in the Soviet Union.

“The question is how am I going to get it into customs in Tashkent. I arrive at the customs. I have all this stuff. I speak Russian but not great. I carried a Russian-English dictionary. They start asking me, what is this? I was easily the most interesting person on the plane.

“So, for example, he looks at a pigs tusks. I look up in the dictionary and say in Russian, this is the tusk of a pig from New Guinea.

“He laughs. He picks up the shofar and goes, what’s this? I look it up and go, this is the horn of a ram from New Guinea. And he laughs. And that’s how I got it in, as another animal item from New Guinea.”

“The trip shaped my life,” Prager told the 11-17-91 Los Angeles Times.

Why would Dennis take such risks? Among many reasons, it was a way to impress girls. As a 2007 article noted, "A single theory can explain the productivity of both creative geniuses and criminals over the life course: Both crime and genius are expressions of young men's competitive desires, whose ultimate function in the ancestral environment would have been to increase reproductive success."

Returning to America, Dennis began lecturing to Jewish organizations on the state of Jews in the Soviet Union. In July 1970, the United Nations convened a World Youth Assembly. Bnai Brith nominated Prager as its delegate. Dennis wrote later:
I was the anti-Soviet, and anti-totalitarian spokesman, leading a walkout on behalf of South Koreans not allowed to speak, debating the Soviet delegates in the Security Council, and ultimately getting to speak in the General Assembly. The hatred of Jews, of Israel, and of the United States that I witnessed from many delegates left a permanent impression… (1998 Dennis Prager CD)
Said Dennis in a 2009 lecture “The Moral Case for Conservatism”:
When I was 21 years old, I was a representative to the only time the United Nations ever had a World Youth Assembly. They had five delegates from every single nation and delegates from all the NGOs (Non-Governmental Agencies). I was representing Bnai Brith International. I represented world Jewish youth because that was the non-governmental agency.

I participated actively in what happened. We took over the UN. We were in the security council. We had simultaneous translation. It was a real hoot. It was really something incredible.

One day the third world anti-American and pro-Soviet delegates said, ‘We want to charter buses and have them taken us to Harlem so we can see how the oppressed black impoverished American lives. So they did.

The results were astonishing. They came back and called a press conference. They said they were deceived. That they were taken to a wealthy black neighborhood and were tricked and told it was really Harlem because compared to what they were used to, they couldn’t believe the homes, the number of cars, the number of color television sets.

Prager wrote the UN experience “cemented an ability to speak calmly in the face of hostility.” (CD)

On his January 16, 2023 show with Julie Hartman, Dennis said: "I'm sitting there and the Soviet delegate was annoyed and he says, 'I smell a conspiracy.' I raised my hand, and I said, 'To the Soviet delegate who smells a conspiracy, I can only say that there is a famous American saying, 'He who smelt it dealt it.'"

Said Dennis June 24, 2010, “I am known for not getting angry. Almost Obama-like.”

Here’s an excerpt of an article written by the assistant director of the UN Office of the Bnai Brith International Council (quoted on

But, the star of the West was the representative of Bnai Brith Hillel, Dennis Prager, 21, of Brooklyn. Challenging the Soviets, Prager led a spontaneous walkout of the Peace Commission when the Moscow-Cairo group, couched by members of their regular UN delegations, refused to allow Vietnamese and Chinese participants to speak.

Prager suddenly rose, 6’4” tall, and above the din of the desk-pounding cried out that all who wanted to protest the violation of democratic principles should follow him out of the room. About 30 did so. Although their actions did not necessarily reflect political sympathy with those who were excluded, under Prager’s leadership, they effectively demonstrated their commitment to the democratic way.

The next morning Prager appeared at the Education Commission and delivered a speech on the cultural deprivations suffered by Soviet Jewry. Back in the Peace Commission, he participated in an exchange which earned for him the reputation as the only man to embarrass the Russians.

At noon a day later, Prager called a press conference at which he presented a declaration signed by 40 delegations protesting “the cynical attempts to manipulate the conference by representatives of the Soviet-East European bloc and representatives of the undemocratic left.” During the final plenary debate, Prager withstood the threats and jeers of the Moscow-Cairo mob and demanded a vote on the validity of their one-sided Peace Commission report. When that was denied, the Jewish students worked to insert an amendment in the Soviet inspired final message to the UN General Assembly. Their single success came when the plenum, by a vote of 271-115 agreed to condemn the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and demand the restoration of democracy to that country.
Max Prager wrote in chapter 33: “I cannot express in words the tremendous pride that I have for my son to this day. Perhaps his strong desire for justice emanates from his home or perhaps it stems from his unflinching faith in his religion which teaches in the Torah the words tzedek tzede tirdof (run after justice).”

On a cruise to St. Petersburg circa 2003, Dennis Prager said in a lecture on Russia and communism:
I never changed money in Russia. I was too afraid. I did change money in Eastern Europe. I’ll tell you my trick. I thought it was foolproof. I was very proud of myself. I was a student. I had no money. I lived like a king when I visited Eastern Europe.

In Warsaw in 1970, I stayed at a palace. You don’t understand. I taught Hebrew school in Brooklyn. That was all the money I had. And I was a waiter at a summer camp. I had no money. And here I was, I lived three meals a day of unbelievably good food all because I changed money on the unofficial rate, the real rate. I would get 10, 20, 30 times the rate so I would live like a king.

Here’s how I did it. I’d be at a restaurant, let’s say, in Warsaw. The waiter would give me the bill. I’d say, ‘Gee, I’m so sorry, but I have no zloped. Can I give you some dollars and you’ll bring me change? And may I ask, how much change will you be bringing me?’

Or with taxi drivers, I’d say in Romania, ‘I have no more leu…’ I figured I couldn’t be arrested. I was a simple nothing student. I had no more leu.
After his cruise, Dennis said:
I’d like to tell you a story that really shook me up. I went to the Leningrad, that’s the St. Petersburg synagogue where I had gone 33 years ago to visit with the Jews who would attend a synagogue under surveillance. I went to make a statement that young Jews do know Hebrew. They do know how to pray the Jewish prayers. Just to be seen by the Jews there. I went on one of the Jewish holidays, the holiday of Tabernacles, Succoth.

I remember well reciting from the Torah and the astonished and overwhelmed reactions of the Jews present.

Here I was in the synagogue 33 years later. The synagogue had been beautifully restored. I felt no different than I would at a synagogue anywhere else in the world.

A man in his 70s walked in and he looked at me and he said in Yiddish to the rabbi showing me around, ‘That’s the tall young man who was here in 1969 and recited from the Torah.’

As I recount this story now, I have goosebumps. He just started to cry. He hugged me. It was overwhelming for all of us. I knew that I had made an impact by showing them that Judaism was still alive because they were told by the Soviets that it was dead everywhere in the world.

Feb. 5, 2010, Dennis said: “When I came back from the Soviet Union, I remember having dinner with the rabbi of my synagogue. At that time, when I grew up, there was a real distance between clergy and congregant… It was better… Better too remote than too chummy.

“He and his wife invited me to their home. I thought it was one of the great honors of my life. ‘Wow. The rabbi has invited me to his home, I am this 21-year old zilch.’ And I remember going there and I realized that I was the life of the dinner. He was a subdued type and so was she. And I realized maybe this is what I should do, I should be a live guy. It helps the conversation. It helps the dinner. If someone else becomes the live person, I retreat."

Sept. 15, 2010, Dennis said: “The last time I felt physically unsafe, I was in my early 30s in the Soviet Union trying to escape on a train at midnight to Romania and with me were documents that the Soviets would not have been happy that I took out. That was it.”

Mar. 24, 2011, Dennis said: “When I think of the kids my age screaming ‘Ho, ho, ho, Ho Chi Minh’ and ‘Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?’ this is the world of the left I grew up with. It’s left a deep angry in me at the upside-down moral nature of the left. It called evil good and good evil. America the good was evil and communism the evil was good.

“One day I had an argument. I was standing on a street in Japan with an American student my age. We got to talking about politics. I mentioned how vile the North Korean regime was. He laced into me. ‘Who the hell are you to judge North Korea?’”

Making A Living

In his 14th lecture on Deuteronomy (in 2003?), Dennis said: “When I was a kid, I knew I wouldn’t be a doctor. A. My brother was. I knew I wouldn’t do the same thing my brother did just to individuate. B. I hated the site of blood. C. I didn’t find studying the names of nerves interesting.

“So I remember thinking, OK, I’ll be a lawyer. In my eighth grade Yeshiva Rambam graduation booklet, each kid had his picture and he’d tell the editor what phrase he’d like under his picture and mine was, ‘Dennis Prager, D.A.’ He had under his picture six years early, “Kenneth Prager, M.D.’

“Through high school, I just assumed I’d be a lawyer, but then I read a law book. By page 11, I decided I wouldn’t be a lawyer. And I remember thinking, what am I going to do? I’m a Jew.

“I remember saying to my brother, ‘Kenny, I’m not going to be a doctor or a lawyer. I’m going to be something different.’

“I thank God that I followed my gifts.”

Said Dennis in a 2008 lecture on universities: “I thought of being a professor. The idea of devoting one’s life to the mind is so appealing to me. It seems so wonderful. I’ve always had this idyllic vision.”

Said Dennis in his January 2002 autobiography lecture:

The next year [senior year at Brooklyn College] I began lecturing and that’s why my life turned around. I went all around the Eastern half of the United States lecturing on the plight of Soviet Jews.

I spent many trips to Eastern Europe visiting communist countries. I lived with families in Poland, Bulgaria, and Hungary. I was in Czechoslovakia the year after the Soviet invasion and you could still see all the massive gigantic artillery holes in the walls in Prague. It just made me hate communism more.

Three years into lecturing for free, giving all the proceeds over to the Free Soviet Jewry movement, my friend Joseph Telushkin said to me, Dennis, you have to start lecturing on other things and making a living.

And so I called up a Jewish place [a Hadassah in Queens] I had spoke to. I said, “Hi, this is Dennis Prager. I’m the kid who went to Russia and gave a speech.” The woman said, “Yeah, you were terrific.”

I said, “I’d like to come back and give a speech on another topic.”

And the woman said, “What else do you know?”

It was perfectly appropriate. I had no reputation other than being an expert in Soviet Jews.

I said, “How would you like to know why most young Jews are alienated from Judaism?”

She said, “Yeah. We would love to know that. Do you know why?”

I said, “I think I do because I’m a young Jew and I’m not alienated.”

She said, “How much do you charge?”

I was so nervous. There was never a time in my life when I was more nervous. I can’t ask for me well.

I was about to say $35 when Telushkin said, $75. So I said $75 expecting to hear it was too much.

She of course went, $75, that’s like free. She said that’s fine. They even paid my taxi fare. It was the first time people paid me to come to their place to give a talk. And it hasn’t stopped. It’s a wonderful way to make a living.

In April 2010, Dennis told the story a little differently: “How much do you charge? I was sweating. This was the first time I was asking for a payment for a speech for me. Joseph kept going ‘$35!’ I couldn’t do it. It seemed too much. I said $25. She said fine so quickly that I immediately added, ‘Plus taxi.’

“I started speaking on Judaism and all the time I got the same questions — do you have to believe in God to be a good Jew? How come so many Jews here are alienated? How do you account for unethical religious Jews?

“I said to Joseph, let’s devote a weekend to writing a pamphlet on the ten questions Jews most frequently ask about Judaism.”

Sept. 4, 2009, Dennis said: “I was so successful so early, meaning in my early twenties. I was inordinately successful. I began public lecturing at 21. Do you know how bizarre that is? That’s extremely rare. I was being flown around at least the Eastern part of the United States to give lectures at 23. The first time I was flown anywhere was to Nashville, Tennessee. I just remember thinking, how can life get any better than this? To say a high. I’ve never taken drugs [except for marijuana, which made him super-verbal]. I don’t know what the high is from drugs, but I believe that my high was higher than drug highs. And it lasted longer.

“As I got older, that early spectacular life… And it was spectacular in every way. I had no responsibility for family. I met women in different locales and had a great social life. It was easy to attract women because if you are in public, it’s much easier. Life was beyond belief. Flown to the West Coast five times at age 24, 25, to give lectures.

“You’re no longer a wunderkind when you’re 40. I began professional life with, ‘And he’s so young!’ That’s the way I would always be introduced. And, ‘Ladies, he’s single!’ And obviously over time, they stopped saying, ‘He’s so young.’”

Said Dennis in a 2008 lecture on the universities: “Something I encountered in my early speaking career that I didn’t know how to handle… I would give a lecture on some theme and someone would stand up, ‘I want you to know that I’m offended by what you said.’ For years, I would look at the person and say, ‘What did I say that was offensive? You disagree with me. Why were you offended?’

“I came to realize that is used far more by people on the left than on the right… What unites all left-wing views? Feelings. That is why you are reacted to in an emotional way when you talk.”

Oct. 23, 2009, Dennis said: “After so many decades of public speaking and thousands of speeches, I can’t say that I get nervous [before public speaking]… I certainly did in the beginning. In fact, I had a very odd way of getting nervous… I would get very tired. Before the biggest speech I ever gave when I began speaking at 21, I was in my friend’s dorm room at university and I fell asleep in the middle of the day. At 21, nobody does unless they have the flu. I didn’t realize that my way of getting nervous was my body conserving its energy and I got very tired. This lasted for years… Over time, that didn’t take place. At this point, I don’t get tired before a speech.”

“When I go on my listener cruise, it’s the only week or ten days of my life for the last decades that I don’t do a radio show. I realize that a certain weight is off of me. It is so ubiquitous, I don’t realize the intensity of it… My system goes into an intensity that I don’t feel, for instance, before having dinner with my wife. I get geared up.”

In a 1998 (?) lecture on Exodus 30-31, Dennis said: “I have a God-given gift to talk. How do you develop it? A talking course? I got a C in Speech in college because I found the teacher boring and she was very offended by that. I gave my final speech on the development of the eraser. I did not take the course terribly seriously.”

Nov. 20, 2009, Dennis said: “The first speech I ever gave publicly was at Brooklyn College. In my sophomore year, they started demonstrating for something. I thought it was totally narcissistic. I went over to the guy who was organizing it and I said I’d like to speak. He said, who the hell are you? I said I’m with the ad hoc committee and I just made up some name. I always knew their lingo. Ad hoc committee, woohoo. So I spoke and I looked at the crowd and I basically said, what are you doing here? Things are pretty darn good. We’re unbelievably lucky to have this college at such low tuition, virtually free. What is this whole thing about? I was on the WNBC local news that night. Student speaks out against demonstration. It was truly man bites dog. I know the date. I wonder if they have archives at WNBC in New York. I would pay a handsome sum for that video. How early my career was taking the contrary position of gratitude… All the themes I care about are tied together — people who are grateful are not rioting over student costs.”

As life rewarded Prager for exercising his gift of the gab, he realized that society's greatest need was exactly what he was good at -- moral education. 

An extrovert's extrovert, Dennis was happy at last. He could take his giant brain and dissect the world, gaining prestige, money, and friends.

Nov. 4, 2010, Dennis said: “Young kids look up to you. Pretty girls look up to you. What else can you ask for? I taught college [Jewish history at the City University of New York and at Brooklyn College]. I know what it feels like except I didn’t take myself as seriously as the others because I knew what a bubble it was. I had the same accolades and the same young kids looking up to me. I was three years older than they were. I couldn’t believe it. It was like nirvana.”

At Grossinger’s Hotel in 1970, “Talk about blessed, I was invited to lecture at singles weekends. Is that luck or is that luck? I remember one holiday of Succot going up to this freezing succah and I’m talking theology to this Orthodox guy, I’m trying to find a woman and this guy is talking to me theology. I wanted to kill him.” (1995 lecture on Exodus 6)

On Nov. 21, 2013, Dennis said: "Gentlemen, if you want to get a good woman, speak publicly."

Aug. 3, 2010, Dennis said: “I remember my 24th birthday as the happiest of my life. The 20s had every advantage of adulthood and not a single one of its disadvantages. I found them to be a blast.”

F. Roger Devlin wrote: "When a man is addressing an audience, it conveys subrationally to the female mind that he has status: he speaks, while others merely listen. The phenomenon has long been known to Hollywood script writers. Many old Cary Grant romantic comedies contain a scene where the heroine watches him addressing an audience. ...[T]he podium effect is a principle reason for the erroneously termed 'lecherous professor' situation."

After Prager's speeches, men often feel invisible when they try to compete with women for Dennis's attention. 

Society would fall apart if everybody had Dennis Prager's number of romantic partners. As Adam Smith wrote in his 1776 book The Wealth of Nations:

In the liberal or loose system, luxury, wanton and even disorderly mirth, the pursuit of pleasure to some degree of intemperance, the breach of chastity, at least in one of the two sexes, etc., provided they are not accompanied with gross indecency, and do not lead to falsehood or injustice, are generally treated with a good deal of indulgence, and are easily either excused or pardoned altogether. In the austere system, on the contrary, those excesses are regarded with the utmost abhorrence and detestation. The vices of levity are always ruinous to the common people, and a single week’s thoughtlessness and dissipation is often sufficient to undo a poor workman for ever, and to drive him through despair upon committing the most enormous crimes.
Steve Sailer wrote in 2009:
In traditional Western cultures, below the rank of aristocrats, romantic and sexual impulsiveness was a major threat to social standing. The punishment in terms of class standing for out-of-wedlock births was so harsh that the illegitimacy rate among women in England in 1200-1800 was stable at around 3-4%, even though women didn't marry on average until age 24 to 26.

The sexual revolution of the 1960s, which hit home in the 1970s, disrupted this traditional system of social sanctions...

And yet ... the old logic that children need two parents to have the best chance to succeed in life still plays out even though we aren't supposed to mention it.

So, by removing social indoctrination of the masses, the post-Sexual Revolution system selects even more than the earlier system for social success by individuals who are intelligent and cold-blooded. In contrast, people of impulsive temperaments and less ability to foresee the consequences of giving into their impulses are now much more on their own with far less guidance from the culture. Thus, the people in the upper reaches of society are increasingly of what you might call a Swedish or Swiss personality (or are Asian immigrants whose families never took seriously the 1960s).

But nobody is supposed to notice that publicly. So, the top level of our society continues to argue for the breaking down of old restrictions, whether on the idea that marriage is between a man and a woman or that their should be limits on debt and interest rates. After all, individualistic self-determination works fine for the upper middle class.

From this perspective, the 1960s cultural revolution look like an Elites Liberation movement, in which Unitarians, Congregationalists, Jews, Episcopalians, Christian Scientists, and similar products of centuries of bourgeois culture decided that they, personally, could get by without the old rules, which, indeed, many of them could. Moreover, they were tired of being expected to be role models of starchy behavior for the proles.

Keeping Kosher On An Interdate

In his second lecture on Leviticus 20 in 2009, Dennis Prager said: “When I was in my bachelor days in my twenties, I went out with women of all backgrounds. I intended to only marry someone born Jewish or converted to Jewish. My one criteria was -- is it a woman?

“I kept kosher and still do. I was going to write a long article for Jewish publications titled, ‘Keeping Kosher on an Interdate.’

“I said this publicly at the time, I would tell Jewish audiences, ‘Folks, it is a little eery. When I am with a non-religious Jewish woman, she thinks that what I am doing by disqualifying many things on the menu because I am a Jew is absurd. Whenever I am with a non-Jewish woman, she has such respect for what I am doing. Every one has said, ‘I am not going to order anything like that either. What would offend you?”

“Of course it doesn’t offend me if a non-Jew has a BLT. I just salivate.”

Dennis Prager's relaxed version of "keeping kosher" is outside the bounds of the Jewish tradition, as is his idea of "keeping kosher on an interdate." Such practices do not lead to a stable life.

Prager's second and third wives converted to Judaism to marry him. 

In a 2007 lecture on Leviticus 3, Dennis said: “A very prominent rabbi who I have been friends with since high school [Joseph Telushkin], during the days when I could influence him towards greater sinning, when I was in graduate school in Manhattan, I lived in Manhattan, there was a restaurant I ate at frequently. The one thing I miss from New York is the restaurants. I ate out all the time. If I had food in my own apartment, I would’ve died of botulism. A classic bachelor. I ate out every meal.

“There was a place near my house on Broadway that had the most delicious eggplant parmesan that I had ever eaten at in my life. What’s eggplant parmesan? It’s eggplant and cheese and marinara sauce, which is perfectly fine kosherly, but this was really delicious eggplant parmesan.

“I brought this man, a prolific author, we’re the same age, we were both in our early 20s, I said, Joseph, you have to have this eggplant with me. It’s delicious. I had eaten it 30 times.

“Joseph starts eating it and says, ‘Dennis, this is delicious but I think I know why — because it is a meat sauce.’ I wanted to kill him. I could never have it again.

“How come he knew immediately? Because he was more fastidious about observance than I was.”

In a radio dialogue with Adam Carolla Apr. 17, 2012, Dennis said: "A mere kiss was awesome when I was 18. If she gave me a kiss on the lips, I was in ecstasy for a week."

Dec. 21, 2010, Dennis said: “[Going to Columbia University for graduate school] didn’t exactly bowl the women over. I had no good pick-up lines. I did well with women but it had nothing to do with good opening lines. I never did. I always believed that any opening was absolutely seen through by the girl and seen as another opening line.”

“A girl would ask me, ‘What are you interested in?’ ‘Ethical monotheism.’

“‘Ethical monotheism! Come to my room!’”

Jan. 25, 2011, Dennis said: “Do you know how many girls I picked up in bookstores when I was a kid in my 20s? It was a wonderful place. I didn’t like bars. You saw a pretty girl reading a book and you say, ‘What are you reading?’ People would just talk in bookstores. It was a place to meet. Where do people meet now? More and more is done at home.”

In his first video on “Men and the Power of the Visual” for in October 2009, Dennis gives this story from his twenties: “I was approaching a red light. And the guy next to me said, ‘Look at that girl in the next car.’ I did and I bumped into the car in front of me.”

On Nov. 23, 2011, Dennis said: "When I was in my 20s, I met a terrific woman. I adored her. We had a wonderful relationship and time together. She said to me that she was very wary of charming men and that I was the first charming man she trusted."

On Nov. 11, 2010, Dennis said: “I had a girlfriend in graduate school, an attractive woman, who wanted to lose 10 pounds. I didn’t think she needed to. So she went on an ice cream diet and lost ten pounds.”

During college, Dennis regarded abortion as “a woman doing what she wants with her own body.” Over time, influenced by pro-life Christian activists, Dennis came to regard abortion as morally wrong in most instances (though he never came out for making it illegal in the first trimester of pregnancy). (April 26, 2010)

Columbia Graduate School

"One of the most fateful decisions of my life," Dennis recalled Mar. 9, 2012, "was [deciding] whether I'd take Russian or Chinese [in college]. I really deliberated over it. It worked out well in my life that I took Russian but I wish I had taken both. Knowing Chinese now is such an advantage, such an insight into a way of thinking."

“My graduate work was done in Soviet studies. I read Pravda almost every day. There was an interesting debate at the time and I may have been wrong.

“The debate was — was the Soviet Union a continuation of Russian civilization or was it a communist abrupt change of course? I argued that it was overwhelmingly an abrupt change of course brought about by the communists. When I see Russia today once again moving towards dictatorship, where journalists are murdered if they report things that disturb the government, when you see what is controlled by Putin’s party United Russia, which effectively controls regional governments, prosecutors’ offices, courts, police departments, and election commissions. They control the media.

“There were those who said that the Soviet Union, Stalin, Lenin, these were not aberrations thrust upon a Russian civilization but rather a continuum, obviously worse than anything that preceded it.

“I said no. This was just communism shoved into the face of the Russian people and I may have been wrong. The love of liberty does not appear to beat strongly in the Russian soul.” (Dec. 15, 2010)

In a May 2012 lecture, Dennis said: "I went to Columbia University graduate school and the only reason I mention it is that among Jews, that's clout. 'Oooh, he went to Columbia. Now I can take him seriously.'

"About 25 years at a Conservative synagogue in New Jersey, I was scholar in residence for the weekend. This elderly man kept asking me questions. He called me 'Dr. Prager.' I said to him, 'I'm not a doctor. I have no PhD.'

"The man entered cognitive dissonance. It was clear on his face. On the one hand, he thought I was intelligent. On the other hand, I didn't have a PhD. This disturbed him greatly. He thought for a moment and like King Solomon, he came up with a solution. 'By me, you're a doctor.'"

In the early 1970s, Dennis Prager lived for a time in a Jewish commune off the Columbia campus called Beit Ephraim. Judd Hirsch wrote:

[Michael] Oren—who changed his name from Bornstein when he made aliyah, though he retained it as his middle name, in deference to his father—and [Dore] Gold met for the first time at the Bayit, at a guest lecture by an Israeli author. They soon connected with Sokoloff, Fine, Cohen and others at the Bayit’s weekly Shabbat dinners and educational seminars. Eventually, they both moved in. They were joined by a remarkable cast of future Jewish luminaries who frequented the Bayit in the mid-1970s. Leon Wieseltier, the longtime literary editor of The New Republic lived there there, as did Rabbi Joseph Teluskhin, the Jewish author. J.J. Goldberg, a former editor-in-chief of the Forward...

Dennis paid $3,000 a year in tuition.

From 1970-72, Dennis attended the Middle East and Russian Institutes at the Columbia University School of International Affairs. Prager studied under Zbigniew Brezinski, who later served as the head of the National Security Council under President Carter.

“[Zbigniew] taught the advance communism seminar. There were nine of us around a table. The reason that was such a challenge to me was that normally in class I could read the newspaper or design railroad tracks (my form of doodling in high school and college).”

“When I get bored, I don’t tune out. I go nuts.”

Said Dennis in a 1993 lecture on Genesis 25: “Esau was a hairy man as I noted once in an advanced seminar at Columbia University in communist affairs. I was so bored in class, I mumbled over to the only other kid who had gone to yeshiva, at the desk was the former ambassador of India to the UN [Arthur Lall], and I whispered to him out of nowhere, I had lost my mind from boredom, ‘[David] Schimmel, Esau was a hairy man.’ The professor stopped the entire seminar on international negotiations, and said, ‘Mr. Prager, Esau was a hairy man?’ It was one of my great moments in graduate school.”

If Prager had been the lecturer, he would have booted the impudent student from the class. 

“Graduate school was a tough time for me,” Prager said Mar. 2, 2006. “Everything I believed to be true and good overturned. I had only pessimism for my country.”

Apr. 10, 2013, Dennis said: "I wrote a paper for a Marxist. One of my professors was Sidney Morgenbesser. He wasn't a communist. I liked him personally. I'll never forget I wrote a paper for him comparing Judaism with Marxism as philosophies of life. I knew that had he lived another 100 years, he would not have gotten another paper like that at Columbia. I knew he wondered how I got in -- that I actually believed in religion and thought it was superior to Marxism. To his credit, he gave me a B. I'm sure he wanted to give me a D but it was too well-researched."

Aug. 4, 2011, Dennis said after interviewing Amity Shlaes: “The older I get, the more I realize I have to unlearn from what I learned in college. Did you know that everything I learned at the Middle East Institute at the School of International Affairs at Columbia University, some of the most prestigious scholars in the world, former ambassadors to the Arab world, almost everything I learned was wrong?”

