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Radio talk show host Dennis Prager wrote five books: 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), and Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph (2012).

By Luke Ford

Dennis Prager's Parents

Dennis Prager's father Max Prager (born July 18, 1918) publishes his autobiography at MaxPrager.com. It contains many pictures of Dennis. Here is a January 1958 photo of Dennis at his older brother Ken's bar mitzvah. Dennis at nine.

Max writes in chapter one:

Based on all the genealogical sources that I searched, the 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.

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

Max writes 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 (picture). (Here's a picture of Hilda at age 18.)

Max Prager writes 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 it."

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

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?"

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. (Baby pictures)

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

No other famous person was born on this day.

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)

"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)

"My father is convinced that God willed the Holocaust," said Dennis on his radio show 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."

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


Dennis inherits his frankness from his father.

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 autobography, Max Prager writes:

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 around 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.

This was not the only temptation that came Max's way. He writes: "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 writes: "I remember vividly moans and groans emanating from the many liaisons between the waiters and guests."

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

During a debate with Rabbi 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. During his tenure, he regularly purchased Playboy magazine. “He provided a model of integrity, religiosity, and common sense,” wrote Dennis. (Think a Second Time, pg. 24)
“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, which lasted 69 years. 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 debate with Shmuley Boteach in Manhattan)

Dennis Prager & Orthodoxy

“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. 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)
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 pre-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 bad. 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.”
In fifth grade, Dennis asked his rabbi what Heaven would be like. The rabbi said that in Hollywood, 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 tone of command may become strained. While he’s never rattled by attacks from the left, attacks from Prager's religious right can bring out his anxiety. His three marriages make his moral leader perch unsteady.
A search for “Dennis Prager” in Google (during the last three months of 2010 and last checked in Jan. 2011) reveals the first suggested term to add to the search is “divorce.”
The following story is a rare example of Dennis yelling at a caller.
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.”
Six times during the call, Dennis called Dore “an ingrate.”
While teaching the Torah over 18 years at American Jewish University, 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?”
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 Pharoah 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 Pharoah’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?”
Unlike most Orthodox Jews, Dennis Prager does not wear a kipa (skullcap) when he’s out and about. He wears one at home and in shul and when he’s teaching Torah.
Unlike Orthodox Jews, Dennis Prager has no concern about whether or not the plate he eats off of is kosher. He will eat vegetarian food in non-kosher restaurants and he will pray in non-Orthodox synagogues. He will also drive on the Jewish 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.”

According to Wikipedia about Chanukkah: "According to the Talmud, olive oil was needed for the menorah in the Temple, which was required to burn throughout the night every night. The story goes that there was only enough oil to burn for one day, yet it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah. An eight day festival was declared by the Jewish sages to commemorate this miracle." On his radio show Dec. 23, 2011, Dennis Prager said he believed that that miracle historically happened. No scholar outside of Orthodox Judaism believes this miracle happened. Prager's beliefs are Jewishly orthodox even if his behavior is not.

On his radio show July 13, 2001, Dennis said: “I was raised Orthodox but after my Bar Mitzvah on I was never Orthodox [to his parents chagrin]. I did however try Orthodoxy once again after my first child was born (1983). For a number of years, 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. Many Orthodox institutions have used some of my writings on Judaism, particularly my first book The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism, but I will drive to synagogue on the Sabbath for example.”
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. For example, I never got into praying. Never. I love singing and Torah study. Davening essentially has bored me. In most synagogues, I am bored out of my mind. I’m sure that’s a lapse in me. I was raised in a world where so much is actually said in prayer, that it is actually speed read.”
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.”

On his show 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."

Most people influenced by Dennis to take Judaism seriously end up Orthodox (if you want high-intensity Jewish religion, that’s practically 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 people that it is impossible for him to live up to their unrealistic expectations. Thus, many fans who idealized him come to despise him.
Dennis is the only member of his immediate family who is not Orthodox. “I was born an adult,” he told the Feb. 4, 1998 Los Angeles Times. “I couldn’t bear parental coercion. I’ve always been in love with freedom.”
While Max enjoyed an “I Thou” relationship to God, Dennis describes his relationship to God in more distant terms.
Dennis said that people of lesser fortitude would’ve broken under the rigor of Max’s parentage.
“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.”
Said Dennis in a March 24, 2008 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.
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.”
Said Dennis on his radio show Dec. 30, 2010: “How much of my childhoood 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.”
Dennis has organized his life to say and write what he wants without crippling fear of repercussion. He’s never wanted to be dependent. Thus, he’s earned money for decades from multiple sources.
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 the fold.
Until 1992, Dennis -- though never a practicing Orthodox Jew as an adult -- always had his membership in Orthodox shuls (such as Young Israel of Century City on Pico Blvd in Los Angeles). Since 1992, he’s belonged to the Reform temple Stephen S. Wise).
As an adult, Dennis has always described himself as non-denominational and equally at home and equally uncomfortable in Reform, Conservative and Orthodox varieties of Judaism.
“I’m orthodox, not Orthodox,” said Dennis in his first lecture on Deuteronomy (2002). For many years Dennis noted 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 serves on the board of the Chabad day school in Conejo Valley. "I was on the founding board... 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)

History professor and Orthodox rabbi 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 (not so much in numbers but in commitment).
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.
Said Dennis 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 about his childhood: “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? Anything. Just to find out anything.”
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.” (Radio show, Oct. 12, 2009)
On his show 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.”
On his radio show 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:
Many years ago, one of the most respected Orthodox rabbis of our generation, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the chief rabbi of Efrat, told me the following story — and, of course gave me permission to tell it in his name.

He 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 friends 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:

Prager is not Orthodox and a lot of people are upset about him 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 maxzor [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 tradition 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.

Dennis Prager’s Infancy

Max Prager wanted to have more kids but Hilda did not, possibly because of the trauma associated with Dennis’s first two months. (MaxPrager.com)
Dennis said his mother smoked while she was pregnant with him. (May 26, 2011)
On his show April 27, 2011, Dennis said: “I grew up in a home where the parents put each other first.”
Max Prager’s online autobiography, chapter 23)
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’s online autobiography, chapter 23)
“I imbibed [baby] formula and second-hand smoke,” said Dennis on his radio show Dec. 1, 2010. “That was my diet as a kid. I get sick every other year for about three days.”
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. Dennis and Kenny had their own rooms.
Max and Hilda moved to New Jersey in 1997.
In the summer of 1953, when Dennis was five and Kenneth ten, their parents enrolled them at the sleepaway Maple Lake summer camp.
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)
Dennis said on his radio show 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.
Perhaps this lack of mothering accounts for Dennis's insatiable need for female attention, a yearning that would cause him to choose the public life and philosophical positions that would bring him the most women, a yearning that would account for him hiring almost exclusively nurturing females, and a yearning that would initiate but also doom every romance (I have no comment on his third marriage).
“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?”
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.”
On his radio show March 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.”
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 at all.”
Dennis said Moses was his favorite Biblical character.

Dennis Prager’s Childhood

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 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?
Unjust suffering has continued to be my preoccupation.
On his show 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.”
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 pre-occupation with evil.”
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.”
Rabbi 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.

On his radio show 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?"

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 Dennisprager.com since 1998).
“I went to a religious school. There was no bullying.” (March 11, 2011)
“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. I did nothing for that.”
On his show 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.”
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.
At age seven, Dennis flew on his own from New York to Miami and back to spend eight weeks with his Aunt and Uncle Corrine and Al Moskowitz. “From my earliest years, I craved freedom and independence.” (CD)
“My parents did not have to sign any notes. Nobody walked me anywhere… They assumed that if your parents allowed you to fly you knew how to get from the damned gate to the luggage. You followed the sign that said luggage. It was assumed a seven-year old could do it. Today they don’t assume a 14-year old could do it.” (Radio show, Nov. 11, 2009)
“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 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…
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.”

On his radio show April 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.”
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 — and to marry three of them.

As a child, Dennis was impressed by the way his father regularly called his mother, even though she was a difficult woman.
“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.” (Radio show, April 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 said he followed sports as much as other kids his age, attending New York Ranger hockey games in the cheap seats. 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 radio show 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)
“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.” (Radio show, 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)
On his show June 3, 2011, Dennis said: "I very rarely had a nickname.
"During recess in elementary school, we used to play a game called punchball. 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 write 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."

On his show 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.”
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: “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.” (Radio show, Nov. 11, 2009)
On Mar. 9, 2012, Dennis said he has taken suffering seriously since eighth grade.
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 riveting or profound. Sometimes you just feel that they have a lot of time on their hands.”
“I believe that rabbinic law must change. That is why I am not Orthodox.”
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 talkshow 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 does’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, uploaded to YouTube June 25, 2011)

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.’”
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 the Yellow Pages and settled on the first instrument he saw — accordion. 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)
On his radio show 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.”
On his show 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 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."
During summer vacations, Kenny and Dennis attended Camp Winsoki, a modern Orthodox summer camp located in Rensellaervile, New York.
“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.” (Radio show, 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.
On his radio show 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?’” (Radio show, Feb. 4, 2010)
Dennis and Kenneth suffered from bronchitis into their teens. (Max Prager, chapter 24)
On his show 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.”
On his radio show 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.”
Said Dennis on his radio show Oct. 12, 2010: “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.”


On his show 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.

On his radio show 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.

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.”
On his show 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.”
On his show 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.”

On his show 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."

Bar Mitzvah

Ethnic pride has never been a big value for Dennis. At his Bar Mitzvah (he recited the Torah portions of Mattos and Masei at the end of the book of Numbers) at Camp Winsoki on July 15, 1961, 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)
(Picture of Dennis’s family at his bar mitzvah. Dennis with his parents and brother. Dennis in his late teens.)
Max Prager writes 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.
On his show 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.”
Dennis had no time for superstition, choosing the number 13 when he played basketball. “And if you’d asked my coach, he’d probably say that I lived up to it.”
Dennis was not athletically gifted. “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.” (Radio show, April 21, 2010)
On his radio show 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 got the ball and ran with it 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.”
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."
On his show 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.”
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.”
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.
“I loved being 14,” said Dennis. “I hated being 13. Fourteen started a happy period in my life.” (Dec. 17, 2010)
On his show 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.”
On his show 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.”
On his radio show 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.” (Radio show Nov. 11, 2009)
“I had a rabbi in eighth grade throw me over two desks. 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 mashochist, 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, the only person on earth who referred to my rabbi growing up as 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.”
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)
“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)
“I had an admiration for Batman,” said Prager on his radio show 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.”
On his radio show 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.”
Said Dennis in a 2008 lecture on Leviticus 19: “The humor that we had at yeshiva was not the type of tear-down-others. The yeshiva boy in me does not get why it is funny to make fun of people. I don’t mean ribbing.”
On his show 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 aescetics more than I fear hedonists."
"I fear nuclear war today."

Problems At School

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 his radio show 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)
Max Prager writes 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.
On his radio show 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.
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.
[On his show 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 Joseh 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?

On his radio show 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’.” (Radio show, 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 [in addition to my parents],” said Dennis on his radio show March 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)
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.”
The blind men and the elephant — the only poem I ever really enjoyed.” (May 20, 2010)
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.”
On his radio show 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.
“Some terrific websites publish my column and spell it as G-d.”

Big Brother

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.
On his radio show 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.”
On his radio show 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.”
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, an Orthodox Jew who went to the yeshiva with his future wife Karen and with Dennis, remembers:

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.
On his radio show 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)
Dennis said on his radio show 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.”
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 on his radio show 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 on his radio show 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.”
On his radio show 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.”
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.”
On May 7, 2010, Dennis said: “I’m memory-challenged. I always have been.”
“My poor memory. I can not remember the simple one-sentence prayer from the 1962 ruling.” (May 7, 2010)
Joseph struck his classmates as smart and articulate. He wrestled with big questions. Descending from a long line of rabbis, Telushkin surprised no one by becoming an Orthodox rabbi.
Dennis was known as a loudmouth in high school. He did not strike his classmates as particularly religious and few thought he’d go on to be a moral leader. They sensed he needed a lot of female attention, more than any one woman could likely provide. They were not surprised when he divorced twice and married for a third time.
“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)
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.’”

On his show 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."

In 1962, Dennis began listening to pop music. He enjoyed 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, attending plays, concerts and book stores. He usually 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.
In a January 2002 lecture “Personal Autobiography” on a listener cruise to the Antarctica, 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.”
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.”
On his radio show 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 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.”
Where does Dennis Prager get his courage to say the things he says? Much of it must be genetic. From an early age, Dennis has had a presence that has compelled people to gather around him to listen to what he says. Much of it must come from his father’s example. Much of it must come from Judaism and belonging to God’s Chosen People. And much of it must come from the grateful thanks of thousands of people whose lives have been changed for the better by Dennis’s teachings. I’ve yet to hear anyone seriously argue that Dennis Prager changed their life for the worse.
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.
Dennis Prager never heard about “unconditional love” from his rabbis. He writes 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.”
Said Dennis in a 2008 lecture on 25 years in broadcasting:

I wrote in my diary in my junior year of high school that I now know what I want to do with my life. I have a mission in life — to influence people to the good.
I found myself in high school and I never lost me.
The bad side was that I had no idea how I would make a living.
I did believe I could touch people’s lives. How did I know that? How did I know that anybody would want to hear me? I was a kid. Here’s how I knew:
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…
I was born an adult.
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’s the sort of thing that wreaks havoc on a lot of especially boys’ mentalities.
I was a counselor in Orthodox Jewish camps for years. I remember we’d have bull sessions with the campers. I’d always have 13 and 14 year olds because I was the biggest Jew in camp and I could handle these monsters…
It was really something to me when I would talk to them the first night of camp. I remember this vividly. I would walk in the dark back and forth in the bunk and they would all be on their cots lying there listening to me avidly, and I would talk to them about the birds and the bees because a lot of them could not talk to their fathers and certainly not their rabbis at yeshiva. When I told them my view on masturbation, they were shocked. They would confide that they were told it was like murder, a terrible terrible sin and they were going out of their minds. And for what?
I would truly have to ask about any act called a sin, who the hell does that hurt? Of all the acts I could think of to induce guilt in humanity, that’s the last one I would bother doing that about.
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. 

On his radio show 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 on his radio show 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 a lady passenger was 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 writes 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.

On his show 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."

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.”
Dennis particularly liked WNBC radio and WOR host Jean Shepherd.
According to a New York Times retrospective on the movie A Christmas Story:

Jean Shepherd narrated ‘A Christmas Story,’ giving voice to the adult Ralphie Parker, which makes sense because he wrote the Christmas adventure based on semi-fictional stories from his own childhood in Hammond, Indiana. Shepherd’s screenplay includes previously released material from several of his books. Also, Shepherd knew his way around a microphone, as he had a very popular three-decade radio career, during which he told stories, read poetry and organized listener stunts.
Jean Shepherd never stopped creating and delighting audiences. From 1948 onward, he put on live shows at major universities and theaters, and after ‘A Christmas Story,’ he successfully focused his efforts in television, most notably on PBS. Shepherd died in 1999 of natural causes.
“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)
Said Dennis in his 14th lecture on Deuteronomy (in 2003?), “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.”
On his radio show 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.”
Dennis writes 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.”
On his show 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.”
“I don’t have many memories before I was 13,” Dennis said on his radio show 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.”
Said Dennis on his radio show June 28, 2010: “I remember my next door neighbor, Mr. Klein, had a Cadillac. I grew up in the middle of the middle school. Having an Oldsmobile was considered a staggering achievement when my father did get an Oldsmobile and that was two levels below the Cadillac. I remember only one emotion towards my neighbor — I hope that one day I can own a Cadillac.”
“The ability to read how others react to you is about as important a subject as there is in life,” Dennis said on his radio show 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. I would see whether they had stopped concentrating.”
On his radio show 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.”
“I am no different from any lazy person, but I was never given a damn thing,” said Dennis on his radio show March 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.”
On his radio show 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 on his radio show Feb. 10, 2010. “Now I call myself Dennis.”
On his show May 21, 2010, Dennis said to a caller: “Did you say Pragez? I have few very nicknames but that’s one of my favorites.”
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)
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 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.
Max Prager writes 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.'"
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.

On his radio show 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 writes 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. Here’s a picture of Dennis at the wedding.

Dennis Prager’s College Years

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)
After high school, Dennis attended Brooklyn College (graduating in 1970 with degrees in History and Middle East Studies). At the end of his first year, 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],” writes 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.”
Said Dennis Dec. 15, 2010: “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.”
On his radio show 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.

The most consistent phone call Dennis received in his 30 plus years of broadcasting was "Is it safe to visit Israel?" (Mar. 24, 2012)

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.”
On his radio show 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.”
Said Dennis 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.”
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 in a 2010 lecture on Leviticus 26, 27: “You do suffer for what your parents did.”
“I don’t hold a German responsible for the Holocaust but a German is plagued that his parents or grandparents did this. It doesn’t end because the suffering doesn’t end when it ends. The children of Holocaust survivors have suffered terribly. I know many of them.
“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. How could they not?
“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.”
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.”
On his show 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.”
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)
“I was enthralled by [the leading 19th Century Jewish philosopher] Hermann Cohen in college because he combined reason and Judaism.” (2003 lecture on Deut. 10)
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 [materially] 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 on his Nov. 30, 2010 radio show: “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.”

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 unrecognizable to any Orthodox rabbi, as is Prager's idea of "keeping kosher on an interdate." From a traditional Jewish perspective, a Jew does not date non-Jews in the hopes that they might convert.

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.”

On his radio show 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!’”
On his show 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.”

On his show 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."