Sep. 12, 2011, Dennis said: “I learned during the Nixon era, and I did not like Nixon, that nobody hates like a liberal. Conservatives don’t have one-tenth of the hate of liberals.”

In a lecture on Deuteronomy 12 delivered in 2004, Dennis said: “I was in my twenties on an airplane. I was sitting next to a woman who had a vegetarian meal. I asked her if she was a vegetarian. I asked why. She said, we humans have no right to kill animals to eat them. After all, who are we humans to think we are more valuable than animals?

“That shook me to the core. That’s when I came up with the question I thought was rhetorical. I said, You don’t really mean that. If a dog and a human were drowning, which would you save first?

“And she thought.

“I’ll never forget the silence. I said, I’m sorry, did you hear my question?

“She said, I’m thinking.

“When she said, I’m thinking, I concluded at that moment, either I’m sitting next to a nutty woman, which I did not believe, or she reflects what is happening in our secular age.”

On May 31, 2013, Dennis said that for 20 years after graduate school, he didn't go to movies because he was so busy. "I was never anti-movies. I was always anti-television."

Dennis Prager wrote Aug. 18, 2009:

When I was a graduate student at Columbia University in the early 1970s, I came to the then-tentative conclusion that I would probably never encounter a morally weaker, more cowardly group of people than college administrators.

…What prompted this conclusion in the 1970s was seeing a handful of radical students take over classrooms at Columbia and shut down the university while professors and deans, individuals whose lives were supposedly dedicated to the open mind and to learning, did nothing. It is almost impossible for me, nearly four decades later, to fully convey how deeply this affected me.

I came to see the modern university as fraudulent. In theory it stood for learning and opening the mind. In practice it stood for appeasement of bullies.

Dennis wrote Dec. 3, 2003:

Since entering graduate school, I was preoccupied with this question: Why did so many learned and intelligent professors believe so many foolish things?

…One day, I received an answer to these questions. Seemingly out of nowhere, a biblical verse — one that I had recited every day in kindergarten at the Jewish religious school I attended as a child — entered my mind. It was a verse from Psalm 111: “Wisdom begins with fear of God.”

The verse meant almost nothing to me as a child — both because I recited it in the original Hebrew, which at the time I barely understood, and because the concept was way beyond a child’s mind to comprehend. But 15 years later, a verse I had rarely thought about answered my puzzle about my university and put me on a philosophical course from which I have never wavered.

…Since that day at Columbia, however, I regularly renew my faith through the back door — I see the confusion and nihilism that godless ideas produce and my faith is restored. The consequences of secularism have been at least as powerful a force for faith in my life as religion.

Dennis said in his January 2002 lecture on his ideological autobiography:

I attended antiwar rallies. I was very anti-communist but I did not believe that this was the place to make the stand. Even at the demonstrations, I felt no kinship with anyone else there because they were celebrating Ho Chi Minh. We weren’t villains. He was the villain. The North Vietnamese communists were villains. Here I am again alone. They’re going ‘Ho, ho, ho, Ho Chi Minh,’ and I’m thinking the man is vile. All communist dictators are vile.

So alone on the drugs. Alone on the attitudes. Alone on the politics. Alone on the music. I didn’t care for the music of that era. To me it was usually very self-referential. My angst type of music. Sit there with the guitar and talk about how life has screwed you up is how I heard a lot of that music. There was nothing I had in common.

And then there was dating. Here I am a Columbia university graduate student and the most logical woman to date would be a Barnard student but it was virtually impossible because they were so feminist. We had nothing in common. They thought they were the same as man. I’ve always believed men and women are very different. I had very few comfortable moments of dating [with women from New York].

I was doing a lot of lecturing around the Eastern half of the United States so I met women who did believe that men and women were different in St. Louis and in Columbus and in Miami so I ended up having a girlfriend in St. Louis, in Miami, which is not such a terrible thing that time of life.

There was fun in being single in that time of the sexual revolution where after 12,000 years of men trying women now said they could have sex as unemotionally as men could and I thanked G-d I was born in that rare time when women could delude themselves into believing something so stupid.
In a 1987 lecture at the University of Judaism on the differences between men and women, Dennis said:
Girls at Barnard, if they go on a date with you, they felt that they were giving in to the enemy. Shaving? Forget about it. To shave was to smack of bourgeois imperialist neo-fascistic thinking.

Thank G-d I started lecturing publicly at an early age, so it took me out of Manhattan frequently. I did all my dating in the Mid-West. I had dates Indiana, Chicago. The Jewish women of Manhattan were so feminist that you felt like you were on a war footing when you went on a date.

The age old difference that men were desirous of sexual relations without commitment just for the sake of the great joy of the physical contact, this was induced by society, women could do the same thing. I remember feeling wonderful that these girls believed that. Men had been trying to convince women of that for 42,000. That’s the oldest line in the history of male-female relations — hey, you don’t need commitment You’ll love it!

These brilliant idiots from Columbia were saying, that’s right. We can have as empty sex as you. It took us ethical guys off the hook. We were almost unethical if we did not offer them the opportunity to express their equality. It turns out that they were fooling themselves. Men were having their usual ball of using women’s bodies for pleasure.

I remember in my real dating days, I would interview women. …I was always shocked that they would not ask me reciprocal questions. Aren’t you curious about men? I’m terribly curious about women.

Said Dennis Oct. 11, 2010: “I lost one of my first girlfriends. I was in graduate school. I was dating her for about six months. Her last name was ‘Last.’ And we were at a party, and I introduced her as ‘Jennifer First.’ And that was it.”

Nov. 11, 2009, Dennis said: “I remember writing in my diary in high school that I wouldn’t want to take a girl to a movie on a first date because I wanted to be the subject of her attention, not the movie.”

“Being old fashioned has nothing to do with how old I am. I was old fashioned at 22. I thought you honored the date, the occasion and the person, by looking special.”

Said Dennis in a 1996 lecture on Exodus 12: “The woman I remember in the crazy ’60s — Stripper for Christ [Kellie Everts]. I’ll never forget it. It’s not the way to come to a Christian belief. I assume it was a little too easy. She to me was a metaphor for so much of our easy spirituality today.”

Dennis taught Jewish history at Brooklyn College from 1970-72.
In the overview course half the students were Yeshiva high school graduates who thought they’d get an easy ‘A’ taking this basic Jewish history course. Unfortunately, for them, however, I was not about to give easy ‘A’s’ to Yeshiva guys. I wanted them to learn and be challenged by Judaism.

I’ll never forget this story because I got into some hot water. A lot of them were quite Orthodox, so I said one day in class, “If you have been keeping Kosher since you were a child, in other words, your entire life, and have never ever deviated from it, I suggest that you go out and have a ham sandwich. And you should continue having ham sandwiches until you enjoy them. Then go back to keeping Kosher because in the meantime you are not refusing to eat ham out of any understanding of Kashrut but because you think ham is disgusting.” (Ultimate Issues, Spring-Summer 1986, pg. 16)

Oct. 19, 2011, Dennis said he never went to teacher's college. "A degree in teaching? I taught college and I taught high school. I taught well and the kids loved me and they came to my class. I made an announcement to kids on the first day, 'You don't want to come to class? That's fine with me. It is my task to make it so interesting that you will want to come. If you pass the test, you pass the test. You want to cut, cut. I'm not taking attendance.' My classes were over-subscribed."

Dennis wrote in the winter 1986 edition of Ultimate Issues: "When I taught at Brooklyn College it was privately acknowledged by faculty members that students coming from Jewish schools were more likely than other students to cheat on exams."

Around 1970, Prager’s car was broken into and the stereo stolen. He filed a police report. Two officers stopped by his apartment to make a report. Dennis opened his door. The officers looked around and said, “Holy s—. Did they do a job.” (Dec. 28, 2006)

"I kept it clean but it was spectacularly messy. There were a lot of newspapers around. Do you know what I did before a woman came to my apartment? Do you know how much I would cover? I remember putting blankets on piles of newspapers." (Mar. 8, 2013)

Jan. 26, 2011, Dennis said: “Taking care of a home is a good thing. When you have an apartment, somebody else takes care of it.”

“When I went to graduate school in Manhattan, I lived in the apartment next door to the super[intendent]. When I wanted something done, I told the kid, ‘Tell your father to come over.’ It worked like a charm. The kid loved me.

“I wonder if that kid who’s now middle-aged remembers me? Do we remember the adults who come into our lives and becomes something for two years?

“That kid would come over and I would play Beethoven for the kid. I love little boys. I actually well up with emotion taking care of a little boy.”

On June 2, 2011, Dennis said: “I remember in the ’60s, ’70s, how so many of my fellow baby boomers were doing things to find themselves. I remember thinking, ‘I never lost myself so there’s nothing to find.' I never looked for myself. I looked for what was meaningful in life. Then Dennis would attach himself to meaning and build a life. I believed deeply in making a family and joining a community. I wasn’t given Dennis. I was given a set of values.”

In the summer of 1971, Prager traveled through the communist countries of Eastern Europe and later published his first articles in national magazines – a 1973 essay on Poland for the National Review (his thesis was that Poland's leader Władysław Gomułka wouldn't last in power, however, he ended up staying for another ten years) and a book review for The New LeaderDennis wrote Feb. 8, 2011:
When I began traveling at the age of 20, I had one great goal in mind: I never wanted to hear the name of a place in the news and not be able to relate to it. Let’s be honest. Until you go to India or Honduras, they are abstractions. One can major in Indian history or Latin American studies, but two days in one of those countries makes that country more real than four years of reading about it.

One of life’s great moral challenges is to see the stranger as fully real. While travel does not guarantee that one will see all others as fully real — the father of modern Islamism, Sayyid Qutb, spent two years in America in the late 1940s and left seeing Americans as caricatures of decadence — it is very hard to do so without travel.

You also learn a lot about life. For example, I learned very early on, in the first of my four visits to India, that poverty was not the cause of crime I was taught it was at college. In fact, aside from abject, starvation-level poverty, it is not even the main cause of human unhappiness. In most of the poor places of the world, children seem considerably less jaded and laugh more easily than many American children.

I learned more about Islam in a week in Egypt than in two years at Columbia’s Middle East Institute. When the pretty young Egyptian waitress at the Nile Hilton in 1974 told me to read the Koran because once I did, I would become a Muslim, I realized that secularism was not, my professors notwithstanding, the wave of the Middle East’s future, and I understood how Muslims view the Koran and the non-Muslim world. When I offered to buy a beer for the Egyptian taxi driver who took me from Cairo to the pyramids on a very hot day, he politely declined, explaining that as a Muslim, he is not permitted to drink alcohol. I asked why he thought the ban was necessary. Because, he explained, if a man drinks and then goes home and sees his daughter lying in bed, bad things could ensue. That opened this 25-year-old’s eyes.

...After visits to about a dozen African countries, I came to realize that the spread of Christianity holds the best hope for that sad continent...

And I came to realize the overwhelming power of cultural values. How else to explain “honor killings,” the subverting of the most powerful instinct in the world — to protect one’s child — except through an understanding of the power of culture?

Feb. 27, 2014, Dennis said: "I arrived in Yugoslavia on my birthday, Aug. 2nd. Funny stories happen to you when you travel alone and I traveled alone all through my twenties. I arrived in Belgrade, capitol of then Yugoslavia. And this pretty pretty girl at immigration service stamping passports, I wanted to take her out. How do you take out an immigration agent? What are you doing for dinner tonight? I should've done that.

"So she looks at me and in English, she says, 'I see from your passport, it is your birthday. One minute!' And she brings me a big candy bar. I was touched.

"I bring the bar with me. It was the middle of summer. I left the candy bar in my hotel room. I came back later and I saw more ants in my room than I ever saw outdoors. It was like highways of ants that had found my chocolate bar. So this beautiful gift from a beautiful girl became a nightmare. You don't want to sleep accompanied by tens of thousands of these little creatures."

In a 2004 lecture on Deuteronomy 16, Dennis Prager said: “In Turkey when I was there in my 20s, they were selling ancient fertility gods. One of them was a little male god with an appendage that was about four times longer than him. He was very seriously fertile. I sent a postcard of that to my parents. My father I know got a big kick out of it. God knows what I wrote, probably ‘Self portrait in Turkey.’ I was a little wild in those days.”

“I was on safari in my 20s in Kenya and Tanzania. You’d go on these Volkswagen buses. I was the only serious theist in the group. I’d keep having these revelations. I finally realized that if I wanted to maintain cordial relations, I should shut up. I’ll never forget when I’d watch the lions would attack the weakest of whatever animal they were eating, such as gazelle or zebra. Anybody could tell you which zebra would die that day. If he limped, he was dead. But if a human limps, you take him to a doctor. We don’t kill the weak.”

The Burden Of Greatness

At the April 3, 2008 roast celebrating Prager's 25 years in talk radio, Rabbi Telushkin said:

Another feature of Dennis is that he is always looking for the bigger truth. Nothing can ever just happen to him, there's a major lesson to be learned. For example, Dennis as a young man liked to date. A lot. His relations though for a long period of time tended to be short and inevitably I would get a phone call. 'I broke up with so and so.' Why? 'I realized that she really wasn't a warm person and I realize now that warmth is the most important trait in a woman.' A month later. 'I broke up.' Why? 'No sense of humor. Humor really matters. It's hard to be with someone who is humorless.' Two weeks later. 'I broke up. Not sharp intellectually.' A week later. 'Not concerned with moral issues.' Six weeks later. 'I broke up with so-and-so.' I said, 'I know why.' He said, 'How can you know why? You've never met her.' I said, 'I know that whatever trait she's missing is the most important trait in a woman.'

Dennis felt out-of-step with authority everywhere he went. He was unhappy at home. He was unhappy at school. He was unhappy at university. At Brandeis-Bardin, he fought with his board. He was unhappy in two marriages that ended in divorce. At KABC, he struggled with management. He felt in no-man's-land in Jewish life, not fitting into Orthodox, Conservative or Reform Judaism. 

Feeling distinctive is a big part of being Dennis. Greatness is a burden. He was Harry Potter before there was Harry Potter. 

Dennis Prager Publishes His First Book

In late June, 2003, Prager said he had “completed all of the course requirements for his [Masters degree] and had also finished his thesis, but this was during the days before word processors, and he didn’t like to type, so he simply bailed.” (Nelking email)

Frustrated with academia, Prager, to the dismay of his family, dropped out of graduate school in 1973 to write an introduction to Judaism with Joseph Telushkin. “He became a rabbi [Orthodox ordination from Yeshiva University] and I became a heretic.” (C-SPAN 1995)

Dec. 20, 2012, Dennis said: "My biggest heretical line in religion is that God has common sense. A lot of religious people in all religions have common sense but they don't ascribe common sense to God."

In his fourth lecture on Genesis in 1992, Dennis said: “I left after two years of graduate school. I had a choice — either to write a thesis on some totally irrelevant facet of Lenin or to write a book on Judaism that would actually touch people’s lives.”

May 1, 2012, Dennis said: "The evolution of my life can almost be seen in my books. The first one was called The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism. This book Still the Best Hope is for Americanism what that one was for Judaism.

"Joseph Telushkin's mother looked at us and said, 'Boys, do you know how many introductions to Judaism there are? You're 25 years old. You're going to add to the body of knowledge of a 3,000 year-old faith? And I said, 'Yeah. That's exactly what we're going to do.' Joseph cheered me on. He couldn't believe I had such chutzpah and I did. It became the best-selling book in the English language introducing Judaism... There are greater scholars than I and greater writers than I and greater everything than I, but I know how to synthesize. I know how to clarify. That's my gift."

In a May 14, 2012 lecture, Dennis said: "It was an amazing amount of chutzpah for a 25-year old to think that he could write a new introduction to Judaism, the oldest religion in the world, and that people would read it... I remember I approached my friend who became a rabbi. I said, 'Joseph, we're going to write an introduction to Judaism.' He thought, 'You've got to be kidding.' I said, 'We've got better answers.'... Joseph had a lot of faith in me. He said, 'Dennis knows what he's doing.'

"That was relatively easy compared to this [Still the Best Hope]."

“I don’t understand morning people,” said Dennis Jan. 6, 2010. “For me, the sun rising is depressing. I love sunset and I don’t love sunrise. I’ve always been a night person. It is why I took a morning show to force myself to get up early. Most of what I have done in life that is constructive I have forced on myself. If I had followed my natural tendencies, which are entirely lazy and fun-oriented, I would’ve produced almost nothing. So what I do is take more and more obligations upon myself and then I have no choice but to be constructive. If I could, I’d get up at 11 a.m. and go to bed at 3 a.m. In fact, my first book, which I co-authored with my dear friend Joseph Telushkin, we would do that. We would write till 3 a.m. We’d sleep till ten or eleven. Then we’d go out to brunch and we’d start writing again about 3 p.m. It was among the happiest times of my life.”

Dennis said in a 1998 lecture on Exodus 34: “We divvied up chapters basically. I handled God.”

April 3, 2008, Rabbi Telushkin said:

We'd each write different chapters and then critique each other. Dennis did most of the editing and he was a good editor. He claimed my style was too anecdotal, with too many digressions, took too long to make a point. Dennis loved to enumerate though the points he was making and if he'd had the book written the way he wanted, it really wouldn't have been a conventional book, it would've been a manual. For example, one of the questions was -- Who needs Jewish law/organized religion?

So this is how Dennis would've answered it: "There are 16 reasons which I will now enumerate A-P on why we need organized religion. Reason A: We need organized religion because religion isn't only concerned with affecting the individual but affecting society as a whole. There are nine reasons why religion wants to affect society, which I will now enumerate in roman numerals. Reason one is because people can't be trusted to be good on their own. There are nine reasons why people can't be trusted to be good on their own, which I will now enumerate."
Initially self-published (Dennis would later say he doesn't trust self-published books) on Oct. 30, 1975 as The Eight Questions People Ask About Judaism, the book eventually added a question, and was released by Simon & Schuster in 1976. Aimed at secular Jews, it deals with questions that are not usually addressed by books on Judaism, such as:

* Can one doubt God’s existence and still be a good Jew? (The authors say yes.)

* Why do we need organized religion and Jewish Law? Isn’t it enough to be a good person? (The authors argue we need organized religion for the same reason we need to organize to accomplish many different tasks. The Jewish task is to make a good world under the rule of God and His Law.)

* If Judaism is supposed to make people better, how do you account for unethical religious Jews, and for ethical people who are not religious?

* How does Judaism differ from Christianity, Marxism and humanism?

* What is the Jewish role in the world? (Usually, the more religious the Jew, the less meaningful interaction he has with the wider world. The authors’ belief that Judaism has a mission to the world to promote ethical monotheism is thought kooky by most Orthodox rabbis I know.)

* Is there a difference between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism?

* Why are so many young Jews alienated from Judaism and the Jewish people?

* Why shouldn’t I intermarry? Doesn’t Judaism believe in universal brotherhood?

* How do I start practicing Judaism?

Dennis Prager recalls:

We sent the manuscript to the Jewish Publication Society of America (JPS), hoping they would publish it. I received a call from an editor at JPS who told me that they would not publish the book. I asked her why, and her answer taught me a great deal about Jewish life: “Because it is too advocative,” she said.
I was stunned. The Jewish Publication Society of America refused to publish a Jewish book on the grounds that it was “too advocative” of Judaism?

As it turned out, that rejection was a blessing. Joseph and I published the book on our own and sold so many copies that we lived off the sales of the book at lectures for years. Later Simon and Schuster published the book.

I came to realize that the JPS refusal to publish a book that was advocative of Judaism was symbolic of much of Jewish life. It seemed that almost no one outside of Orthodoxy was advocating Judaism (and even in Orthodoxy at that time, Chabad was largely alone in doing so and not nearly as well-known as it is today).

Nine Questions received sterling reviews. Novelist Herman Wouk, an Orthodox Jew, called it, “The intelligent skeptic’s guide to Judaism.”

Dennis and Joseph are secondary text guys. They assemble the best work of others and present it in an engaging way.

“It’s not Judaism,” many rabbis (such as Danny Landes) have told me about Dennis Prager’s presentation of their religion. “It’s Pragerism.”

Historian Marc B. Shapiro tells me in 2012: "I don't think he has any influence [in Orthodox Judaism]. I don't ever see him quoted by Orthodox figures (although Rabbi Rakefet quotes a line from Prager a lot). He doesn't speak [often] in Orthodox shuls or write for Orthodox publications, and is not Orthodox. So is it surprising that the Orthodox don't quote him? I was surprised and impressed that the OU a few years ago had him speak at the West Coach convention."

I’m struck by the awe that the ignorant display towards Dennis Prager and the lack of awe shown to him by those who know something.

Enthusiasm for Dennis Prager is inversely proportionate to knowledge. Those who can pick up a gemara (tractate of Talmud) and read from the Aramaic rarely have enthusiasm for Dennis Prager while those who are illiterate in the languages of Judaism are the most likely to be excited about him.

I’ve hung around after Dennis Prager’s speeches and watched the crowd besiege him with questions. Few of the questioners seem scholarly. Those who wait the longest tend to know the least. I've never seen a Talmud scholar waiting around to pick Dennis Prager's brain. 

Torah scholars regard Dennis the way historians regard popular writers of history such as Barbara Tuchman and Berel Wein -- with contempt. Dennis has no influence on Jewish thought and practice. He's like Martin Buber - widely cited by non-Jews and ignored by traditional Jews.

Conservative rabbi Arthur Blecher wrote:

Some rabbis take pains to keep people in the dark about Jewish traditions of Heaven and Hell. For example, a popular guide to Jewish belief, Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism, tells readers that the "notion of hell where sinners suffer eternally is foreign to Judaism and entered the Western world's religious consciousness through the New Testament." Its authors...have chosen their words carefully. Talmudic discussions about Hell do indeed agree that the average sinner remains in Hell for a limited period of time (typically either eleven or twelve months) before going to Heaven. However, some Talmud sages taught that other sinners remain in Hell forever.
An April 29, 2023 Google Scholar search on Dennis Prager revealed 1500 results, few of them serious. 

Without scholarly interest, Dennis Prager will be flushed down the toilet of history. 

Dennis believes that it is our bad luck that he does not receive serious attention. July 3, 2012, Dennis said: "I'm going to do an hour on David Blankenhorn. We choose the wrong people to defend the male-female definition of marriage. I don't care if this sounds arrogant. I should've been chosen. I know the amount of hate and vitriol that might've been poured on me. I happen not to care. He cares. [Justice John] Roberts cares. They both changed their minds because of left-wing intimidation. People prefer to be liked than hated."

"For conservatives and for liberals, if you don't live in the New York - Washington corridor, you don't come to mind for these matters."

The Holocaust

Dennis regularly teaches "the lessons of the Holocaust."

These lessons invariably coincide with Prager's pre-existing worldview. 

On April 9, 2013, Dennis devoted a column to "Lessons for Holocaust Day."

Yesterday, Jews around the world observed Holocaust Day. This day ought to be universally observed because the lessons of the Holocaust are universal. Here are some of them:

1. People are not basically good...

2. The Jews are the world’s canary in the mine. When Jews are murdered, it is a warning to decent non-Jews that they are next. Because Western nations dismissed Nazi anti-Semitism as the Jews’ problem, 50 million non-Jews ended up dying. If the world dismisses Ahmadinejad’s Iran as primarily the Jewish state’s problem, non-Jews will suffer again. Jew-haters (or, if you will, Jewish state-haters) begin with Jews but never end with them.

6. Secular education has proved morally worthless... Pacifists in moral societies are morally worthless...

9. God is indispensable — but not a celestial butler...

Dennis insists the Holocaust is unique

Like every event in history, it is unique in some ways.

American Jewish historian Peter Novick wrote in his 1999 book The Holocaust in American Life:

...the decline in American of an integrationist ethos (which focused on what Americans have in common and what unites us) and its replacement by a particularist ethos (which stresses what differentiates and divides us). The leaders of American Jewry, who once upon a time had sought to demonstrate that Jews were "just like everybody else, except more so," now had to establish, for both Jews and gentiles, what there was about Jews that made them different...

What does differentiate American Jews from other Americans? On what grounds can distinctive Jewish identity in the United States be based? These days American Jews can't define their Jewishness on the basis of distinctively Jewish religious beliefs, since most don't have much in the way of distinctively Jewish religious beliefs, since most don't have much in the way of distinctively Jewish religious beliefs. They can't define it by distinctively Jewish cultural traits, since most don't have any of these either. American Jews are sometimes said to be united by their Zionism, but if so, it is of a thin and abstract variety: most have never visited Israel; most contribute little to, and know even less about, that country. In any case, in recent years Israeli policies have alternatively outraged the secular and the religious, hawks and doves -- a less than satisfactory foundation for unity. What American Jews do have in common is the knowledge that but for their parents' or (more often) grandparents' or great-grandparents' immigration, they would have shared the fate of European Jewry...

At bar and bat mitzvahs, in a growing number of communities, the child is "twinned" with a young victim of the Holocaust who never lived to have the ceremony, and by all reports, the kids like it a lot. Adolescent Jews who go on organized tours to Aushwitz and Treblinka have reported that they were "never so proud to be a Jew" as when, at these sites, they vicariously experienced the Holocaust. Jewish college students oversubscribe courses on the Holocaust, and rush to pin yellow stars to their lapels on Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day)...

Another, parallel development in contemporary American culture has furthered this development. There has been a change in the attitude toward victimhood from a status all but universally shunned and despised to one often eagerly embraced. On the individual level, the cultural icon of the strong, silent hero hero is replaced by the vulnerable and verbose antihero. Stoicism is replaced as a prime value by sensitivity. Instead of enduring in silence, one lets it all hang out. The voicing of pain and outrage is alleged to be "empowering" as well as therapeutic...

The historian Charles Maier of Harvard...has described modern American politics as a "competition for enshrining grievances. Every group claims its share of public honor and public funds by pressing disabilities and injustices. National public life becomes the settlement of a collective malpractice suit in which all citizens are patients and physicians simultaneously." All of this...meshes with the new emphasis on separate group identity rather than on "all-American" identity. In practice, the assertion of the group's historical victimization -- on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation -- is always central to the group's assertion of its distinctive identity.

American Jews were by far the wealthiest, best-educated, most influential, in-every-way-most-successful group in American society -- a group that, compared to most other identifiable minority groups, suffered no measurable discrimination and no disadvantages on account of that minority status. But insofar as Jewish identity could be anchored in the agony of European Jewry, certification as (vicarious) victims could be claimed, with all the moral privilege accompanying such certification.

The grounding of group identity and claims to group recognition in victimhood has produced not just a game of "show and tell," with members of the class waving their arms to be called on to recount their story. In Jewish discourse on the Holocaust we have not just a competition for recognition but a competition for primacy. This takes many forms. Among the most widespread and pervasive is an angry insistence on the uniqueness of the Holocaust... "Your catastrophe, unlike ours, is ordinary; unlike ours is comprehensible; unlike ours is representable."

Matter-of-fact references by blacks to their "ghetto" (a century-old usage) are condemned as pernicious attempts to steal "our" Holocaust. Let Ted Turner, denouncing what he regards as Rupert Murdoch's autocratic behavior, refer to Murdoch as "fuhrer", and the ADL (I'm not making this up) sends out a press release demanding an apology for Turner's having demeaned the Holocaust. The greatest victory is to wring an acknowledgment of superior victimization from another contender. Officials of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum tell, with great satisfaction, a story of black youngsters learning of the Holocaust and saying, "God, we thought we had it bad."

Aaprt from being our ticket of admission to this sordid game, American Jewish centering of the Holocaust has had other practical consequences. For many has mandated an intransigent and self-righteous posture in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As the Middle Eastern dispute came to be viewed within a Holocaust paradigm, that tangled imbroglio was endowed with all the black-and-white moral simplicity of the Holocaust. And in this realm the Holocaust framework has promoted as well a belligerent stance toward any criticism of Israel: "Who are you, after what you did to us (or allowed to be done to us), to dare to criticize us now?"

...Judaism has consistently disparaged excessive or overly prolonged mourning. Cremation is forbidden because it would dispose of the body too soon, but also forbidden is embalming, because it would preserve the body too long. Mourn, to be sure, is the message, but then move on: "choose life." One of the things I find most striking about much of the recent Jewish Holocaust commemoration is how "un-Jewish" -- how Christian -- it is. I am thinking of the ritual of reverently following the structured pathways of the Holocaust in the major museums, which resembles nothing so much as the Stations of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa...

We are not just "people of the book," but the people of the Hollywood film and the television miniseries, of the magazine article and the newspaper column, of the comic book and the academic symposium. When a high level of concern with the Holocaust became widespread in American Jewry, it was, given the important role that Jews play in American media and opinion-making elites, not only natural, but virtually inevitable that it would spread throughout the culture at large.

Whatever its origins, the public rationale for Americans' "confronting" the that the Holocaust is the bearer of important lessons that we all ignore at our peril... Individuals from every point on the political compass can find the lessons they wish in the Holocaust; it has become a moral and ideological Rorschach test...

If there are, in fact, lessons to be drawn from history, the Holocaust would seem an unlikely source, not because of its alleged uniqueness, but because of its extremity. Lessons for dealing with the sorts of issues that confront us in ordinary life, public or private, are not likely to be found in this most extraordinary of events. There are, in my view, more important lessons about how easily we become victimizers to be drawn from the behavior of normal Americas in normal times than from the behavior of the SS in wartime. In any case, the typical "confrontation" with the Holocaust for visitors to American Holocaust museums, and in burgeoning curricula, does not incline us toward thinking of ourselves as potential victimizers -- rather the opposite. ...And it is accepted as a matter of faith, beyond discussion, that the mere act of walking through a Holocaust museum, or viewing a Holocaust movie, is going to be morally therapeutic, that multiplying such encounters will make one a better person.

Life Lessons

Dennis said in a 1998 lecture on Exodus 27: “I was given an opportunity many years ago to have an audience with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. I was honored, but being a big rationalist, I missed the opportunity to be in the presence of a holy man.”

In his 20s, Dennis went to see the late Rabbi Wolfe Kelman, the leader for many years of America's Conservative rabbis. "As a young man, I sought advice from him, and he offered this piece of wisdom: 'I pretty much have my bad inclination [yetzer hara was the well-known Hebrew term he used] under control; it's my good inclination [yetzer hatov] that always gets me into trouble." (Still the Best Hope, pg. 76)

Dennis Prager learned a life lesson when he gave away copies of his book to camp counselors at Brandeis-Bardin.

Mar. 15, 2010, Dennis said: “I had just published my first book. Out of idealism. I was brought out to California to direct an institute. It had a summer camp as one of its many many ventures. I spoke to the counselors of the summer camp and out of sheer idealism and out of my own money, authors don’t get any more than a handful of books for free, people don’t know that, they always ask authors for books, but the author has to buy it from the publisher, but out of my own money, I brought in a box of my books, hardcover, and I gave each counselor at this camp of which I was the director of the whole institute, a part of which the camp was, a copy of the book. By the tenth person, I realized what a terrible mistake I had made. I knew not one of them was going to read it and that none of them treasured it. Had I charged one dollar for the book, they would’ve appreciated it.”

On April 15, 2010, Dennis said: “I remember years ago during inflation and high taxation, there would be times, I don’t even know if I should be saying this publicly, and I would be invited to give a lecture somewhere and I realized it wasn’t worth it.”

On Aug. 3, 2010, Dennis said: “What’s the first birthday that is not an unalloyed joy? It’s 30. At 30, it hit me that I am not a kid anymore. You can delude yourself in your 20s.”

Dennis said in a 1995 lecture on Exodus 6:
There was a humanistic synagogue. In my more firebrand years, I am mellow compared to what I was 20 years ago, I would walk into gladiatorial combat with anyone. I remember going to Detroit to debate the founder of Humanistic Judaism, a rabbi in Birmingham [Sherwin T. Wine], Michigan.

I’ve come close to knowing what it is like to go in the ring with trainers behind you massaging you and getting you ready with towels and a bucket of water. This evening had thousands of Jews coming to scream on the one they were rooting for — the humanist or the religious one. I had my backers. He had his backers. It was like a prize fight. It bothered me in some way. I don’t think anyone came to be enlightened but just to see major gladiatorial combat.

Do you know what he did in his synagogue? They would get together Friday night. And do you know what they would read? Philip Roth. They had a Torah — it was in the library.
Dennis said in a 1996 lecture on Exodus 16:
I have to leave because I’m giving a lecture in the [San Francisco] Bay Area very early in the morning. I’ve been lecturing since I was 21. I made a living lecturing and selling my books at my lectures.

I said, why don’t I bring my book to my lecture in the morning? And then I realized that I’m not as hungry as I was in my 20s. I used to shlep cartons of hardcover books to every lecture I gave. I worked like crazy just hauling books on airplanes and off airplanes and into rent-a-cars to my speech to make another $100 or $100. I don’t do that shlepping now.

Life Of Brian (1979)

The Crowd: Yes! We’re all individuals!
Brian: You’re all different!
The Crowd: Yes, we ARE all different!
Man in crowd: I’m not…
The Crowd: Sch!

Dennis: “That’s one of the brilliant scenes from that movie. I know it disturbs some religious people, but I believe that we need to have a sense of humor about our religions and that God would laugh along with us.” (Jan. 22, 2010)

Dennis Prager reminds some people of Jesus. Both came from non-prestigious communities (Nazareth and Brooklyn). Both had solid if unspectacular Jewish educations. Both started public speaking at a young age (Jesus in the temple at age 12, and Dennis in the temples at age 21). Both preached a simple version of Judaism that gave greater weight to ethics than ritual. Both preached with messianic fervor and moved thousands (Dennis autographs Bibles). Both were not known for their humility (Jesus claimed to be God’s son and Dennis said his contributions wouldn’t be recognized for a millennia). Both were largely rejected by the Jewish leaders of their day. Both had non-prestigious professions (carpenter and talk show host). Both had devoted followings among the common people while the intellectuals despised them.

On Sept. 14, 2010, Dennis said Airplane! (1980) is one of the three funniest films ever.

In a speech Jan. 24, 2007, Dennis said: “The two funniest genres of humor in my life have been Soviet dissident jokes and American lawyer jokes. …Bitterness causes humor. Happy people are not that funny. If you look at comedians’ lines, they are generally miserable. Lawyers cause misery here and the Soviets caused there.”

From Prager's Oct. 31, 2014 radio show:

Buck calls: "You speak Russian and you traveled several times to the Soviet Union. I was wondering if you were ever contacted by the FBI or the CIA or debriefed?"

Dennis: "I should have been. The first time I went, it was Israel that sent me because of my knowledge of Hebrew and Russian. They debriefed me because I had met with so many Jewish dissidents."

"I went back again about ten years later. I had a very scary episode at the border leaving the Soviet Union going to Romania at midnight. I experienced terror. It was the only time in my life I experienced terror. I was sick for months. It did something to my immune system. It was a terrible hour. I was smuggling out Soviet dissident literature. It was in Russian so if it would have been caught, they would have understood it. I hid it in the battery drive of my Nikon camera. They saw the camera. They were fascinated. I was shmoozing with them in Russian, thinking that the more I shmoozed, the less suspicious I would seem. They shmoozed back but then said, 'We'd like to see your camera.' When they took the camera, I believed I was doomed. And I had very good reason to believe it. I could easily have been beaten up or beaten to death and the Soviets could have said anything. America was not going to war with the Soviet Union over a 30-year old American. I was certain I would be caught. That's the stuff they hate the most -- anti-Soviet work. They don't like if you smuggle in dollars, that's a monetary crime. But a propaganda one, that's the worst. I remember thinking, 'There's no way they're not going to find it.' That's the only thing they took.

"They took it away. They didn't go through it in front of me. They had it for about an hour... It's pitch black. Completely silent."

"As it turns out, they never opened up the battery pack. They just wanted to see a brand new camera." "What did I do during that hour? I packed a little case thinking I might be sent away. A toothbrush and soap."

"I remember thinking, there's no way I am not doomed. I could not think of a scenario [where I turn out OK]... I panic intelligently. I don't lose my brain. Where you were going to run on the Soviet - Romanian border. They'd shoot you."

Betty Friedan

On his February 20, 2023 Youtube show with Julie Hartman, Dennis said: "I was in my 20s when I had a public dialogue with Betty Friedan. No man ever did this with me, but at one point, she gets up and leaves the stage because she's so insulted by me. And I'm polite. She stormed off because of things I said. I was half her age. She said, "You're a male chauvinist piglet." All I did was continue talking. I said, 'Either she will come back or she won't come back.' And she came back."

South Africa

On Dec. 6, 2013, Dennis said: "To those with ambivalence about Nelson Mandela... There is a reason for his greatness -- Zimbabwe. You had a Rhodesian white apartheid government overthrown as it was in South Africa and you ended up with sheer misery for the vast majority of its citizens. A bread basket was turned into one of the poorest places on earth... South Africa could've been Zimbabwe. He could've cultivated anger."

"I haven't spoken about apartheid almost ever. I wrote about it. I visited South Africa in my 20s [during the 1970s]. I debated, would I go to South Africa? Anybody with a conscience was opposed to apartheid."

"I remember how I felt. I wrote it home. I felt when I got there, there was a certain jolt to my system. I was always strong-willed. I saw two bathrooms. One said 'Europeans Only' and the other one said 'Colored.' I remember thinking, 'I want to go into the Colored.' I didn't. I went into the Europeans and I felt dirty. I felt like I had compromised."

"I then traveled to Kenya and I felt more normal in a black society than I did in an apartheid society. It was a bad system."

"It stayed with me. It gnawed at me. I've always wondered. Did I do the right thing? Should I have gone into the colored? I would've done it as a statement of my anger, not because it would've accomplished anything. It has always hung in the background of my conscience. Did I facilitate something I knew to be bad?"

Nicholas Kristof wrote from Zimbabwe for the New York Times Mar. 23, 2005: "The hungry children and the families dying of AIDS here are gut-wrenching, but somehow what I find even more depressing is this: Many, many ordinary black Zimbabweans wish that they could get back the white racist government that oppressed them in the 1970's."

Feb. 17, 2014, Dennis said: "Blacks really needed a Civil Rights movement. There was something terrible called Jim Crow. There was real genuine racism and genuine non-racism... Since then, all status acccrues from being a victim. If you can be a member of some victim communities... WASP males made the best country in the world."

Apr. 17, 2014, Dennis said: "It was completely reasonable to pass a civil rights law. I supported it. But there were people like Barry Goldwater, who founded the NAACP in Arizona, but voted against [the 1964 Civil Rights legislation] because he understood that this is just going to mutate. He turns out to be right... Could anybody have imagined what it would be stretched into by the left? On the basis of sex, of national origins, of Vietnam era status, sexual orientation, sexual identity."

Black economist Walter Williams wrote:

In 1960, only 28 percent of black females between the ages of 15 and 44 were never married. Today, it’s 56 percent. In 1940, the illegitimacy rate among blacks was 19 percent, in 1960, 22 percent, and today, it’s 70 percent. Some argue that the state of the black family is the result of the legacy of slavery, discrimination and poverty. That has to be nonsense. A study of 1880 family structure in Philadelphia shows that three-quarters of black families were nuclear families, comprised of two parents and children. In New York City in 1925, 85 percent of kin-related black households had two parents.
In April 2014, cattle rancher Cliven Bundy said about American blacks: "They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

Apr. 25, 2014, Dennis Prager called the Cliven Bundy remarks "absurd and morally wrong," "extraordinarily stupid," and "moronic."

Moving To Los Angeles In 1976

On July 10, 2009, Dennis said: “I was a kid in my twenties. I’d never been to Los Angeles. I remember I came out to give a talk. I remember standing at the American Airlines terminal at JFK [airport in New York] and I saw the flight number and then I saw ‘Los Angeles.’ I don’t think there were five times in my life when I was as excited as I was to get a on a plane to go to Los Angeles. It’s one of those times when you can cry.”

Said Dennis in January 2002: “I remember the first time I was brought to L.A., I was 24 years old, to give a lecture. I remember it so vividly. I rented a car and I was driving down palm-tree lined Wilshire Blvd and saying to myself, ‘Dennis, if you are not the luckiest man in the world, I wonder who is? 

“By this time I knew I was going to leave New York. I knew I was going to leave New York the day I was in another city."

July 30, 2010, Dennis said: “When I have read or been told about any of the Leo characteristics, it has struck me that I fit pretty well. The people I know, fit pretty well.”

“When I moved out to LA from New York [his last address was in Whitestone, Queens], it was the first time in my life that someone said, ‘What’s your sign?’ I had no idea what they were talking about.”

In April, 1976, Shlomo Bardin, the 76-year old founder and director of the Brandeis Institute, invited the 26-year old Prager to take charge. “He announced I’d be his successor and died that week.”

Said Dennis in January 2002: “I was the youngest speaker to ever come to the Brandeis Institute to lecture. They brought me out five more times.”

“I was in Mississippi giving a lecture and I got a call [relaying that Shlomo Bardin had died]. ‘Come on out. You’re going to speak at the funeral.’

“I cried like a baby. I could not give the eulogy without constantly crying. And I was crying for me as much as for him. I wasn’t ready for such responsibility. The only job I had held before this was as a waiter at summer camp.

“I came out to LA with a cot, a piano, an accordion and a few thousand books. I lived at the institute. I lived in Simi Valley for three years at this 3,200 acre retreat. When I was dating, it was very powerful. ‘Would you like to see my place?’ It was 3,200 acres. That was better than partying to make an impact.”

Rabbi Telushkin served as Education Director.

Max Prager wrote: “Dennis also engaged our nephew, Elliot Prager, as Social Director.”

In 1976, Prager was interviewed on television for the first time. He was asked by KNBC about what he was trying to achieve at Brandeis-Bardin.

“We’re trying to turn out leaders,” Prager said.


“Because a society without leaders is a leaderless society.” (Jan. 24, 2006)

Nov. 21, 2012, Dennis said: "In my late 20s, a bunch of young people in their late 20s worked for me. They said it was hard for them to believe that Dennis was as happy as he acts. There must be something underneath. We need to loosen his inhibitions. They said, 'We want you to smoke a joint.' I said, I can't because I can't inhale. They said, 'OK, we're going to bake it into a brownie.' I said, 'OK, bake it into a brownie and let's see what happens to me.'

"I have a lot of the brownie. They baked like a month's worth. It was like one part chocolate to 76 parts  marijuana to test what Dennis is really like. I did feel it. I was in a semi-euphoric mood but all it was was more of me. All I did was talk and make jokes. They were waiting for all these terrible things to come out from my inner being and nothing did. I was just unstoppably verbose.

"The next morning, I felt horrible. It was a one-time thing. I was curious, what's beneath what you say? And beneath of what you see is more of what you see.

"I've always had pain in my life. My childhood was not particularly happy. Once I got in my teens, I got happier. I don't have a bright memory of my childhood, but the underlying person, certainly in my late 20s, a particularly happy time in my life, was what they heard."

"I can't stand marijuana. I can't stand drugs. You have to get high on life. You should be able to get high on friends, on love, on sex, on music and art and travel. I always looked at drugs as a statement that I am jaded. I can't experience real pleasure within life itself."

On a CSPAN BookTV interview April 21, 2013, Dennis said: "If my child had gone to a Let's Celebrate Legalized Marijuana [rally], I would believe I had failed as a parent utterly. The narcissism involved there. That's what preoccupies you? You are now free to get high on marijuana?"

"Yes, I do want government to outlaw marijuana. I am not an anarchist. This notion that if you're for small government, then you're for no government, I've never bought. Yes, there are things that are [illegal such as marijuana] that I would like to continue to see [stay illegal]. I don't want any new bans. If marijuana had been legal for the past 50 years, I would've said nothing."

"A woman wrote to me from Wyoming. She has two kids and a husband and she smokes marijuana every night. I've spoked a cigar and a pipe since high school. I've smoked in front of my children since birth. They're very healthy. They don't appear to be dying from second-hand smoke. Would you smoke your marijuana in front of your children like I smoke my cigar? She didn't respond."

"My father had his Scotch on the rocks every night but I would've been a different person if he had smoked a joint every night."

On July 18, 2012, Dennis said: "I worked with very rich people. The first salary I received. My board of directors were almost all businessmen and they were in for the details. The president of the institute, who is no longer with us, would call at 9 a.m. to make sure that I was in at 9 a.m.. That I tripled the membership of the institute, tripled its revenue, brought a thousand people to the institute on weekends, traveled 45 miles to get to the institute, that didn't matter. Was I in the office at 9 a.m.? It was irrelevant that I was in at the office at 9 a.m., the work I did was with the people. But he was a tree man [as opposed to a big picture forest man like Dennis]. I think he was a developer of parking lots." 

In a lecture on Deut. 15, Dennis said: “The work that I had in my late 20s brought me into contact with truly wealthy people. I never met truly wealthy people growing up in Brooklyn. Very wealthy was if you had an Oldsmobile. I would meet some of them [at Brandeis-Bardin] and it was clear they did not run their businesses [ethically]. And I learned that when you cheat, you assume that everybody is cheating you. Everybody is as crappy as I am. If you go through life like that, you can’t have anybody as a friend. And then you are lonely and that’s the worst punishment of all. You go through life in solitary confinement.”

In a column Dec. 6, 2005, Dennis wrote: “After the first two summers [at Brandeis-Bardin], I began to play a game with myself. On the first night of the session, I made a mental note of which women I thought the most attractive and compared that list to one I made after the four weeks. The names on the latter list were rarely on the first-night list.”

On June 22, 2010, Dennis said: “We had a one-month session…to teach kids Judaism. I inherited from the man who founded it and he had a rule for that one month — you could not pair off. Same-sex friendships of course. But he did not want romance for the one-month they were there and I supported that completely. And I was very strict on the rule. It was opposite sex only. It was to prevent a breakdown of the system into who loves who and who’s breaking up with who.”

In a lecture on Lev. 18 in 2008, Dennis said: "I had a boy [at Brandeis-Bardin] and he attended the month-course in the summer for boys and girls 19-25. They lived there. He came over one day. He was bereft because he was attracted to men and didn't want to be. He wanted to follow the Torah and he wanted to love a woman. You have a choice in how you act but you don't have a choice in what you gravitate to. I have deep sympathy for the homosexual who wants to take the Bible seriously."

On June 8, 2010, Dennis said: “I was single. When I taught Judaism, I taught that the ideal was to marry. I remember saying over and over — I have not met Judaism’s ideal. I don’t think I should be fired because I haven’t, but I should be fired if I deny that the ideal is to marry.” 

“I can testify that groupies don’t hang out with Torah teachers,” said Dennis in his 17th lecture on Deuteronomy (2005). “This is the price I’ve paid since an early age — the wrong profession… It was never a great pickup line in my single days. So what do you do? I lecture on ethical monotheism. Oooh, I’m in room 207.”

In a lecture on Deut. 22:12, Dennis said: “Virginity is a big deal in most societies. Virginity not mattering is new in human history and isolated to the Western world. I am not a great virginity valuer. It was not one of the things I put in my singles ads — ‘Only virgins respond please!’ I am a modern.”

“Broken hymen-induced blood on a sheet is not my favorite form of aesthetic stimulation.”

Said Dennis in a 1997 lecture on honoring parents (Exodus 20):

I was at a speech and a woman came over to me and she said, ‘Dennis, I read your books and I got involved in Judaism and let me show you the product of my involvement. I am working on this whole syllabus on how children can obey their parents.’ It was frightening. I thought to myself, I wish I never wrote that book.

It’s funny when people get influenced by you and then they do things you would never in a thousand years want them to do. That’s why I’m not starting a new movement. You can’t control those who you think you’ve influenced.

While running BBI, Prager was a strict disciplinarian who kicked out students who broke the rules. Prager ejected musician Sam Glaser for playing non-Jewish music. Another college student, a philosophy major from Berkeley, was tossed for raising disruptive challenges. 

Dennis was a confident teacher who removed anyone below him who got in his way. When he walked into a room, people took notice.

Unhappy with authority, Prager chafed under the BBI board. Many on the board returned his hostility.

In his speeches since working at BBI, Prager mocks his old board. He tells one story of wanting to do singles weekends. Prager says the board was shocked. What would we talk about? Prager said that knowing how the board thought, he told them he’d take a week or two to study the matter. Then Prager returned to the board and said they’d done a study and found that the brains of single people were very similar to the brains of married people. Therefore, Prager proposed a similar curricula – the study of Judaism. 

BBI hosted college students who would often put on skits. Shortly before taking charge, Prager witnessed one skit that was deliberately filled with the sounds of flatulence. Prager decided that once he took charge, all student skits would have to be cleared before performance to make sure they upheld Jewish norms.

“[H]aving been a camp counselor and camp director for ten years,” Prager wrote on page four of his 1995 book Think a Second Time, “I know that few things come more naturally to many children than meanness, petty cruelty, bullying, and a lack of empathy for less fortunate peers. Visit any bunk of thirteen-year-olds in which one camper is particularly fat, short, clumsy, or emotionally or intellectually disadvantaged, and you are likely to observe cruelty that would shock an adult.”

In a lecture on Lev. 19:12-16 in 2008, Dennis said: "When I paid lecturers [at Brandeis-Bardin], I brought dozens and dozens of lecturers, I paid them before they spoke. They came for the weekend and I paid them Friday afternoon. And I saw their faces. It seemed so classy on my part, on the institute's part, to do that. I inherited that from the predecessor."

On July 17, 2013, Dennis said: "Parents would thank me: 'You had such a great impact on my children.' I remember saying to my dear friend at the time, 'I hope that my kids will have a Dennis Prager in their lives.' I knew that I wouldn't be Dennis Prager in my own children's eyes. That's the way it works. Hearing things from an outsider often is more powerful because the emotional baggage that a child and parent have is absent when it is a third party."

In September of 1983, Prager abruptly left the Brandeis Bardin Institute. He wrote: “While the membership and I loved each other, the heads of the board of directors and I did not. Indeed, I left BBI largely because the president/chairman of the board [William Chotiner] made life miserable for me. I occasionally reflect on where my life would be today had he and others of the lay leadership treated me differently.” (Prager CD)

Dec. 3, 2010, Dennis said: “There were very serious problems with the board of directors. A friend of mine [Joseph Telushkin?] came in to my office at this institute and he walked in as I was looking at my stamp collection. I haven’t seen the collection in about 20 years. He told one of our mutual friends, ‘Do I envy Dennis! You should have seen how distracted that stamp collection made him. He was able to leave his problems and concentrate on the stamps.”

Joseph Telushkin wrote on page 104 of his book Jewish Humor about Prager and Brandeis-Bardin:

Several years ago, a friend of mine, who had directed a major Jewish institution in California, was considering running for the U.S. Congress. He met with a powerful Democratic congressman from Los Angeles [Henry Waxman?], himself a very committed and active Jew, who advised him in all seriousness: “If you’ve survived the political infighting in Jewish life for ten years, when you make it to Congress, you’ll find the atmosphere there much gentler.”
Max wrote about Dennis: “Several years ago [1983?], while still being a Democrat, he was asked to enter the Congressional primary against the incumbent. I, not caring for the sleaze of many politicians, tried to talk my son out of running. When he asked me to give him $1,000 for the application fee and to prepare a financial statement, I did so reluctantly. After a month or two, he had a change of heart and the fee went down the drain.”

While Prager claimed he quit, a Jewish Journal March 14, 1986 cover story said he was pushed out. Many on the board said Prager was a lousy administrator.

Sheldon Teitelbaum wrote:
At the time of Bardin’s death, [Prager] was 27 years old. According to Dr. Victor Goodhill, a former institute vice-president, “He was almost a small, younger Shlomo.”

Prager, now a talk show host for KABC radio, says that Bardin had actually asked him to succeed him as director of Brandeis-Bardin, mainly, he says, “because I articulated the values he himself held — that the Jewish role in the world is to repair it under God’s rule.” [Michael] Harris [Bardin's assistant from 1961-71], however, argues that, “Dennis was simply there at a time when Shlomo was most vulnerable. He saw the end coming and he needed to pitch somebody.” Prager’s association with the institute was only a few years old and his appointment was not to everyone’s liking. Indeed, says Goodhill, “There were people on the board of directors who were violently opposed.”

The sources of this opposition are numerous and complex. Goodhill maintains that Prager was too young to successfully move into the slot vacated by a man considerably his senior. As Prager himself observed, “Some of the people on the board had children who were older than me.”

But it was not simply Prager’s youth inspired controversy. Nor was it Prager’s personal style, alternately charming and abrasive, inspired and, some say, demagogic. Rather, implies [William] Chotiner [Brandeis-Bardin's first president], perhaps Prager’s most vociferous critic, the issue was nothing less than a fight for the soul and future of Brandeis-Bardin.

Chotiner’s case against Prager was based upon his conviction that the type of Judaism Prager advocated was too rigid. If allowed to impose his values upon Brandeis-Bardin, Prager would ultimately betray Shlomo Bardin’s vision of the institute as a place for all Jews to enjoy. In a sense, Prager concurs with this assessment, though he insists that Chotiner was motivated by great personal animosity toward him.

Dennis Prager served as institute director for seven years, despite the existence of a virtual split within the executive board as to his efficacy. During this time, claim both Prager and his adherents, he quadrupled the BBI membership. “I had the largest BBIs in history,” argues Prager, “which raised more money in membership fees than ever before. I was a superb administrator, and under my own administrator, Bob Bleiweiss, the place ran like clockwork.”

Even Prager’s opponents credit him with some accomplishments, specifically the singles program which he initiated. But he had no staying power, they say. “Under Dennis’s directorship,” says Chotiner, “Brandeis was a swinging door. We were picking 200 members one year and losing 150 the next.” Chotiner is not alone in his contention that Prager lacked intellectual depth. His critics argue that he was basically a “three-speech man,” and the membership grew tired of hearing the same speeches time after time. Others grew weary of what they claim were repeated bouts of vindictive, almost paranoid behavior by Prager. But there are also those among Prager’s detractors who did not share this view. Says Dr. Goodhill, “Dennis was a brilliant man. He was also very courageous — there was never anything bashful about him. I think that’s what bothered the older people on the board was the strong and rather major dominance at the institute that Dennis wanted and did exercise. We accepted that in Shlomo because it took that kind of personality to get things going. And Dennis did have to be a one-man show!”