Dennis Prager’s Junior Year Abroad

In 1968, Prager won a junior-year-abroad scholarship after impressing interviewers with his skills in English, Hebrew, Russian and French.
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 [non-Jewish] girl on board. 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 roundup?
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.
On his show March 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?’”
Dennis Prager writes April 19, 2011:
In 1969, at the age of 21, I was sent to the Soviet Union. I was a young American Jew who spoke Hebrew and Russian and who practiced Judaism. My task was to bring Jewish religious items into the Soviet Union and the names of Jews who wished to leave the Soviet Union out of that country. Upon returning to the United States, 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.
Max Prager writes in chapter 32:
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. Harry D. Gideonse was the chancellor of the New School for Social Research and was the past president of Brooklyn College and Kratter wanted to honor him.
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 writes: “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 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 his radio show Sep. 23, 2011, Dennis was asked if he had ever considered converting to Christianity. He replied: “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. For me it was either Judaism or hedonism. Judaism won… I do believe that many Christians have as divine role as I do. I don’t believe that only Judaism is God’s will.”
Prager studied international history, comparative religion and Arabic at the University of Leeds. The lousy climate aggravated his asthma. “I remember one day the professor announced, ‘The sun is shining. Class dismissed’.” (Radio show, 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)
Said Dennis on his radio show Oct. 6, 2010: “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.”
Many weekends Dennis took a boat from Harwich, England to Bremerhaven, Germany, to visit his German-American shiksa girlfriend who he’d met on the ship to England.


During Christmas vacation 1968, Dennis Prager 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. As they gathered to attack him, 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. (CD)
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)

“It’s a very personal autobiographical detail,” said Prager on his radio show Dec. 15, 2009, “but it really shook me up and began my odyssey toward who I am today. 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 it, 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.”

On his show Dec. 20, 2011, Dennis said, "This was one of the life-changing revelations I've had... Why would I miss Christmas? I came to realize what a role this season played in my life, even if not in my parents' home. 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."

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

When I was 20, I spent my junior year in college in England. When classes let out for the last two weeks of December, I traveled to Morocco, where something life-changing occurred.
…I missed the Christmas season. I missed that time of year in America.
At first I denied it. Growing up in an Orthodox Jewish home and in yeshivas, I had obviously never celebrated Christmas. 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.
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)
Said Dennis 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.
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 visited the Soviet Union for a month with an Orthodox girl.
“Seeing the world is usually a highly beneficial experience in killing some naiveté,” said Prager on his radio show Dec. 1, 2009. “I specialized in my studies in communist countries. I’ve been to many. That shaped me more than almost anything in my life, 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.”
On his radio show April 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.”
Said Dennis in his 14th lecture on Deuteronomy (2003): “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.
“The trip shaped my life,” he told the 11-17-91 Los Angeles Times.
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.”
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, and its later report described Dennis as “the star of the West.”
“I was the anti-Soviet, and anti-totalitarian spokesman,” writes Prager in his 1998 CD autobiography, “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…” 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)
Said Dennis on his radio show 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 MaxPrager.com):
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 writes 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 txedek txede 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.”
On his radio show 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 do retreat. It’s not for the attention. It’s to have a better dinner.”
On his radio show 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.”
“I remember in my junior year in college getting very very worried — what will I do for a living? I was not prepared to abandon this sense of mission in life but how do you make a living from that? I didn’t want to be a doctor or a lawyer. I didn’t like blood in either case.” (Lecture in 2008 on 25 years in broadcasting)
On his radio show 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.’”
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)
In his first video on “Men and the Power of the Visual” for Prager University 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.”
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 regarded abortion as morally troublesome (though he never came out for making it illegal in the first trimester of pregnancy). (April 26, 2010 radio show)
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.”
By age 30, Dennis was lecturing on politics.
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 treat people respectfully… 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.”
On his show 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.”
In his twenties, Prager found out that his father’s sister (Irene) committed suicide before Dennis was born. (Radio show, Oct. 23, 2009)
Max Prager writes:
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.
On his radio show 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.”
Prager graduated Brooklyn College with a double major in Anthropology and History. “I didn’t bother to attend my college graduation,” said Dennis on his radio show Sept. 4, 2009. “I didn’t feel it was worth it.”
On his radio show 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.”
On his radio show March 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 writes 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 vaguely recall Dennis Prager saying on the radio that in Holland during college, he took advantage of some of the freedoms offered there not legal in many other countries (not drugs).

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 now, such an insight into a way of thinking."

In the early 1970s, Dennis Prager lived for a time in a Jewish commune off the Columbia campus called Beit Ephraim.
Judd Hirsch writes:
[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, lived at a different Jewish collective, but he spent time at the Bayit.
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 and I was there with him. 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.”
Said Dennis 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.
Another reason that I was out of sync with my generation was that I was religious.
I wrote a paper comparing Marxism with Judaism for a professor who was a Marxist secular Jew, which said I had guts. I expected a D. He was kind enough to give it a B-. It was clear I annoyed him. I said that Judaism was far superior to Marxism as a moral philosophy.
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 on his radio show 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.”
“Graduate school was a tough time for me,” Prager said on his radio show March 2, 2006. “Everything I believed to be true and good overturned. I had only pessimism for my country.”
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 writes 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 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)

On his radio show 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 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.”

On his radio show 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."

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.”
Dennis then explained that it was his car that had been burglarized. (Radio show, 12/28/06)
On his show 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. I never raised a little girl so I don’t know.
“I took care of the superintendent’s kid so much that I had an in.”
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 – an essay on Poland for the National Review and a book review for The New Leader.
On his radio show 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@webtv.net’s email)
Dennis Prager writes 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.
Frustrated with academia, Prager, to the dismay of his family, dropped out of graduate school in 1973 to write an introduction to Judaism with his best friend Joseph Telushkin. “He became a rabbi [Orthodox ordination from Yeshiva University] and I became a heretic.” (C-SPAN Booknotes)
(Here’s a picture of the June 1973 honoring of Dennis and Kenneth Prager by Yeshiva Rambam.)
In a 2004 lecture on Deuteronomy 14, Dennis said: “The Torah links drinking alcohol with anything you want to do. This is as upsetting to some people as the fact that you can have money in the temple. The Torah doesn’t care.
“I will tell you a story that blew my mind. When I was in Egypt in 1974, I had an Egyptian guide who took me from Cairo to the pyramids. It was in the summer. It’s very hot in Cairo in the summer. On the way, he says, ‘Would you like to stop for a drink?’ I say thank you.
“I had a beer. And I said to him, ‘Can I get you one?’
“He was very polite. ‘No. We Muslims don’t drink alcohol.’
“I have learned a lot in life because of the following question. Whenever people tell me almost anything, I say why.
“Instead of letting it go, I said, ‘Mohammed, may I ask you why not?’
“He said to me, ‘If a man drinks and it affects him, and he goes home and he sees his daughter sleeping, who knows what he will think and do.’
“I was shaken that that was the first thing that came to his mind about what would happen if he lost control.
“The Torah allows for the drinking of alcohol. It is listed here without comment… There is no big deal in the Torah about the vices. In the Torah, big deals are made about worshiping other gods and evil. Not the vices. Same with sex. Sexual sin outside of incestuous banning and adultery and homosexuality, is virtually nonexistent.”
Dennis Prager writes 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.
When I was in the Soviet Union in 1968 and in 1981, dissidents agreed to speak with me by meeting at a certain tree in a certain park — because sitting and talking with a Westerner would attract KGB attention. I then understood totalitarianism better than any of my Soviet studies classes could possibly communicate.
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. If anyone can name a better solution, this Jew would be interested in hearing it.
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?
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 Volkswagon 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.”
On his show 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.”
On 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?”
On his show 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.”

Dennis Prager Publishes His First Book

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.”
“I don’t understand morning people,” said Dennis on his radio show 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.”
Said Dennis in a 1998 lecture on Exodus 34: “We divvied up chapters basically. I handled God.”
First self-published on Oct. 30, 1975 as The Eight Questions People Ask About Judaism, the book eventually added a question, and was put out by Simon & Schuster in 1976. Nine Questions is a widely used introductory text to Judaism, endorsed by rabbis from Reform to Orthodox.
Aimed at secular Jews, the book 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. Unlike the overwhelming majority of traditional rabbis, the authors make rational arguments for observing Jewish 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 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?
As is typical of Prager, the book is not titled Nine Questions People Ask about Judaism but The Nine Questions People Ask About 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).
(I read Nine Questions in 1989 and found it so persuasive that it led me to convert to Judaism in 1993. Then I found out that it’s ideas are largely absent from Jewish life, even Orthodox Jewish life. Over the years, I moved from frustration that the ideas of Nine Questions were not more important in Jewish life to disillusionment with Mr. Prager and Rabbi Telushkin. For a while, I wondered if they’d sold me a bill of goods. Then I learned to accept that they’d presented their inspiring vision of Judaism.)
Nine Questions received sterling reviews.
Reform Rabbi Paul Kushner wrote in The Jewish Week: “I would suggest that on a single afternoon every rabbi, YMHA director, Jewish college instructor and anyone who has contact with young Jewish adults should set aside three or four hours and read The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism. They could then spend the next few decades recommending and quoting them this excellent book.”
Novelist Herman Wouk, an Orthodox Jew, called it “The intelligent skeptic’s guide to Judaism.”
Dennis and Joseph are secondary text guys in the eyes of many Jewish scholars (such as Rabbi David Hartman). Dennis and Joseph write popular stuff. 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. I don't ever see him quoted by Orthodox figures (although Rabbi Rakefet quotes a line from Prager a lot). He doesn't speak 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 thousands of ignorant Jews display towards Dennis Prager (they revere him for his ability to present Jewish texts and ideas in a rational and inspiring way) and the lack of awe displayed toward him by those who can read Hebrew.
Enthusiasm for Dennis Prager is inversely proportionate to learning. Those who can pick up a gemara (tractate of Talmud) and read from it have no 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 pump him with questions. Few seemed learned. Those who wait around the longest tend to know the least about Judaism.
I've never seen a Talmud scholar wait around to pick Dennis Prager's brain. The idea is laughable. Dennis is not a scholar.
Torah scholars regard Dennis the way historians regard popular writers of history such as Barbara Tuchman and Berel Wein -- not at all. Dennis has virtually no influence on traditional Jewish thought and practice. He's rarely quoted or cited by traditional rabbis. He's like Martin Buber - widely cited by non-Jews and ignored by practicing Jews.
A Mar. 17, 2012 search of Google Scholar for "Dennis Prager" returned 659 results, a little more than for "Hugh Hewitt" (441) but less than for "Michael Medved" (927). By this yardstick, Dennis Prager's influence on intellectual life is mild and not in the same league as his favorite intellectuals such as George Will (12,000), James Q. Wilson (13,600), Thomas Sowell (5,990), Viktor Frankl (9,280), and Charles Krauthammer (5,650).
According to this Google Scholar search, Prager's most cited book was Why The Jews? at 57, Nine Questions at 39,  Happiness at  21 and Think at 9.
By comparison, James Q. Wilson's book The Moral Sense was cited 911 times. His book Crime Human Nature was cited 2,360.
A Google search for "Dennis Prager" on Mar. 17, 2012, revealed 1,150,000 results. "George Will" gave 3,690,000 results. "Charles Krauthammer" gave 1,540,000 results. "Viktor Frankl" gave 1,610,000 results. "Thomas Sowell" gave 2,330,000 results.
A check of Talkers magazine on this same date lists Dennis Prager as the 40th most influential radio talkshow host.
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.”
Dennis Prager learned a life lesson when he gave away copies of his book to camp counselors at Brandeis-Bardin.
On his radio show March 15, 2010, Dennis recalls: “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 his radio show 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.”
Dennis Prager said on his show Aug. 3, 2010: “What’s the first birthday 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.”
Said Dennis 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.
Said Dennis 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.

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.”

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)
Is Dennis Prager the second coming of Jesus Christ? Both came from non-prestigious communities (Nazareth and Brooklyn). Both had solid if unspectacular Jewish education’s. Both started public speaking at a young age (Jesus in the temple at age 12, and Dennis in the temples at age 21 speaking on Soviet Jewry). Both preached a simplified version of Judaism that gave greater weight to ethics than ritual. Both preached with messianic fervor and moved thousands (Dennis autographs Bibles, I’m not sure if Jesus did that). Both were not known for their humility (Jesus claimed to be God’s son and Dennis believes his contributions won’t be recognized for a millennia). Both were largely rejected by the Jewish leaders of their day. Both had non-prestigious professions (carpenter and talkshow host). Both had devoted followings among the common people while the intellectuals, more often than not, despised them.
On his show 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. I’m generalizing. There are lawyers here who don’t cause misery. Yeah, there are.”

Dennis Prager Moves To Los Angeles

On his radio show 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? Here I am being paid to come to Southern California’, another romantic vision in my life.
“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.
“My first speech out of town was Nashville, Tennessee.”
On his radio show July 30, 2010, Dennis said about astrology: “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 writes: “Dennis also engaged our nephew, Elliot Prager, as Social Director.”
In 1976, Prager was interviewed on television for the first time. He was asked 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.”
Prager’s friends teased him about this remark for years afterwards. (Radio show, Jan. 24, 2006)
In a column Dec. 6, 2005, Dennis writes: “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.”
Said Dennis on his radio show June 22, 2010: “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.”
Dennis said: “I was single [when I began running Brandeis-Bardin]. 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.” (Radio show, June 8, 2010)
“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 room. Oooh, I’m in room 207.”
“I do believe that God guides me.”
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 stimulaton.”
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.”
“The [1980] election of Ronald Reagan affected my happiness,” said Prager on his radio show March 2, 2006. “There was a chance to turn this thing around.”
On his show 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: “I plead guilty [to wanting to avoid politics]. My own instinct in life was to be preoccupied with what gave me and many others meaning. My profession in life was religion… I read the papers. I was always deeply concerned but it took until the Reagan administration to realize, and I was always committed to international affairs, to realize that if I didn’t fight, I was going to lose this country.”

In 2011, DennisPrager.com sold the following lecture: "What I Learned From Ronald Reagan Ronald: Reagan inspired Dennis to become a conservative. How did he do it? And what are the principles that Reagan espoused that remain so compelling today? Dennis pays homage to his mentor and looks at conservatism and liberalism -- then and now."

In 1981, Dennis and his best friend Joseph Telushkin met the Pope. (Picture)
One day at KABC, Dennis Prager ran into Jimmy Carter, who he despises. Dennis stood up, extended his hand, and said, “It’s an honor to meet you, Mr. President.”
Dennis believes in honoring the office of president. (Dennis’s March 2004 lecture, 23rd lecture on Deuteronomy)
After voting for Jimmy Carter in 1976, Dennis never voted for a Democrat again. (January, 2002 lecture on a ship to Antarctica)
Around 1983, Dennis bought his first PC. It cost $3,500.

On October 6, 2011, Dennis Prager talked on his radio show about Steve Jobs and the personal computer: "My first computer was 1983. I remember the Macintosh. I remember debating, should I get an IBM type or the Macintosh? The Rainbow computer from DEC was the best.

"IBM and DOSS won but they were not the best. Texas Instruments had a better system. I bought the first color portable computer. You win on marketing genius. The reason I did not get an Apple was that everyone said that if you want to work, get an IBM. The Apple is more for fun."

"I needed two things -- database and most important, word processing. The choices for Apple in word processing were small.

"I remember buying a book - a guide to word processing programs. It assessed about 20 different programs. I read the entire book. I was mesmerized. I bought a thing nobody heard of called Word Perfect for $500. Everybody used WordStar.

"I was ecstatic. The reason I have written as much as I have is called computer. Before word processing, I would write two articles a year. Then I wrote an article a week. I don't touch type. I'd have to erase everything. Remember erasable paper?"

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, ’82,” remembers 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 Booknotes)
“I had a feeling that if I did well [on his radio debut],” say s Prager on his radio show January 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).
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.”
In a 2004 lecture on Deuteronomy 16, Dennis said that for ten years on his radio show Religion on the Line, he asked Christians “what does three in one mean?”
There is no answer. The Christian doctrine of the trinity is a logical impossibility.
Christians believe they believe in one God so who am I to say differently, said Dennis.
“I would ask the Christian clergy what does it mean. I almost started a fist fight between two Christians on this one. One Christian clergyman said, Dennis, here’s a rough idea. You are a father, a husband and a brother. Are there three of you? No.
“The other Christian said, that’s heretical. That’s a heresy. That heresy was wiped out in the fourth century. That is utterly unacceptable. Dennis, don’t listen to him.
“And I just sat there and knew the ratings were going up as they yelled at each other. I was a happy dude.”
In a 2010 interview at Stephen S. Wise temple, Dennis said: “One night, 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.”

Why the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism

In 1983, Prager and Telushkin published their second book — Why the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism. They write in their preface: “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.”
While running BBI, Prager was a strict disciplinarian who kicked out students he found troublesome. Prager ejected musician Sam Glaser for playing non-Jewish music. Another college student, a philosophy major from Berkeley, was tossed for raising disruptive challenges.
This was an era when there were few if any prohibitions on dating between Torah teachers and students.
Not happy with oversight, Prager chafed under the BBI board, frequently regarding it with contempt. Many on the board returned his hostility.
In his speeches since working at BBI, Prager mocks his BBI 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 – study of Judaism. The board found his condescending manner obnoxious.
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 of decency.
“[H]aving been a camp counselor and camp director for ten years,” Prager writes 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 September of 1983, Prager left the Brandeis Bardin Institute. He writes in his autobiography: “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)
On his radio show 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 writes 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 Prager writes 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.”
Prager and Telushkin portray Prager’s experience at Brandeis-Bardin as that of the martyr, but some of those who had to work with Prager felt like they were the martyrs.
While Prager claims 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 writes (in the third issue of the paper):
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 Braindeis-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.”
Prager has long despised the Jewish Journal, and regularly given vent to his feelings on this matter publicly, usually expressed in political terms. For example, “it is the most left-wing Jewish newspaper in the country.”
David Margolis writes in the Jewish Journal in December 1992:
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.”
Some students back up that view of Prager as a bully. One believes he was tossed from the institute for his vigorous and public disagreements with Prager on intellectual matters.
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.”
I think Dennis was talking 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 have a personal story about it. It’s one of the only things I don’t recount because it would be too injurious to specific individuals. 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.”
Rabbi Telushkin writes 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.
Around the time Dennis left Brandeis-Bardin, Joseph Telushkin left not only the institute but also the state. "Through our mid-thirties, we were inseperable. 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)

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 not a good writer. Gene liked Dennis in person but found his writing pompous.
Dennis became convinced that he was turned down because of differing politics, even though Gene regularly published somebody far to the right of Dennis — Orthodox Rabbi Dov Aharoni.
In 1984, Dennis spent approximately $500 for WordPerfect writing software. (Nov. 18, 2010)
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, Rabbi 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)
In 1985, Prager debated Rabbi Meir Kahane on the Ray Breem 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.”
On his radio show May 3, 2010, Dennis recalls: “I remember my beginnings in radio were as the moderator of a program that featured a priest, minister and rabbi. I opened it up to Muslims after five years to honor them as one of the major religions of the world. I got quite close to a number of Muslims at the time. 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.”