Unfortunately for the institute, strife and dissension within the board over Prager’s leadership resulted in a brief but traumatic conflict, between 1979 and 1981, over the actual decision-making process at Brandeis-Bardin, which some called “elitist” and “undemocratic.”
For decades (until he started writing a biweekly column for it in 2009), Prager despised the Jewish Journal, and regularly gave vent to his feelings on this matter publicly, usually expressed in political terms. For example, he said “it is the most left-wing Jewish newspaper in the country.”

David Margolis wrote in the Jewish Journal in December 1992:
Perhaps somewhat uncomfortable with his lack of academic credentials, Prager notes that he co-wrote (with Rabbi Joseph Telushkin) Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism as a kind of substitute Master's thesis. With a touch of the salesman, Prager calls the book, which has been translated into Russian, Spanish, Persian and Japanese, the "most widely used introduction to Judaism in the world."

...Over the next few years, he lectured "hundreds of times" to American audiences about Soviet Jewry. But that wasn't the only subject on which he claimed some expertise. Accepting minimal fees in return for exposure, he leapt onto the Jewish lecture circuit with talks on why Jewish youth was alienated from Jewish life. "It was part chutzpah," he admits, and part inspired experimentation.

...The seven years of Prager’s tenure in Simi Valley, however, were filled with conflict between himself and the Brandeis board, whom he accuses of treating him “miserably.” At Brandeis, Prager says now, not without bitterness, “I learned that many Jews are uncomfortable with paying another Jew to do something Jewish.”

Or was the problem, as some board members complain, that he tried to make BBI into an Orthodox institution? Prager acknowledges trying to push individuals toward greater observance, in a marked change from Bardin’s non-religious orientation that was sure to threaten and antagonize many. But he castigates the view, which he ascribes to much of the non-Orthodox community, that keeping kosher and not working on Shabbat define someone as Orthodox.

Even his critics acknowledge that Prager succeeded in exciting many young people about Jewish observance and bringing them into the Jewish community. But that enterprise had its down side as well. He developed “followers,” explains one BBI insider during those years, but he turned off many people by leaving no room for “intelligent disagreement. His bullying antagonized a lot of people.”

It is a complaint about Prager's style that clings to him even today.

When Dennis left Brandeis-Bardin, Joseph Telushkin left not only the institute but also the state.

Dennis: "Through our mid-thirties, we were inseparable. We were together almost every day when he lived in California. I remember him saying that he got used to the fact that I didn't always call back. I'm not a big fan of the phone." (Mar. 24, 2012)

I don't believe Dennis was ever invited back to BBI. 

In a 1995 lecture on Gen. 42: 7, Dennis explains why Joseph was harsh with his brothers who sold him into slavery: “I still think it is partially revenge. I would do it. If I had been sold into slavery and just spent twelve years in a dungeon, I would not go, ‘Hey, it’s all forgiven guys. I’m Den.’

“It would take a better person than me to have done that. I wouldn’t kill them. I wouldn’t hurt them. I’d rub it in.”

Dennis spoke on the radio Jun. 28, 2011 about Brandeis-Bardin: “Individuals make and break the world… Do you know how many organizations I’ve seen that were great because its leader was great and then the leader died or retired and the place became nothing? It just shriveled up and died.

“I know of what I speak on a personal level where the leader leaves and the people thought that what was great about the institutions was its policies, its methodologies. Doesn’t matter who led it. Then when good leaders left, the methodologies were useless.”

On the other hand, Mar. 23, 2010, Dennis said: “Leaders don’t make America, Americans make America… I don’t want leaders to shape America.”

“God was entirely opposed to having a king. The Israelites asked for a king. Instead, He just wanted the prophets to tell people what is right and wrong and let them lead their own lives.”

“I don’t want leaders. I have a leader — God. We lead ourselves in America. The very notion that leaders will lead us is left-wing.”

The notion that it is the left rather than the right who valorizes leaders is the opposite of reality. In his 2015 book, Key Concepts in Politics and International Relations, Andrew Heywood wrote about leadership:

Its principal supporters have been on the political right, influenced by a general belief in natural inequality and a broadly pessimistic view of the masses. In its extreme form this was reflected in the fascist ‘leader principle’, which holds that there is a single, supreme leader who alone is capable of leading the masses to their destiny, a theory derived from Friedrich Nietzsche’s (1844–1900) notion of the Übermensch (‘superman’). Among the supposed virtues of leadership are that it:

• Mobilizes and inspires people who would otherwise be inert and directionless

• Promotes unity and encourages members of a group to pull in the same direction

• Strengthens organizations by establishing a hierarchy of responsibilities and roles.

Liberals and socialists, on the other hand, have usually warned that leaders should not be trusted, and treated leadership as a basic threat to equality and justice.

So when is Dennis for leadership and when is Dennis opposed to leadership? It's hard to avoid thinking that Dennis loves leadership when it allows him to assert himself above others and he doesn't like leadership when it allows others to assert themselves above him. 

Rabbi Telushkin wrote about Dennis in his 1996 book, Words That Hurt, Words That Heal:

A friend of mine hosts a radio talk show. Although he passionately espouses often controversial political views, he makes it a point never to insult callers who dispute his positions. Rather, he listens carefully to what they say, and always responds courteously. He told me that he reads every letter from his listeners, particularly those written by people who clearly abhor his views.

If my friend sounds unusually open to others’ criticism, that is an acquired trait. In his early days as a public speaker, he often fended off his critics with sarcasm, biting wit, and occasional anger.

Contrary to Prager's claims about having no interest in achieving political power, at age 15, Dennis was talking to his best friend Joseph Telushkin about what he would do in the U.S. Senate one day, long before he had a plausible political platform. Contrary to his claim of having no desire for the spotlight, Dennis will fly across the country for 90 seconds on the Sean Hannity Show.

How else am I so sure that Dennis lusted for power from a young age? Because that's the way to get girls and Dennis from an early age was all about getting girls. An article entitled, "Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature," said in 2007: "Men strive to attain political power, consciously or unconsciously, in order to have reproductive access to a larger number of women. Reproductive access to women is the goal, political office but one means. To ask why the President of the United States would have a sexual encounter with a young woman is like asking why someone who worked very hard to earn a large sum of money would then spend it."

In his fifth lecture on Deuteronomy (in 2003), Dennis said: “Why anybody would go into public life when he is happy in what he is doing puzzles me entirely.”

Ronald Reagan

After voting for Jimmy Carter in 1976, Dennis never voted for a Democrat again. 

“The [1980] election of Ronald Reagan affected my happiness,” said Prager March 2, 2006. “There was a chance to turn this thing around.”

June 10, 2010 at the Ronald Reagan Memorial Library, Dennis said: “He was the first one to make me aware that the bigger the government, the smaller the citizen. That’s my motto but that’s his sentiment. He made me aware that this is not merely an economic difference between left and right but a philosophical and moral difference. It makes worse people, big government.”

On April 20, 2011, Dennis said: “It took until the Reagan administration to realize that if I didn’t fight, I was going to lose this country.”

Wow. So if Prager didn't fight, America would be lost? Only one man can save us? Dennis Prager!

June 2, 2022, Dennis said: "Reagan changed me with one sentence. 'Government is not the solution, it's the problem.' That is what made me a Republican. Everything resides on small government. In the 20th Century, 100 million civilians were murdered. Who murdered them? In every case but Rwanda, big government."

In the Mishna, Rabbi Chanina, the deputy High Priest, said: "Pray for the welfare of the government (lit., monarchy), for if not for its fear, a person would swallow his fellow live." Big government sometimes kills people but just as often saves people. In the absence of big government, we return to the state of nature where life tends to be "nasty, brutish and short." 

For problems such as crime, pollution, and roads, most countries have found that government is the best solution. How else would you enforce standards? What countries that don't have government provided police, parks and passports should America emulate? 

Religion On The Line

In 1982, KABC general manager George Green, a secular Jew, told educator Roberta Weintraub that he needed someone to host the two-hour public affairs Sunday night show Religion on the Line. She suggested Prager.

“I had my first tryout on radio at KABC Radio on a Sunday night in August [2], ’82,” said Dennis, “and I was so nervous, I was dripping [sweat]. And then, at 11 p.m., the program director [Wally Sherwin] slips me a note, ‘Tell them you’ll be on next Sunday night’ — one of the happiest moments of my life, because I ached to get my ideas out. I’m like a cow who has milk to give and I’ve been dying to give it my whole life. So I was engaged in interfaith dialogue every Sunday night with a priest, minister, rabbi for 10 years, and it is one of the things that changed my life.” (CSPAN 1995)

“I had a feeling that if I did well [on his radio debut],” said Prager Jan. 3, 2006, “that it would change my life.”

The show had a 35 share when Dennis inherited it and he took it to a 40 share (according to Prager’s 2008 lecture on 25 years in broadcasting).

April 3, 2008, Dennis said: "When I was asked to advertise Farmer John's pork sausages, I went to an Orthodox rabbi and asked him if I am allowed to advertise pork sausage. He said, 'Let me get back to you.' He got back to me and said, 'Yes, but you may not say, 'Mmm, mmm good.'"

Jan. 4, 2012, Dennis said: 

Like most people in radio, you are brought into it, rather than seek it. I was certainly thrilled. This was the dream of my life -- to touch people with my values and my ideas."

I had been a director of a Jewish institution in California where people came for weekends to study and be introduced to religion and other matters. Roberta Weintraub (head of the Los Angeles Board of Education) came for one weekend with her husband. She was friends with the then head of KABC, George Green. He said, I need a new host for this very popular show we have on, Religion on the Line. It was the most popular show in Los Angeles. It had a 40 share. He said to Roberta, ideally, I would want him to know a fair amount about religion, not be a clergyman, and know how to speak.

She had just heard me at this institution I directed. She said, I know this young kid and he knows religion. He's not a clergyman. They tried me out and I got the job that night.

In a speech to Chabad of Orange County on Jan. 24, 2007, Dennis said:

I am the worst candidate for the charge of religious intolerance… I was chosen to moderate the most popular show on religion in America on radio… I was chosen in part because I was so fair to the religions. Very often I would get a letter like this: ‘Dear Mr. Prager, I am an evangelical Christian and I was stunned to learn that you were Jewish.’ ‘Dear Mr. Prager, I am a Roman Catholic and I was stunned to learn that you were Jewish.’

Everybody thought I was their religion. Jews were also stunned. A religious Jew on the radio, it doesn’t make sense. He sounds coherent. A lot of secular Jews reacted that way.

My favorite moment on Religion on the Line was when a caller called in. I don’t know if he was anti-Semitic. I allow people their little prejudices. I did a whole show on Oriental drivers. Asians called in and asked why do we drive so fast.

One night a guy calls in and he starts giving the rabbi a really hard time. ‘Rabbi, isn’t it elitist and even racist for you Jews to think you are the Chosen People.’ This was a rabbi who was not terribly comfortable with the idea. He was on the more liberal end of the theological spectrum. He was queasy about the whole thing.

Father Michael Nocita comes on and says, ‘God chose the Jews. Get a life.’ The guy said OK.

I opened radio to Muslims. They were never part of the Religion on the Line. I deliberately sought them because it’s a major religion. I had Muslims on so often on Religion on the Line that they invited me to various mosques to speak. I was beloved in the Muslims community during the period of Religion on the Line because I had such respect. Nobody opened up a major media outlet like I opened up ABC Radio and I was rewarded with their affection and respect.

The first public demonstration I organized was on behalf of Muslims in Afghanistan.

One day the head of the station, George Green, called me into his office. I had a little lump in my throat. He didn’t call me in much… He said, ‘Dennis, I have a question. There’s something that doesn’t make sense. There was a woman who preceded you as the moderator of Religion on the Line. [Carole Hemingway]. This woman never once acknowledged she was a Jew. And I kept getting anti-Jewish, even anti-Semitic letters against her. You, every show you mention that you are a religious Jew and I’ve never once in five years gotten an anti-Semitic letter against you.

I felt like Joseph being called before Pharaoh. I said, ‘George, I think I know the answer. Non-Jews trust Jewish Jews more than they trust non-Jewish Jews'.

April 3, 2008, Dennis said: "My predecessor [Carole Hemingway] had an agenda -- to make religion look stupid. She would ask priests if the Pope [masturbated]. I would never ask that. It's disgusting."

May 3, 2010, Dennis said: “I got quite close to a number of Muslims [in the 1980s]. It was their failure to organize demonstrations against Islamic terror [after August 2000, the Second Intifada] which caused a certain breach, which I felt sad about. I couldn’t understand their relative silence about this terror.”

In the second edition of Ultimate Issues in 1985, Prager wrote: 

Right now there is something akin to a Holocaust taking place in Afghanistan...

The Soviets are, for all intents and purposes, destroying Afghanistan. Unless they are stopped, Afghanistan will cease to exist... Islam is being destroyed...

The Jewish nation, religion and culture have survived the Nazis. It is not likely that the Afghan nation, religion, and culture will comparably survive the Soviets...

We Jews must cry out on behalf of Afghanistan, and do so davka as Jews. Jewish organizations must speak out, take out ads and organize demonstrations to remind the world that we who endured the first Holocaust, have the duty to scream the loudest at events that approach its unique evil.

In 1986, after four years hosting Religion on the Line, “something dawned on me,” said Prager. “And I said it on the air. ‘The moment you realize that there are people in other religions whom you consider to be at least as good as you think you are, at least as intelligent as you think you are and at least as religious as you think you are, you will never be the same.’ When I would meet Christians and Muslims and Catholics, Protestants and so on, and people whom I so respected and who so clearly were God- and decency-oriented, I could no longer say, ‘There is only one true religion.’ It in no way lessened my belief in Judaism, but I now see other religions as vehicles to God for other people.” (CSPAN, 1995)

“Over the course of the next few years, I was given an increasing amount of radio time. First, an hour on Sunday night prior to Religion on the Line, then another hour, and then yet another hour. I ended up broadcasting for five hours – 7:00 PM to Midnight – on Sunday nights. Then I was given three hours on Saturday nights – for a total of eight hours on weekend nights. KABC’s Saturday and Sunday night listeners who didn’t like me must have been quite annoyed with how much I was on.” (CD)

“When I started in radio, I would actually smoke my pipe during the show.” (Dec. 16, 2010)

In a speech at the Nixon Library Mary 14, 2012 about his fifth book Still The Best Hope, Dennis said: 

You know from my radio show, I do not say that people have bad motives who have different views than I. You have no idea how liberating that is. The only reason that I've been able to write this book is that in my first years in radio, I realized I have to assume that those I differ with mean well. The reason it is liberating is that it made me fight their ideas intellectually rather than ad hominen. If everybody you differ with is an idiot, is selfish, is despicable, is greedy, then why debate? That's what they think of us. That's why we always win the debates. I've had the biggest left-wing names in the world on my show.

Why would you debate somebody who is sexist, intolerant, xenophobic, racist and bigoted? Why would you do that? You don't debate a Klu Klux Klansman. That's how they feel about us. We're not worthy of debate. We're all these bad things.

On Aug. 27, 1985, Prager debated Rabbi Meir Kahane on the Ray Briem show. “It was one of the ugliest debates of my life,” says Dennis in a 2004 lecture on Deuteronomy 15. “He was insulting the whole night.”

Dennis published a partial transcript of the debate published in his Fall 1985 edition of Ultimate Issues:

Briem: "Why in Israel, that always has had such compassion for people, invited the Arabs to come and stay in Israel when it was formed...would you want to kick them?"

Kahane: "Because the people of Israel and especially the Sephardic Jews of Israel, the Jews who came from Arab countries, didn't learn about Arabs in seminars on the West Coast. They lived with Arabs, they know what it means to have lived under Arabs, and they'd never again want to.

"The problem is that the Arabs who live inside Israel hate Israel. And they understand that the Arabs, if they could, would do the Jews what they do to themselves every day in Beirut. They don't want that to happen. They're not troubled by the niceties of Western democracy."

"I don't hate Arabs. I love Jews. And I intend to save the Jewish people, both from Arabs and from themselves."

Briem: "Where does your policy differ -- other than doing away with them in a concerted campaign -- from what Hitler did to the Jews?"

Kahane: "If you really mean that question, I'm astounded. The Jews of Germany never ever said, 'This country is really ours, the Germans stole it from us, and when we become the majority, we'll take it back and call it Israel.' The German Jews wanted nothing more than to be the best Germans that ever lived. And the Arabs don't want to be Jews or Israelis."

"The Arabs say, 'The Jews stole this country from us, we were the majority once, we want this country back, when we have it back it will be Palestine.' And if there is anyone...who thinks that there is one Arab in Israel who would rather live in a country which is defined legally as the Jewish state, he has greater contempt for the Arabs than I thought that even liberals could have."

"There is a basic contradiction between Zionism and Western democracy. A Jewish state at the very minimum means a state with a majority of Jews, because only in that way can Jews solve their own destiny, be masters of their own fate. Western democracy postulates the basic axiom that it doesn't matter who's the majority. It doesn't matter if you're Jewish or non-Jewish, whoever's the majority is it. Therefore there is a basic contradiction, since most western Jews are basically schizophrenic, with one foot inside Judaism and the other half inside western culture, and they would like to believe that Judaism is Thomas Jefferson. It isn't."

Prager: "I'd like to defend Judaism from the smear campaign that Meir Kahane has directed against it."

"[Kahane] is [antisemitism's] tragic echo, produced to a large extent by the Holocaust and by the Arab desire to destroy Israel. He is a classic product of Jews being hated for all these centuries, and he has incorporated a mirror image of the non-Jew in his psyche. He hates non-Jews as he feels non-Jews hate him. His answer to Arafat is to be the Jewish Arafat."

"Ray, you asked him, and he dismissed it as a lunacy, what really differentiates Meir Kahane's attitude to Arabs from Hitler's to German Jews. He didn't answer you, because the difference is minimal."

"This is a Jewish fascist. It is a tragedy that he cites that he is rooted in Judaism when there isn't anything normative in Judaism -- Orthodox, Conservative or Reform -- that supports him."

"One could cry over the fact that there is some popularity to someone who has such views when the Torah instructs the Jew to love the stranger because the Jews themselves were strangers in Egypt and know how it feels to be one."

Kahane: "The Torah and the Talmud say any appointment of authority in Israel shall only be Jewish. That's not democracy. Maimonides states clearly that no non-Jew shall ever be appointed over a Jew, even as a clerk concerning the water carriers."

"Judaism states clearly that the Jews, when they create a Jewish state, will not grant citizenship to a non-Jew."

Brien: "Dennis, Rabbi Meir Kahane has said here recently that the rationale for wanting to push all of the 730,000 Arabs out of Israel and the occupied territories, is that they hate Israel and Israelies. They think it is still Palestine and they resent it, they can never coexist because of that, and because of their birthrate one of these days they are going to become a majority."

Prager; "It is the lie upon which Rabbi Kahane predicates his case, and it should be exposed as such. Let me cite just a handful of statistics. The Arab population of Israel was 11.1% in 1960. As of the last census last year it is 17%. In 1965, the average Israeli Arab had 8.4 children. In 1981 it went down to 5. The jews are at 2.7 and rising. They [the rates] are in fact going to meet as industrialization continues, Arabs leave their farms and so on. Basically, the rabbi bases his ideas on waht I have to call a lie, that Israel will cease to be a Jewish state given simple demographics."

"Rabbi Kahane is by and large considered in the Jewish world an immoral aberration."

Kahane: "Assuming the Arabs would become a majority, what would Dennis Prager say?"

Prager: "In theory, the Jewish state has a right to remain a Jewish state. Just as during WWII, England suspended certain democratic processes."

Caller1: "Mr. Prager, do you believe that the Arabs, if they have a chance to destroy Israel, will do that?'

Prager: "Most Arabs would."

Caller1: "Then from that standpoint alone you must admit that Mr. Kahane has a reason for doing that [throwing Arabs out] because the Arabs will unite and destroy Israel the first chance they get."

Prager: "Yes, but one of the reasons that it is important to have a Jewish state is in order to preserve Judaism. But if Israel becomes like its Arab neighbors in moral outlook, then the only difference between a Kahaneized Israel and an Arafatized Jordan is the language they speak. So Israel's reason for being, if it becomes a state as morally low as many of its neighbors, [is undermined]. Israel can continue to be a light unto the nations, as a democratic state in the midst of tyranny, and need not be compromised just because of its enemies."

Kahane: "If all the Arabs tomorrow become saints, and I was now living in a state with 730,000 Arab saints who in 20 years will be two and a half or three million Arab saints, and in 30 years will be the majority of the country but saintly, I don't want to live as a minority under any saints."

Caller4: "I would rather see a strong Israel that everybody hates, rather than an Auschwitz that everyone loves."

Prager: "I agree with you... Part of the giveaway on Rabbi Kahane's moral understanding is as he said, 'even if all the Arabs were saints.' In other words, the issue is not morality, it is race. It is Arab blood that is detested, not Arab morality. In other words, no matter how decent they might be, he wants to kick them out. Morality is foreign to his understanding. it is a blood-based understanding." 

Kahane: "You know very well taht if any Arab came to me and said, I would like to become Jewish, and he converted according to the proper standards, of course, just as any other non-Jew, that he would be welcome, blood and all... My problem with the Arabs has nothing to do with their blood. It's that they want Jewish blood."

Prager: "You respect [Arabs] so much that you want to chase them out."

Kahane: "Exactly."

Dennis concluded in his journal: "Neither rationally nor morally can Kahane be distinguished from other religious extremists, including antisemites. He is a Jewish version of the Ayatollah Khomeini and the medieval Christian crusader."

Dennis published a page showing parallels between Kahane's legislation and the Nazi laws against Jews.

Dec. 13, 2001, Prager said that almost all of Kahane's proposed laws for Israel (such as making it a crime for a Jew to sleep with a non-Jew, to swim in the ocean with a non-Jew, etc) came from Torah Law.

Wikipedia said: "Kahane's legislative proposals focused on transferring the Arab population out from the Land of Israel, revoking Israeli citizenship from non-Jews, and banning Jewish-Gentile marriages and sexual relations, based on the Code of Jewish Law compiled by Maimonides in the Mishneh Torah."

In late 1983, Prager replaced the retiring Hilly Rose on AM 790 KABC from 7-9 p.m. during the week (except Friday night). Initially the station balked at giving Dennis Friday night off, but he refused to do the show if it would force him to violate the Sabbath.

Prager wrote a regular column for the now defunct Los Angeles Herald-Tribune. He wanted to write a weekly column for the Jewish Journal but Editor Gene Lichtenstein thought Prager was a bad writer. Gene liked Dennis in person but found his writing pompous.

Dennis became convinced that he was turned down because of politics, even though Gene regularly published somebody to the right of Dennis — Orthodox rabbi Dov Aharoni.

Walter Martin

The Los Angeles Times wrote Feb. 19, 1989:

[Walter] Martin ran into a brief but intense firestorm several years ago when he appeared on Dennis Prager's "Religion on the Line" show on KABC radio in Los Angeles. Martin cited Scripture and other sources in assigning blame for Jesus' crucifixion to some Jewish authorities of the time, rather than the Romans. He insists that he did not suggest that the Jews as a people, then or since then, were responsible for the execution. "I wasn't holding Jews today accountable for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ," Martin says.

But Prager says this distinction is an odd and "subtle one, given that an innumerable number of Jews have been killed and tortured on the basis of that charge. Mr. Martin came very close to raising the specter of medieval Christian charges of deicide against the Jews."

According to a tape of the broadcast which Martin himself provided to The Times, he said that "any Jew or Gentile alive today that hears the gospel of Jesus Christ and turns away from God's love in the cross is participating in that crucifixion."

When pressed by Prager, Martin defended the passage in John 8:44, which characterizes the Jews who rejected the divinity of Jesus at the time of the crucifixion as children of the devil. Some liberal Christian scholars have pointed out the passage as an example of New Testament anti-Semitism. In the 6 1/2 years that he has been doing his own program, Prager says, "no Christian-whether fundamentalist Protestant or liberal Protestant, conservative or liberal Catholic-ever said anything approaching Mr. Martin's concept of the crucifixion."

Despite the controversy, though, on Prager's subsequent shows and in the local Jewish press, Prager has said the problem with Martin is more one of being a "misanthrope" than an anti-Semite.

"He doesn't have a good word for anyone who isn't identified with his theology," Prager says.

In a 1990 lecture series on how to be a good person, Dennis Prager said:
After your 400th show, you're entitled to some generalizations. One is - the Jew is usually the most talkative and the Protestant is usually the most quiet. There must be a reason.

The Jew is usually the most passionately involved in something, volatile, gets angry, verbalizes, lets out, etc.. The Protestant is usually the nicest. In eight years I heard one offensive word from a Protestant [Walter Martin]and he was a bona fide nut. These Protestants are the sweetest, nicest, most self-controlled people you will ever meet.

Catholics run in all directions. Some are controlled and some are volatile.

The religions produced these differences. Protestantism emphasizes the heart. Catholics are in the middle. Judaism emphasizes works. Therefore, the Jew has been the freest to make peace with his miserable thoughts. Protestants are the least free because they are sinful.

That's why when it came out that Jimmy Carter lusted for women other than his wife, Jews yawned and Protestants were horrified. A born again Christian and he lusts? Oh my God.

Marc B. Shapiro, who teaches at a Jesuit university, said:
If you were to go into a church and see the worship and the rituals and the beliefs, from a Jewish perspective, this is idolatry.

Once you assume that Christianity is not idolatry for non-Jews, then I don’t know what is idolatry for non-Jews. 

Why the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism

In 1983, Prager and Telushkin published their second book — Why the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism:
Finally…our thanks to Janice Prager who, despite her time-consuming work on a book on Jewish moral values for children, was the single greatest source of suggestions, criticisms, and morale boosting...

...[T]hough numbering less than 3 percent of the American population, [Jews] have won 27% of the Nobel prizes awarded American scientists, that Jews are overrepresented in medicine by 231 percent in proportion to the general population, in psychiatry by 478 percent, in dentistry by 299 percent, in law by 265 percent, and in mathematics by 238 percent, that American Jews are twice as likely as non-Jews to go to college, and that they are represented in Ivy League schools over five times their percentage in the population. This Jewish passion for study in turn helps to explain why Jews have the highest income of any ethnic group in the United States, earning 72% more than the national average, and 40% more than the Japanese, the second highest earning ethnic group.

This unique intellectual achievement is not due, as is sometimes alleged, to some innately superior intelligence among Jews, but solely and directly to Judaism.
Historian Albert S. Lindemann classified Why The Jews? as "Jewish self-flattery" and noted: "More sophisticated statements of similar ideas can be found in George Steiner, In Bluebeard's Castle (New York, 1974), and Maurice Samuel, You Gentiles (New York, 1924)." (Esau's Tears, pg. 20)

Joseph Sobran wrote in the August 5, 1983 issue of National Review:
To Prager and Telushkin, all Gentiles past a certain point seem to look alike. Enlightenment anti-Semitism wanted to include Jews, not shut them out. It attacked their particularism for its own reasons; wrongly, perhaps, but still not out of a consistent value-system, and not because it resented what it saw as the "higher quality of Jewish life."

In fact, most people in the West have tended to look on Jews as backward, not superior. The popular sociology that made "jew" and "gyp" slang terms for sharp dealing may have been crude and cruel, but it hardly expressed a sense that Jewish and Gypsy life were worthy of envy...
Ultimate Issues

In 1985 Dennis launched his personal journal of thought, the quarterly Ultimate Issues, which never quite achieved 10,000 subscribers. It became The Prager Perspective in 1996 and folded in the year 2000. “I wrote it because I never wanted to be edited…” (Prager CD)

In 1985 and 1986, Prager received commendations on his journal from William F. Buckley, Richard John Neuhaus, Martin Peretz, and rabbis W. Gunther Plaut, Rabbi Norman Lamm, and Rabbi Jakob J. Petuchowski.

Prager began selling cassette tapes and eventually VHS tapes of his lectures through Ultimate Issues. “It was actually the Ayatollah Khomeini who made me aware of the power of tapes. If he led an Islamic fundamentalist revolution through tapes, I figured, why not do the same for Judaism and ethical monotheism?” (Ultimate Issues, Jan – Mar 1991, pg. 11)

Janice Adelstein

In 1978, Dennis was on a date with a pretty blonde. He sensed that she would go to bed with him. Then he thought, “Is this what my life is about? Going to bed with pretty blondes?” (9/13/02)

"I was 30 years old. I was at Mario's Italian restaurant in Westwood. I was having pizza. I was with a very attractive blonde. It seemed to me that she was attracted to me and that we could've gotten something on. I remember thinking, 'Wow, if this was ten years ago or even a year ago, I'd be thrilled to know that I could have this woman. This is awesome. But I don't want to go through this over and over. It is about time I want to have something deeper in life. I want to get married. I had all these religious values inculcated. And I want depth in everything. I don't like the superficial'." (Second lecture in a Spring 1999 series on male sexuality)

In his 22nd lecture on Deuteronomy in 2004, Dennis said: “I wouldn’t say this on radio, I think. I say almost everything on radio but this is very personal. I was living a very active bachelor life while being a good guy. I was always a good guy. I don’t have a mean streak… One day it hits me, Dennis, you may be good, but you sure as hell ain’t holy, thinking about my social life and whatever you can guess. That is what started me on the road to getting married. It wasn’t, oh gee, I’m lonely, because there are ways of assuaging loneliness without getting married. I realized, D.P, you can’t fool yourself. If you believe in this book and its values, you are leading half of what it wants. What about holy? A few years later, I got married… Now you say, that’s not romantic. The decision isn’t romantic. It was a values-based decision. This is not the type of life I should be leading. It was based solely on this [Torah]. It didn’t come from my heart or from my conscience. Love? I could have love every night or however frequently I was in love. Love was hardly the thing to direct me to marriage. I loved her and her and her.”

In a 1992 lecture on Genesis 27, Dennis said: “Definitely partake in all permitted pleasures. It’s not even a question. God won’t even bother asking [me on Judgment Day]. He’ll ask, why did you partake of some non-permitted pleasures?”

March 24, 2008 at Nessah Synagogue, Dennis said: “The power of sex is so great that a lot of people who shouldn’t marry marry because the sex before marriage was so terrific and it blinded them to what really would’ve hurt their marriage because of the passion the sex engendered.”

Therapist Mark Smith says: "There are three ways you can be in a relationship with anybody and the first one is enmeshed [followed usually by emotional cut-off and possibly by inter-dependence]. When a couple becomes enmeshed, they fall in love. It's intoxicating. It's what all the songs on the radio are about. It changes your brain chemistry. The only downside to getting enmeshed is that it don't last."

"It starts with enmeshment and there's a slow fade. The shelf life for enmeshment in a young marriage is usually seven years. In second marriages, you get more like two years. When you're not talking, it becomes cut-off. To keep from feeling the pain, you fill in with other stuff such as work, the kid, the sister, and that third person being there stabilizes the system. Someone with a big empty hole might just give up and get divorced. We're shooting to be inter-dependent, which is not by working on the marriage, but by working on yourself. We espouse being in recovery. Everybody needs to be in recovery for something. Recovery is rebuilding your personality from the ground up. It's harder when you're 73, it's easier when you're in your 30s. When marriages cause enough pain that people seek therapy, usually starts at about 35. People under 30 generally haven't been run over by enough trucks and they're still well-defended psychologically and they're not ready."

"We arrange [to have stuff done to us]. We think about relationships as stuff is done to us...but we marry our issues. You choose to put yourself in a place where you are abandoned. Consciously nobody looks to be betrayed but unconsciously is where we make our decisions."

"When you're abandoned as a kid, and your spouse steps away from you, it can trigger rage."

Feb. 22, 2012, Dennis said: "In my late 20s, I was at dinner with a couple... They were just married. She said, 'How's racquetball going?' I said, 'It's great. We get great exercise. We're closely matched so we have great games. And we get a bonus. After a games, we go outside and sit on a bench in the hallway and watch these women go by.'

"Then she said, '[My husband] does not look.' I was about to spit out the food I was eating when I got such a kick from [the hubby] under the table. The kick was clear. You are to answer what she wants to hear and not tell the truth.

"After choking, I said, 'Of course not. I look, but not [the husband].'

"I remember taking an internal vow that I would never marry where I had to hide who I was."

After reading George Gilder’s book, Men and Marriage, one of the five books he said that most influenced him, Dennis decided that he should marry quickly. “It was one of the reasons I said, 'I don’t care, I’m getting married soon. I’m doing it with my head if not my heart'.” (July 6, 2011)

Then Dennis met Janice Adelstein.

Though beautiful, Janice did not have a reputation for brilliance. “Don’t get sick, remember who’s the nurse,” was a joke at the time on campus.

All three of Prager's wives have been tall and striking. The first was brunette and the last two have been blonde.

Max Prager wrote in chapter 35:
In the summer of 1980, Dennis met Janice Adelstein, a nurse at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute. Hilda and I were then visiting BBI and we both liked her immediately when our son informed us that he was interested in her as a prospective spouse. She was tall, pretty, charismatic and wise; a perfect candidate to be our daughter-in-law. We met her parents, Malvina and Jack and found them to be ideal machitonim (in-laws). Ten months later, on January 15, 1981, they were wed in the House of the Book at BBI which was situated on a hill with the most amazing scenery. Since Dennis was the Director, he invited all the members of the Institute to the wedding which was held around 1 PM.

The total number of guests including family, friends and members totaled a figure in excess of 500. After the ceremony, a reception was held with plenty of food and dancing. The two families then retired to their respective homes to redress and prepare for another reception at the Sephardic Temple on Wilshire Blvd. To this event, we invited 200 guests and had a wonderful evening with catered food, music and dancing.
Dennis's first marriage went bad quickly and the couple hoped that having a child would revive their relationship. It did not. 

“It’s the tragedy of my life,” said Dennis. “I wish I was not divorced.” (June 22, 2010)

April 2, 2014, Dennis said that assuming two decent people, "in the overwhelming majority of instances, closing in on the word always, it is the wife who determines more whether the marriage will be a happy one... That's why we have the saying, 'Happy wife, happy life.' Most decent men want to come home to peace... Aside from my own life, [my theory that the wife determines the happiness of the marriage] has been true in every marriage I have known."

“I knew more about zebras than I did about women before I got married,” said Dennis in a 2003 lecture on Deut 7:22-8:10. “I didn’t know how they thought, how they felt. All I knew was how they looked.”

June 9, 2010, Dennis said he prefers a relationship with no conflict.

May 9, 2012, Dennis said: "The thought of coming home to non-peace is the nightmare of my life."

Sept. 16, 2013, Dennis said: "I took one of those [birth] breathing classes. I contended at the time I was the only person who took that class and failed. I read books. I can't tell you how boring I found it. Also, who lives by it? You have all these medical personnel around. What is this lay person going to tell his wife on breathing? For much of history, the guy waited outside the room and someone announced, 'It's a boy or girl' and the guy bought cigars and everyone went home."

"I was there at his birth and I didn't think it was a big deal."

"My father never saw me born. It didn't affect me. He was at the hospital."

Max Prager wrote in chapter 36:
On January 31, 1983, we were blessed with another grandchild, David, born to Dennis and Janice. Of course, we were delighted to travel to LA to participate in this great simcha (happy occasion) and bris (circumcision). I was honored to be the sandik (the person holding the child in his lap during the circumcision). I was extremely happy to have my brother Murry and Gert present at this enjoyable event in our lives.
Said Dennis in a 1995 lecture on Exodus 5:
I grew up Orthodox where it was taken for granted that every Jew who died in the Middle Ages because he wouldn’t convert to Christianity was a martyr sanctifying G-d’s name. And they were. I accept that totally.

When I had my first child, I saw them differently. As a single young man, martyrdom was clearly the option to take. If somebody said to me today, accept X or we will kill your family, I don’t know what I’d do.

Said Dennis in a 1992 lecture on Genesis 16-17: “When my son [David] was circumcised, I cried more than I ever recall crying from the deepest sense of meaning and joy. To know that I was doing what Jews have done for over 3,000 years… I was privy to circumcisions done in Russia in secret. My son’s circumcision was the most bonding thing I’ve done to the Jewish people. Nothing was as primal, as gut-wrenching emotion as that moment. I passionate believe in it.”

Said Dennis in a 1993 lecture on Genesis 29, “The amount of psychological garbage people bring to marriage. The choice is frequently not made even consciously, but subconsciously, things worked out from one’s upbringing, I am almost tempted to pass a law that you can not have a child in your first marriage for five years. Ideally, people will all start with their second marriage because so much nonsense is worked out with the first one.”

Janice co-authored the children’s book, Why Be Different: A Look Into Judaism.

According to her author bio: "Janice Prager -- nurse, writer, human rights activist, wife and mother -- had a chance to combine all her skills in Pakistan, where she worked among wounded and homeless refugees of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan."

In the Winter 1986 issue of Ultimate Issues, Janice wrote about her efforts on behalf of Afghans. "Though I am a Jew who has spent her life learning the lessons of the Holocaust, I came to realize that empathy with others' suffering is not automatic, even for Jews."

In August 1986, Dennis and Janice divorced after five years of marriage.

There's a cottage industry of people attacking Dennis Prager personally. Those who hate him look for his weaknesses and they often think they've found them in his two divorces.

“Of course I am committed to it [sexual fidelity],” said Prager Dec. 9, 2009. “How could I do this show if I weren’t?”

May 23, 2012, Dennis said: "If I hear that a spouse had an affair, unless I know that this is a person who is simply a serial adulterer, I don't make any judgment. I don't know. From the few people I know personally who've had affairs, I do not know one who wanted to have it."

Oct. 11, 2010, Dennis told a caller named Sam: “I don’t judge people by their thoughts. I judge people by their actions. If a person has the most racist thoughts on earth, but acts beautifully towards people of every race that person is not a racist. In your view, that person is a racist.”

Sam: “That person is inhuman because it is impossible…”

Dennis: “No. You’re wrong. That is not true. Then it is inhuman for every man to stay faithful because every man wants to have an extra-marital affair.”

Sam: “Do you want to have extra-marital affairs? I don’t.”

Dennis: “Yes. You don’t? Then you are lying to me and you are lying to yourself. You are the only man I’ve met who has actually said that with a straight face.

“You have no desire for any woman then your wife?”

Sam: “I do not.”

Dennis: “OK. You are amazing. Then you are a phenomenon.”

“Sam represented something that I have noted since graduate school — a profound amount of fooling oneself because of unpleasant reality.”

“Sam’s call will be the subject of a male-female hour. I’m going to play it. Men who lie about their own nature to themselves and why would they do that. One huge thing that gay and heterosexual men have in common is a desire for variety and immediate stimulation through the visual. For a man to deny that he has any desire for another woman sexually is to lie to himself in a way that frightens me.”

“Obviously it is a statement about my wife that I can be so open about this on the radio and have zero thought about how would she react.”

“I knew as a bachelor in my twenties that I couldn’t live with someone from whom I had to hide my nature. And that’s what he has to do apparently. It shook me up. Truth is the most important value.”

Said Dennis Oct. 12, 2011: “That’s like saying you have no desire for any other kind of food. I like steak, I have no desire for pasta, pizza, lamb chops…”

In a (2008?) lecture on Deut. 23:19, Dennis said about his first divorce:

It’s a dramatic moment, even if all the civil stuff has been worked out.

Divorce is a Mitzva is a great book. [Rabbi Perry Netter] says that the beauty of Jewish ritual is that God is with you when you marry and He’s with you when you divorce.

We were at the Bet Din of Los Angeles. I arrived before my soon-to-be ex-wife. He starts talking to me. The man is an older man with a long grey beard from Poland. Classic Orthodox Jew rabbi [Shmuel Katz].

I come in and he says, ‘Dennis Prager! I love your show!’

I felt like I had entered the Twilight Zone. I could not believe the guy knew me from Adam let alone listen to the radio. He looked like a guy who didn’t even own a radio.

We make small talk. I said, ‘Rabbi, it must be difficult for you a traditional Orthodox rabbi to be the head of the Beit Din in Southern California. That must be really tough for you with all of these divorces.’

Then the man blew my mind. He said, ‘Mr. Prager, that’s not the case at all. There were a lot of marriage in the old country that should have ended in divorce and didn’t.’

To come out of this face behind a big grey beard, I was astonished, but that man spoke from the depths of Orthodoxy in a very Jewish manner. He knew many miserable couples in the old country because there was so much stigma.

As life would have it, he was the rabbi on this particular Religion on the Line [in 1988]… I pick the topic, what is your religion’s attitude to divorce? All three clergy, including him, said the same thing. People divorce too easily.

In round two, I asked, do you know anybody very well who divorced? The rabbi said his parents divorced. It was important that they do so.”

None of the clergy (including Father Gregory Coiro, whose parents divorced) knew anybody well who had divorced easily.
I don’t know anybody who divorced for trivia. Did Prince [Charles] divorce because he found a prettier woman? Or because the idiot royalty rules said he had to marry a virgin? Instead of marrying a partner in life who happened not to be a virgin. So everybody’s life got screwed up. And the royalty looked ridiculous. Nobody would now argue that the woman he is now married to [Camilla] is prettier than Diana. But that was his partner. That’s who he should have married.

We tend to overstate the effects of divorce on children over the long term. If the two parents don’t belittle each other…

On Adam Carolla's podcast Jan. 24, 2012, Dennis Prager says: "One of my most embarrassing stories which might explain why that marriage didn't last as long as it should have.

"A previous wife [Janice?] came home one day. She looked in pain. She had severe cuts and bruises on her arm. I asked, what happened?

"She said, I was walking in a parking lot and there was a window open and I was bit by a dog. And I said, 'Bitten.'"

"I can't stand bad grammar. We all have our thing." 


A 2007 article noted, "Monogamy guarantees that every man can find a wife. True, less desirable men can marry only less desirable women, but that's much better than not marrying anyone at all.

"Men in monogamous societies imagine they would be better off under polygyny. What they don't realize is that, for most men who are not extremely desirable, polygyny means no wife at all, or, if they are lucky, a wife who is much less desirable than one they could get under monogamy." 

Aug. 19, 2010, Dennis said:

I had just entered my teens when Dr. No came out. And I vowed to attend every one in part because of the women. Whoever had the job of selecting the women for James Bond films, if you believe in karma, this person had to be a saint in a previous life.

One element of James Bond’s success is that you always know that good will triumph over the evil.

Second. Good guys are not usually having fun and he does. The good guy is rewarded in this world — look at those women, outfits, cars.
August 20, 2010, author Sinclair McKay said: “You wonder how sustainable a life that is? You’d worry if a friend of yours lived a life like that.”

Dennis: “Why not fantasize that?”

Sinclair: “The nature of the fantasy has changed over the years to the more austere Daniel Craig version we see today. He’s almost monogamous.”

Dennis groans. “I have to be monogamous. I don’t want James Bond to have to be.”

“I didn’t go to the [James Bond] film to watch monogamy.” 

March 22, 2013, Dennis said: "I'm a big believer in and practitioner of monogamy, but there a lot of sins in marriage that could be worse [than adultery]. I'd rather live with someone who had a brief affair than somebody who mistreated me every day and stayed faithful. Whenever I hear of somebody decent who had an affair, I also want to know what if anything precipitated it... Decent people who have an affair, it's usually a symptom of something going on."

Dec. 18, 2013, Dennis said: "Married people should not flirt. My wife and I are so open [about what we think], there's no elephant in the room because I can be so honest with her. As liberal as I am with thought, that is how strict I am on behavior."

"My wife knows, we're driving along, and it will blow her mind that I will notice a woman in a short skirt two blocks away, and I don't mean little blocks. Or a woman is walking a dog and my wife will notice the dog and I'll notice the woman."

In a 1992 lecture on Genesis 2, Dennis said: “Watching my child grow up, I kept saying to my wife, ‘He’s still in the Garden of Eden.’ …The innocence overwhelmingly is a sexual innocence. It still amazes me that my son will run to the baseball magazine section at a newsstand because he’s not going to run to that section in a couple of years. There will be another section that he will gravitate to first. So long as he’s still running over with lust to Topp’s Baseball Weekly, I’ll know he’s not fully left the Garden of Eden, though I get some reports he’s moving in the other direction… I don’t want him to forever gravitate to the baseball magazine section. I’d be worried. On the other hand, I don’t want him to be a lecher.”

Steve Sailer wrote in 2005:
[R]espectable publications have started to discuss a major reason why the AIDS rate is so high in black Africa: the tendency of women to have "multiple concurrent relationships."

I speculate that, at least in the western half of Eurasia, Europe and Africa, there is a "cline" running from, say, Finland in the north to sub-Saharan Africa in the south, of decreasing personal tendency toward monogamousness.

The mechanism, I would guess, is shyness. Finns are painfully shy, so chasing women is hard work. Once you've got one, you do what it takes to keep her happy so you don't have to go through the agony of meeting another woman.

The farther south you go, the more forward men become. 

South of the Sahara, men tend to be extremely outgoing, and talented in the arts of seduction (chatting up girls, dancing, singing, and so forth).

This is one of the reasons it's likely that Islamic fundamentalism will become even more popular in the slums of Europe. Its strictures can serve to prevent moral collapse in a welfare state. When American states followed the Scandinavian lead and boosted AFDC payments to single mothers in the early 1960s, the moral collapse of poor blacks was almost instantaneous. Crime, illegitimacy, and drug use shot upwards as many black men reverted to their forefathers' family structures and started to live off their women.

Very roughly speaking, the farther north a people originated, the slower the welfare state works its moral rot.


Dennis: “I had religious relatives who did not sleep in the same room together for the last 20 years of their lives. They hated each other. That’s a marriage that was saved. They never divorced. And they didn’t divorce because it would’ve been a shanda in the Orthodox community in which they lived. They couldn’t show their face at shul if they divorced. So the children grew up with parents who hated each other and that took a terrible toll on those children.” (March 24, 2008)

Dec. 2, 2009, Dennis Prager said: “Conservatives read divorce statistics as an immediate indictment of the morality of a society. I see it more as tragedy than as evil. I don’t have this image that people just divorce at the drop of a hat. Maybe they exist. I never met them. Everybody I know who divorced divorced after hell, after years of therapy, of trying and hell, including me.”

Prager CD: “The week my marriage broke up [8/86], I was fired from my daily radio job, I had no money to speak of and was living at my friend’s [director Jerry Zucker] house because I could not afford an apartment.” 

After the divorce, an arrangement was made between the Pragers and the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC). Janice was hired as a fundraiser and Dennis agreed to speak regularly for the center. This helped him with the alimony and it gave them a speaker who attracted people to attend co-sponsored events at places such as the Stephen S. Wise temple.

Janice kept her last name of Prager. She dressed provocatively in her new role, much to the delight of the YULA boys next door. She particularly favored skintight pants that left little to the imagination.

Rabbi Meyer May had Sidney Green groom Janice and the bimbo squad. They’d dress sexy and go to parties and hook in male donors. They had a list to contact. The number one girl at this task was Janice. She would go to Palm Springs or wherever there was money to be raised. She got a paid membership at a pricey workout place thanks to the SWC.

Janice loved to tell spicy stories about the men she met. Janice said that prior to her marriage, she worked as a nurse in a fertility facility where her job was to distribute erotic magazines to the male patients and then collect the semen.

On May 13, 1987, Janice Prager sued Dennis Prager (Case Number: D191749).

Until David Prager graduated high school in 2001, Janice, Dennis and his second wife Fran could be seen chatting together at Shalhevet events.

Around 1998, Janice married for the third, and presumably, final time. 


In 1986, Dennis entered therapy for almost a year with the late psychiatrist Samuel Eisenstein. During his few intense sessions, Dennis at one point doubled up with pain. Another time, when he related a traumatic story from his childhood, Dr. Eisenstein replied that he doubted the story happened the way Prager described it. Dennis wanted to punch him. (Related by Prager at a Sabbath morning sermon he gave at Stephen S. Wise Temple in the Spring of 1998.)

Dr. Eisenstein published this letter in the Oct – Dec, 1990 edition of Ultimate Issues:

I read with great interest the article, “Judaism, Homosexuality and Civilization.” I was very impressed by the Jewish aspect of your work and also the way you dealt with the psychological problem. You managed to convey clearly where the issue stands at present. Of course, there will be psychiatrists who will disagree with you, but this usually doesn’t seem to bother you.
"Most people do [need therapy]," said Dennis July 12, 2013. "That included me. Very early on in my life, I wanted to figure out things that plagued me. It was brief but very powerful. The man I went to was a giant. I thought I was in the room with Freud. He had a German accent. He had a German-Jewish name. He was much older than me. All he needed was a cigar."

On Dec. 24, 2010, Dennis said: “When my first marriage had ended [in 1986], I wanted to really try to insure I would never divorce again and that I would marry right so I went for counseling on these matters with the woman that I was dating, and [psychiatrist Stephen S. Marmer] was recommended, and after the session, I said to the woman, ‘I want this man as a friend, to hell with the therapy.’ At the same time, he was thinking, ‘I would really like to be friends with him.’

“And so that is what happened. The three of us, Dr. Marmer, Allen Estrin and our spouses have gotten together virtually every Sabbath for the past 20-something years. After synagogue, we get together. It is an anchor of happiness in my life.”

On Dec. 4, 2013, Dennis reacted with scorn to Deborah Solomon's biography of Norman Rockwell which alleged the illustrator might've been gay: "This is under the title of why I don't love the left. Norman Rockwell is one of my favorite artists. He painted the America I dream about, and which I think existed in large measure. We have produced the best society that humans make."

"I would've had the author on if she didn't do this."

"May I hereby announce that I Dennis Prager [also] have an intense need for emotional and physical closeness with men. It's not hidden... If I can't hug and be close to my male friends, I feel bereft and impoverished in my emotional life. And 'that his marriages might've been a strategy to control his homo-erotic desires'? Is that unbelievable? That I can't announce for myself. I am unaware of any homo-erotic desires in me but that's only because I'm probably not liberated enough. This is what I mean by the left damages whatever it touches... The sheer chutzpah. But she says, 'Of course I never suggested he was gay.' OK."

In the Summer 1987 edition of Ultimate Issues, Prager wrote that his four year-old son David, in the six months during which his parents separated, became obsessed with making and shooting toy guns. David asked his dad if there were “bad monsters.” Dennis said yes. David proceeded to kill them.

After six months, David said he did not have to kill any more bad monsters and showed no further interest in guns and shooting.

Said Dennis in a 2001 lecture on Numbers 22, 23:
I’ll give you the worst story. It’s now a family joke. I have rarely lost my temper at my kids. I don’t have much of a temper, or I control it well. But there was one time that I can recall when I did lose my temper with my older boy. He’s not one that provoked me much. He’s a very easy child. He was about four years old. It was about 3 a.m. and he wouldn’t go to bed. He kept coming in. When you lose sleep, you really lose control. I threw him into his bed. And he said to me, ‘Daddy, I’m not a baseball.’

I just lost control. I lay next to him. I stayed the whole night with him. He has no recollection of this.

“I raised my kids in Los Angeles,” said Dennis. “I remember when my older son had LA Laker pictures up in his room. One day I said to him, ‘David, what do you want to be when you grow up?’ He said, ‘Black’. I knew it was a good day in America.” (April 21, 2010)


Mar. 23, 2012, Dennis said: "Through age 40 [1988], I made about $65,000 a year. I had a [radio] salary of $35,000 a year and I supplemented it with lectures."On an April 3, 2023 Youtube video with 23-year-old Harvard graduate Julie Hartman, Dennis said: "I lost a very significant amount of money by being conservative. My [primary] mode of income until the age of 40 [1988] was speaking in the Jewish community in America. I was the third most booked speaker. When I became a well-known conservative, it all dried up. My entire income outside of a very tiny income from local radio. I lost money saying what I believed."

The Myth Of Heterosexual AIDS

In the November 1987 issue of Commentary magazine, Michael Fumento published an essay entitled, “The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS.”

Dennis Prager immediately took up the topic on his radio show. “I almost got fired because it was such a sensitive issue,” Dennis recalled Dec. 9, 2010.

Circa 1998, Dennis interviewed a city manager in Southern California where all city employees had to agree to not smoke. That way the city could reduce their health insurance bills. Aghast, Dennis asked the manager if all employees had to agree to avoid anal sex as that could transmit deadly disease. The manager said no. Prager later said he regretted his question.


During 1986, Prager began assembling material for his third book – Why Don’t All Good People Hate Communism? But instead of doing a book on evil, he ended up writing one on happiness.

Prior to 1986, when Dennis was asked about happiness, he said it was a selfish pursuit. “People would ask me to speak on happiness and I would say no. Did I want to write a book on happiness? I would say no. And I would say why. I believed that the only people who got happier from lectures on happiness and books on happiness were the lecturers and the authors as they cashed their checks.

“I had the same view of happiness as I’m sure you do that it is nice to be happy but it is not a moral goal… I regarded it as a selfish request.” (YICC lecture, June 13, 2010)

Shlomo Schwartz, the rabbi of the UCLA Chabad, called Dennis in 1986 to arrange for him to lecture to students at his Lubavitch synagogue on Gailey Ave.

“I assume you want me to speak on religion,” Dennis said.

“Oh no,” said Rabbi Schwartz, best known as ‘Schwartzie.’ “No one will show up if you do. I would like you to speak on a light subject.”

“Like what?”

“Like happiness.”

“But happiness isn’t a light subject,” said Dennis. “Happiness is a serious problem.”