Janice Adelstein

Bachelors into their thirties, Dennis (who married at 32) and Joseph (who married at 40) often compared notes after their dates. The recurring theme was the search for the Most Important Trait in a Woman. One night as Prager was about to tell his latest theory, the rabbi stopped him.
“I know exactly what you will say.”
“How can you?”
“You’re about to announce that the Most Important Trait in a Woman is whatever trait tonight’s date didn’t have.” (Happiness Is A Serious Problem)
In 1978, Dennis, who said on national radio that he has a high sex drive, 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?” (Radio show 9/13/02)
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?”
In a talk 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.”
On his show 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 in whatever they're wearing or not wearing.'
"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 in that realm."
Max Prager writes 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.
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.
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.
I have the sense from listening to Dennis talk on the radio about marriage that his first marriage went bad quickly and that the couple hoped that having a child would revive their fortunes.
It did not. I sense that Dennis and Janice tried for years to make things work and that they did not divorce easily.
“It’s the tragedy of my life,” said Dennis. “I wish I was not divorced.” (June 22, 2010)
“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.”
On his radio show June 9, 2010, Dennis said he prefers a relationship with no conflict.
Max Prager writes 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.
Many of Prager’s Orthodox critics whisper that he was a philanderer and that his sexual sins caused his divorces and his alienation from Orthodoxy. They don't provide evidence.
“Of course I am committed to it [sexual fidelity],” said Prager on his radio show Dec. 9, 2009. “How could I do this show if I weren’t?”
On his radio show Oct. 11, 2010, Dennis spoke with a caller named Sam:
Dennis: “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…”

Said Dennis Nov. 23, 2011: "The male-female hour is the most honest hour on American radio about men and women. There is no agenda here except to be honest... There are hours that are effortless... The male-female hour is hardest by far for me. To be honest on this subject and not offend... Almost everything I say this hour is politically incorrect and yet I want people who are hyper-sensitive to not tune out."
In a (2008?) lecture on Deut. 23:19, Dennis said about his first divorce: “We were married five years.”
“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 too 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.'"

The marriage didn't last much longer. "I can't stand bad grammar," says Dennis. "We all have our thing." 

The Monotony Of Monogamy

Said Dennis on his Aug. 19, 2010 radio show:

“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.”
Author Sinclair McKay: “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.”
Said Dennis Aug. 20, 2010: “I didn’t go to the [James Bond] film to watch monogamy.”
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.”
“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 at Nessah Synagogue)
On his radio show 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.”
Said Dennis: “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.” (Prager CD)
After the divorce, it appeared that some sort of arrangement was made between the Pragers and the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC). Janice was immediately hired as a fundraiser and Dennis agreed to speak regularly for the center. He had no money at the time and this helped him with the alimony and it gave them a speaker who attracts people to attend cosponsored 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 who’d ogle her. She particularly favored skintight pants that left little to the imagination.
Rabbi Meyer May had a guy by the name of Sidney Green who would groom Janice and the bimbo squad who worked with her. They’d dress sexy and go to parties and try to hook in male donors. They had a list to contact. The number one girl at this task was Janice. They would send her 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. It appeared she was doing a similar service at the SWC.
Janice’s relationship with Rabbi Meyer May was close. She could walk into his office any time without announcement. He might be heavy at work as she stuck her head in but he was always glad to see her. She’d open herself up to him, stretching her legs out over the sofa or chair. She’d open her mouth wide and say, “Meyer, I am so thirsty.”
At such moments, Rabbi May would say, “I’ve had enough of work. I want to play.” And he’d stay with Janice behind closed doors.
They’d go everywhere together, including trips. At times Janice would appear to be high. Rabbi May got moody and his weight would go up and down dramatically.
Rabbi May would change his staff like socks but Janice always stayed and she kept getting better salaries and better titles.
Rabbi May never wanted to go home. His frequent flier miles exceeded rabbis Hier and Cooper until Rabbi Marvin Hier told him to cool it.
Rabbi May watched TV much of the day, favoring the girly crime dramas such as Charlie’s Angels. He’d still be in his office at 1 am. At home he did not have a TV. At home he lived like a Hasid. At work, he did what he liked.
At the time, Janice lived across the street from the SWC.
When she got money, she moved away and married a drug user from Hollywood. The marriage lasted a few months.
Janice kept the last name of Prager.
Despite being married to one of Judaism’s most eloquent spokesmen, Janice did not go on from her marriage to lead an observant Jewish life.
On May 13, 1987, Janice Prager sued Dennis Prager (Case Number: D191749).
During the late 1990s and until David Prager graduated in 2001, Janice, Dennis and his second wife Fran could be seen chatting happily together at Shalhevet events.
On his show Jan. 15, 2011, Dennis said: “My oldest son David tells this story.
“I don’t recommend you abolish TV in your home. I recommend you have real limitations on quantity and quality.
“When my son David was at summer camp, this kid came over to him and was clearly hostile. The kid explained to my son, ‘It’s not your fault, but I want you to know that your father is responsible for us not having any television in our house.’
“My son, who’s the best raconteur I know, said to the kid, ‘We have satellite TV and three video screens.’”
In his lecture on Deut. 21:15, Dennis said: “Though I am totally modern in my approach to raising children, in the belief that they must have freedom, that they can not be my clone, that they must have autonomy, that they are allowed to argue with me. You’d be shocked at what a emancipated progressive liberal father I am, probably too much at times. Nevertheless, there must be a point where disobedience can not be tolerated. Even the child needs that. As much as love, a child needs guardrails.
“With one of our children, we’ve had a number of wayward and rebellious children in their time, they’ve turned out well, when I really did set the boundary and got angry and was firm, there was actual relief in the child’s face and demeanor after that. Phew, I won’t drown. The child with tantrums wants to be stopped from the tantrum.”

Following His Divorce, Dennis Prager Entered Therapy

On his radio show 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.”
Said Dennis Jan. 15, 2011: “I am with people on the Sabbath. With the kids grown up, it’s all friends. We get together with the same friends for 20 years now on Saturday afternoons after services or after sleeping in. I often comment, ‘I could not do this on any other day, just sit and talk with friends for four or five hours.’ I’d be thinking I’ve got to write an article or go on the internet.”
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.
In the Summer 1987 edition of Ultimate Issues, Prager writes 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)
When Prager’s kids told him they were bored, he often responded, “You’re not bored, you’re boring.” (Dec. 30, 2010)

Dennis Prager’s Public Career In The 1980s

President Ronald Reagan appointed Dennis Prager a US delegate to the October 1986 Vienna Review Conference on the Helsinki Accords to negotiate human rights with the Soviet Union.
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 Booknotes)
“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)
On his show Mar. 23, 2012, Dennis said: "Through age 40 [1988], I made about $65,000 a year. I had a salary of $35,000 a year and I supplemented it with lectures."

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.

Dennis Prager On Happiness

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 personal psychological 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 the newly divorced thinker. “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 lectures: “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 on happiness fast became his best seller.
During 1989, Prager asked his listeners over KABC whether he should write his next book on goodness or happiness. Prager fans voted with their pocketbooks for happiness.
In the jacket of tapes that he sold, Prager predicted a publication date of 1990 for his book. He was off by over seven years. Writing Happiness Is A Serious Problem became a serious problem.
Dennis Prager lectures: “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 his 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.”

The Moral Bank Account

Dennis Prager does not get rattled in public. No matter what happens, he maintains perspective. One of the foundations of his thinking — and this comes from Judaism — is that each person has a moral bank account.
He writes 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 hearing as one of the five events that most influenced him. (Jul. 14, 2011)
In a talk March 24, 2008 at Nessah Synagogue, 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.”

Dennis Prager Remarries

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 in Kansas in 1947 and in the process of converting to Judaism (Los Angeles Times, 2/4/98). Within minutes Dennis knew that he wanted to marry her.
“He kept asking me questions,” she remembers.
They exchanged phone numbers that each claim they lost. A few days later, Dennis drove by and left a note on Fran’s door. They talked on the phone and dated.
Fran was initially disappointed that Dennis worked in the entertainment industry, a business that the actress (mainly TV commercials) had tired of because of its nihilism and dishonesty. 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. Normally open about his life, Dennis has said very little publicly about his divorces, though he often gives his views on the general topic of divorce. Like his religion, Prager has always had liberal views on divorce.
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, abiding by Dennis’s belief about honeymoons. Dennis did his radio show the Sunday night of their wedding.
“My religion tells couples you can not leave,” said Dennis. “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.” (June 9, 2010)
Max Prager writes:
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. The rest of the passengers are either eating, davening or smoking.
“I was a fairly lenient parent,” said Dennis Prager on his radio show April 2, 2010. “There were two things, however, I had no tolerance for — meanness and complaining.”
Dennis is not a fan of people wearing their baseball caps backward. “I can’t stand it. While there are undoubtedly some kind and decent people who wear it backward, men specifically, I think it is a sign of childhood. I gave my kids until a certain age to wear and then banned it. There was an argument. There was objection that I didn’t know what I was talking about, but it worked. Not everything has worked. Boys have to willfully mature or they stay boys. There’s no higher appellation in life than ‘Be a man!’ The aspiration to be and act and dress like a man should be there.”
Dennis writes Aug. 26, 2003:
We are wrong when we tell our children that they cannot argue with us. In fact, because I try to formulate my views on life from the Bible, especially the Torah, I have been raising my children far differently than I otherwise would have.
My original inclination, as it is of most parents, was to regard arguing as a form of disrespect and insubordination. But early in my life as a father, something powerful struck me as I taught the Bible: I realized that Abraham and Moses both have prolonged arguments with God, and not only doesn’t God mind, He seems to welcome them.
In 1989 in a lecture series on the 13 principles of the Jewish faith according to Maimonides, Dennis delivered what he has often described as the most difficult lecture of his life — whether or not God wrote the Torah. “My attitude is that I live as if this is true while my brain retains its intellectual honesty and just doesn’t know.” (1995 lecture on Gen. 39-40)
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.”

Judaism, Homosexuality and Civilization

In the fall of 1989, Dennis Prager began speaking in depth about homosexuality on his radio show.
Dennis devoted the entire April-June 1990 edition (about 10,000 words) of Ultimate Issues to “Judaism, Homosexuality and Civilization.”
Dennis wrote: “Generally speaking, I do not concern myself with the actions of consenting adults in the privacy of their homes, and I certainly oppose government involvement with what consenting adults do in private.”
In an epilogue, Dennis wrote:
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 holines are the supreme values.”
Jews Should Seek Converts

In 1990, Dennis Prager published a couple of essays in his journal of thought, The Prager Perspective, arguing that Jews should seek converts among non-Jews who are not active in a religion.
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.
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. That ended that brilliant idea, one of many felled before it was tried.”

In 1991, Dennis Prager Leaves His Orthodox Shul For Reform Temple Stephen S. Wise

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). The Pragers played in the shul’s softball league.
A Jewish doctor remembers how Prager helped him. In 1989, the doctor 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 has never forgotten 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. Around the same time, Prager became less observant.
Bored with ritualized 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 did not typically daven in a minyan (Jewish prayer quorum) during the week.
In 1991, Prager spent the Sabbath at the University of Judaism where he gave a speech. On Saturday morning, he walked up the hill to the “Mountain Top Minyan” at Reform synagogue Stephen S. Wise (presided over by Rabbi Mordecai Finley).
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 every Shabbos morning. For about ten years previously, 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 became 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 talk not be taped.
As Richard was forcibly led out of the room, he screamed that the minyan members were being “brainwashed” by Dennis Prager.
I’ve encountered many rabbis who regard Prager’s presentation of the Jewish religion as a brainwash and much more “Pragerism” than Judaism.
Dennis attracts a fiercely loyal following. He is tall and intimidating and when he walks in the room, his presence is felt and it seems unimaginable to not conduct yourself accordingly.
When I fell out with Dennis in late 1997, early 1998, over my desire to write this unauthorized biography of him, I lost almost every friend I had in common with Dennis. Almost everyone we knew together sided against me and stopped talking to me.
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 equal Torah learning, while at Reform and Conservative synagogues, Prager is the star. The macher. The maven. The big kahuna. The man who knows the most about Torah.
“Shabbat brings me closer to God every week,” said Dennis in a 2004 lecture on Deuteronomy 15. “It is probably the single most effective part of my religiosity. I leave the world totally. I don’t even read a newspaper. I have been rewarded so many times over for that sacrifice [refusing to broadcast on the Sabbath].”
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.”
In a 1996 lecture on Exodus 21, Dennis said: “A guy hit our dog, one of our dogs, and then sued us for a door repair.”

Dennis Prager In The 1990s

In April 1990, the US State Department invited Prager to conduct the Passover Seder at the US embassy in Moscow.
“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 11-17-91 LA 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.”
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. KABC station manager at the time, George Green, said sponsors worried that their product would seem trivial in the midst of philosophical debate.
“Dennis Prager is one of the few radio personalities whose intellect is clear,” actor Richard Dreyfuss told the 11-17-91 LA Times. “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.”
Ghost Director Jerry Zucker says “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 Nov. 17, 1991 LA Times writes:
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…”

Perhaps the biggest difference between Dennis Prager the person and Dennis Prager the public image is the degree to which Dennis is emotionally affected by what is said about him, particularly in the media. While he's always been strong enough to keep going, if he is cut, he feels the pain like any man. Dennis reads carefully almost everything published about him. Personal criticisms such as that he is pompous tend to make his face fall (friends have told me). He’s keenly conscious of his public image and will threaten lawsuits if he feels he's been illegally maligned.
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.
To the best of my knowledge, there are few if any significant differences between Dennis Prager’s public and private views on important issues.
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.”
“The only time I personally feel my blood pressure rising is if somebody says I lied because I am unbelievably passionate about the truth.”
Said Dennis in a 1996 lecture on Exodus 12: “When I take off from the radio on the first and last days [of Passover and Succoth], there’s a vague awareness of the first day of Passover because so many Jews have a seder, but when I take off the last day of Succoth, every year it’s what? What? Every year, it’s like I just made up a Jewish holiday. After so many years, it has no impact.”
Said Dennis in a 1995 lecture on Exodus 2, “I live at the Souplantation. We just love eating there. I like any place where you can have as much as you want. Pure freedom, where gluttony is expected.”
Said Dennis in a 2006 (?) lecture on Deut. 26: “I don’t spend a lot of money eating out but I like to eat out. The most common reaction I get at these places is, ‘You eat here?’ People think I’m at Spago’s for breakfast. ‘You’re at Denny’s?’ It’s my name. I like it.”
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. As it is, I’m told I talk too much religion.”
Said Dennis in a 2009 lecture on Leviticus 22-23: “When I was on my old radio station [KABC] in the afternoon following me was the legendary Larry Elder. A highlight of my radio career was introducing Larry’s show every day.
“Every time I did introduce him, I would insult him. For years.
“For example, and now ladies and gentleman, the handsomest black man on radio here in Los Angeles.
“And then he would insult me and we would have a ball.
“One day I said, ‘Larry, I won’t be here tomorrow.’ He said, why not? Because it is a Jewish holiday. Shemini Atzeret.
“Larry said, ‘Shemini what? Come on, Dennis. Is that yarmulke day? Let’s be honest. You want a day off so you made up a Jewish holiday.’”
In a 2008 lecture on Lev. 11, Dennis said: “Early in my life, I felt like it was my task to take what I knew and to try to bring it to the world.”
“When Jews rest from work on the Shabbat, they are stating that God made the world… If millions of Jews did that, the impact would be enormous.”
“Years ago I decided to start in Jewish life a program called ‘Bring a non-Jew home for Shabbat dinner.’ And I realized why it foundered. The Jews who kept Shabbat didn’t have non-Jewish friends to invite over and the Jews who had non-Jewish friends didn’t keep Shabbat. And that ended my program. I was the only one enrolled.
“I had non-Jews over so often, and still do, for Shabbat dinner that my older son David, when he was about nine, before Shabbat one Friday afternoon, looked at me totally seriously and said, ‘Dad, any Jews coming for Shabbos?’
“And then I realized it was a little disproportionate the visitors to my Shabbat table.
“I have a running joke about how you can tell who the Jews and the non-Jews are at my Shabbat table among the visitors — the non-Jews are the ones wearing the yarmulkes.
“The Jews would say no thanks. God forbid they should engage in a Jewish ritual associated with the Orthodox, but the non-Jews thought the more ritual, the better. Give me a yarmulke. Give me tzitzit. I’ll light a candle. You name it.”

On Nov. 4, 2011, Dennis said that for the past three decades, more than 50% of his Shabbat guests have been non-Jewish. "For about 70% of the time, I will go to synagogue Saturday morning."
In his 2009 lecture on Leviticus 26, 27, Dennis said: “I love Jewish ritual. I just don’t love the number. At a certain point of quantity, I start fantasizing about ham and cheese sandwiches. We’re built differently. Can religion maintain its integrity while acknowledging the different natures built into its adherents?”

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 initially sold for $700. In 2001, Prager’s website www.dennisprager.com began selling the tape for $29.95.
In 1991, producer Rich Markey introduced Dennis to screenwriter Allen Estrin. 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 sell for $700 each. (Mentor Media 1-800-359-1935)
Prager writes on his web site www.dennisprager.com: “Allen Estrin and I have written and, along with Richard Markey, have produced three very funny videos on character: For Goodness Sake, Character: What It Is and How to Get It, and Diversity through Character. The first was directed by David Zucker (Naked Gun), who was intimately involved in the production of the other two videos as well. Many famous actors and actresses appear in all three videos.
“We plan to produce a video on happiness to coincide with my 1998 book on the subject.
“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 (about goodness, character and diversity) 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.
According to Prager’s official biography at Townhall.com (retrieved April 6, 2010): “Dennis Prager has made…For Goodness Sake II (1999) directed by Trey Parker (South Park). In 2002 Dennis produced a documentary, Israel in a Time of Terror (2002), a compelling look at how the average Israeli deals with the daily threat of terror. It has been shown at colleges, universities, churches and synagogues across the country.”
In 2009, Dennis Prager created Prager University, a website offering five minute videos on important issues. It’s motto? “Give us five minutes and we’ll give you a semester.”