“That’s a great title,” said Schwartzie. (From Prager’s lecture on happiness to the UCLA Chabad)

On June 13, 2010, at YICC, Dennis Prager said
So I gave a talk to UCLA Jewish students… I don’t know how many showed up. It was not standing room only. I brought my recorder. I was sure I would never give another talk on happiness. I record all my talks. It’s a good thing because I am misquoted often and then I have proof whether I am misquoted or not. For 30 years, I have been sending out my lectures to people who subscribe to my lectures. I take the best of the month and I send them out. I figured, if this is good, I’ll send this one out. It’s so different from everything else I was talking about at the time — God’s existence, good and evil…

Not only did I like it, I did something that I had never done before and haven’t done since — I listened to my own talk through when I got home. I don’t like hearing me any more than you like hearing you.

Not only did I listen to it, but I kept going, ‘Yeah, good point.’ I was listening to somebody else tell me things about happiness.

I made it available to the subscribers and never thought about it again.

A half year later, I receive a call. ‘Dennis Prager, boy have I been hunting you down. This is so-and-so from Redbook magazine in New York… I heard your lecture on happiness… I never heard of you in my life. I heard it on the radio here in New York.

I said, ‘You heard my lecture on happiness on the radio in New York?’

It turns out at the time this Jewish run station WEVD, basically a bunch of ganafim, a bunch of crooks, they did something for which they could lose their license. They played an entire lecture with no permission, forget no fee. Believe me, I would’ve given them permission. I would’ve paid them to do it. But it was totally illegal. Absolutely illegal. Thanks to these crooks, my life has changed and I have changed thousands of lives.”

She said, ‘I sat in my car in front of my brownstone on the East Side till it was finished to find out who it was. Would you like to write an article for Redbook?’

I said, on what? I had no idea.

She said, on happiness. Is $3,000 OK?

You have to understand, it’s an immense amount today for an article. When I would write for Commentary [magazine], do you know what I would receive? Six copies of that issue to give to friends and relatives.

My reaction was — I was right. The only people who get happy from happiness lectures and from happiness books are the authors as they cash their checks. This was more than I made from all of my article writing put together.

Had the woman had said, $11.62, I would’ve said fine.

I wrote the article and it was published in Redbook.

Then I got a call from Reader’s Digest. Can we abridge your article and put it in our international editions? I thought, that’s really exciting. Me in Estonian! I said go ahead.

Then I got a call from Random House. We’d like you to write a book. These are great ideas.

People meantime are reacting to the lecture more than any other lecture I ever gave.

I thought, maybe I do have something to say here. I’ll test it out.

I decided to give an eight-session course on happiness at the University of Judaism. Do I have eight 90-minute statements to make? I did. I still wasn’t sure I had a book. So I gave a 16-session course on happiness. That’s 24 hours. If I can speak for 24 hours no baloney no fat on happiness, I convinced myself I had a book.

I said yes to Random House. Five years later, I didn’t have a book. I gave them all their money back, which was painful, because, needless to say, it was spent. Then Harper Collins asked again and it was published [in 1998] with Harper Collins.

Prager’s UCLA lecture tape on happiness became his best seller.

In the jacket of these tapes, Prager predicted a publication date of 1990 for his book. He was off by seven years. Writing Happiness Is A Serious Problem became a serious problem.

Dennis said: “We would have great art if people were happy but we wouldn’t have genocide if people were happy, we wouldn’t have lynchings if people were happy, we wouldn’t have anti-Semitism if people were happy. Happy people don’t walk around hating groups.”

“We Jews are more influenced by secular society than we influence secular society. It’s my single greatest lament about Jewish life. We don’t give out our values. We don’t even know which ones to give.”

On Jan. 29, 1999, Dennis Prager did his first dedicated happiness hour on his radio show. It became a weekly occurrence in the second hour of every Friday show. He even did it on the Friday following 9/11.

Said Dennis Jul. 29, 2011: “A general-themed [radio] show does not exist. This is the only one I know of… The breadth of subjects committed to is broader than other shows. I took a gamble when I did it.”

Mar. 28, 2013, Dennis said: "I comport with the conservative love of non-turbulence. I am not bored by my society enjoying itself, by my society continuing with obvious fixes where things are broken, but I don't want turbulence. In private life, every one of you knows a drama queen, people who thrive on emotional turbulence. The left thrives on social turbulence. It comports with every poll done -- people on the left are less happy than people on the right. When you are not happy, you think the world around you is awry and you thrive on turbulence. This feeds the left-wing love of change and drama and radical transformation because what exists now doesn't make them happy."

The Moral Bank Account

Dennis Prager rarely gets rattled in public. One of the foundations of his thinking is that each person has a moral bank account and he believes that his balance is formidable.

He wrote March 22, 2005: “Now, of course, some people make so many withdrawals — Hitler, for example — that no imaginable good act they can do will seriously change the balance from extremely negative to positive. But most people need to be assessed based on this bank account analogy. I first came up with this idea when Clarence Thomas was accused by Anita Hill and the Democratic Party of sexual harassment. Needless to say, no one knew for sure which party was telling the truth. But I made the argument on my radio show that given all the good Thomas had done, given the absence of indications of him ever acting indecently toward women employees, his moral bank account was, to the best our knowledge, quite in the black. Whether or not he said the words 'pubic hair' in a conversation with Anita Hill 10 years earlier was of absolutely no concern to me in assessing his moral character — i.e., the balance in his moral bank account.”

Dennis described the Clarence Thomas hearings as one of the five events that most influenced him. (Jul. 14, 2011) It also led to his friendship with Clarence Thomas

Fatwah Against Salman Rushdie

The death threat against the novelist was a big deal said Dennis Prager in early 1989. He wrote in the Jan-Mar 1989 edition of Ultimate Issues:

Few Muslim leaders have actually condemned Khomeini, and I know of none who have declared a would-be killer of Salman Rushdie a murderer.

...[E]ither there are relatively few Muslim believers, or they are numerous but very afraid of antagonizing their more vicious co-religionists. Neither scenario is comforting to the rest of us.
Central Park Five

From Wikipedia: "The Central Park jogger case involved the assault and rape of Trisha Meili, a female jogger in New York City's Central Park, on April 19, 1989. Five juvenile males—four black and one Hispanic—were tried and convicted for the crime and served their sentences fully. The convictions were vacated in 2002 when Matias Reyes, a convicted rapist and murderer serving a life sentence for other crimes, confessed to committing the crime alone and DNA evidence confirmed his involvement in the rape." 

After the young men were arrested, Dennis Prager blasted them for weeks on his radio show and in his speeches, calling them "rapists" and "torturers." When their convictions were vacated in 2002, Dennis Prager gave it scant attention, and his on-air statements convicting people accused but not tried for murder did not diminish.

On Friday morning, Sept. 29, 2013, when little was publicly known about a stabbing death in San Francisco of a Dodger fan two days earlier, Dennis Prager said on his nationally syndicated radio show: “This is why I believe in capital punishment. They caught the guy already, a 21-year old, he stabbed a man to death he got into an argument with because the guy wore Dodger paraphernalia. I believe he should be executed. These are the things that trigger my passion for capital punishment. It makes me sick.”

The suspect was released from jail that night for lack of evidence.

On June 26, 2007, Dennis Prager wrote:
The rape of a name can be as vicious a crime and as destructive an act as the rape of a body. Sometimes the rape of a body is worse, sometimes the rape of a name is worse. But they are both rapes. And morally likening the two is in no way meant to lessen the horror of rape; it is meant only to heighten awareness of the horror of intentionally destroying the name of an innocent person.

What do we have in life, after all, that is more valuable than our name and reputation? What do good people work hardest at maintaining, if not their good name? 

Judaism, Homosexuality and Civilization

In the fall of 1989, Dennis Prager began speaking in depth on his radio show about homosexuality and he devoted the entire April-June 1990 edition (about 10,000 words) of Ultimate Issues to “Judaism, Homosexuality and Civilization.”
To a world which divided human sexuality between penetrator and penetrated, Judaism said, “You are wrong — sexuality is to be divided between male and female.” To a world which saw women as baby producers unworthy of romantic and sexual attention, Judaism said, “You are wrong — women must be the sole focus of men’s erotic love.” To a world which said that sensual feelings and physical beauty were life’s supreme values, Judaism said, “You are wrong — ethics and holiness are the supreme values.”
Marcus called Dennis's show Dec. 16, 2013: "By just saying this is a war fighting the redefinition of marriage, you're losing the battle for marriage because really what you should be talking about is the real truth of the matter -- that it is an immoral, depraved and physically and mentally unhealthy relationship, especially between two men."

Dennis: "I think language like that only alienates all the people we need to win over and it is unfair to people who have it. I have sympathy and tolerance of the homosexual individual but I am opposed to same-sex marriage, but to call what they all do 'depraved'. I understand the Bible calls the male homosexual act an 'abomination.' I am a believer in the Bible. I juggle that but I don't think it is language we need to use. I don't know what it gains."

Jews Must Seek Converts

In 1990, Dennis Prager wrote that Jews should seek converts among non-Jews who are not active in a religion.
Reason Two: The More Jews The Better

We lost one out of every three Jews during the Holocaust. Today we continue to lose about the same percentage to assimilation. Obviously, we are in terrible need of more Jews. With more Jews every Jewish problem comes closer to solution.

More Jews means far more Jewish resources — more Jewish schools, more Jewish institutions of all types, more resources to resettle Jews, to help poor Jews, to fight anti-Semitism and to build Israel. Conversely, the fewer Jews there are, the more impotent and irrelevant to the world Jews become. With small numbers, Jews will become little more than a religious sect — much better known, but not much more influential — than the Amish. While large numbers do not ensure great influence, nations surely do not increase their influence while their already small numbers dwindle.

And, of course, more Jews means more Jewish security. Small groups invite big bullies. If Jewish numbers are great enough, antisemites will think twice before attacking Jews. That is why Arab countries that want to see Israel disappear fear Jewish immigration to Israel more than they fear any weapons given to Israel.

There are only two ways of increasing our numbers -- through a very high birth rate and by gaining converts.

The first method, however, is not working. Many of the Orthodox (especially the kharedim, the ultra-Orthodox) are reproducing in very high numbers, but that will not even make a dent on the overall demographic problem. Given the low birth rate among other Jews, and given the high rate of Jewish assimilation, the surging Orthodox birth rate will only mean that the ultra-Orthodox will constitute a significantly higher percentage of Jews.
On November 27, 2009, Dennis said: “A few years ago I had an idea — bring a Christian home for a Shabbat dinner. It ran into the following problem — Jews who had Christian friends didn’t have a Shabbat dinner. And Jews who make Shabbat dinner didn’t have Christian friends.”

The Arab Threat

In the Jul-Sept 1990 edition of Ultimate Issues, in the aftermath of Iraq's conquest of Kuwait, Dennis wrote an essay entitled, "And now...the Arab Threat."
The parallels between Saddam Hussein and Adolf Hitler are as true as they are often made...

Saddam's invasion of Kuwait is the test of the post Cold War era just as Italy's invasion of Ethiopia and Hitler's of Czechoslovakia were the tests of the pre-World War II era...

Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, like the invasions of the 1930s, will determine our future.

Given that the average Iraqi IQ is 87 and the average German IQ is 102 (and was probably higher before WWII when it had millions of Jews), it is impossible for Iraq and its ilk to pose a threat to the world in anything like the way Germany did in 1938.

Iraqis and Iranians (only in the last 30 years have a majority of their populations become literate) have lower average IQs than Mexicans and who worries about Mexico posing an existential threat to anyone? The Soviet Union developed a nuclear weapon just four years after America, while Iran (which last started a war in the 18th century) began its nuclear program in the 1950s and has yet to produce a bomb. Perhaps it has something to do with Russia's average IQ being 13 points higher than Iran's? As Steve Sailer wrote, "Muslims, for all their obnoxiousness, are simply too incompetent to be an existential threat to America."

Dec. 18, 2013, Dennis said, "You can't write on a more important subject in international affairs today than Iran."

Iran in 2014 has the world's 32nd largest GNP and the 31st biggest military budget and it has no nuclear weapons. What about China? Perhaps it is a more important topic than Iran as China has an average IQ of 100, the world's biggest population, second biggest economy and second biggest military.

Physicist Gregory Cochran  said in a Sept. 9, 2007 interview:

I think that most people writing about international politics don't have much useable history. They keep making the same two analogies (everything is either Munich or Vietnam)...

I also think that they have zero quantitative knowledge. Comparisons of Saddam's Iraq and Hitler's Germany used to bug me, since Germany had the second largest economy in the world and was a real contender, while Iraq had the fortieth largest GNP and didn't have a pot to piss in.

...In the same way, people who equate the dangers of jihadism with that of Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union really don't know big from small, don't know anything about the roots of national power.

In Vol. 9, No. 2 of Ultimate Issues in 1993, Dennis wrote: "To divide people by pigmentation, genitals and money is wrong. We should divide people only by good and bad. There are good Jews and bad Jews, good blacks and bad blacks, good Arabs and bad Arabs. If we see everything as Muslim/Jewish, or as black/white, or as male/female, we subvert what we Jews have worked for during 3200 years since Mount Sinai."

Such divisions may be wrong in Prager's view, but they are a fact of life. For instance, there's long been a separation between male and female in lavatories, sports, and religion. As for race, ethnicity and social class, Steve Sailer wrote:

- A racial group is a partly inbred extended biological family.

- An ethnic groups is defined by shared traits that are often passed down within biological families -- e.g., language, surname, religion, cuisine, accent, self-identification, historical or mythological heroes, musical styles, etc. -- but that don't have to be. (Thus, you can be adopted into an ethnic group, but not into a racial group.)

- A class is a group of potential in-laws, people who might turn out to be ancestors of mutual descendents. Contra Marx, one's class is less a function of one's segment in the economic market than of the marriage market.

In other words, from a genealogical perspective, a class is the mirror image of a race, looking forward into the future of your family tree rather than backward into the past.

Conservatives such as Dennis Prager err when they claim that the leftist trinity of sex, race and class has no significance. Sex, race and class may matter considerably depending on the situation.

Second Marriage

In September 1986, a month after he separated from Janice, “I was looking for an apartment, and I couldn’t find the landlord. I knocked on the first door in the apartment building to find out where the landlord was, and she opened the door. And I didn’t let her close it. And she let me in after 20 minutes – a stranger. But that’s the trust that was there so readily.”

“The dog who hated men jumped on my lap. This was a good sign.” (Jan. 2002 lecture)

Dennis had met the tall, blonde and beautiful actress Francine Stone, born a year before Dennis in 1947. (Los Angeles Times, 2/4/98). Within minutes Dennis knew that he wanted to marry her.

“He kept asking me questions,” she remembered.

They exchanged phone numbers that each then lost. A few days later, Dennis drove by and left a note on Fran’s door. She called him and they began dating.

Fran was initially disappointed that Dennis worked in the entertainment industry, a business that the actress (mainly TV commercials) had tired of. Raised Lutheran, Fran had married once before (to a secular Jew). They had a girl Anya (b. 1977) together, then divorced.

Prager had joint custody of David with his ex-wife Janice.

Helped by Aish HaTorah Rabbi Nahum Braverman, Fran converted to Orthodox Judaism. She and Dennis married September 4, 1988. They did not go on a honeymoon for several months. Dennis did his radio show the Sunday night of their wedding.

“My religion tells couples you can not leave,” said Dennis June 9, 2010. “You have to celebrate with family and friends for a week. Each night somebody else hosts the couple at a different home. We were told as kids that it’s a celebration for everybody. You don’t leave on your own. Marriage is not just about the two of you. That’s why I got so annoyed when I was a kid that religion was nonsense and that we would reinvent the wheel.”

Max Prager wrote:

In 1989, Dennis married Fran, a divorcee with a daughter Anya. Fran was born in Kansas whose parents were Lutheran. She was divorced from a Jew and, although it was possible that she converted to Judaism at the time of her first marriage, Dennis would not marry her unless she went through a year of study with an Orthodox rabbi. She consented and after a year she and Anya were converted according to Orthodox halacha (law).

The marriage ceremony was performed in the Young Israel of Century City by Rabbi Muskin, an Orthodox rabbi in Los Angeles. It was attended by many members of our family and Fran’s mother, brother and members of her family; her father had died many years ago. What amazed me was the joy and elation exhibited by her family at this very Orthodox wedding.
During the Persian Gulf War at the beginning of 1991, Fran Prager flew to Israel to volunteer at an institution for the retarded. She published excerpts of her journal in the Jan – Mar 1991 edition of Ultimate Issues:
…I have never seen so many different kinds of Jews gathered together in one enclosed place. All acting very Jewish. …Some of the black hats are also trying to change seats because they have been seated next to a female. The smokers put in the nonsmoking section are trying to make deals with the smokers in the smoking section.

A Reform Temple 

Through 1991, the Pragers belonged to the Orthodox synagogue Young Israel of Century City (YICC) located at Pico Blvd and Rexford St (presided over by Rabbi Elazar Muskin). They played in the shul’s softball league.

A Jewish doctor remembers how Prager helped him. In 1989, he phoned Dennis for advice on shepherding his kids through a divorce. Dennis invited the man to his office and gave him 90 minutes of his time. The doctor never forgot the good deed. Dennis told him about the type of woman he’d eventually marry and it turned out that Prager was right.

Largely under the influence of Prager, the doctor became an Orthodox Jew. 
Bored with prayer, Prager would wander in to YICC Saturday mornings near the end of the service. At 6’4, it was hard for him to be inconspicuous.
In his sermons on politics, Rabbi Muskin would frequently say, “I’m sure Mr. Prager would agree…”

Prager rarely prayed in a minyan (Jewish prayer quorum) during the week.

In 1991, Prager spent one Sabbath at the University of Judaism where he gave a speech. On Saturday morning, he walked up the hill to the “Mountain Top Minyan” (led by Rabbi Mordecai Finley) at the Reform synagogue Stephen S. Wise.

Prager fell in love with the minyan’s singing and use of musical instruments (prohibited by Orthodox Jewish law on the Sabbath and other holy days). He began driving there most Shabbos mornings, a public desecration of the holiness of the Sabbath according to traditional Jewish standards. For ten years previous, Prager would not drive on Shabbat.

I want to sing in synagogue. I am overcome with religious feeling when the entire congregation sings. A cantor who makes me sing makes me love going to shul. (Ultimate Issues, Spring 1985, pg. 12)
In an Oct. 31, 1989 lecture on Maimonides, Prager said:
God doesn’t need your prayer whatsoever. What? God sits up there and says, ‘Oh wow, what a wonderful day. Harry Ginzberg has prayed to me and called me great. Now I feel much better because Harry thinks I’m great.’

If you think that you don’t need to pray, I ask you to consider on the rare occasions that you have gone to an organized prayer service in your religion, how have you felt afterwards? Identical to the way you felt before you went? I doubt it.

I am bored by most of the services. Yet I go every Saturday morning, without exception. I go 99% out of obligation and 1% out of desire. But every single Saturday walking home from synagogue, I am very happy that I went.

And most of the time, I don’t pray as is notoriously known already. I read books on Judaism in my synagogue… And it is in good Jewish tradition to do that. I was raised in an ultra-Orthodox shtibl (a Hasidic little room). No cantor. No sermons. And these bearded elderly gentlemen would be sitting at tables during the prayer services studying Talmud.

Prager often gave the sermon at Stephen S. Wise and was a star attraction.

In early 1998, a non-Jewish acquaintance of mine named Richard who was a regular at the Mountaintop Minyan’s Sabbath morning service, was ejected by the temple’s security guards when he refused Dennis Prager’s request that his talks not be taped.

As Richard was led out of the room, he screamed that the minyan members were being “brainwashed” by Dennis Prager.

Dennis attracts a loyal following. In the conflict between Richard and Dennis, it was no contest. Richard never returned. 

When I asked Dennis via email in 1998 for permission to tape record and transcribe his sermons at Stephen S. Wise for publication on the internet, he said no because he needed the freedom to say things from the pulpit to his synagogue. He said security would be called and I would be escorted out of the temple if I brought a tape recorder. I never did.

Apr. 12, 2013, Dennis supported the tape recording of professors in their classrooms. "Why should they not be recorded? Everything I say is recorded. Why shouldn't everything they say in their profession be recorded? They have America's children."

"I taught at college. If someone had wanted to record what I said in class and then play it for the country? I would've been honored."

"I don't want the professor recorded outside of class."

Apr. 10, 2014, Dennis told his guest George Will: "I have been asked in virtually every one of thousands of lectures I have given over 40 years, 'Dennis, is it OK if we tape you?' I said of course. I'm not going to say to you something that I don't want others to hear and the university has now become the opposite. This notion you can't record what I say. Why not?"

Apr. 25, 2014, Dennis said: "I think every student should record their classes. This is nonsense. I taught at college. I wish kids would have recorded my lectures. What is it you want to hide professor? Especially at public universities. We pay your salary, sir. We're not recording your phone calls. We're recording what you say in public."

Oct. 3, 2013, Dennis said: "Tom Friedman of the Left. I was seated next to him on the people mover at Dulles Airport. I did not introduce who I was. I said to him, 'Would you ever go on talk radio?" He said, 'Oh no, I never do that sort of stuff.' And that week he went on NPR."

On Mar. 14, 2013, a caller asked Dennis: "You talk about belonging to a liberal temple. You don't go to an Orthodox. How do they see you? How do you feel comfortable there? Are these the same people who want same-sex marriage and don't adhere to the laws of the Torah?"

Dennis: "Yeah, it's an issue. I've been a member for 20 years. It's a part of the Reform synagogue but it has its own service. There are about 50-100 people who attend each week and most of them are conservative. It may be the only conservative Reform group. I'm grateful for this temple for allowing me to teach Torah every month. It used to be more than that but now they want their rabbis to come to this group. I just find the traditional service too long. I share the Orthodox values but not their services."

Caller: "I don't know how you can stand it. It means you can only belong to this particular synagogue. If you go anywhere else?"

Dennis: "It may be."

After moving to Stephen S. Wise, Dennis told his old friends at YICC that he’d been fooling himself for years by attending traditional prayer services. That pathway to God rarely moved him.

Many of YICC’s congregants did not accept his explanation for his move to a Reform temple. They speculated that at Orthodox synagogues, Prager is surrounded by people of superior Torah learning, while at Reform and Conservative synagogues, Prager is the star.

Aug. 31, 2012, Dennis said: "I know from my own synagogue life that it is absolutely irrelevant what you do for a living or if you even make a living. You're another member of the congregation and we help you and you help me and we enjoy each other."

Dennis Prager’s oldest son David had his bar mitzvah at the Sephardic temple in Westwood on a Sabbath morning in 1995.

In a lecture on Exodus 12, Dennis said: “Jews have led enriched lives thanks to Judaism. My son’s bar mitzvah this weekend, one of my black friends who was at the bar mitzvah, said to me, ‘Dennis, I saw you, your father, your son’s other grandfather, up there at the Torah and I said, this is what is missing from most of our community. I saw all these fathers together.’

“I’m a lucky guy to have been born a Jew.”

May 11, 2012, Dennis said: "I don't like being catered to. I like being respected, being treated decently. I don't like being catered to. It gives me the willies, when there's obsequious behavior towards me. I don't think if you're healthy, it makes you happy, to have the world walk on eggshells in your presence."

As someone who went to temple with Dennis from 1994-1998, I can testify that he was treated as one of the gang. People didn't pester him and people didn't bow down to him. That camraderie happens in almost all synagogues once you belong, pay dues, and fit in. No matter how big of a star you are on the outside, inside the shul, once people get to know you, you are part of the family. 

May 14, 2012, Dennis said: "I used to be regularly invited to [speak at] Reform synagogues...but when I came out as a Republican, all the invitations died. A Reform temple won't have a Republican speak there."

In a fall 2012 debate with Joe Klein and Avraham Burg, Dennis said: "I speak to non-Jews most of my life, through my radio and through my lecturing. Jewish life doesn't book me nearly as much as it used to because I am a conservative and for much of Jewish life in Reform and Conservative synagogues, conservative Jews are not to be invited."

Joe Klein: "Less true than five years ago, perhaps."

Dennis: "As true as five years ago."

The 1990s

“In 1992, George Green asked me if I would like to have a nightly show on KABC. I was, believe it or not, reluctant to say yes to this wonderful opportunity. I loved being home with my wife and children every day except when I went on the road lecturing; and I loved a life of writing, lecturing, and weekend radio. But I agreed, and in August, 1992, exactly ten years after doing my first Religion on the Line, I moderated my final Religion on the Line – alone with no guests. I took calls and delivered my valedictory address, telling my listeners how much Religion on the Line had meant to me (I still miss doing it). Not once in ten years – over 500 shows – did I ever not look forward to doing the show.” (Prager CD)

Prager’s harping on particular topics alienates many listeners. “I used to listen to his show, but I don’t anymore,” Abigail Van Buren (Dear Abby) told the Nov. 17, 1991 Los Angeles Times. “I got very tired of his knocking Stanford and the ACLU. I resent his using the airwaves to get back at people he doesn’t like. He’s very disparaging.”

“Dennis Prager is one of the few radio personalities whose intellect is clear,” actor Richard Dreyfuss said. “It’s his manner, his style, that I don’t like. He has this pomposity of delivery that, after a while, makes you want to reach through the radio and slap him across the face. He takes these moral positions and does not bother to explain them thoroughly. In his arguments, I want to hear the I’s dotted and T’s crossed. Because when he does put forth an explanation of something, whether I agree or not, it’s good.”

Prager’s weekend show regularly outpointed the nearest competition by two to one. His 10 to 15 share more than doubled the overall average for KABC, LA’s most popular AM station through 1992. Yet the station had trouble selling commercials. George Green said sponsors worried that their product would seem trivial in the midst of philosophical debate.

Ghost director Jerry Zucker said: “Prager is a very clear thinker. Not that you agree with all his conclusions, but he thinks in a very linear, logical way. Sometimes he’ll surprise you. You wouldn’t think of Dennis as being in favor of so-and-so, but then you realize the lines of thought are completely consistent with his beliefs.”

Zucker told the LA Times that his conceptions of good and evil were deeply influenced by Prager, and they affected the way he modified the script of Ghost to equate evil acts with eventual retribution.

The LA Times wrote in 1991:

It’s Sunday night, 15 minutes before his 7:06 air time. Dennis Prager walks into the station holding a gag mirror that laughs as it’s picked up. Laughing himself, he says he plans to use it on some callers (though he never does). He’s in a good mood tonight, not least because his eight-year-old son David, the child of his first marriage, is in tow.

Prager takes his place at the microphone, replacing restaurant critic Elmer Dills. David, who’s been watching his father work since he was four, comes in to share a Hostess cupcake he bought in the vending machine outside. He jumps on his father’s lap, and for the minute before the show begins, Prager rocks him gently. As the opening notes of Prager’s theme music can be heard through the monitor, David jumps off. They will continue to wave at each other and exchange signs of affection all through the show, whether David is in the studio or separated by the glass of the screener’s booth.

…Call after call after call, no matter what the subject, Prager’s response becomes a thread in a fabric that ultimately reveals his vision of a properly moral universe. With his grayish hair combed boyishly onto his forehead, his face reflecting the intensity with which he listens to every word, he is the portrait of sincerity; the man obviously loves his job.