For The World

I wonder how many people with resources, aside from James Cayne, have offered Dennis Prager ways to reach a wider audience? I wonder how Dennis Prager has responded to these offers? I need to explore the tension that I suspect Prager feels between his twin desires of taking his values to the world and his need for control.
Dennis Prager often reaches out to young people who disagree with him.
In a column Oct. 30, 2007, he writes about a speech he gave at UCSB:
Third, students told me afterward that I disarmed those who came to oppose me. Contrary to the demonized figure they had assumed I am — in one UCSB student newspaper column, I was compared to a Ku Klux Klanner for speaking on Islamo-Fascism — they saw a decent man, a sometimes funny guy, and heard a low-keyed, intellectual speech that contained not one word of gratuitous hatred.
It is worth mentioning that following my lecture, the student who wrote the column comparing me to a Ku Klux Klanner came over to me and said he was writing a column of apology to me and asked to be photographed with me.
Larry Elder

Dennis Prager met Larry Elder in 1990. Dennis had Larry on as a guest during a week Prager co-hosted an early morning TV talkshow in Cleveland. Larry, an attorney, came on to talk about sexual harassment in the workplace.
From the Dennis Prager radio show, July 30, 2009:
Dennis: “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 buy George forever until you got a show.”
Dennis Prager Adopts 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. “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 [Aaron].” (Prager CD)
Max Prager writes: “…Aaron was born to a young unwedded couple in the state of Washington. This event gave us our 6th grandchild.”
On his radio show April 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… The way to a decent life is simple.”
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 on his radio show Oct. 22, 2009. “It was not in my hands. If it had been in my hands, I would’ve had more.”
On his radio show April 2, 2010, Dennis said he expected to grow up to have one marriage and four children.

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, Bruce lost — possibly because of late-breaking revelations that the Herschensohn went to strip shows and bought porn magazines — to Democrat Barbara Boxer.
On his radio show March 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. In 1993, I donated $500 to the Micah Center for Ethical Monotheism.)
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 often 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.”
Read Dennis Prager’s entire speech.
On his show 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.

Teaching The Torah Verse-By-Verse

On 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 DennisPrager.com 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.
I can only imagine the savings if you call the Prager Store (1.800.225.8584) and get Prager’s commentary on all five books of the Torah. The total bill would be in the neighborhood of $3,000.

Here’s a quote from Dennis on the AJU website: “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.”
On his radio show 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 takes the verses that interest him and then lectures at length. He plans to turn these Torah talks into a book.
As of Mar. 17, 2012, the series has received few if any citations on Google Scholar. It received virtually no media coverage. I can't find any rabbis citing it. So far Prager's massive effort has left only the tiniest of imprints.
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. And I have nothing against their work.”
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.”

Dennis Prager’s 1990s Broadcasting

In a public dialogue with Adam Carolla, Dennis said: "Very very few people can play the violin. Everybody can speak. Yet, there are far more great violinists than great speakers."
Adam: "I think you just made that point with that super boring violin analogy."
"I rode a unicycle on a semi-professional level and I'm not going to sit here and be ridiculed by a man who fell over on a tric."
Dennis: "Our job is to have the listener think this is the easiest job in the world, but it's very hard."
Adam: "It's like sex."
Dennis: "No, it is not."
Adam: "If you're doing it right, it seems very natural."
Dennis: "What does it mean to do it wrong?"
Adam: "There's chafing. Often times there's extra tipping at the end."
"How much of your off-time is consumed with scratching out notes on things?"
Dennis: "Yes. It's frightening."

On Mar. 10, 2012, Dennis says: "You think that its inherently so exciting to have a national radio show that of course, there's no challenge to being happy under those circumstances, but you must know that is not true. Among my colleagues is the same exact representation of happy and miserable as among any other job. As among undertakers."

In July of 1993, Prager began broadcasting on KABC during the day, from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM, Monday through Friday. He writes on a CD available since 1998 on DennisPrager.com:
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)
Though he comported himself in a classy way, say those who’ve worked with him, Prager’s numerous demands for his TV show were exasperating to some of those who worked on it with him and they were glad to see it canceled.
Prager’s TV show was all over the map until his friend, the screenwriter Allen Estrin, came on late in its run as a producer.
Around 2001, Estrin would come on to Prager’s radio show as a producer and the show improved in quality. Allen kept Dennis more focused on what he does best and gave him a short leash to waste much of his radio time singing and goofing off as is Prager’s bent.
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.”
Porn star Tyffany Million told me that Dennis Prager was nervous when he met her. She told me that she demanded to meet with 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.”
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.”
On his radio show 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.”
During 1994, Prager hosted an hour long radio talk show on WABC in New York. Against his will, 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 Grant was not worth it. He quit WABC in early 1995.
Prager’s KABC radio show 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 will note that many of her ideas and stories come from Dennis.
The Disney years (beginning 8/5/95) at KABC were not a happy time for Prager, nor almost anyone at the station. New program director Maureen Lesourd called him in to reprove him for using the word “thesis. Use view, theory, not thesis.” He had similar run-ins. He was ordered to talk about the Eddie Murphy picking up a transvestite hooker story and he refused, saying it was gossip. A religious Jew is not allowed to gossip.
“Everybody hated it when Disney took over,” said a former KABC employee to me. “[Program director] George Green left after running the show for about 35 years. Maureen Lesourd came in. Nobody liked her. She lasted 18 months. ‘Synergy’ is the word for Disney. It means that everybody supports everybody. It means that everybody is a tool for everybody. Disney only bought ABC as an outlet for their programming.
“It was a smaller, more friendly company, before Disney bought it. Then it became just another arm of a huge corporation.”
On his radio show April 26, 2010, Dennis said: “I have a story about the word ‘thesis.’ This is a true radio story. I’m not sure that even my two spouses (Sue and Prager’s producer Allen Estrin) know this.
“When I was with my first station, I was with ABC in Los Angeles for 17 years. I have only warm feelings for those years.
“When Disney took over ABC, it decided that the only thing that mattered were ratings. And so they put in a general manager at the station who said, ‘None of this high-quality talk stuff. We’ve got to go down in the gutter.’
“It was a very bad period. I thought I’d be let go because I wasn’t prepared to do everything this woman wanted me to talk about. It was a very tense time. She left eventually. I stayed.
“I once used the word ‘thesis’. I was called in to the program director’s office. He said, ‘Dennis, I was listening to you today and you used the word ‘thesis.’
“I remember thinking, what could possibly be wrong with that? Did he think I used the word ‘feces’?
“He said, ‘Dennis, that is too highfalutin a word. If you want really high ratings, you don’t use the word ‘thesis.’
“Whenever I have used the word on the radio since then, I see this program director in front of me. ‘Dennis, no, don’t use the word ‘thesis’.”
On his show Aug. 29, 2011, Dennis said: “I am surrounded by good men, folks. I’d rather be surrounded by good women but you can’t have everything. Actually, that’s not true. I don’t have a preference.
“I think that both men and women would rather work with men…
“Who would you rather work with and for? I had a female boss once in my life. She was the head of a previous station. It was a horror. She wanted me to lower in every way the level of the show. To speak about sex scandals in Hollywood. That was the big one. I’ll never forget. It was the only time in my life in 29 years of broadcasting that I thought I might be fired because I said no.”
In a 1997(?) lecture on Exodus 25, Dennis said: “In secular life, you can’t use the word ‘sin.’ If I used the word ‘sin’ on my radio show, if I did it enough, I’d be fired. I would be told to go do a religious show. As it is, they think I talk too much religion. It’s a secular show. I talk religion rarely but more than most talkshow hosts.”
In his 2004 lecture on Deuteronomy 12, Dennis said: “What does God want me to do? I try that all the time. I don’t succeed all the time. I ask myself before every show, what does God want me to do?
“I was torn. It was really an issue for a time. This is what God wants me to use the microphone for and this is what my employers’ want me to use the microphone for. Employers in the secular media want ratings.
“I didn’t talk about the O.J. Simpson trial and I had an only-LA show one of the two prime stations in LA (KABC). I talked about the verdict.
“I kept saying to myself, ‘Dennis, God didn’t give you the gift of speech to talk about Kato Kaelin.’
“It was the end of my TV career because I wouldn’t do stuff they asked.”
“I’ve never deluded myself on the sin issue. I am and I’m enjoying myself. I never fooled myself that this is OK. That’s the road to ruin, not the sin.”
Said Dennis on his radio show Sept. 15, 2010: “At one place of work, I was in one of these seminars [at KABC], and I think I drove the woman crazy with her totalitarian talk about what was permitted. I can show you my breasts but you can not comment on them. That’s sexual harassment law in a nutshell.”
Variety reports July 13, 1997:
As villains go, Maureen Lesourd — prexy and G.M. of ABC-owned Los Angeles radio stations KABC, KTZN and KLOS-FM — is a somewhat unlikely one. She’s dabbled in advertising and in affiliate relations. She ran an ABC music station in Washington, D.C., for a while. And as far as anyone knows, she is kind to animals.
But earlier this month, Lesourd became one of the most disliked figures in L.A. broadcasting. Her sin: removing KABC personality Michael Jackson from the midday timeslot he had held down for nearly 31 years and shipping him to weekends, creating a firestorm of listener protest in the process.
…And the clunky manner in which a local icon was shoved off to weekend oblivion was typical of the lack of sensitivity that has defined the Lesourd era since her appointment nearly 15 months ago.
It has stood in stark contrast to the “We are family” style of Lesourd’s predecessor, 38-year ABC man George Green, who would mark birthdays by singing “Happy Birthday” and bestowing presents on each employee.
“Those days are gone, and it’s sad,” says Green, now a consultant.
Gone also are a majority of the talkradio personalities at both KABC and the former KMPC (now the female-skewed KTZN, a.k.a. “The Zone”).
…”The poor morale at the station created by Lesourd makes working there a depressing thing,” says one current KABC employee.
…Indeed, many in radio are questioning Disney’s decision to promote Lesourd — a woman with practically no experience working in talk and none in the complex L.A. radio market.
…One thing Lesourd has done that has proven surprising is to stick behind afternoon drivetime personality Larry Elder, whose targeting for advertiser boycott by an African-American pressure group has cost the station in excess of $1 million in lost revenue over the past year alone.
The Nov. 24, 1995 issue of the Forward reports:
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.” (Forward 11-24-95)
From the opposite end of the spectrum, many Orthodox rabbis declare that Prager’s presentation of Judaism as ethical monotheism is 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.” (Forward 11-24-95)
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.” (Forward 11-24-95)
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.” (Forward 11-24-95)
Elliot Dorff, a Conservative thinker who turned against his friend 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 11-24-95)
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 G-d 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”
Dennis typically goes to bed by midnight and rises by seven AM. “When I’m showering, I’m debating. I make a point. Then I hear the left-wing response.” (May 20, 2010)
Dennis told CSPAN he read six daily papers – “the LA Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, the editorial page — USA Today, editorial pages of The Orange County Register and Valley 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.” (CSPAN Booknotes)
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.”
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.”
In July 1997, Dennis Prager began broadcasting from 9 a.m. to noon on KABC, replacing veteran host Michael Jackson.
Said Dennis on his show Jan. 17, 2011: “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 do my reading [for the show] at night. I go to bed at 2 a.m. and 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 Prager

Dennis Prager stands 6’4 and weighs about 230 pounds. He drives a luxury car and frequently wears sandals to synagogue. He usually 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 has no desire to give his opinions and he loves to hug. “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. I don’t get that.” (Radio show, March 26, 2010)

The Dennis Prager you hear on the radio is the real Dennis Prager. He's solid with who he is. That's why all the personal attacks and compliments he receives do not change him. Dennis doesn't have delusions of grandeur. He sees himself pretty accurately. He's not puffed up by flattery and he's not brought low by criticism. Because he knows he's a good man and he knows he thinks clearly and communicates good values eloquently, he's not affected by criticisms in those areas. By contrast, he seems vulnerable in a handful of areas. One area is his reputation. Dennis is quick to threaten a lawsuit if somebody is going to publish something damaging (all attacks so far factually untrue from Dennis's perspective). I sense my writing on him has bothered Dennis at times and overall 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, after I started blogging on him in late 1997, he started saying only two friends had ever betrayed him). I sense that some attacks by those to the right of him in Judaism annoy him particularly keenly as Dennis knows and admits that Orthodox Judaism is the only brand of the Jewish religion that perpetuates itself and yet Dennis is unable to live it. He also seems aware at times that his three marriages and numerous girlfriends before marriage reduces his moral credibility with many. When he announced his second divorce on the radio, Dennis said through his tears that he feared some would no longer take him seriously.

Said Dennis in a 1995 lecture on Exodus 7: “If I may be vivid, which I am known for being, 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.”
Said Dennis on his show Oct. 7, 2010: “There is no joy in me describing bad things. I’m a happy-go-lucky guy. I like to think nice things about everybody.”
"I've been wronged in my life but I've never hated anyone in my life," said Dennis Jan. 31, 2012.
Said Dennis on his show Jan. 7, 2010: “If we only did what we wanted to do, I don’t think we would be happy. I wouldn’t. If all I did was what I wanted to do, I would’ve wasted my life. I don’t mean drugs or alcohol or anything like that. I would’ve just engaged in my fun hobbies — spent today at a camera store, the next day at a stereo store, the next day test out new pens at the pen store. Didn’t I do all that this week? I did.
“I told my stepson the other day, ‘I am a very lazy man who has conquered it, not by changing his nature, by taking on at an early age an enormous number of have-tos. Have-tos have made my life possible. They have brought me the most happiness.”
Said Dennis on his show Dec. 31, 2010: “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…
“I speak to everybody. I am one of the only lecturers I know who stays in almost every instance, I stay until the last person has spoken to me. I often stay for as long after a speech as my speech was just to answer people’s questions.
“I particularly love when young people come to my lectures and particularly love to engage with them.”
“We who engage in ideas ache for the next generation to know of our ideas because then we know they will go on.”
On a radio broadcast to a crowd 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 Prager contributed to the music at his Reform synagogue, often playing the accordion or piano after lunch on Saturday (since 1992).
Dennis cries easily (according to the second hour of his show, Feb. 2, 2007). He said he’s teared up at least half a dozen times during lectures. During the first week in January 2011, Dennis said on his show 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.
To invigorate the world’s most populous synagogue, Stephen S. Wise, Prager began preaching most Saturday mornings from its pulpit in January 1998. Attendance at the Sabbath morning “Mountaintop Minyan” at the Reform temple in Bel Air has declined since the end of 1993 (with the departure of Mordecai Finley).
Prager enjoys the spirited singing at his temple which is usually led by Cantor Linda Kates, who is married to pianist and composer David Kates.
Prager’s commitment to his Reform temple signaled effort on his part to develop non-Orthodox Judaism in general, which he said is “the greatest Jewish need.”
Said Dennis in his 2004 lecture on Deuteronomy 12: “People say, if you have all these beliefs, how come you go to a Reform synagogue? The answer is — it is the briefest service.”
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 (let alone written?).
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.”

After living 79 years of their lives in Brooklyn, Prager’s parents moved to Englewood, New Jersey (near Dennis’ brother Kenny) in 1997. On the day before his 80th birthday (7/17/98), Max spoke via telephone on his son’s KABC radio show.
Max got an hour every year on Prager’s radio show.
On August 2, 1998, Dennis Prager turned 50. “Fifty did hit me,” Dennis said on his radio show Aug. 3, 2010. “I had such a great time when I was young… There was a real great time then because it was much less burdened by any issues. You just realize that that can not go on forever. There was a book that made an impression on me early on — Necessary Losses by Judith Viorst.”

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

Dennis’s best friend Joseph Telushkin has garnered acclaim 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.
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 attend a Modern Orthodox day school in New York.
Rabbi Telushkin said to me that Prager’s 1993 essay condoning driving on Shabbat was written to him, and that he remains unconvinced. Joseph, a more observant and 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.
A voracious student of life, Rabbi Telushkin studied and experimented with hypnotism during the 1990s.
During 1996, Joseph almost died from diabetes.

Michael Medved

Michael Medved has been a good friend to Dennis for decades. 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, strongly disagreed with the more laissez-faire attitude towards porn by Dennis and his second wife Fran.


“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.”

Baby Richard

Beginning in April 1995, Dennis devoted about six weeks of his radio show to the Baby Richard controversy.
In his March 25, 2002 column, Dennis wriote:

I took the news of the forced resignation of Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene — for having had sexual contact with an 18- or 19-year-old woman 11 years earlier — very hard.
You see, in 1995, Greene and I were the two most vocal voices in America in defense of a 4-year-old boy taken away from his family and given over to a birth father whom the boy had never seen. The boy, Danny Warburton, was known as “Baby Richard,” though at the age of four, he was hardly a baby.
The Illinois Supreme Court, in a vote of 5 to 2, overturned a lower-court ruling to leave Danny with his parents and his brother, and to hand him over forever to a birth father who soon after abandoned the boy again. The justices did not even provide a way for Danny to communicate with his family, the only family he had ever known.
At Danny’s birth, the birth mother had legally given adoption rights over to the Warburtons, a fireman and homemaker — his parents virtually from birth.
Bob Greene in the Chicago Tribune and I, through my radio talk show and writings, poured our hearts out for this boy. I devoted half a year to writing an analysis of that horrific decision and the blood-is-more-important-than-love thinking that made it possible (it can be found in my book of essays, Think a Second Time (HarperCollins)).
How could these Illinois Supreme Court justices use their power to hurt, rather than protect, a child? As the case involved Chicago residents, Bob’s voice was uniquely powerful. Against the judgment of those in the media who believe that the public easily gets bored with any issue, he devoted column after column to making readers like me weep for Danny Warburton and for his mother, father and brother.
Were it not for Bob Greene, I would have known much less about the situation and not obtained the information I desperately needed to make my daily case against Illinois Supreme Court. Also, knowing that I had a major ally in the media enabled me to do something I have never done in 20 years on the radio — devote more than a month to the same subject, every day, for three hours.
Bob Greene and I were obsessed with the devastation wrought by five men on the Illinois Supreme Court against a little boy and his family. To say that Bob Greene has done more for children than almost any other American in the media is to say the obvious. And now his voice, at least in the Tribune, is stilled.
…Whatever sins he has committed pale alongside the good he has done, just as whatever good the five Illinois justices did pales alongside the bad they did. When I realize that the five justices who ruined lives are still honored citizens in Illinois and that Bob Greene, who helped so many, is in disgrace, I recall the ancient Jewish proverb that the good get their punishments in this world and the bad in the next.
Said Dennis on his radio show Sept. 17, 2010: “I spoke at a rally on his behalf in Chicago. And I cried in the middle of my own talk, it was so painful, that whole issue, in part because my child [Aaron] was the same age and also adopted at birth and the thought of his being taken away was nightmarish.”

O.J. Simpson Not Guilty Verdict Oct. 3, 1995

Dennis Prager wrote June 10, 2008:
The day the O.J. Simpson verdict was announced, I said to my then-teenage son, “David, please forgive me. I am handing over to you a worse America than my father handed over to me.”
Unfortunately, I still feel this way.
With the important exception of racial discrimination — which was already dying a natural death when I was young — it is difficult to come up with an important area in which America is significantly better than when I was a boy. But I can think of many in which its quality of life has deteriorated.
Judaism, Homosexuality & Civilization

In mid-November 1996, Dennis Prager told the editor of the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, Gene Lichtenstein, that he wanted to submit an article on Judaism and homosexuality. Gene said he’d publish it. Two weeks went by and nothing appeared. Prager called Gene and asked what happened. Lichtenstein said that he so disagreed with the piece that he would not publish it without publishing a rebuttal in the same issue.
Gene sought a rabbi to write a rebuttal, but none of them would, despite their strong disagreement with Prager’s ideas. So Lichtenstein wrote a rebuttal which he published with Prager’s essay in the Journal’s November 22nd issue.
The Jewish Journal then published a series of letters, almost all attacking Dennis. The most significant was signed by sixteen rabbis, four Conservative and 12 Reform. “Apparently,” wrote Dennis afterwards in his journal The Prager Perspective, “Mr. Lichtenstein does not believe that the letters he publishes need engage issues or even approximate respectful dialogue. The letters… were of a level so low, so filled with invective and even hatred toward me that I wonder if Mr. Lichtenstein wonders about the moral level of his ideological allies. I wonder whether he was embarrassed by what he published week after week. Or perhaps, he took the high road in engaging me, while happily publishing all those who took the low road.”
I remember the Sabbath morning at Stephen S. Wise temple after these letters were published. There was something completely different about Dennis Prager’s demeanor. He was shaken and hurt in a way I had never seen before. It was the rabbis’ letter that did it, I suspect. Two of the rabbis who signed it were friends of Dennis — Neal Weinberg and Elliot Dorff. Dennis was so hurt that two friends would attack him publicly and personally.
Dennis Prager’s friends at the Mountaintop Minyan were stirred up on his behalf. I saw a furious Dr. Stephen Marmer go to Prager’s defense, pulling outside one of Stephen S. Wise’s rabbis (Tova August) to have a long talk. The Stephen S. Wise rabbis had signed a letter to the Jewish Journal calling for respectful dialogue by both sides on the issue of Judaism and homosexuality. Prager’s friends said that only side in the fight had frequently demonstrated a lack of respect.
The 16 rabbis signed this letter:
Recently, the Jewish Journal provided coverage to a diatribe by Dennis Prager, who attacked gay and lesbian rabbis. We Los Angeles-area rabbis feel that we can respond more fully and more appropriately within our own constituencies to the specifics of Prager’s poorly argued, homophobic, indeed cruel, reading of Jewish values.
We are rabbis, male and female.
We are rabbis, heterosexual, gay, lesbian and bisexual.
We are rabbis, discharging holy tasks that we feel called upon to do.
We are rabbis, serving in different movements.
We are rabbis, serving various constituencies.
We are rabbis, reflecting diverse theologies.
We are rabbis, embodying tradition in distinct ways.
We are rabbis, committed to teaching and perpetuating our glorious heritage.
We rabbis affirm one another in the work that we do.
We rabbis support each other in our personal lives.
We rabbis glory in the diversity of the rabbinate.
We rabbis honor the different talents that we each bring to our ministries.
We rabbis recognize that each bring strengths to our people.
We rabbis acknowledge that each rabbi is a bearer of Torah.
We rabbis celebrate that we include so many who are so qualified and so caring.
May every Jew find the rabbi who best suits his/her needs. May every Jew be grateful that other Jews find rabbis who meet their needs. May every rabbi be granted the insight, wisdom and sensitivity to meet the spectrum of religious, educational, cultural, social, intellectual, emotional and spiritual needs of our people, to the best of our capacities.
Rabbi Leslie Bergson, Claremont Colleges
Rabbi L.B. Sacks-Rosen, Congregation Shaarei Torah
Rabbi Elliot Dorff, University of Judaism
Rabbi Don Goor, Temple Isaiah
Rabbi Moshe Halfon, Temple Ami-Shalom
Rabbi Avi Levine, Temple Beth Israel
Rabbi Jane Litman, Kol Simchah of Orange County
Rabbi Debra Orenstein, Wilstein Institute for Jewish Family Policy
Rabbi Arnold Rachlis, University Syngagogue }
Rabbi Joel Rembaum, Temple Beth Am Rabbi
Steven Carr Reuben, JCC of Pacific Palisades
Rabbi Lisa Edwards, Beth Chayim Chadashim
Rabbi Rafael Goldstein, Los Angeles Jewish AIDS Services
Rabbi Steve Tucker, Temple Ramat Zion
Rabbi Neal Weinberg, University of Judaism
Rabbi Bridgit Wynne, Leo Baeck Temple
Dennis Prager wrote in his journal The Prager Perspective:
By the end of January [1997], the Jewish Journal had published my one essay on homosexuality and rabbis, and then published an editor’s rebuttal, a statement on the low moral level of my ideas signed by 16 rabbis, seven letters attacking my decency, and one letter agreeing with me.
Had I written that Israel should make Jerusalem a bi-national city; or that Jews should consider adding Buddhism to their Jewish identity; or that Jews should observe the Sabbath on any day of the week that best suits them, I would not have received more opprobrium.
There are a number of reasons for this:
First, Los Angeles has a particularly large concentration of left-wing rabbis.
Second, the Los Angeles Jewish Journal is the most monolithically left of any mainstream big-city Jewish newspaper. That is why the editor would not publish my piece unless accompanied by a rebuttal. While pieces from the Left are published every week without rebuttal, a piece against the Left cannot be published alone.
Third, while most practicing Jews agree with me, most Jews, like most non-Jews, have been rendered publicly silent by the ferocity of leftist invective on the gay issue. No decent person wants to be called “homophobe.”
Fourth, few people know either the need for, or the importance of, making the case for preserving the heterosexual ideal. I have been writing on Judaism for 25 years, and have only recently come to understand the heterosexual revolution that the Torah and Judaism wrought.
I had decided not to reply to any of the letters that maligned me (not one dealt with issues I actually raised), but when the 16 rabbis maligned me, I knew that a response was necessary.
Prager’s response was headlined on the Journal’s cover page as: “Dennis Prager: Firing Salvos at his Rabbinic Critics.”
Sixteen “heterosexual, gay, lesbian and bisexual” rabbis signed a letter to The Jewish Journal, calling my piece on homosexuality and Judaism “cruel,” a “homophobic diatribe” and “poorly reasoned.”
Concerning the charge of “cruelty,” my article did not contain a harsh word, let alone words of cruelty. In fact, I wrote that a homosexual Jew is, of course, as much a Jew as any of us, and that gay-bashing is a moral offense. I wrote that Judaism is rooted in the ideal of heterosexuality, but there is not a shred of cruelty in that. The only cruelty in this whole issue is in the rabbi’s letter.
As for “homophobic,” shame on these rabbis for emulating the McCarthy right by giving someone they disagree with a horrible label instead of responding to arguments. The rabbis did not quote me once. They wouldn’t, because if they did, it would be obvious that they engage only in ad hominem attacks, not intellectual or religious responses.
“Poorly reasoned”? Andrew Sullivan, a prominent gay spokesman and former editor of the New Republic, publicly lauded my arguments as a model of fair debate on the issue. And if my article was so poorly argued, why didn’t any one of these rabbis write a response showing the world just how poor my arguments are?
And, now, bisexuality is defined as Jewish too. I thought the argument on behalf of Judaism holding homosexuality as just as Jewish a practice as heterosexuality as just as Jewish a practice as heterosexuality rested on homosexuals not having a choice. But don’t bisexuals, by definition, have a choice of which sex to love?
What depressed me about the letter was not the name-calling instead of dialogue. I experienced that when I debated the Jewish rightist, the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, and I experience it from the Jewish left. I am used to being attacked, since, unlike these rabbis who work and live among those who agree with them, I am used to debating my positions and being attacked every day, three hours a day.
What is most depressing is to see three respected Conservative signatories to the letter. With my friend Elliot Dorff’s signature on this letter, and that of the Conservative movement’s teacher of prospective converts, another friend, Rabbi Neal Weinberg, and the signature of one of the seminary’s former heads, one wonders what has become of Conservative Judaism. Does it only differ from the left wing of Reform in its commitment to religious rituals? Does Conservative Judaism actually now hold that drinking milk after eating chicken is religiously wrong, but a person having sex with both sexes is religiously acceptable? Does Rabbi Weinberg teach prospective converts to Judaism that Judaism doesn’t care whether a Jew has sex with the same sex or even with both sexes? Would Rabbi Rembaum perform a same-sex marriage? If he would perform such a marriage, has he told his congregants? And if he wouldn’t, why isn’t he labeled a “homophobe”?
Most Jews, myself included, were appalled at the hate-filled descriptions of the late Yitzhak Rabin that emanated from parts of the Jewish right. In what way do the hate-filled descriptions of me by these rabbis and all the other nine letters you published against me differ?
I am disappointed by something else – the absence of public support from the many rabbis who I know agree with me. Hopefully, The Journal will now receive a letter signed by twice as many rabbis in support of what I wrote. But if the Los Angeles Jewish community and its rabbis do not find maintaining the Jewish male-female ideal worthy of their attention, I do not want to be a voice crying in the wilderness, while those arguing for acceptance of bisexual behavior among rabbis are considered mainstream.
Five of the 16 rabbis (Orenstein, Dorff, Sacks-Rosen, Weinberg, Wynne) issued this response:
We signed the substantive portion of the original rabbinic response…[that] affirmed our desire for a pluralistic and inclusive rabbinate, made up of…various sexual orientations…
We neither saw nor approved, and from what we have gathered, at least a few other colleagues neither saw nor approved, a preamble that characterized Dennis Prager’s position in unfortunate and unjustified terms. While we disagree profoundly with Dennis Prager’s argument, we regret that out names were attached to those personal remarks and, more important, that they were printed at all.
We hope that people on all sides of this issue will avoid provocative rhetoric and engage in this important communal discussion with respect and civility.
One rabbi, however, did apologize to Dennis Prager. Rabbi Neal Weinberg called and faxed Prager saying that he wanted to repent. Dennis forgave him.
“I have actually introduced gay male friends to other men,” said Dennis in a 2009 (?) lecture on “Feelings: Key to the Liberal Mind.”

Is God In Trees?

In the Spring of 1997, I sat near Dennis Prager on a Saturday morning at Stephen S. Wise temple while he took furious notes (it is a violation of Jewish law to write on the Sabbath and Prager rarely breaks this law except when he’s pushed to sign an autograph, etc) on the sermon by atheist professor Daniel Matt on the Big Bang. Dr. Matt saw spiritual significance and ultimate meaning in such natural phenomena.
Prager disagreed and devoted the June 1, 1997 edition of his newsletter The Prager Perspective to the question, “Is God in Trees?”
I recently heard a Jewish professor/author lecture on the Kabbalah. Like many other non-traditional Jews, he uses the Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) to sustain his nature-centered views. “God is in the bark of a tree,” he told the audience.
Many nontraditional Jews and Christians, not to mention followers of New Age thinking, maintain as this professor does, that “God is in the trees” and “Trees are divine.”
There are three problems with this view: theological, logical, and moral.
In a 1995 lecture on why God is important (tenth lecture on Exodus), Dennis said: “When I look at a mountain, I want to [bow down]. I feel insignificant. When I visited the Himalayas, I was shaken… The tops are where jet planes fly. I am not a nature worshiper. I am a God believer, a supernatural God, and I am standing there and this is awesome. I am insignificant. This is where it’s at.”

Dennis Prager Online

Dennis Prager never bothered to register dennisprager.com. In 1997, when he decided he wanted it, he 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 did not bother to register the other variants of his name and in January of 1998, I bought dennisprager.net. I hosted this biography on it and related postings. Despite having a disclaimer on every page of the site that it was unauthorized, people kept confusing it with Prager’s site, so I gave the domain name to Prager in August of 2001.
DennisPrager.com opened in Spring of 1998. Aside from offering Dennis Prager’s materials for purchase, it didn’t contain much content.
In August of 2009, Dennis Prager said for the first time that he was happy with his website.
For a man who publicly yearns to spread his ideas as widely as possible, Dennis Prager did little with the Internet until 2009 when he created Prager University (five minute videos on the great issues of life).

Happiness Is A Serious Problem

In January 1998, more than seven years behind schedule, Dennis published his fourth book Happiness Is A Serious Problem. “My wife Fran has had to endure my preoccupation with happiness for some times,” Dennis writes in the introduction to his book. “She has also graciously sat through many of my lectures on the subject, including four consecutive nights in four South American countries (in slower English, no less) and has read every word and made critical suggestions. She and our wonderful children, Anya, David, and Aaron, are already happier people – thanks to my finally finishing this book.
“…My wife is often dissatisfied with the level of communication in our marriage. In her view, we could almost always be more open and honest about our feelings and spend more time together. While she is happy in our marriage, her dissatisfaction with the level of our communication ensures ever greater intimacy and therefore a better marriage.”
“Religion is supposed to give you moral standards and peace,” Prager told the 1/22/98 Washington Times. “If you walk around distraught, your religion has failed.”
But why are people more unhappy than ever?
“I think the expectations are simply greater,” he says. “People expect just about everything, and they don’t stop to do the things that make them happy.
“People would be happier if they asked, before they do anything, `Will this make me happier?’ If they did, they’d watch less TV. They’d learn an instrument, spend time with friends, read books, get deeper, do things that last. Happiness comes with doing things that last.”
Prager said that writing Happiness Is A Serious Problem was a serious problem, his most difficult professional accomplishment. Dennis said that if he was naturally ecstatic, he could never have written the book because he would not have thought up most of his happiness tips.
Prager’s friend Joseph Telushkin helped edit his book. “Joseph scrawled on every page: ‘Good point. Bad point. Dumb point. Simple point…’ And he was always right.”
How does Dennis cope with grave disappointments? “At least I have God. I can still study my Torah. I can still listen to Bach,” he says. “I have to feel that I am growing. I argued about this on my talk show. People were saying they’d be dead rather than in Christopher Reeve’s position,” referring to the popular actor whose fall from a horse made him a quadriplegic.
“There isn’t any part of me that’d rather be dead than a quad,” Prager says. “There’s a lot we have, and I love life.” (Washington Times 1/22/98)