…”My fondest wish,” says Prager, “is the wish of the Jewish prophets: All mankind will be one group to do what God most wants – be decent to each other.

“One of the reasons that I have a different view of the world than a lot of people is that I assume rottenness is normal. I am amazed that societies have been created that are democratic, that have abolished a lot of poverty… Miserable conduct – mass murder, rape, torture… – strikes me as part of the human species. Democracy was created; abolishing slavery was created.”

[In late 1991, Dennis launched the Micah Center for Ethical Monotheism.] The purpose of the activist educational center is to have “a place of activity” devoted to his life’s mission of spreading ethical monotheism through every available means. One of its first programs will be “Dinners in Black and White” to combat racism on a grassroots level by allowing otherwise unacquainted blacks and whites to eat in each other’s homes. Other aims are to develop ethics curricula for parochial and private schools; to defend Western culture against the “lies” propagated by multiculturalists; to battle religious extremism – as evinced by Khomeini-like Islamic fundamentalism; and to counter “secular extremism…”
On July 19, 2013, Dennis said: "Years ago, I wanted to start something called 'Dinners in Black and White' where people from different races got together and had dinner. One of the reasons that I didn't go forward with the program was that I was warned by lawyers that if something happened at one of these homes, I, the organizer, would be sued. Law has been a vehicle for the decline of our society. If somebody tripped, if somebody had food poisoning, if somebody got into an argument, I, the organizer, might've been sued into bankruptcy."

In 1992, Dennis was offered the 3-6 pm drive-time weekday slot on KABC. He turned it down because he would not broadcast on the Sabbath. Instead he took the 1-4 p.m. slot and then 12 – 3pm.

“My natural inclination is to go to bed about 3 – 4 am,” said Dennis (in a 2008 lecture on his 25 years in broadcasting).

“I loved broadcasting at night because nobody bothered you. You could talk about lima beans.”

Reflecting on Moses in his lecture on Exodus 3, Dennis said: “I can’t stand injustice. It does drive me crazy. I do have to get involved. I chase cars. Not when they have bothered me. I chase cars when they have done something bad to another car. I don’t enjoy. I enjoy music, friends, travel, family. I would love to go to the furthest reaches of wilderness half the time. There are people who love causes. I don’t. I love hedonism.”

Said Dennis in 1997 in a lecture on Exodus 21: 35: “A guy hit our dog [with a car] and sued us for a door repair.”

Ten minutes later in the lecture, Dennis said: “My mother-in-law is applauding. That’s a good sign.”

Said Dennis in a 1998 lecture on Exodus 25, “I can’t use the word ‘sin’ on my radio show. If I used it enough, I’d be fired. I would be told to go do a religious show."

Larry Elder

In 1990, Dennis Prager co-hosted an early morning TV talk show in Cleveland for a week and Larry Elder, a black attorney, came on to talk about sexual harassment in the workplace. 

July 30, 2009, Dennis said: “I’ve never pushed like I pushed to get Larry on radio. He was a lawyer who did a periodic guest appearance on a Cleveland TV show.”

“Wasn’t my co-host cute?”

Larry: “She was very attractive.”

Dennis: “I only remember three things [from that week's shows]. The dogs, the co-host was cute, and Larry Elder.”

“I learned many years ago that I should not make quick first-impressions because I’ve often found that they were either too negative or too positive. On rare occasions, I’ve gone with the first impression. I thought this guy was terrific.

“I went back to Los Angeles and I told the [KABC] station manager, George Green, ‘I found this great guy, who happens to be black and is awesome and he comes from LA… Nothing happened.”

Larry: “I sent you a tape.”

Dennis: “I invited him on the show. I said, George, you have to listen. It was one of the great hours of radio. Among the things you talked about was your lack of great adulation for black leadership in America [such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton].

“A black guy called up who liked me but couldn’t stand you. The guy said to me, Dennis, where the hell did you find this guy?

“And you immediately answered:”

Larry: “Dennis was driving down the street. He saw me at the corner of Florence and Dinker holding up a sign, ‘Will speak negatively about black leaders for food.’”

Dennis: “I laughed so hard and so uncontrollably that we had to go to a break. I’ve never lost control. That was the one time. I knew I was going to
bug George forever until you got a show.” 

For Goodness Sake

The Micah Center for Ethical Monotheism (largely funded by a $250,000 donation from James Cayne, president of Bear Stearns according to the Jan – Mar 1991 edition of Ultimate Issues) produced four videos. The first was a 24-minute training video about ethics (produced by Dennis Prager and David Zucker), For Goodness Sake, which sold for $700 and was initially narrated by O.J. Simpson. Just before its release, Simpson committed two murders and his narrator role was removed. In 2001, Prager’s website began selling the tape for $29.95.

In 1991, producer Rich Markey introduced Dennis to screenwriter Allen Estrin to write Goodness. Allen and Dennis became good friends. They wrote and created two editions of For Goodness Sake and two corporate training videos on ethics: Character: Who Needs It? and Diversity Through Character. With a running time of 20 minutes, they sold for $700 each.

Prager wrote on his website:
The first video is a series of hilarious vignettes about goodness – from why babies aren’t naturally good to what we really remember about people after they die.

The second video defines character and explains how to get it. Ed Begley, Jr. almost steals the show with his rendition of a man who only fantasizes about doing kind things. He is in a straight jacket in a rubber room.

In addition to my playing me (as I do in all the videos), the third video – on what diversity should really mean – features another talk show host, Larry Elder. Larry is black and I am white and we deal with the touchy subject of diversity in a very different way than it is normally treated.
Said Dennis in a 1996 lecture on Exodus 20:
Allen Estrin and I have produced three films for a company [Mentor Media?] headed by two Christians. The videos are on ethics. We had such a big debate on the character film. We kept couching the ideas of character on what you shouldn’t do. And they kept saying, no, you should keep telling people what you should do to be good. And we kept saying, no, if people will just desist from doing bad things, the world will be terrific. It was a classic Jewish-Christian debate.

As Hillel stated the most important principle of Judaism, that which is hateful to you, do not do to others. That is the way Jews think.

It’s a fascinating issue. Do you get a better world by telling people what they should not do or by telling people what they should do? If people refrained from doing bad things, the world would be heavenly. There would be no crime.

In 1997, when he decided he wanted to buy, Dennis had to bargain with its owner, eventually letting the guy sit in on his radio show in exchange for giving Dennis the domain name.

Prager then did not bother (for at least a year) to register the other variants of his name such as and opened in Spring of 1998. Aside from offering Dennis Prager’s materials for purchase, it contained little content.

In August of 2009, Dennis Prager said for the first time that he was happy with his website. 

Adopting A Son

In his fourth issue of Ultimate Issues in 1992, Prager wrote: “My wife, Fran, and I have each been blessed with a child from a previous marriage. But we have always wanted to have more than two children, and to have children together. By Fran’s 44th birthday, and after a number of miscarriages, however, it became evident this was not going to be.”

The Pragers adopted a white infant. “In November, 1992, Fran and I were blessed with a son, Aaron Henry Prager. This beautiful boy was born on Friday, enabling me not even to miss a night of radio! The house was now quite a lively place, with a 16-year-old [Anya], a 9-year-old [David], and a newborn.” (Prager CD)

On his Youtube show with Julie Hartman February 13, 2023, Dennis said: "We adopted a son on the day he was born. We did not know that his birth mother was a meth addict. That played a role in his life. He became addicted [early] to drugs and alcohol. He's fine. He's sober. When he was becoming sober, his biggest fear was that there was no such thing as sober fun."

Jan. 15, 2024, Dennis said: "He didn't start until 11 or 12... We hug and say I love you now so regularly and that was not part of his life as a child and I was always confused about that. I still don't know... I realized there were problems with him but I didn't know they emanated from addiction. We had to send him to a special school at a woman's home with other kids who couldn't make it at a regular school. He would act out and he wouldn't do the work. I knew it at an early age but I didn't put addiction as the problem. I had not had this in my childhood. I had not had an addict in my life. I didn't know the telltale signs. If it was ever raised, he'd say, 'Oh, I'm not using anymore.' He'd fake it... My wife would tell me, 'Addicts always lie.'"

"When I got that call [from Aaron], it was a great day in my life, when he said, 'Dad, I need help. I need to go to rehab.' I canceled everything that day. I got him a ticket to Pennsylvania where I knew a rehab thanks to my friends in Chabad. He shows up and there are two divisions, under 25 and over 25. He was 24. He pulls out a cigarette and they say there's no smoking in the under-25 division. It was beyond stupid. These people saved his life but I have such contempt for that idiocy. He said, 'I'm leaving if I can't smoke.' A Chabad rabbi who works with this rehab center told them, 'Put him in the older group. You're going to kill him over cigarettes.' They allowed him in the older group and the rest is history.

"Parents have to be tough and here is one example where I exercised it. I would fly across country to visit him. I love him. He's my son. I show up and he's seeing a therapist. And we sit at the therapist and the whole time he basically yells at me about my flaws as a father. This was the second visit. He'd done it two visits now. I said, 'Aaron, I need you to know that I am not coming back. I am not flying across the country for you to crap on me.' I got up and left and flew home. Then he stopped crapping on me.

"I never gave up on him. Giving up on him would be to show up and allow him to be bad."

"I would go to bed every night leaving my phone on in case he called me at 2 a.m."

Apr. 13, 2010, Dennis said: “I did not give my kids sound financial advice… The one kid who is out of the house seems to be very responsible financially but I don’t take any credit for it. It was a lacunae in my parenting.”

In a 2006 (?) lecture on Deut. 26, Dennis said that he worries about how his three kids will earn a living. “It’s OK to worry that your kid will have a good job. I’m a parent of three and I worry about that all the time. Allen, we’ll strike that out. I’m fully confident that my kids will have no problems.”

“I wish I had more kids,” Dennis said Oct. 22, 2009. “It was not in my hands. If it had been in my hands, I would’ve had more.”

April 2, 2010, Dennis said he expected to grow up to have one marriage and four children.

Jan. 7, 2014, Dennis made the case for having more kids. "The kids are generally healthier [in large families]. Each of them has been lively, spirited, filled with love of life, and individual."

"After a certain number of kids, it gets easier because the older kids take care of the younger kids, which is unbelievably maturing for those kids. The helicopter parent can't exist with eight kids. You can't be at eight different sporting events at the same time so they don't show up and that's better for the children. The fewer the children, the more hovering you can do."

"This [argument] well, they [the kids] don't get the individual attention, I say that's great. That's an advantage."

Therapist Mark E. Smith said: "Two people can't raise eleven people. That's insane. It's worse than alcoholism because the older ones don't get a childhood, they have to raise the younger ones and the middle ones get lost, and then by the time the younger ones come along, the parents are exhausted. Nobody gets what they need. If I hear of a family with more than five kids, I know they're insane. I know it is family full of broken empty people. It is wickedly dysfunctional."

July 16, 2013, in the aftermath of the not-guilty verdict for George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin, Dennis said: "I couldn't stand it when one of my sons wanted to wear a hoodie. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with any garb, it's the message it sends. We are what we portray ourselves. The way you dress communicates a message."

Dennis Prager stands 6’4 and his weight varies between 220 and 260 pounds. He drives a luxury car and frequently wears sandals to synagogue. He does his radio show while wearing a suit and tie, believing that it would be unfair for him to dress casually while everyone else at the radio station has to conform to a dress code.

In person, Dennis tends to be more low key and goofy than his talk show. He rarely gives his opinion, but asks questions. “I’ve always hugged guys and never felt the slightest degree of self-consciousness. I hug gay friends. I don’t have the slightest degree of self-consciousness.” (March 26, 2010)

When Dennis performs publicly, he straps on a persona where he denies how hurt he is by what is said and written about him. Dennis reads carefully  everything published about him. Personal criticisms such as that he is pompous tend to make his face fall, mutual friends have told me.

Dennis Prager’s comments are more blunt in private than in public (particularly about failings in the black and Jewish communities).

“I don’t say things on the air that I don’t say privately and vice-versa,” said Dennis Dec. 20, 2010.

Apr. 28, 2014, Dennis said: "What we say privately matters to those people and to God... I've told you about the generalizations I've made about every group when I pass a bad driver. Whatever group that human being is in, I condemn -- gender, race, nationality, religion, I have a bad word to say about everybody if they're a bad driver, including my own group. If somebody put a recorder in my car, would that mean something about me?"
I've never heard Dennis say anything bigoted (nor have people close to him reported that to me) but he's not always the happy-go-lucky gracious guy he comes across as on the radio. Prager is a tough boss. Mark Wilcox told me in 1994 about Dennis scrunching up and throwing in the trash a paper of suggestions Mark wrote on one of Prager's essay drafts.

Dec. 31, 2013, Dennis said:

I was not born thin. When I was a kid, men's clothing stores had a boys section and the boys section had a husky section and that was only section I ever knew. I was born husky. If I didn't watch what I ate my whole life, I would be the proverbial blimp. My brother is the same height as I and is 30 pounds lighter than I and he eats pints of ice cream. His wife doesn't even give him a scooper. He simply eats out of the container. He has chocolate, vanilla, strawberry. We have different metabolic rates.

I am not a stranger to resolutions vis-a-vis diet.

For all intents and purposes, I have not eaten pasta or white bread or white rice in years.

July 3, 2012, Adam Carolla said: "If you see Dennis in person, you'll realize he's edgeless. You could never cut yourself on Dennis. There's not a sharp edge to him. He's a big lovable Jewish bar of soap."

Dennis is vulnerable in a handful of areas. He's touchy about his reputation and he is quick to threaten a lawsuit. I sense my writing on him has felt like one of the two major betrayals of his life (he used to say on the radio that only one friend had ever betrayed him, then after I started blogging on him in late 1997, he started saying only two friends had ever betrayed him). He knows his two divorces reduce his credibility. 

You are what your record says you are and who you are in love and marriage is who you really are because that's where you are most vulnerable. Love and marriage expose your weaknesses. Dennis Prager's approach to life sounds awesome in his talks but in real life, it doesn't work so well.

"If you are miserably married, that's about you," said therapist Mark E. Smith Dec. 22, 2013. 
It's about who you picked  and why you picked them. It's just your turn to pay the marital piper. You are re-enacting old wounds from your family of origin. So do not make it all about my spouse had an affair, my spouse is an alcoholic, my spouse works too much, my wife won't clean the house. Your life is about you and this record of marital dysfunction, it's telling you that you need to address some things within yourself. Don't be Jerry Jones. Don't blame everyone else and miss the real problem. The real problem in your life is you and the real problem with the Dallas Cowboys is [the owner] Jerry Jones.  If you have burned through three marriages, that is truly all about you. You need to get to work on yourself immediately and you need to completely suspend yourself from all dating and you need to kick yourself off because you're dangerous... Your dysfunction is what gives you your record. 

So don't say it's bad luck and don't say you haven't found the right person. There is no right person out there for you to find that's going to heal your family of origin stuff without you doing the work. You have got to do the work and the best way to do that is to stay in the marriage you're in and roll up your sleaves and get to work. If you have an addiction that's ravaged your life, it's because there's a ravenous neediness and pain at the core of your soul and you're seeking to medicate it. You have a problem. Don't minimize it.

Smith said: "You fall in love because their brand of crazy matches your brand of crazy. You fall in love because the scars you got growing up match the brand of scars this one here is going to be dishing out in seven to ten years even if now she's all sweetie pie and sunshine. Our scars are in charge of falling in love. However we're loved by our parents, we will pick someone to love us like that. If you were brutally wounded in childhood, you're going to be brutally wounded in love. If you get rid of the first guy, don't tell yourself the second guy will be Prince Charming until you do the work to heal yourself. Shame does get better, abandonment issues not so much."

Many people who disagree with Dennis on politics find him charming in person.

Dennis likes people. If you throw a good dinner party, Dennis and his wife might be among the last people to leave.

May 9, 2014, Dennis said: "I've been hurt in life, but I've never had anybody who used my openness against me."

Mar. 29, 2012, Dennis Prager said: 

In the realm of ugly, there's a special place for what Spike Lee did. Despicable. Immoral. Vile. Ugly. That he tweeted what he thought was the address of George Zimmerman. This has been a tactic of the left... The left will attack people at their homes. Remember when the [SEIU] labor folks did this? They went to the homes of people involved in the company and demonstrated in front of them and scared the little kids the executive had. Because the left is so certain of the purity of their goodness..., we can do anything to demolish our opponents. Anyone we dislike can be hurt, destroyed. Giving addresses out of people? When has the right done this to their opponents? And Spike Lee will pay no price. Just as Al Sharpton has paid no price for his role in the Tawana Brawley hoax. The life of the prosecutor that he ruined with lies. He's never apologized and he has a job on MSNBC. Being on the left, means never having to say you're sorry.

Spike Lee doesn't apologize for sending the address.

Why would you send the address? So that their lives could be ruined. 

I've never read or met a person on the left who didn't think he was morally superior to right-wingers.

Said Dennis in a 1995 lecture on Exodus 7: “I was in an airport bathroom recently and in the stall next to me, the guy was making a lot of noises. It was very touching because after about the fourth, he says, ‘Excuse me, I’m sorry.’ And I in my stall yell back, ‘It’s a bathroom. You do not have to be sorry.’ If he had done it in line at Delta, that would be a different story. That’s what makes civilization possible.”

Oct. 7, 2010, Dennis said: “There is no joy in me describing bad things. I’m a happy-go-lucky guy. I like to think nice things about everybody.”

Jan. 31, 2012, Dennis said: "I've been wronged in my life but I've never hated anyone in my life."

Nov. 21, 2012, Dennis said: "I'm the only man I know who's never gotten drunk."

Dec. 31, 2010, Dennis said: “When you are a public figure, everything you do is scrutinized… I accept it. I try to act honorably at all times. It is doubly triply quadruply true for a public figure who speaks on moral issues because people want you to measure up. There are some who want you to fail…"

June 10, 2010, Dennis said: “The single greatest battle I have on a show is not what to say, or what’s in the news, or what if it’s a slow days, it’s not to fool around for three hours. I am the goofiest person you have ever met. It is massive self-control to be as serious as I am for these three hours, and it doesn’t always work, which drives him (producer Allen Estrin) nuts.”

Dennis cries easily (Feb. 2, 2007). He said he’s teared up at least half a dozen times during lectures. During the first week of January 2011, Dennis said that the only times he has cried as an adult have been in public.

Prager’s best friends in Southern California include Stephen and Ruth Marmer, Allen and Susan Estrin, Izzie and Rita Eichenstein, Robert and Amy Florczak, and former priest Michael Nocita, now married, a father, and running a business in Los Angeles.

“All of my Catholic priest friends but one (Gregory Coiro) are married with kids,” said Dennis in a 1997 lecture on adultery and Exodus 20.

Dennis’s brother Kenny, a lung specialist at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, publishes in the Wall Street Journal and other forums. At times he envies his brother’s talk radio job, for he too would like to take his values to the world.

Kenny’s son Joshua, who was severely crippled in a 1992 (?) car accident, wrote for the Wall Street Journal for more than a decade.

“I have the most open life I know,” said Dennis Prager in his 2005 lecture on Deut. 28.

Bruce Herschensohn

In 1992, Prager sent out “my first and only political fundraising letter. It was on behalf of Bruce Herschensohn, a close friend and someone whom I have admired for over a decade.” (Think a Second Time, pg. 17)

In a close race that November, Bruce lost — possibly because of late-breaking revelations that the Herschensohn went to strip shows and bought porn magazines — to Democrat Barbara Boxer.

The Los Angeles Times reported Dec. 21, 1992: "In July, Mark Murray began hearing rumors from friends in Democratic circles that Republican Bruce Herschensohn regularly visited the Seventh Veil nude dancing club in Hollywood."

Mar. 25, 2010, Dennis described Bruce’s electoral loss as “one of the worst night of my life.”

Dennis said he and almost everyone he knew had been to a strip show, including his wife and mother. “Many kind, honorable and honest men sometimes go to strip shows, sometimes use curse words in private, sometimes play poker or go to a casino, and sometimes buy sexually explicit material; and the truly dishonorable men and women are those who pry into the lives of honorable people to ruin their good names.” (Think a Second Time, pg. 23)

Ultimate Issues

In his second edition of Ultimate Issues in 1993, Prager said that financial issues could force him to close his publication. This despite charging $25 a year for a subscription to his quarterly journal and $10 per lecture on cassette tape.

(In 1990, I became Ultimate Issues‘ biggest customer to that date according to his office staff by buying almost everything it had available — I spent about $4,000 — and sending it to my friends.)

Prager wrote in the third issue of Ultimate Issues in 1993:

I was overwhelmed by your financial response. Enough orders came in to almost enable UI to erase its debt.

And I was overwhelmed by your words of support.

When I wrote the letter, I didn’t know whether I would continue writing UI, for, as I explained, it has been a financial sacrifice.

But your response made me aware of how important UI is to you. It may sound strange, but I didn’t know this.
The Oslo Accords

Dennis supported the Oslo Accords. He wrote in the third issue of UI of 1993:
The moment I saw the prime minister of Israel and the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization emerge from the White House on either side of the American president, I began to cry.

…Peace, not territory, has been my most fervent wish for Israel since the Six Day War in 1967.

In the 10 years that I have been writing Ultimate Issues, I have never commented on Israeli foreign policy. I have believed that Jews living 10,000 miles away from the Middle East, whose sons would not directly feel the consequences of Israeli policies, should not tell Israel what to do.

Now that peace accords have been signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, however, I want to explain why I strongly support the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Prager said during the 1980s and 1990s that he’s right of center in American political terms and left of center in Israeli political terms.

Los Angeles Riots

On April 29, 1992, the night of the LA Riots (which came within a mile of Prager’s home on Canfield Avenue at Airdrome in zip code 90035, driving home that night on the 405, Dennis watched his city burn), Dennis Prager began teaching the Torah 16 nights a year on average at what was then the University of Judaism (now known as American Jewish University).

In a speech to the Heritage Foundation May 26, 1992, Dennis said: “Outside my house, the entire sky was black with smoke.”

“I was so angry. I’m on the talk radio station for ten years. The station called me on the day of the rioting asking if I wanted to do two live hours, even though that is not my day to broadcast. I said yes and then my family begged me not to go. On the block of my station [3321 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90016] was a Fedco, a big department store, being burned and looted and next door to my station was a Sees Candy being looted.

“I finally called the station and said, I can’t broadcast. I’m too angry. All I will do probably is just add to the anger. I calmed down to do a little commentary. I said I felt like I lived in a sea of lies, that good and evil didn’t take place.”

Aug. 11, 2011, Dennis said: “I was just blocks away living. I remember the house filled with the smell of smoke. As I watched the television and saw these people looting stores and the police in one case holding the door open, I came within a hair’s breadth of going to the area where people were looting with a big sign reading, ‘Thou shalt not steal.’ I was talked out of it.”

One minister (Wally Tope) did just that and was beaten to death.

April 27, 2012, Dennis said: "The Rodney King broadcasts were some of the most difficult I ever broadcast. I was escorted to the radio station, because it was right near fires caused by the rioters, by policemen. Not because of what I said, but to protect me because of the area."

"I said that if you can't call a black thug a thug, you're the racist. These were thugs who were looting. If whites did it, they'd be thugs."

"All I got from black listeners and from the black community was respect... It was formative in my life. I was invited to speak in the midst of Watts and to speak at a supermarket precisely because I had made that the centerpiece of my broadcasts about the riots. The liberal patronizing of blacks as if they're not real, as though they're made of paper machet, just dolls who'll crumble at the truth..."

Northridge Earthquake 

Wikipedia: “The Northridge earthquake occurred on January 17, 1994, at 04:31 Pacific Standard Time in Reseda, a neighborhood in the city of Los Angeles, California, lasting for about 45 seconds.”

March 11, 2011, Dennis said: “That was unbelievably jolting. I’ve been through a lot of earthquakes living in Southern California but that one was scary and I don’t get scared easy. That shook my house to its foundations. I thought the house was going to fall down.

“For those of you who have never experienced an earthquake, one of the worst aspects is the sound.”

Teaching The Torah Verse-By-Verse

February 2, 2010, almost 18 years after beginning the project, Dennis Prager finished teaching the Torah. The total package of his Torah commentary runs to more than 300 CDs.

A check of on Jan. 22, 2010, revealed that the price to buy all of the CDs for Prager’s commentary on Genesis was $544 (if you download the content, it costs but $442). The price for Exodus on CD was $952. The price for Leviticus on CD was $640. The price for Numbers on CD was $476. The price for Deuteronomy on CD was $690.

Many of the lectures available are about half the length of what was delivered that night, making me wonder if these deletions were all technical difficulties or if Dennis said things he did not want spread.

If you listen to the whole commentary as I have, you'll hear Dennis Prager making the same points over and over again. The original content for each lecture averages less than 60%. 

Dennis: “I believe that the Torah is the most relevant guide to life available to us. I believe that the most esoteric and even “boring” sections have secrets of wisdom that when unlocked give any of us a happier, deeper, wiser life. The Torah is not merely an ancient holy book. It is life-changing in every one of its chapters. I invite you to take time out from the intensity of daily life and spend four nights with me in one of the most intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually exciting journeys any of us can make. No background or previous study is necessary.”

In his fifth lecture on Numbers, Dennis said: “I don’t fancy myself a scholar. I’m an educated layman.”

June, 2010, Dennis said: “I don’t think I’ve done anything more important in my life than that project and it is the least well-known thing I have done… There is greater wisdom that preceded the birth of Dennis Prager. I knew that by the age of five.”

Prager’s Torah course is far from verse-by-verse. Most verses, perhaps 80%, receive no commentary. Dennis instead took the verses that interested him. 

In a 1993 lecture on Genesis 27, Dennis said that a major reason he began teaching the Torah verse-by-verse was to give himself more of an incentive to study Torah. “It is a total flaw in my character that I would not study the Torah regularly if I did not have to teach it.” (Gen. 39 lecture)

“Teaching Torah is the favorite thing I do,” said Dennis in his fourth lecture on Exodus. “This is a work of pure love and passion.”

“The number of times that I have prayed with real enthusiasm and passion could probably be counted on two hands. My form of prayer as a Jew is to study the Torah. This is how I connect with God in a religious manner. It is the one regular time.”

Said Dennis in a 1998 lecture on Exodus 25: “It may be odd that a talk show host teaches Bible at a seminary so you should know that this is a my favorite work. This is what ultimately truly matters. This is eternal. I touch the eternal. It is as significant though there is no fame and little money attached to it, it is as important to me as anything else I do. It is odd. To the best of my knowledge, Rush Limbaugh does not teach Bible. Neither does Howard Stern.”

In Prager’s first class in this series, about 95% of the attendees were Jewish. Within a couple of years, attendance evened out.

In his 2009 lecture on Leviticus 21, Dennis said:
There are more riveting chapters of the Torah. And there are less riveting ones.

A dear friend of mine, one of his two sons, had a bar mitzvah. The portion of that Sabbath was not one of the more scintillating ones in the Torah. He asked me if I would speak on the Torah.

It happens to be that while he is not Orthodox, his family is ultra-Orthodox. Black hat and beards. Very Orthodox. He’s the black sheep in the family for not being Orthodox. At least they came.