Dennis Prager’s Employees

Dennis Prager usually employs women. Slender blonde Laurie B. Zimmet, born in June, 1963, served as Prager’s personal assistant from 1995 – 2000. The former mountain climber taught for several years at the day school of the Pacific Jewish Center, founded by Michael Medved. She met Dennis and Fran at Brandeis-Bardin in 1991, establishing immediate rapport. The Pragers’ boy Aaron calls her “Aunt.”
“My assistant, Laurie Zimmet,” writes Prager in his introduction to Think a Second Time, “is more than my right arm, she is a source of ideas, a proofreader; and a one-person support system.”
Almost all of Prager’s employees Think a Second Time have been attractive women including a lesbian proofreader. It’s ironic that Dennis has had long platonic friendships with many of them while saying from the microphone that men and women can’t be friends.
Dennis would respond that there are varying degrees of friendship and the type he considers impossible to maintain on a purely platonic basis demands spending time together alone.
Dennis said to Laurie in a 1996 lecture on Exodus 20: “If I don’t [do a good job repeating your point], feel free to resign. Did I tell you that she sent me to New York for no reason? I don’t even want to tell you because it would hurt her feelings that she got the date wrong and I went to New York for no speech. Do you know what it is like to walk on 33rd St. for no reason. It’s a phenomenon very few of you will experience in your life, being 3,000 miles from home for no reason. She’s the best though. She really is. You just have to live with that stuff. Everyone of us a quota of flat tires and you have to meet it.”
Reacting to the Congressman Mark Foley scandal, Dennis writes Oct. 24, 2006: “…I oppose any sexual activity between a politician and a page, even of majority age. In my capacity as a nationally syndicated radio talk show host I have had numerous young women (and men, but they are not relevant to this discussion in my case) serve as interns. I have always believed that in their eyes I was supposed to represent the ideals that I stand for, not a man on the hunt for young flesh.”
Prager’s one prominent male assistant was Mark Wilcox who developed the Micah Center for Ethical Monotheism. Prager and Wilcox left on bad terms in late 1994. Said one source who worked with both of them, “Mark hates Dennis.”
While some former employees and work associates of Dennis Prager are happy to trash Prager to me privately, they are not willing to go on the record with their criticisms for fear he will sue them. Prager is quick to threaten lawsuits to defend his reputation.
“Most men do not like to be vilified,” said Dennis on his radio show May 7, 2010. “I am vilified. While I get to hear many beautiful warm things said to me on the radio, if you look me up on the Internet and any expletive you can think of put in with my name and you will get thousands of hits. Do I enjoy it? I don’t enjoy it. Do I lose sleep over it? The only thing I ever lose sleep over is when I am misquoted. It drives me crazy for idealistic reasons. I live so that I can have a good influence on people. If people change what I say, they undermine my ability to do good and that really does make me angry. If people call me names, that truly doesn’t bother me.”
Dennis Prager has an insatiable desire for appreciation. You can hear it in his voice when he gets a thoughtful and genuine compliment on his radio show. Every year on his birthday (since about 2001?), he has asked for the birthday present of letting him know how he has touched your life.
Dennis said on his radio show June 23, 2010, “The original sin [by General Stanley McChrystal]… you don’t have a guy from Rolling Stone live with you for a month. If a guy from Rolling Stone lived with me for a month, it would be devastating, and I have a very clean and happy-go-lucky life but I know it would be portrayed in profoundly dark ways.”
People who’ve worked for and with Dennis Prager seem evenly split between those who hate him and those who love him.
After more than five years of listening to him on the radio, I met Dennis Prager in person the Super Bowl weekend of 1994 in Tampa Bay. We spoke several times that weekend. He said that if I ever moved to Los Angeles, he might have work for me.
I moved to Los Angeles in March. I had my job interview with Mark Wilcox in April. I did not get the job.
Mark and I talked for about two hours that afternoon. Mark said that Dennis was not an easy man to work for. Mark recounted offering some unsolicited feedback on one of Prager’s essays in progress and that Dennis had crumpled the paper up in front of him and thrown it in the trash.
Mark said that he was responsible for getting Dennis to change his party affiliation to Republican in 1993.
(In a 2010 interview at Stephen S. Wise temple, Dennis said: “It was a black woman Republican who came over to me at a speech and said, ‘It is time for you to register as a Republican. Put your registration where your mouth is.’ She was right. She gave me the form.”)
Around this time, Dennis stopped describing himself as a “passionate centrist”, a phrase he’d used for more than 15 years.
On his show Jan. 15, 2011, Dennis said: “I still think of myself as a passionate centrist. I dropped the term because in modern terminology, there’s no question I am a conservative. I thought it would not sound terribly honest if I agree with conservatives 92% of the time and called myself a centrist.
“I still think I’m a liberal, but liberalism has been taken over by leftism. I’ve always been anti-left.
“What I am today in terms of positions is conservative.
“I do recall making a conscious decision. I don’t think any one event did it. I recall saying to myself, ‘Dennis, it won’t sound real. You keep taking conservative positions. Call yourself that.’ I always want to sound real even though in my heart and mind I know I am [a centrist].
“Religiously, I really am a passionate centrist.
“Conservative works. That is more received as honestly given. I’m happy to take the term.”
As a moral leader, Dennis Prager offers a big fat juicy target for those who want to allege he does not live up to his teachings. As someone who has followed Dennis Prager closely since the fall of 1988 and has always been as open to hearing criticism of him as praise, I’ve never seen any evidence of serious wrongdoing on Prager’s part. According to the best I know, Dennis Prager lives up to his public ideals in his private life.
A lot of people like to test Dennis Prager’s ethics by importuning him for favors. I can only imagine how annoying this must get for Dennis. People ask him for rides. They ask for free copies of his books and lectures. They ask for loans. I once asked Dennis Prager for a loan. It was for about $40 (in 1995, I was really broke at the time) and I paid him back a few months later.
I’ve heard Dennis say that some of the biggest mistakes he’s made came from a desire to do good.
The following was not a big mistake, but it is a good example of his problem. On a Sabbath morning in 1995, Dennis picked up a hitchhiking Jew and gave him a ride to Stephen S. Wise temple. At the end of services, Dennis got up and gave a little talk to raise money for the guy who was apparently in bad straights.
A lot of people gave money.
I was there but I didn’t give.
The guy turned out to be a jerk, hassling the female rabbi Tova August and I think security had to be called to get rid of him.
In a 2004 lecture on Deuteronomy 13, Dennis said: “One of the great lines ever comes from a Christian pastor.
“I did an hour this week [on the radio] about my disappointing people. Because I got this email from someone and I never answered his email, which was apparently very warm about how I had touched his life. I apparently didn’t reply to his email. I get 200 emails a day… It’s impossible.
“He wrote me another letter — you’re a phony.
“Folks, I’ve been disappointed by the same thing in my life. I wrote this Christian pastor a long letter telling him how great this idea was and that I was going to use it in my own work. I never heard from him. Do you think I think any less of him? I don’t know if he got it. I don’t know if he read it. If he did, I hope it touched his life. It’s narcissistic to expect that everybody will react because you wrote a letter.”
“And the great line? When God says about Adam it is not good for man to be alone, it is a statement that even God is not enough.”

Bill Clinton – Monica Lewinsky Scandal

On his radio show March 23, 2010, Dennis said: “It was the most uncomfortable, miserable time I had as a radio talk show host in 29 years of broadcasting. The entire thing was troubling to me on all grounds.”
“It was the only time I ever went to work not wanting to go to work. All of you know how much I love and treasure my job, but I felt everybody was brought down by this whole thing. I said at the time, ‘I can’t believe America is preoccupied with a stained dress. This is what we’ve come to?’ It was a plague on everybody.”
Dennis writes Jan. 13, 2004: “Third, in 21 years as a radio talk show host, I have never attributed a statement to anyone for which I did not have a reputable source. Furthermore, I have particularly high standards to protect the dignity of public figures. For example, I may have been the only talk show host who never allowed a Monica Lewinsky joke to be broadcast on my show.”
Dennis writes April 20, 2010:
In 28 years as a radio talk-show host, I have not consciously humiliated a single person — whether a caller to my show or a public figure.
…From the day I started on radio, I realized how easy it would be to violate this fundamental principle of Judaism. When the rabbis came up with the dictum equating humiliating a person with killing him they could not have imagined a time when one person could humiliate another before millions of people at one time. Yet, of course, that is exactly what a broadcaster can do.
When Prager’s radio show went national in 1999, Laurie Zimmet sought and achieved the role and title of producer, but when Prager was dropped by his powerful syndicator (Jones Radio Network) in late 2000, and picked up by the Christian organization (Salem Communications Corporation), the new syndicator balked at picking up several of the expenses of their predecessor, including Laurie as producer. Prager’s biweekly newsletter, The Prager Perspective, also ceased publication because the new syndicator did not want to pick up the tab.
By that time, such print publications seemed quaint.
Zimmet took other work, eventually serving in the National Guard in Iraq.
KABC radio in Los Angeles decided in 2000 that they wanted all local programming. With the choice to drop either national syndication or KABC, Prager moved November 10, 2000 to KIEV, soon KRLA, 870 AM in Glendale in November, a less prestigious Los Angeles radio station (owned by a conservative Christian group, the Salem Radio Network, who take ads from Jews For Jesus).
KRLA has the weakest signal of any of LA’s talk radio stations.
“It has never been done before and I doubt it will be done again, but [KABC] allowed me to stay on the radio knowing I was leaving.” (Jan. 2002)
With a longer drive to work, and with a tendency to arrive at the station just a few minutes before going on air, Prager got caught in traffic several times and did not make it to his show on time. Either somebody would fill in for him or Prager would be patched through via his cell phone.
In 2003, Allen Estrin became Prager’s radio show producer. He provided the show with a sharper focus. He pushed Dennis to get enough sleep. He said he can tell a drop in the quality of the show when Dennis does not.
“I have basically married Allen,” Dennis said on his radio show Nov. 11, 2009.
Prager earns about a million dollars a year from his radio show (somebody who worked with Prager told me circa 2000 that Dennis earned about $600,000 a year from his radio show).
Said Dennis on his radio show Oct. 7, 2010: “I’m on well over 100 stations, 120, whatever it is. If I read an ad, I am putting my name behind what I am endorsing. I think I have a 100% batting average that what I have personally endorsed has been worthy of endorsement… There have been sponsors that I stopped endorsing.”


Said Dennis on his radio show Oct. 7, 2010: “I will admit that that was the one time I fell for a hysteria. You know why? It made perfect sense.”

Dennis Prager & Orthodoxy II

During the 1980s and early 1990s, Dennis spoke regularly for Aish HaTorah, then he said something that went too far for its tastes, and I don’t believe he’s spoken for Aish since 1992.
“We failed with Dennis,” Aish founder Rabbi Noah Weinberg is reputed to have said to his faithful (relayed to me by several Aish HaTorah sources between 1994-1997).

In 2000, Prager rejoiced in Democrats’ nomination of Orthodox Jew Joseph Lieberman for vice-president. He wrote in the September 2000 issue of The Prager Perspective:
If Senator Joseph Lieberman is indeed Orthodox, it is an Orthodoxy that is considerably more elastic than the modern Orthodoxy…that I studied and saw practiced 12 years of yeshiva…
…Had I been cut this much slack growing up in the Orthodox world, I might still call myself Orthodox.

Around the year 2000, Dennis Prager helped found a Chabad day school in the Conejo Valley. On the radio, he occasionally tells the story of a secretary suing the school (under the Americans with Disabilities Act) because she had to walk up a small hill to go to the bathroom.
By contrast with his long friendship with Chabad rabbi Shlomo Schwartz, Dennis has long had a love-hate relationship with Rabbi Shlomo Cunin, the head of the Chabad Lubavitch movement in Southern California. Around the year 1995, Rabbi Cunin prevented a talk Dennis was going to give for Chabad (in the San Francisco Bay Area?).
Around the year 2006, Dennis became a monthly speaker on Sabbath mornings at the Persian nominally Orthodox Nessah synagogue in Beverly Hills. Even though it is against Orthodox Jewish law, Dennis would drive to the shul on Saturdays to give his talks until the shul was forced to stop this (even though most of its members drive to the shul on the Sabbath).
“I am part of a religion that has roles,” Dennis said on his radio show April 13, 2010. “While I am not Orthodox, I am a fellow traveler in many ways. I have great admiration for things that they do. I happen to endorse the idea of roles. I don’t know what would be gained in Orthodox Judaism if women became rabbis. You say equality. All right, but equality and sameness are not the same thing. There’s nothing that argues that women are not equal. Maybe it is good that men have some specific roles because then they embrace them. Men deeply need an area to carve out as their own and it is very good for boys to see men in religion. Everybody knows that women gravitate to religion more than men, so it is particularly important that boys have male models of men in religion.”


Dennis got up on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, expecting to take the day off the radio so he could take his son David to the airport to fly to Israel to enroll in yeshiva.
In a lecture on “Secular Religions”, Dennis said: “We allowed our oldest son to go to Israel during the worst of the terror. He spent six months in Jerusalem. He heard two terror bombings. He felt he wanted to go. It had been scheduled for years. His ticket to Israel was 9/11/01. I was going to take the day off from radio to take him to the airport to say goodbye to send him off to terror-filled Israel. Then it was terror-filled America and his flight was delayed for a month.”
Between 1995 and 9/11, terrorism expert Steve Emerson said that Dennis Prager and Geraldo Rivera were the only broadcasters to have him on. (Radio show, May 5, 2010)
On the Sabbath morning after 9/11, Dennis Prager told the Mountaintop Minyan at Stephen S. Wise temple, “I stand before you as a proud member of the world’s two most hated peoples — Americans and Jews.”
Dennis said in a January 2002 lecture on his ideological autobiography, “Before September 11, I was very pessimistic about this country. I believe Osama Bin Laden did more good for America than any other single person in my lifetime. He has turned this country around. People are asking what’s so special about us? People are allowed to be patriotic now.”
On Sept. 11, 2002, Dennis writes: “…it is clear that 9-11 did far more good than harm. America has become a better place because of that attack.”
In a 2004 lecture on the 13th chapter of Deuteronomy, Dennis said: “Nine eleven changed Jewish life… The things that I can say in lectures to Jews now that do not elicit hoots and boos and derision is unbelievable. I could not talk about Jewish choseness before 9/11. Nowhere do Jewish audiences now find this bizarre. Real evil has confronted them. The centrality of Jew hatred in the world has made it evident that there may be some truth that Jews walk a different path. Any Jew with any Jewish identity is now prepared to hear this without laughing or bouncing the lecture fee. I am stunned. I speak more now in Jewish life than ever before. Sixty two Jewish communities last year and I don’t take all the ones I’m invited to. I can’t obviously.
“I say this almost all the time and it’s unbelievable to me. I’m pinching myself. They’re not yelling at me? They are giving this a standing ovation in Dallas? The largest group of Jews ever to convene in Texas I spoke to last year and I spoke about [Jewish choseness]. There is no other way to understand Israel and the centrality of Jews in the world and the hatred? I believe America is hated because it is the one society in history to affirm Jewish choseness. It is the one Judeo-Christian society in history. You latch on to the Jews, and you get the blessings and the hatred of a lot of people.”
“It’s not just 9/11. It’s the eruption of Jew-hatred and Israel-hatred and America-hatred so that all of it wrapped together is shaking people up. Not only can I say to Jews certain things that I couldn’t say before, but to non-Jews. I couldn’t talk about America being chosen before 9/11. I would’ve been dismissed as a kook and set off to some weird radio station.”
In 2004, Dennis took his 11-year old son Aaron to Israel. “I wanted him to see Israel and it had some of the effect.”
“It is a very powerful thing for an identifying Jew to go into a world that is Jewish. You never have that experience [outside of Israel].
“Let’s take Hebrew. When he was watching Dragon Ball Z in Hebrew, I had a big smile on my face. He didn’t understand the dubbed language. For him to know that Hebrew is alive. It’s not just the language he’s learning for his bar mitzvah was a powerful experience. Wow, they even do cartoons. Not just Isaiah.
“One time he said, Dad, do you realize that five of the letters between one and ten begin with the letter shin? He was starting to think about the Hebrew language as he had never done before except under semi-coercion. “He learned for the first time that there are people who want to kill Jews. It wasn’t abstract.
“We were taken, because of the nature of my work, to see the last bus blown up by the Palestinian terrorists in which eight people were murdered and many maimed. He didn’t have a supercilious attitude. He saw holes in the seats where human beings were maimed and killed.
“He told me at times that he was nervous when we drove by a bus. I’m happy for that. Life isn’t just Dragon Ball Z cartoons. He’s old enough now.
“He slept perfectly well at night. He didn’t have nightmares.
“He even worried about eating in any restaurant. He was happy when we went to restaurants where there weren’t a lot of people because he understood that they want to blow up a lot of people. I told him about choseness and that this is the price we pay but look at how everybody goes around normally.
“He saw the fence being built. He asked a tremendous number of questions.
“This was my 15th trip to Israel. It has always been a religious battery-charger for me. I am the battery-charger for a lot of people. People tune in to me and I charge them up as Americans, Christians, Jews, but I’ve got to get my batteries charged too.”
“My son [David] went there at the height of the terror and it changed his life. He said, ‘Dad, before I went, pretty much the biggest issue in my life was would the Lakers win another championship. And now the biggest issues in my life have to do with God, good and evil.’
“That’s pretty good for eight months abroad. That’s what Israel would do when you’re studying Torah in Jerusalem and you hear the blasts three times in a year, you hear people blown up. You take life seriously. There are epic battles going on with Israel as the fulcrum.”
Dennis was in Bethlehem in April 2002 when the Church of the Nativity was taken over by Palestinian gunmen. “I was across the street. It was a rather harrowing moment. When Israeli soldiers say, ‘Run, there are snipers’, you really run. I’m not sure it was wise to visit. My wife is shaking her head.” (2005 lecture on Deut. 19)

Dennis Prager’s Life Lectures

In January 2002, Dennis Prager decided to do something he had never done before — give speeches about himself. They took place on a listener cruise to Antarctica. One speech was on his personal life. The other speech was on his ideological journey.

In the first, Dennis said: “Fran thinks I say everything on the radio…”

“I bought my father a computer about eight years ago with only one intention — dad, please write your autobiography. You have an interesting life. Please tell it. It will be good for you and good for your descendants.

“After eight years learning everything about the Internet and computing, now he’s starting to write his autobiography. He says he is so enamored of technology and one big reason he doesn’t want to die is that he wants to see what the next operating system will be like. I totally relate to that.”

After the death of Steve Jobs, Dennis said on his radio show Oct. 6, 2011: "All biographies are interesting. Your biography is interesting. You, the listener. Your biography, if written well, would be interesting.

"Fifteen years ago, I begged my father, who was about 80, to get a computer. Dad, if nothing else, write your autobiography. It's something you could leave as a legacy to your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. "He did write his autobiography. It's in hardcover. It's on the internet (MaxPrager.com)."

"All of you need to do that. It's a great gift. There are boring people but there are no boring stories."

"Biography is a great way to learn history through the individuals who made it."

George W. Bush

Dennis Prager loves President George W. Bush. Dennis writes March 11, 2003: “…I believe that either divine intervention or good luck on the magnitude of a lottery win explains George W. Bush’s rise to the position of president.”
Dennis writes Feb. 3, 2004:

I have loved and admired this man ever since I felt that I got to know him during his presidential campaign. (Before his winning the Republican nomination, I knew so little about him and thought so little of his chances of defeating Al Gore that I voted in the California primary for John McCain.) I believe that this man is changing history for the better, that he is the dam holding back the waters of chaos, that he saved this country at a time when Democrats would have failed it, and that he is both kind and strong, real and decent, powerful and humble.
So when I had the opportunity to stand in line with my wife and youngest child to simply shake this man’s hand, I rushed at the opportunity. I waited in line as excited as most people would be to greet their favorite Hollywood star. Wearing a silly grin, I told the congressmen and senators around me that I felt like a 7-year-old about to meet Willie Mays or Derek Jeter. I even broke into a sweat.
…My wife told him that when she lights the Sabbath candles every Friday night in our home, she says a prayer for him. And I told him that I say a prayer for him each week at synagogue.
Unless he is a faker — and I believe that I can sense a faker a mile away — it was clear that the president was moved. Which is exactly what we hoped for. We know how much he values prayer, we know how much hatred he receives, and we suspect that he does not often associate Jews with those prayerfully supporting him.
He stopped and told us that only those who understand prayer could understand how much this means to him and asked if we would like a family photo with him. Imagine your child getting to take a photo with every member on his favorite baseball or football team and you can imagine my excitement.
Dennis supported invading and occupying Afghanistan aftger 9/11 but he neither supported nor opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Once Western troops invaded the country, Dennis said America had to win for the sake of its prestige.
On his radio show Nov. 1, 2010, Dennis said: “When George W. Bush won the second time, I came close to sobbing on the air out of relief because I knew we would’ve left Iraq, among other things.”
Dennis said in this October 28, 2008 speech: “If John Kerry had won, we would’ve been defeated in Iraq. A defeat in Iraq would have reverberated around in the world in a massive renaissance of Islamic terror. The United States of America would’ve been defeated by Al Qaeda and other terrorists and it would not end. This war would’ve only increased.”