I got up and said this is one of the less riveting portions of the Torah. And his relatives got up and left. I felt so bad for my friend. They were not prepared to hear that one might say that one portion is more riveting than the next.

The traditional rabbis of Judaism knew that some portions were riveting and some were not. The traditional Torah text is found in books surrounded by commentary (Rashi, Rashbam, Rambam, Ramban, Onkelos, all sorts of medieval commentaries). There is the text in the middle surrounded by commentary. There are pages of the Torah that have no commentary. They have nothing to say. It could be just a bunch of genealogies.
In a May 2012 lecture, Dennis said:
How do you know what type of teacher should teach you Judaism? I have two criteria for whoever teaches me a Jewish text. They have to believe in the holiness of the text and they have to apply it to real life.

If you believe the Torah was written by men, that's fine. The vast majority of scholars believe it.

I read all the secular scholars. All those who believe it is written by documents. I got nothing from any of them in all of my life. I got nothing from J, E, P, D, and H. It's unwise. It's unhelpful.

If there is a group that embodies the two criteria, it is Chabad. We don't need another PhD in Biblical Studies. It's not going to bring one Jew to Judaism and it is not going to bring one Jew to wisdom."
1990s Broadcasting

During 1994, Prager hosted an hour long radio talk show on WABC in New York. He got caught up in the controversy over racial comments made by Bob Grant. To the dismay of Grant and WABC, Prager refused to support Bob’s stance, and Dennis eventually decided that the frequent hassling he took from management and from Grant was not worth it. He quit WABC in early 1995.

Bob Grant wrote in his book Let's Be Heard:
Once the attacks began in full force, I can't say I was totally surprised by them. After all, liberals and anarchists are my natural enemies. That's why I decided after a while not to give any more interviews. They only fueled the fire. Then I got a call from a man named Dennis Prager. You may never have heard of him, but he is a fairly conservative fellow with a TV show based in Los Angeles. He and I even share the same manager. So when Prager called and asked me to come on his show, I agreed. He was a colleague, after all, and if anyone could sympathize with what I was going through, he'd be the one.

My understanding was that we were going to discuss the thing as two colleagues -- you know, "Hey Bob, how do you feel about all this ruckus?"

So we're on the air. He's in his studio in Los Angeles, and I'm in my studio in New York. He begins by holding up the damned [New York] magazine cover [alleging Grant hates blacks] and then proceeds to recite the slanderous charges against me exactly as they were made: "He's called blacks savages! He's done this! He's done that! Bob, what do you say about it?"

It was a rare moment for me -- I was at a loss for words. I said, "What do I say about it? My God -- do you want me to plead guilty right now?" I said, "Good heavens -- I didn't know you were going to do this."

Then -- then! -- he introduces a germ named Walter Fields, at the time an official of the New Jersey NAACP and the man who probably has more genuine hatred for me than any other human being in the world today. Over and over in the course of that broadcast, Fields said he was going to get me off the radio. Finally I said, "Well, look, you want my head on a platter, so what's the point of my saying anything?" It was a complete and total hatchet job. Dennis Prager is a son of a bitch and a snake. Because only a snake would do what he did.
It's hard to imagine anything worse than being on that show that night.
Jack Kerwick wrote
...[T]he one person on the right for whom he reserved the harshest condemnation is none other than Dennis Prager. During the controversy that New York magazine manufactured, Grant admitted to feeling lower than any at other point in his life. He had refused to do any more interviews — until Prager, who was not yet a syndicated talk radio host, invited Grant to appear on his Los Angeles television show. Because Prager was, as Grant understood him, “a fairly conservative fellow,” and because they even shared the same manager, Grant agreed to do the show.
On Jan. 16, 2014, Dennis said: "This is the most important thing politically happening in the United States. The attempt is to silence conservative opposition in this country and I have a sense that talk radio is next."

"This silencing of conservative opposition by rather nefarious means, by ruining their reputations, by having mass campaigns against any advertiser..."

Prager’s KABC radio show circa 1997 attracted 300,000 persons who tuned in at any one time during the course of a three hour show. Its ratings trailed those of Dr. Laura Schlesinger, whose nationally syndicated show from KFI aired at the same time. A careful listener to Dr. Laura might note that many of her ideas and stories came from Dennis.

TV Show
Dennis wrote in a 1998 CD bio:
This was tougher – five days a week is very different from four days a week.

In 1994, I added a daily one-hour morning talk show [rated number one in its time slot] on WABC Radio in New York. To broadcast on the station I grew up listening to, in the city my family lives, was very moving to me. There was a problem, however. I now had to broadcast four hours daily, and much worse, the New York show was on at 10:00 AM New York time, which meant that I had to broadcast at 7:00 AM every day. For a night person, and for someone who wants a lot of free time to write and be with his family, this was becoming problematic.

Things soon got more problematic. In September 1994, Multimedia (syndicators of the Rush Limbaugh, Jerry Springer and Sally Jesse Raphael TV talk shows) created the Dennis Prager [television] Show. It was broadcast daily throughout the United States (at different times in each city).

My weekdays therefore went like this: broadcast on WABC to New York at 7:00 AM; broadcast from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM on KABC in Los Angeles; then go to CBS Studios and tape my television show.

Though I am generally very healthy, this schedule quickly wore me down, and I repeatedly got sick – not to mention the price my family and I paid by having much less time together.

So, in January, 1995 I made the very difficult decision to leave WABC Radio. And by the spring, my TV show had been canceled (in my book Think a Second Time I wrote an essay on what I learned from my time on national television, and why my show didn’t stay on).

So, by March, 1995, my media career was back to three hours a day on KABC Radio (now shifted one hour earlier to Noon to 3:00 PM).”
For much of 1994, Dennis hosted a nationally syndicated TV talk show that was canceled after one season because of low ratings. The highest rated episode featured lingerie-clad models.
I can’t think of a funnier thing in TV-land than me having a daily show. They would ask me to have guests who I had never heard of…

To do a TV talk show on serious themes, like I do on the radio show, is almost impossible. Here is an example where conservatives have to be aware that free enterprise is not always on their side. When ratings are the only determinant, you don’t have much time to do much quality on commercial television. They give you, on radio, more time, but on TV you get about three months. You didn’t hit the ratings, goodbye. I got six months…

…Local station owners look at me and they look at “Geraldo”; look at me and they look at “Jenny Jones” or whatever and say, “Hey, this guy is good.” I was told at National TV conventions, “Dennis, love your show. Finally, something quality.” But Jenny draws the numbers.

Excellence is not enough. Gold, if it’s not found, is worthless. And I now realize that I have assumed my whole life, “I’ll just keep writing and talking, and then it’ll be good enough that, just on its own, it will find its larger and larger audience.’ But if you don’t publicize, it takes eons. The book will be buried without a book tour.” (C-SPAN Booknotes with Brian Lamb)
Prager’s numerous demands for his TV show were exasperating to some of those who worked with him and they were glad to see it canceled.

Porn star Tyffany Million told me that Dennis Prager was nervous when he met her. She demanded to see him before consenting to do his TV show and they talked at the KABC AM 790 studio on La Cienega Blvd.

Said Dennis in a 2001 lecture on Numbers 27-29, “I have interviewed for this [tentative] book [on sex] strippers. Everyone said the first times were so hard they had to drink themselves drunk before they went out on the stage. By the third month, it was a non-issue.”

The wife of one screenwriter I know finally put her foot down when she believed her husband had done enough research with strippers and porn stars. 

"I decided many years ago when I went on television," Dennis said April 27, 2012, "I made sure that I came across well. Don't yell at anybody. Make your point as succintly as possible because you'll be given less than a minute to do so, and hope that you've left people with a desire to listen to you on the radio and to read what you've written."

Caller: "I was almost amused on the Hannity show, I could see you off to the side raising your hand to get in a word and often times you didn't."

Dennis: "That's fair. I no longer leave frustrated. Did you spell my name right? Did I get a point across?"

Prager’s TV show was all over the map until his friend Allen Estrin came on as a producer. 

In a Feb. 17, 2009 lecture on Lev. 19:17-18, Dennis said: “When I hired Allen Estrin, we had been friends for many years. His biggest hesitation was would I take criticism about the show if he became producer of the show. Am I a prima donna? Would I be ultra sensitive? Would it hurt the friendship? The friendship was more important.

“I told him, I’m good at this. Don’t worry about it. And I am. I do take criticism from people I love. I’m not saying I enjoy it. I know where they’re coming from.”

The Nov. 24, 1995 issue of the Forward reported:
Dennis Prager is angry. The Los Angeles radio talk show host, author and pop theologian is on the air, discussing the effects of the O.J. Simpson verdict. ‘The fomenting of black anger is a direct road to self-destruction,’ he tells his KABC audience…

‘I say this with tears because I ache for a multiracial, multiethnic democracy to succeed: This will be a major turning point in American history. Black moral capital has been spent on a cause that virtually every non-black thinks was evil.

The performance is vintage Dennis Prager: bristling language, quick ripostes, instant empathy – but underneath, the zeal for promoting morality that has been his longtime crusade and stock in trade.

A large, silver-haired man many describe as ‘charismatic’ and ‘self-assured,’ Mr. Prager, 46, has made a career of taking bold stances on the issues of the day, not only on his 13-year old talk show but on Op-Ed pages across the country and as writer-editor of his own quarterly journal…

The father of neoconservatism, Irving Kristol, calls Dennis “our Jew on the West Coast.”

Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz says of Prager, “To the extent that he portrays conservatism as the Jewish way, he’s misleading the public. Jews are entitled to pick and choose from the political spectrum. I hope no young people believe that to be a good Jew you have to believe Prager’s politics. That’s Pragerism, not Judaism.”

“Orthodoxy has tended to ignore the world,” said Dennis, “Reform has tended to ignore the soul, and Conservativism has ignored both. It [Conservative Judaism] is now almost as halachically preoccupied as Orthodoxy and as liberal socially as Reform.”

Prager said the Conservative University of Judaism’s 1995 decision to ordain rabbis is a “terrific idea. I’m a great believer in the diffusion of power. There should be 50 denominations because it is exceedingly rare that power is used morally.”

Rabbi Jacob Petuchowski, “a Reform Jew who criticized Reform,” and Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits, “an Orthodox Jew who criticized Orthodoxy,” influenced Prager’s Jewish thinking along with Conservative Rabbi Harold Kushner. Even more influential were such Christians as C.S. Lewis, Richard John Neuhaus, Michael Novak and George Gilder. “They, more than contemporary Jewish writers, have made me aware of how to bring God into the public square.”

Elliot Dorff, a Conservative thinker who turned against his Prager during a debate over ordaining openly homosexual rabbis, said Dennis “raises important questions and stimulates people to think… But the very advantage of his approach is also its drawback. He portrays issues in black-and-white ways… If your goal is to get people to think, his approach may be the right one. If your goal is to portray Judaism and morality accurately, then it seems to me you need to be more attuned to the grays in life than his work generally is.” (Forward, Nov. 24, 1995)

Frequent listener George Burns said that if he ever filmed a sequel to “Oh God,” Prager would get the title role.


Dennis wrote Feb. 3, 2004: “When God gave out the normal human desire to meet celebrities and stars, I was in another line. Even as a young person I had no particular desire to meet famous ballplayers and get autographs from them or from any other famous persons. I have lived in Los Angeles for 28 years, am regularly on television, made three videos with major Hollywood actors, and have yet to attend one Hollywood party. I would rather bowl with my 11-year-old son than have lunch with an Academy Award-winner.”

Dennis said in 2004 in a lecture on Deut. 8, “A household name, a superstar of the 20th Century, not George Burns, listened to my show and invited me to his home. And I have no desire to be with superstars. I’d rather be with friends. I’d rather be alone. When God gave out the desire to be with the famous, I was in the other lane. He was so superstarish, it was simple curiosity. Remember, he invited me to his home because he liked hearing me on the radio. He’s no longer with us. The entire evening he only spoke about himself. I sat there. I had never encountered this in my life.”

During the 1980s, several celebrities invited Dennis to their homes and all but one spoke only of themselves. Dennis stopped going. (May 15, 2014)

Feb. 8, 2013, Dennis said: "Acting changes how you feel... Charlton Heston was the one actor I developed a true friendship with. He was a wonderful man. He's played the roles of great men, the most famous was Moses in The Ten Commandments. I asked him if it affected him and he said, of course it affected me. He led a particularly honorable life.

In July 1997, Dennis Prager began broadcasting from 9 a.m. to noon on KABC, replacing veteran host Michael Jackson

Dennis typically went to bed by midnight and rose by eight AM. “When I’m showering, I’m debating. I make a point. Then I hear the left-wing response.” (May 20, 2010)

Jan. 17, 2011, Dennis said: “Last night at 2 a.m., that’s when I do my good work. I’m still a high school boy. I consider going to sleep deprivation of fun. I can’t do any more fun things. I have to leave consciousness. What a bummer!

“That’s the reason I took a morning show. I originally had an afternoon show and then I begged and begged for a morning show to force me to get up earlier. And so what do I do? I just get less sleep.”

In a lecture on Deuteronomy in 2005 (Vol. 9:1), Dennis said: “I get up an hour before the show [which starts at 9:05 a.m.] and hope that nothing happened overnight. The second I wake up, I call Allen. ‘Allen, anything happen while I was sleeping?’”

Dennis told CSPAN in 1996 that he reads six daily papers:
...[T]he Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, the editorial page — USA Today, editorial pages of The Orange County Register and [Los Angeles] Daily News. You will find me reading anywhere. There’s no one place — so long as I have one of my trusted, beloved fountain pens to mark up the article. I write almost everything straight off the computer. I use the fountain pen to mark things up and I also keep a note of every phone call on my radio show. That’s my greatest use for the fountain pen. I tape every show.

One of my dreams in life is to make Haydn more popular. Haydn is the glory — and I love Mozart; love Beethoven; love Bach. I love him so much that I would like to thank him. I mean, you know, I would like to give him a hug, the amount of joy he has brought to me. And I was just reading in Fanfare magazine, a magazine that classical nuts like me get — because it’s 500 pages of classical record reviews — and they had a letter from Haydn. They reprinted a letter where he said to someone that all he lives for is, in this difficult, difficult world, to bring people some measure of joy. And I thought, ‘My God, that’s what he does in this difficult, difficult world. He brings people joy.’

Americans have forgotten what America is about, and I would like to write a book something like that, The Nine Questions People Ask About America, to make the case for America like we [Joseph and Dennis] made the case for Judaism.

It was not until one day in 1995 that the uniqueness of American values struck Dennis Prager clearly (radio shows June 7 and 15, 2010). Emptying his pockets, he looked at his coins and realized that they contained the country’s core beliefs — e pluribus unum, In God We Trust and Liberty
Dennis said in 2005 in a lecture on Deut. 30: “A lot of people wonder why there is so much repetition [in the Torah]. The reason is pedagogic.

“When I make a new point [on the radio], I get no calls. It is as if I didn’t say anything. When I will say it for about the fifth time, I’ll start getting emails and calls. It might be the most brilliant point in the world, but if I make it once, it’s as if I never said it.”

As a regular listener to Dennis Prager from 1988 to 2016 (and I bought from him hundreds of hours of highlights of the years previous to that), I get frustrated that most of his shows are nothing but repetitions of points he's made hundreds of times previously. Most of his lectures are the same way. Prager's friend Joseph Telushkin is the same sort of repetition machine. Nice work if you can get it.

Dennis said in a 1998 lecture on Exodus 22-23:

If I aimed to be liked on my radio show, I would have an entirely different radio show. Half of what I say I would not say. Because as I am speaking, this is not stuff I’d say on the radio, it’s too personal, but as I am speaking, I am thinking to myself, I am now making an enemy. I don’t get a thrill out of that. Everyone likes to be liked.

The reason I debate callers is never to change their mind. It is to change listeners’ minds who are wavering.”

People say to me, I can’t believe your patience with callers. And I say, I would have zero patience if we were together alone in a room, but knowing half a million people are listening, I am Mr. P. There is so much at stake in making a passionate and rational argument.”

I could never be a reporter. I would bite through my tongue with my opinions.

There was a guy I truly disliked. It hasn’t happened much in my life. I felt he had truly wronged me. Then I learned that a couple I adored were their closest friends. I was in cognitive dissonance. Maybe these people I adore are also disgusting. Then I realized, this guy was a putz to you. He did you wrong. There were bad things this guy did to me. But this is not Hitler. This is my enemy, but not a truly evil soul. When I learned what this guy had done for this couple, I was terribly wronged and they were terribled righted by this guy. And if I saw this guy’s donkey on Wilshire Blvd, I would try to return it to him because I try to live by Torah law.
Around 1996, Dennis Prager had a dinner he would refer to often in the years afterward. "He is a household name Democrat. He told me about 15 years ago that the unions run the Democratic party in California."

That sounds like Prager's acquaintance Henry Waxman.

Stephen S. Wise

In January 1998, Dennis Prager began preaching at Stephen S. Wise's "Mountaintop Minyan" most Saturday mornings.

Prager enjoyed the spirited music at his temple which was usually led by Cantor Linda Kates, married to pianist and composer David Kates. Dennis often joined in on his accordion with the after lunch singalong.

In a 2007 lecture on Leviticus 1, Dennis Prager said: “Two months ago, I was approached by St. Martin’s Press. They’re doing a series of books by people they consider important thinkers. They want us to talk about our biggest failure or challenge. So they got Elie Wiesel. He’s talking about his difficulty forgiving. He’s a survivor of the Holocaust. Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet dissident who’s become a member of the Israeli parliament, talks about his difficulty with compromising.

“My difficulty [is] with prayer. As soon as I said it, the guy said, ‘Fantastic. So many people will relate to it.’”

This book has yet to be published.

Dennis Prager wrote in the July 30, 2010 Jewish Journal:

I can personally attest to the closed-mindedness among Jewish liberals. Despite having written two best-selling Jewish books and hundreds of articles on Jewish issues, and having lectured to virtually every major Jewish organization in North America for 35 years, and despite the fact that I have been an active member of a Reform synagogue for 20 years, I am almost never invited to speak at a Reform synagogue. I don’t take it personally — it isn’t personal. The Reform movement is essentially closed to politically conservative speakers even if, as in my case, they would be happy to speak only on Judaism. There is every reason to believe that far more Reform temples would invite a fervent Muslim speaker before a fervent conservative Jewish one.

Another example: Last year I was invited to be the speaker at the annual banquet of a Jewish day school in liberal Northern California. I have a 30-year record of raising funds for Jewish day schools and persuading Jewish parents to send their children to day schools. Nevertheless, the invitation was rescinded because some liberal members of the school’s board would not allow a prominent Jew who was known to be a conservative to speak — even though the entire talk would have been about supporting Jewish day schools. They actually threatened to withdraw financial support from the school unless the invitation was rescinded. Their view is that only liberals can speak at that school, just as only liberals can speak at almost any Reform synagogue. Open-minded?

Contrast this with the fact that two years ago, the Orthodox Union invited me, a non-Orthodox Jew, to address its annual West Coast convention. That would have been impressive enough. But far more impressive was the subject I was asked to speak on: “Why I am not Orthodox.”
Jonathan Pollard

Dennis Prager argued in an October 15, 1997 essay for the release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard from American prison: "An American who loved both America and Israel, used his access to American intelligence on those Arab regimes and passed it on to Israel. He spied on behalf of America's most loyal allies, not on behalf of any of America's enemies, and he gave away secrets about Arab regimes devoted to Israel's destruction not, to the best of our knowledge, about America. And, unlike spies whose espionage cost the lives of American and pro-American foreign agents, we know of no American and pro-American foreigner who lost his life because of Pollard."

Steve Sailer had a different view: "Pollard was a cokehead who stole some of the crown jewels of our national security secrets -- information relating to the our nuclear missile submarine deterrent -- in return for money from the Israelis. (The Israeli government is widely believed to have then bartered the American secrets to the Soviets.)" 

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

Joseph Telushkin was acclaimed for his books Jewish Literacy, Biblical Literacy, Jewish Wisdom, Jewish Humor and Words That Wound, Words That Heal.

Both Dennis and Joseph served as mentors to the first Russian Jew ordained as a (Conservative) rabbi – Leonid Feldman who introduced Joseph to his wife. Leonid received semicha (rabbinic ordination) from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York where he was a classmate of Rabbi Toba August, the sister of Joseph’s future wife.

While at JTS, Leonid cut a wide swathe through the ladies. He later became famous for his high-flying ways as a well-compensated rabbi and for punching out the president of his shul.

In his book Still the Best Hope, Dennis wrote: "Leonid Feldman, my longtime friend whose path from atheist and Soviet dissident to prominent American rabbi is worthy of its own book."

In 1997, Joseph’s wife Dvorah published a memoir (Master of Dreams) about her twenty years working as a secretary and translator for Yiddish novelist Isaac Bashevis Singer. Dvorah’s blonde sister Tova gained rabbinic ordination through JTS and worked for years at Stephen S. Wise temple in Los Angeles.

Though largely observant of Orthodox Jewish Law, the Telushkins regard themselves as nondenominational. Their three children attended a Modern Orthodox day school in New York.

Rabbi Telushkin said to me circa 1995 that Prager’s 1993 essay condoning driving on Shabbat was written to him, and that he remained unconvinced. Joseph, a more traditional man than Dennis, does not drive on Sabbath, even though he serves as the rabbi for the liberal Synagogue of the Performing Arts, which meets the first Friday night of every month. Rabbi Telushkin uses a microphone at the synagogue, which is a violation of Orthodox Jewish Law.

Rabbi Telushkin studied and experimented with hypnotism during the 1990s.

During 1996, Joseph almost died from diabetes.

Like Dennis, he has no influence on Orthodox Judaism and is not considered a member of that fold. Many of those who grew up with him consider it sad that he drank the non-denominational kool aid, so cool-sounding in the 1970s, and went off the derech.

Rabbi Marc Gafni

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin put Dennis on friendly terms with the controversial rabbi Marc Gafni in 1998.

Rabbi Gafni was accused of sexual abuse by several women in a 2004 Jewish Week article by editor Gary Rosenblatt.

When Dennis Prager sent his step-daughter Anya to Israel circa 1998, he asked Marc Gafni to look after her.

I first saw Rabbi Gafni at UCLA during Passover week 2002. After lecturing for an hour for Hillel’s yom limmud (day of learning), Marc chatted with Dennis Prager. They appeared friendly. That week, Gafni appeared on Prager’s radio show for half an hour to talk about his book The Mystery of Love. During the show, Prager shifted his position on the book and concluded that it was important. Fran Prager loved Gafni’s book.

Just before Dennis Prager was scheduled to do a 2006 public dialogue with Marc Gafni at Stephen S. Wise temple, the rabbi stepped down from his organization Bayit Chadash, left Israel, and wrote a public letter (that he later retracted) saying he was sick.

Until 2006, Prager and Telushkin had great sympathy for Gafni, believing he was a victim of sexual McCarthyism.

Several rabbis Prager publicly supported got into trouble for misbehavior. Leonid Feldman punched out his synagogue president. Daniel Gordis, whose early books sometimes sounded like warmed over Dennis Prager, repeatedly got in trouble for sexual messes and bullying. In the Jul-Sep 1990 edition of Ultimate Issues, Dennis Prager wrote to Orthodox rabbi Simcha Weinberg: "As I regard you as a model of living Judaism..." A few years later, Weinberg would lose his job at Lincoln Square synagogue for an affair with a congregant.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Dennis and Boteach are friends with different styles. Contrast the great offense that Boteach took at Canadian intellectual Michael Coren with Prager's consistent love for Coren. "He is a very important part of the Canadian media," said Dennis May 6, 2013.

I can't imagine Dennis Prager walking out of a speaking engagement after getting a request to step farther away from the mic as Rabbi Boteach did Feb. 19, 2012 at LimmudLA. I also can't imagine Prager calling out an institution over its low speaking fee offer as Rabbi Boteach did with the American Jewish University in December of 2010.

Dennis avoids these conflicts.

Prager served on the board of the Shmuley Boteach - Michael Jackson charity "Heal the Kids."

Michael Medved

Michael, 61 days younger, has been friends with Dennis since 1977. The men and their wives spent a lot of time together in the late 1980s and early 1990s, walking the Venice Beach among other activities. Medved, an Orthodox Jew, disagreed with the more laissez-faire attitude towards porn by Dennis and his second wife Fran, who admitted to watching X-rated material.

April 3, 2008, Michael said: "It really is because of Dennis that I'm on the radio. It was really Dennis who made it clear to me more than 20 years ago that this was the best means of communication."

"[Listening to Religion on the Line], a lightbulb went off in my head. Jewish guys arguing about religion? We do that for free. He gets paid for it. That inspired me. It's because of Dennis's example that I've had the great joy of doing my own show for almost 12 years now."

"I first met Dennis and Joseph [in 1977]. Dennis was this boy wonder director. It was one of the most exciting Jewish substantive places in the world... I was brought out there as a scholar in residence. It turned out that we had a great deal in common. When you are a geek about classical music but not a musician, to find someone else to talk to about that..."

April 3, 2008, Hugh Hewitt said, "Dennis is  the Saint Bernard of talk show hosts."

"Dennis is the most evangelized Jew in the country."


“I’ve been troubled by theodicy since I was a child,” said Dennis in a 2010 public interview at Stephen S. Wise temple. “I finally gave up. Joseph Telushkin has a long-standing joke that Dennis will buy any book that has the terms 'God' and 'suffering' in it. I agree with Job. My wife doesn’t find Job as satisfying as I do. God says to Job, I’m God. You’re not. I understand it. You don’t. God is to me what I am to my basset hound. I’m fine with that. God told me how to live.”

In the same interview, Dennis mentioned that in 2008 the American Atheists annual convention brought him to debate their head in Minneapolis on Easter. “The atheists gave me my check right there. Most Jewish groups. Don’t knock it. That is a big deal. I’m still waiting for a certain shul. Three years.”

In his 2005 lecture on Deut. 24:5, Dennis said: “They are told by the lecture bureau, give Mr. Prager his check at the speech.

“Half the places don’t do it. It’s almost the same reason every time — ‘Ohmigod, our treasurer is on vacation.’ The number of times I speak at organizations where the treasurer is on vacation is almost lottery-like in its odds. I couldn’t care less but what happens is that we have to chase them down. That’s not right. It’s not dignified to me and to my staff.”


Listening to Dennis Prager from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, you hear a more nasal voice and a more New York voice than the one he developed after going into national syndication in 1998.

May 1, 2023: "I like your voice better now," said Julie Hartman. 

Dennis: "Me too. There was more nasal then."

Think A Second Time (1995)

The back cover of Dennis Prager's third book (a collection of previously-published essays) reads:

Dennis Prager, theologian and philosopher turned talk-show host, is one of the most brilliant and compelling voices in America today. His extraordinarily popular radio show with the signature sign-off, "Think a second time," coupled with his own biweekly newsletter, has firmly established him as a fixture in intellectual communities nationwide. In Think a Second Time, Prager blends a rigorous and scholarly education with utterly original thinking on current events.

Read On: Part Two