The Passion

Dennis writes Oct. 28, 2003:
Early this past summer, Mel Gibson invited me to see “The Passion,” his film on the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. The invitation was significant in that I was the first practicing Jew and active member of the American Jewish community to be invited. He did so because he believed, correctly, that he could trust me. I have long worked to build trust between Jews and Christians, especially traditional Christians.
…I cannot say that I am happy this film was made. Nevertheless, if the vast majority of Christians and Jews of goodwill try hard to understand what film the other is watching, some good can yet result. The last thing Jews need is to create tension with their best friends. And the last thing Christians need is a renewal of Christian hatred toward Jesus’ people.
Miami Yom Kippur 2004

Dennis writes Sept. 28, 2004:
I was in Miami Beach, Florida, this past weekend.
And I got evicted from my hotel.
Yes, the Trump International Hotel notified me and its other guests that we all had to leave the hotel because Hurricane Jeanne was headed to the South Florida coast.
…I was in Miami Beach to serve as scholar in residence at a prominent local synagogue for Yom Kippur. Upon arrival at the synagogue Saturday (the holiday began at sunset Friday evening), the 700 or so people were told that the synagogue was closed due to the impending hurricane. Many other synagogues closed in mid-afternoon. Why? Largely because of fear of liability engendered by the local government (that itself was afraid of liability) that declared a “mandatory evacuation.”
I wonder if Dennis Prager rethought his position after Hurricane Katrina took 1,836 lives in August 2005.

Dennis Prager In The Courts

On January 17, 2007, I shelled out $4:75 to search “Dennis Prager” on the LA Superior Court website and found nine cases.
Here’s Dennis Prager (Aug. 6, 2006) vs. The Prager Perspective. Here’s the TPP cross-complaint for breach of oral contract and misrepresentation (filed Oct. 5, 2006). Dennis Prager answers were filed Nov. 8, 2006.
The dispute has since been settled.
In a case filed May 15, 2000, Bank of America sued Dennis Prager for not paying back a loan of over $30,000. The plaintiff filed to dismiss the suit in September, 2000. I assume there was a settlement.
In case number SC 033536 filed November 7, 1994 (EARL KORCHAK, ET AL VS LIGHT MANAGMENT SERVICES, INC ET AL) Dennis Prager was one of four plaintiffs in this lawsuit that would be dismissed August 2, 1995.
On December 23, 1994, Dennis Prager along with MULTIMEDIA ENTERTAINMENT INC. were defendants in the case (BC 118757) TIM STEPHEN VS MULTIMEDIA ENTERTAINMENT INC ET AL. The plaintiff asked for dismissal of the case with prejudice on September 9, 1996.
Around 1999, Dennis met Scott Webley, a former actor on General Hospital (1977-1978) who owned a production company (ShowBiz Studios) and several Internet businesses (Showbiz.com, etc).
According to Los Angeles Superior Court case BC 357131 (in an Oct. 5, 2006 filing by Scott Webley’s attorneys, responding to this August 6, 2006 filing by Dennis Prager’s attorneys), Prager and Webley agreed orally in late 2000 or early 2001 to operate The Prager Perspective Limited Liability Company to sell Prager’s writings, radio show, and talks via dennisprager.com, etc, and split the revenues.
17. Beginning, in or about January 2001 through in or about late 2003 or early 2004, Prager and his assistant Alan Briese delivered the master tapes of the Radio Show to Prager LLC’s office. During this time, Prager and his assistant Alan Briese represented to Cross-Complainants that these master tapes were lawfully taken from the Radio Station [KRLA] and Cross-Complainants [Scott Webley and TPP] were to transfer these recordings onto cassette tapes and/or CD for sale and distribution.
18. Salem, with Prager’s knowledge, consent, and/or direction, knowingly and intentionally, and to further the business of Prager LLC, Salem uploaded electronic feeds of each daily broadcast from the Radio Show directly onto the Website in or about late 2003 or early 2004. …to on or about January 13, 2006. Prager LLC made the Radio Show available to its customers by way of electronic downloads…
21. …Prager LLC offered a membership subscription for a variety of services.
22. Cross-Complainants…believe…that Salem discovered in or about the summer of 2005 that Prager LLC was a successful and profitable business venture….
23. At this same time…Cross-Complainants learned Prager had entered into an agreement with Salem regarding the Radio Show… Salem contended Prager had transferred all production and syndication rights to the Radio Show… Salem wrongfully demanded that Prager LLC, including its members Webley and Prager, turn over the Website and anything related to the Radio Show to Salem…
24. On or about January 13, 2006, Salem discontinued the uploads of electronic recordings of the Radio Show onto the Website.
25. Shortly thereafter, customers contacted Prager LLC and complained that they could not access the downloads of the Radio Show. Because the downloads of the Radio Show ere no longer available, Prager LLC was forced to refund membership subscriptions…
27. On or about June 14, 2006, Salem Radio filed an action in the Ventura County Superior Court entitled Salem Radio Network Incorporated v. The Prager Perspective, LLC and Scott Webley…transferred to Central District of the Los Angeles Superior Court…BC 358558. The Salem Lawsuit alleges in part:
a. Salem Radio and Prager entered into an agreement on or about November 6, 2000 that only Salem Radio would produce and syndicate the Radio Show.
c. Webley and Prager LLC, not Prager, wrongfully copied the Radio Show from 2001 to January 2006 onto the Website. Webley and Prager LLC then marketed, sold, and distributed electronic and tangible expressions of the Radio Show on the Website and collected $300,000 in revenue without compensating Salem Radio.
34. Prager breached the Agreement [with Scott Webley] by entering into the Salem agreement…conspiring with Salem to stop the electronic downloads of the Radio Show onto the Website, and conspiring with Salem to sue Webley…
41. Prager made these representations with knowledge that they were false when made…with an intent to deceive Cross-Complaints to market, sell and distribute such materials.
44. Prager’s misrepresentations were willful and malicious…
The dispute was settled in early 2007.

The Grand Canyon

Dennis Prager writes Aug. 5, 2003:
…That the ACLU would write a letter protesting three little plaques at the Grand Canyon with verses from the book of Psalms provides a clear example of how intent the organization is on destroying the Judeo-Christian moral foundations of this society. This, after all, is the same ACLU that went to court in Florida to protect a Muslim woman’s right to be photographed for her driver’s license ID wearing a veil! If it ain’t Judeo-Christian, the ACLU is a big fan of religion.
…But I was incensed that the National Park Service of the United States of America would remove plaques acknowledging the Divine as the author of natural beauty (“How varied are your works, Lord! In wisdom you have wrought them all; the earth is full of your creatures” was the subversive inscription on one of the plaques). I therefore devoted an hour of my radio show to this subject on the day the news item appeared, and asked my listeners (especially those who hear me on KKNT in Phoenix and KVOI in Tucson) to send me an e-mail if they were prepared to join me on a march to the Grand Canyon. I also urged all my listeners to call the Park Service in Washington, D.C.
Said Dennis in a 2007 lecture on Leviticus 1: “I battled for the plaque and they reinstated it. I went to Phoenix to give a speech at a synagogue. About ten nuns showed up from the local order that had put the plaque there originally. They came to thank me and they did a dance around me.”

Rabbi Marc Gafni

Dennis Prager’s best friend, 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, but Dennis had a hard time with it.
In late 2004, two of Dennis Prager’s best friends (Rabbi Joseph Telushkin and Dr. Stephen Marmer) signed a public letter defending controversial rabbi Marc Gafni and attacking me. Here’s an excerpt:
The person who has partnered with Vicki in a number of unjustified and distortion-filled character assassinations has been Luke Ford, whom you have cooperated with as well, Rabbi Blau. Luke Ford is a discredited malicious gossip columnist for the pornography industry. He has made clear in his own writings that he does not check information, that he often reports information that is false, and that his definition of truth is that it expresses “the point of view” of the person telling him the information.
We find it shocking that you not only associate with Vicki Polin and Luke Ford, but that you are the major source of professional rabbinic credibility for Vicki Polin and the Awareness Center. Vicki Polin has written clearly that she only publishes materials from “reputable sources.” It is difficult to imagine that under any definition Luke Ford‘s blog and reports would fit into that category.
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.
In February of 2005, an acquaintance of mine noticed a photo of me was up in the guard station at the temple. A notice said I was not welcome at the temple.

The Most Controversial Thing Dennis Prager Ever Said

According to Wikipedia (taken April 6, 2010):
In mid-November 2006 it was reported that Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the United States Congress (for Minnesota‘s 5th congressional district), “will take his oath of office with his hand upon the Koran, the Islamic holy book.”[1][2] In reaction to the news, conservative media pundit Dennis Prager criticized the decision in his November 28, 2006 column entitled “America, not Keith Ellison, decides what book a Congressman takes his oath on.”[3] The column attracted national attention from both Ellison and Prager supporters. Presented with the fact that all members of the House officially swear in (or affirm) en masse without the use of any religious text, and that such works are only used in ceremonial reenactments afterwards, Prager stated “that’s the whole point: it’s exactly because it’s ceremonial that it matters”.[4] In response to a wave of criticism, Prager released another column on the topic on December 5, 2006 entitled “A response to my many critics – and a solution”.[5]

Prager rescinds call for Ellison not to serve

Despite writing that Ellison wants to use “the Koran. He should not be allowed to do so …If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book [the Bible], don’t serve in Congress”,[3] in a telephone interview with the Associated Press, Mr Prager said he did not think Mr Ellison should be banned from serving. “I don’t think anything legal should be done about this.”[4] In an interview with USA Today’s Andrea Stone, Prager announced “that he’s going to keep pressing the issue, though he conceded that trying to ban Ellison from choosing to use a Qur’an ‘may well be’ unconstitutional. He’ll be writing and talking about this issue again”. Prager said “I’m not arguing legality. I’m arguing what you should do.”[33]

Prager dismisses Tanakh Oaths

Prager’s Nov. 28, 2006 article claimed that “for all of American history, Jews elected to public office have taken their oath on the Bible, even though they do not believe in the New Testament”.[3] While for all of American history Jews elected to public office have indeed taken their oath on the Bible, several American members of Judaism elected to political office “have departed from the [Christian] Bible as well. Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle used the Tanakh when she took her oath in 2002, and Madeleine Kunin placed her hand on Jewish prayer books when she was sworn in as the first female governor of Vermont in 1985.”[21] In the Federal Congress Debbie Wasserman Schultz also used a Tanakh(see above), as did Ed Koch (D-NY) who served in the US House from 1969 to 1977.[34] Likewise, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) who is now entering his seventeenth term of office, stated “he had never used a [Christian] Bible at his own swearing-in ceremonies.”[34]
When asked about this Prager said these “Jewish officeholders who had insisted on the Hebrew Bible were “secularists” who didn’t believe what was in it anyway.”[33]
When confronted on November 30, 2006 CNN’s Paula Zahn Now by Eugene Volokh with the fact that “[Associate] Justice [of the Supreme Court, Arthur] Goldberg used the Tanakh, the Jewish Bible.” Prager responded “Justice Goldberg used [the] Old Testament, which is part of the American Bible.” Volokh began to point out that the lack of New Testament in Goldberg’s Bible proved that Prager’s assertions were mistaken, but was cut off as the segment ran out of time.[28]
In his Dec. 5, 2006 article Prager again acknowledged some Jews had used the Tanakh, “Even the vast majority of Jews elected to office have used a Bible containing both the Old and New Testaments, even though Jews do not regard the New Testament as part of their Bible. A tiny number of Jews have used only the Old Testament. As a religious Jew, I of course understand their decision, but I disagree with it.”[5]

Prager calls on Ellison to bring Bible with Qur’an

In his December 5, 2006 column entitled “A response to my many critics – and a solution”, Prager’s solution in the title is for Ellison to swear on the Islamic Qur’an which he believes to be sacred along with the Christian Bible which he does not. Prager wrote “It is not I, but Keith Ellison, who has engaged in disuniting the country. He can still help reunite it by simply bringing both books to his ceremonial swearing-in. Had he originally announced that he would do that, I would have written a different column — filled with praise of him. And there would be a lot less cursing and anger in America.”[5] In a Dec. 7, 2006 interview Prager continued along these lines, saying “I’m afraid we are becoming a diverse, secular society without any roots, and this is symbolically an example of that. The Bible is the repository of our values, not the Constitution…and I’m asking him to honor that and include the Bible along with the Koran.”[37]
As an example Prager has referenced the case in 1999 when “M. Osman Siddique, a Virginia businessman of Bangladeshi origin, used the Quran to take the oath when he became the U.S. ambassador to Fiji and three other Pacific nations: Nauru, Tonga and Tuvalu. He took the oath on the Bible and the Quran, with the Quran on top”.[38] Siddique was “the first Muslim to be appointed to represent the United States abroad as an Ambassador. Following his swearing-in ceremony, Siddique said he believed he was the first American ambassador of the Islamic faith to take the oath of office with his hand on the Holy Qur’an. The Christian Bible is traditionally used to swear in US officials and Siddique said his wife, Catherine Mary Siddique, provided one for the ceremony.”[39]
Appearing on MSNBC with Tucker Carlson, Prager said “If he [Ellison] had the Koran and a Bible as one Muslim ambassador did about 10 years ago, I think it was the ambassador to the Fiji Islands, don‘t recall exactly, I wouldn‘t have ever written the column. …If he can‘t bring the Bible along with his Koran, that’s a statement that we ought to take seriously. …We should pressure him to doing the great thing to unify Americans and bring the Bible along with the Koran. That’s not exactly a terrible demand. It doesn’t in any way compromise his Islamic faith. It says that he is saying to the American people, look, I am part of you. I don’t want to demolish the tradition that has been unbroken since George Washington. I don’t think that’s too much to ask of Keith Ellison.”[25]
Ellison did not denigrate the Bible and spoke of the influence both Catholicism and Islam had on his development saying “people draw strength and moral courage from a variety of religious traditions. Mine have come from both Catholicism and Islam. I was raised Catholic and later became a Muslim while attending Wayne State University. I am inspired by the Quran’s message of an encompassing divine love, and a deep faith guides my life every day.”[40]

Prager’s Dec. 27, 2006 column

On December 27, 2006 Prager returned to the issue in a column called “The culture war is about the authority of a book”[49] Prager espoused that the root of the controversy was over people arguing if the Torah was inspired or not, “Does the person believe in the divinity and authority of the Five Books of Moses, the first five books of the Bible, known as the Torah? …What matters is not whether people believe in God but what text, if any, they believe to be divine. …a belief or lack of belief in the divinity of a book dating back over 2,500 years is at the center of the Culture War in America…it not only explains these divisions; it also explains the hatred that much of the Left has for Jewish, Protestant, Catholic and Mormon Bible-believers. For the Left, such beliefs are irrational, absurd and immoral. Which is exactly how most conservatives regard most leftist beliefs…This divide explains why the wrath of the Left has fallen on those of us who lament the exclusion of the Bible at a ceremonial swearing-in of an American congressman. The Left wants to see that book [the Torah] dethroned. And that, in a nutshell, is what the present civil war is about.”[49]
Prager also listed beliefs he claimed were held by liberals, “leftist beliefs, such as: there is nothing inherently superior in a child being raised by a mother and father rather than by two fathers or two mothers; men and women are not basically different, but only socially influenced to be different; Marxism was scientific; that the Soviet Union was not an evil empire; it was immoral for Israel to bomb Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor; morality is relative to the individual or society; there is no moral judgment to be made about a woman aborting a healthy human fetus solely because she doesn’t want a baby at this time; material poverty, not moral poverty, causes violent crime, etc.”[49]
It has been noted by many that Keith Ellison’s support of access to abortion and gay rights is at odds with the traditional interpretation of the Qur’an, “Chances are, if Muslims saw another candidate with Ellison’s stands on gay rights, abortion, and his suspiciously boiler plate platform on Israel, Iran, and the Middle East, they would not support him. Yet Ellison has the admiration of his Muslim constituents…the notoriety supersedes the reservations. Beyond this, Muslims in the west should realize that they are seeing the face of future generations take shape, generations that might adopt cultural and political values that aren’t necessarily the same as their forebearers or against Islam as they choose to practice it. Politically speaking, issues like equal rights for gays within a pluralistic society make sense when Muslims demand the same equal protection”.[50][51][52]

As of April 6, 2010, the Wikipedia entry on this controversy is about 20 times as long as its entry on Dennis Prager.
In a column Dec. 5, 2006, Dennis wrote: “In addition, there was widespread coverage on left-wing blogs, which, with no exception I could find, distorted what I said, charging my column and me with, for example, racism (see below), when race plays no role at all in this issue or in my column. For the record, because I deem this a significant statement about most of the Left, I found virtually no left-wing blog that was not filled with obscenity-laced descriptions of me. Aside from the immaturity and loathing of higher civilization that such public use of curse words reveal, the fury and hate render the leftist charge that it is the Right that is hate-filled one of the most obvious expressions of psychological projection I have seen in my lifetime.”
Introduced before a speech at U.C. Berkeley May 5, 2008 as a “spirited controversialist”, Dennis said: “How many people at your age, I’m speaking to the students here, when somebody asks you what do you want to do when you graduate, you say, ‘I’d like to be a spirited controversialist.’ It’s not the sort of occupation one anticipates in life.
“I’ll never forget the former University of Judaism in Los Angeles, and currently the American Jewish University, had a number of years ago the following ad for its distinguished speaker series: ‘The University of Judaism is proud to present this year Nobel laureate and conscience of the Holocaust, Elie Wiesel, internationally renowned Jewish educator Yitz Greenberg and the controversial Dennis Prager.’ That’s it?
“I never wake up any day and think, ‘What rumpus can I cause today?’ I seem to do so periodically but that is not my intent. I’m very easygoing. I wrote a book on happiness. How many controversialists spend ten years writing a book on happiness?”
In a speech Jan. 24, 2007, Dennis said: “It’s very rare that passion defeats reason when I speak. I’m very rational, I’m very calm. I was so passionate. Nobody had raised this issue. It was new to me too. I wrote sentences such as, ‘Keith Ellison should not be allowed to take his oath on the Koran.’ That was a mistaken sentence. I acknowledged it immediately. He is allowed to do whatever he wants. He can take his oath on the phone book. I totally understand that. My concern…has been…the place of the Bible in American life. If we don’t get our values from that book, where will we get our values from?”
On March 14, 2011, Dennis said: “I have refrained from saying anything critical of Congressman Ellison because of the article I wrote years ago when he was first sworn in and sworn in on a Koran, and I wanted him to swear on a Bible rather than a Koran. I think I made a mistake. My reasoning was sound. My values were sound. My upshot was not sound. I said it at the time and I say it again today.
“I actually apologized to him in the halls of Congress. We met up. I apologized. He not only accepted by apology very graciously, he told me his mother is a big fan of the show. She listens every day.”
In a 2010 interview at Stephen S. Wise temple, Dennis said: “Religion on the Line. My beginning in radio. Exactly ten years from August 1982 to August 1992. I was 34 years old and I was brought in to moderate between a priest, minister and rabbi every week. After five years, virtually every week I brought in a fourth religion. I brought in Muslims regularly. I got very close to the Muslim community. It was when they didn’t say a word about the slaughter of Israeli children in pizzerias [2000-2002] that we had a falling out. It was very painful to me. I went to the home of the leading Muslim in LA [Mahmoud Attoot (sp?), cardiac surgeon] and he came to my home. We got quite close and then nothing. I know they made the perfunctory statements against terror. That was after 9/11.
“I opened my show to them. They were very grateful. They had me speak in mosques.”

Israeli Settlements

In a speech at U.C. Berkeley May 5, 2008, Dennis said: “I was not a pro-settlement person. I did not speak out much about it. When it was asked in a forum like this, I didn’t hesitate. I didn’t use my radio abilities to criticize Israel.”
“Here is why I don’t speak out against Israel. If Israel did something evil, that would be a different story… Baruch Goldstein. There I did speak out because that was evil. Beyond that, I’ve had this attitude, which I tell American Jews, if you want to get involved in Israeli policy making, make aliyah (move to Israel). It is not our children who are in the Israeli army. We do not take those buses that are blown up. I have supported every left-wing and every right-wing Israeli prime minister…
“My opinion is as important as when people ask me, if you were God, would you have made a mosquito? I’m not God, it is irrelevant what I would do. And I’m not Israeli.”
“I wish Israel would’ve built only a handful of settlements that were absolutely necessary for security or religious reasons.
“But I always have this question — why is it OK for one-quarter of the Israeli state to be Muslim but Palestine must be judenrein? If Muslims can live in the Jewish state, then Jews can live in the Muslim state.”

Dennis Prager’s Family Life

In a lecture on Deuteronomy (the 22nd, delivered in February of 2004), Dennis said: “I decided when my children were born, that I would never be too busy for them because I’m always too busy. There’s no time my children cannot come into the home office where I work and start talking to me. It doesn’t occur to them. I have never said, I can’t talk now.
“I have a theory that if you talk to your kids when they want to talk to you, they’ll talk to you when you want to talk to them.”
In March 2004, Dennis said: “It is valuable to my children that I have a special seat at the dinner table. We’re never at the dinner table at my house, it’s fairly academic but at least we are on the Sabbath. Whenever we are, that’s dad’s seat. Do you think I care about dad’s seat for me? For my ego?
“I ask that my kids the first time at the day we see each other, that they get up and give me a hug. I give them a hug too. I don’t stand there and wait for them to genuflect before me. I’d do that with my father when he’d walk in the room. I’d not just sit on the couch and say, hi dad.”
“I let my kids argue with me. Do you know how I know it’s OK? Because in the Torah, people argue with God. He finds its OK.”
“God never says, ‘Because I said so.’ Parents always say, ‘Because I said so.’ As a kid, I hated it because there were times they were wrong, which is inevitable. The number of times I’ve been wrong when arguing with my kids is the most humbling part of my life. When the six year old child turns out to be right is very hard to admit. I let my kids argue and sometimes they were right.”
Said Dennis in a 2001 lecture on Numbers 30-31, “Aaron always used to ask, ‘Who’s the boss?’ He was fixated when he was four who was the boss in the house.”
Said Dennis in a 1998 lecture on Exodus 25: “When my son [David] was eight years old, nine years old, he said, ‘Can I use a tape recorder on Shabbat?’ I said yeah, if you record Shabbat songs or Torah study, which ended the use of the tape recorder immediately. It became an academic issue. What he wanted to record was some popular stuff or to make jokes and hear himself talk.”
Said Dennis in a 2001 lecture on Numbers 27-29: “We allowed our youngest child to watch what we called Shabbat videos. If the subject was the Torah, he could watch the video. Electronics was not the issue, the content was. In my opinion, it worked well.
“We rarely go out Friday nights to home. One Friday night we went to a home that allowed television. He was about five, six years old. He came running over and said, ‘I can’t believe it. They’re watching secular television.’ He knew the difference between the holy and the secular thanks to a Shabbat ritual.”
Said Dennis in a 1995 lecture on Exodus 6:
My wife got very sad when one of our fish died, which was particularly funny as she had just had a tuna sandwich for lunch. I pointed out to her, ‘Fran, how sad can you get? You just had a tuna melt.’ She started laughing and crying at the same time. I realized why she had gotten sad over the death of one of our fish. We had unwisely named our fish. If you eat a sandwich and it was really a Jerry sandwich, you were having Jerry for lunch, you’d recoil. A tuna sandwich is not a problem.
I vowed after I saw my wife’s reaction, we are no longer naming our fish. It’s a puffer, it’s a yellow tang, and that’s it. Just tonight, a yellow tang died. Nothing. Dennis, could you take that out? It’s ugly. There was no emotional connection because it was a yellow tang.
Said Dennis in a 1995 lecture on Exodus 7: “I see people who don’t forgive non-malicious acts and then forgive terribly malicious acts.
“I see people who are angry at friends who forgot to show up one day for an appointment and they will carry a grudge for a year…
“Last night I was at this reception. I was with this assistant district attorney. She was asking about my having conducted the national anthem at the Hollywood Bowl with the LA Philharmonic.
“I said, the L.A. Times music reviewer had a comment. That while the rendition of the national anthem was well received by the crowd, he gesticulated too much.
“She said, which one wrote it? I said, I don’t have a clue. She said, ‘You don’t know who wrote a negative thing about you? I would remember it until the day I die. My husband is just like you. He doesn’t take these things personally.’ It’s an example of a male-female difference… It meant nothing to me.
“For example, it affects my wife much more than it does me when I am attacked. I’ll go home and have dinner and she is seething. ‘He should drop dead. He should have boils and frogs and blood.’ That’s the norm.”
Dennis Prager wrote:
No one in my family had ever divorced. I assumed that marriage was for life. So when my wife and I divorced after five years of marriage and three years after the birth of our son, my world caved in. I was a failure in my own eyes.
I later remarried but confided to my wife, Fran, that I couldn’t shake the feeling that my family life had failed. She asked me what was wrong with our family now (which included her daughter from a previous marriage and my son). I had to admit that, aside from the pain of being with my son only half the time (my ex-wife and I shared custody), our family life was wonderful. “Then why don’t you celebrate it?” she asked.
That’s what I decided to do. But first I had to get rid of the image of a ‘perfect’ family.
In his July 1995 introduction to his collection of essays Think a Second Time, Prager wrote about his wife: “…Every word in this book reflects her wisdom. She has taught me so much – about courage, patience, authenticity, women and being a father – that I can date a significant part of my intellectual and emotional life as Before Fran and After Fran.”
Fran called Prager’s show about once a year. Once she called to argue with Dennis about his taking out a muffin from an all-you-can-eat restaurant. Another time she publicly reprimanded him for chasing a dangerous driver. In the fall of 1999, she called to talk about David’s desire to be “the head of the house” when he marries.
On January 1, 1996, Fran and her daughter Anya appeared on Prager’s KABC show for an hour. A woman phoned in to get their reaction to Prager’s liberal stand on pornography. Fran offered an ambivalent response while Anya, in effect, said that Playboy was cool. Fran hated the 1997 movie Boogie Nights (about the porn industry), and an hour through asked Dennis if they could leave. He said no. On his radio show, Prager said he found the movie pointless.
Fran speculates that many of Prager’s lower interests are a reaction to his yeshiva upbringing.
Prager frequently listed on the radio the vices that are not attractive to him. They include drinking, gambling, violence, and fame.
Regarding his child-raising philosophy, Dennis Prager said: “I drive them crazy on character. I only get angry if I see meanness, if I see a lie or something like that. And if they don’t get great grades, they don’t get great grades.
“I give up a lot of things to be with my children. There is one time in life where your children are aching to spend time with you. If you don’t then, then they won’t spend time when you ache to spend time with them later. When they say, ‘Daddy, watch,’ I get up from my comfortable chair and I do watch. I’m on a book tour now. I brought my whole family to the East Coast for the weekend to be with me. It’s the best investment… to be with your family.” (CSPAN 1996)
Said Dennis in 2010: “In my house, I didn’t care what grades you got. And it showed. I did care about whether or not you complained. You could not complain. When I complained as a kid I got the old line from generations — ‘If you keep crying, I’ll give you something to cry about.’”
The Pragers lived in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood of West LA on Canfield Avenue (the home was later bought by Rabbi Steven Weil in 2000) until moving to Hidden Hills, in the San Fernando Valley, in June of 1997. Fran particularly likes the country.
According to a 1998 tax assessment, the Prager’s Hidden Hills property land had a $516,350 market value. Assessed improvements are valued at $466, 827. The total market value was $983, 177. The Pragers bought the property on January 13, 1997 for $945,000, taking out a loan for $750,000. On December 16, 1997, they sold their Canfield home (in zip code 90035) for $575,000.
Said Dennis in a 1998 lecture on Exodus 25: “I just got a bank loan. They asked for my race. I filled in other and wrote in Mesopatamian-American.”
“I’m one of the lucky ones who can change his mind,” Fran told the LA Times in February 1998. “I’m relentless in getting him to look at emotional issues in terms of what he’s feeling, not thinking. I think I’ve helped him get out of his head more and into his heart.”
Prager told the LA Times that he’s easy to live with. “I’m even-tempered. My wife doesn’t lose me to sports or drink. I’m kind to her, but I do have all the quintessential male attributes that drive women crazy, including not remembering every conversation, and not yearning, quite as much as wives do, to confront all emotional issues.
“At a dinner party, I’d rather talk to women. The men are either talking about politics, the economy or sports, which bores the daylights out of me. I’d rather talk about babies’ feeding habits. Women think that’s a put-down and I’m blown away by that. Why is what my baby likes less elevated than how the Lakers are doing?”
The most embarrassed that I’ve heard Prager become on a phone call to his radio show came in 1995, when a woman asked him what his chief vice was. He stammered out something about sex.
Until 1997, Fran sometimes accompanied Dennis to Stephen S. Wise temple. After 1997, she almost never did.
In the year 2000, David Prager graduated from Shalhevet. Dennis wrote June 1, 2004: “At my older son’s graduation from a religious Jewish high school a few years ago, every single man in the audience wore a jacket and tie and the women were similarly formally dressed.”
Said Dennis in a 1998 lecture on Exodus 28, “I am unhappy that both of my kids’ schools do not have uniforms.”
Dennis wrote July 17, 2002: “Why is my son’s [Aaron] best friend black? Because they share values that transcend race, and because they live near each other.”
In a debate hosted by the Orthodox Union on Dec. 24, 2006, Dennis Prager said: “My oldest son [David], in a deep rebellion, has decided to become an Orthodox rabbi [which never happened].”
“My brother [Kenny], who is Orthodox, says to me, ‘I should’ve been Reform. Then my kids would be Orthodox.’”
David Prager married in 2006. Anya married in 2007.
In his 2007 lecture on Leviticus 3, Dennis said: “Just tonight I was speaking to my older son, who, bless him, writes a commentary on the portion of the week read in synagogue and sends it out to his email list. I get a great deal of joy from that. In his latest one, he wrote sympathetically of the mystical tradition.
“Just tonight, I was on the phone with him and said, ‘Dave, you’re becoming a mystic.’ He said, ‘Yeah, not the whole way, but I love a lot about mysticism.’
“Of course I am thinking here I am a rationalist non-Orthodox Jew and what is my oldest son? An Orthodox mystic.
“The trick for a parent is to say, ‘Wonderful!’ The sooner you learn to say wonderful, the happier you are, the happier they are, the happier the world is.”
In a 2005 lecture on Deut. 24:5, Dennis said: “Traditional life in Europe became you are defined by your family but that’s not the way it ought to be. You are defined by you, not by your family.
“I’ve always felt strongly about this subject. I’m better known than most dads are. My kids will get when they say their name, ‘Are you related to Dennis Prager?’
“My sons are very funny. My oldest son has a more developed humor at 22 than my youngest son at 12. He’s working his way through this so he decided to answer someone in New York, ‘Dennis Prager? Yeah, he’s the third cousin on my mother’s side.’ And the guy said, ‘Cool!’
“A terrible example and this was done by a rabbi in a mid-Western city. My son told me and he never complains, that he was at a Jewish wedding. A rabbi comes over and says, ‘Are you related to Dennis Prager?’ The rabbi took him for 20 minutes around the hall introducing him as Dennis Prager’s son. He didn’t even say ‘David.’ David had no identity. David was the son of someone. To me that is incomprehensible and yet people don’t think about preserving someone’s dignity. People think family is a big deal. It’s not. It’s a big deal, who are you?”
On his radio show May 14, 2010, Dennis said: “When you think you’ve had an impact on your own child, then you really think you have a point. I am just like everyone of you, just more so. People say often, what is it like to be Dennis Prager’s kid? If you ask my kids, I’m sure they’ll have a whole host of answers for that question. I have always said, the last people I think I will really influence are my own kids. They don’t see me as Dennis Prager. I’m dad.
“Yesterday I was talking to my oldest son. He was telling me, ‘You know you are so right.’ I was thinking, oh my God, really?
“It’s a cousin from his mom’s side, a young woman in her thirties who contracted cancer. He said, ‘Her attitude is so upbeat, dad, and you are so right that people who act in a positive way, they do so in spite of their circumstances and people who act depressed do so despite how good they have it in life.’”
In a lecture on Deut. 26 delivered around 2005, Dennis said: “I’m a father of three. I worry all the time [that my kids will find a good job]… The purpose of having children is to keep you humble. People have this vision that when I walk into my house, my kids say, ‘Dad, tell us about ethical monotheism.’ Not quite accurate.”
“When my kids had ambivalence about me, I said, ‘No prob. You just have to honor me.’”

In a public dialogue with Adam Carolla Feb. 25, 2012, Dennis said: "My younger son is 19. He's a total slob, like every male I know. He finally moved out of the house last week. He's studying. He's got an apartment. He talked to me the other night about how he now vacuums every day, he takes off his shoes when he walks into his one-bedroom little apartment lest he dirty his apartment, does his laundry, uses soap in the shower. I said, wow, why are you doing all these things? And he said, because mom isn't there to do it.
"And I said, now you know my  fight with the entitlement state. If Uncle Sam is there to do it, you won't do anything to take care of yourself."
Adam: "And possibly he's gay."
Dennis: "Possible. What's wrong with that? I didn't say he decorated it. I said he cleaned it."

Dennis Prager Divorces For Second Time

In 2004, Dennis cited personal reasons for not running for the Republican nomination for the US Senate to oppose Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer.
Said Dennis on his show April 15, 2011: “I never bought the idea [that we should cut the pay and benefits of politicians]. We are only going to have millionaires run for office if we do that. It sounds sweet and meaningful and it is utterly destructive. Every law passed to ban further income for politicians means that more millionaires and billionaires will run for office. The only thing these reforms have accomplished is that we have the largest percentage of the super wealthy in the U.S. Senate.
“I considered very seriously running for the U.S. Senate [in 2004]. I am not rich. It makes it virtually impossible. You have to be a household name like Arnold Schwarzenegger to come in and he was super-rich.
“This is the thinking I excoriate every day. Ask what does good, not what feels good.”
Said Dennis in a February 2009 lecture on Feelings: Key to the Liberal Mind, “When Republican candidates don’t go to NAACP meetings, I just don’t understand it. I love to speak to people who differ with me. I’d go to the convention of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. I went on gay radio. I’d go to an all-black meeting in a second to tell them to reconsider how they vote.
“I’ve said for 30 years there are two parties in America — the dangerous and the stupid. I’m a member of the stupid party.
“How stupid is the party? It almost doesn’t even know the existence of talk radio, the single biggest factor in articulating conservative values in America. I don’t think John McCain could’ve named a single talk show host outside of Rush Limbaugh, who he admitted he had never heard.
“I was gonna run for the U.S. Senate against Barbara Boxer. I don’t know that I should’ve. I think I touch more people through radio. That’s what I ultimately decided. As a senator, there’s one advantage — if you can get to the Senate, you can get to the presidency, but I don’t think that I’ll be president.
“I met with one of the highest ranking Republicans at his office [Arnold Steinberg?] in Beverly Hills and he didn’t know who I was. I don’t take it personally. It’s impossible to offend me. I wasn’t offended. I just thought, how could someone be so high up in the Republican party and never have heard of a man who had been on talk radio in his own city for 20 years? They are so out of it in the Republican party.”
“We do need an articular charismatic spokesman. The press of course will eat up anyone who does this. I flirt with running all the time, with throwing my hat in the ring. I know I’m articulate. I know how to speak to people. I’ve had a lot of practice in this but I know among other things what the press would do to me. Talk about a track record. They would get all the recordings from 26 years in radio. They would isolate 17 different clips to show me to be every evil thing possible.”
Dennis announced his divorce on his radio show Dec. 30, 2005. His second marriage had been unraveling for years.
“You can ask my wife,” said Dennis on his radio show Dec. 13, 2010. “The pain that I have had in my life I have always viewed as a possibility of bringing more insights to people to help their life. Since I do have a microphone and I do write, I do have the ability to talk to more people than most people do. I’ve wanted to use whatever I’ve gathered from pain to help others.”
In an interview of author John Gray (circa 2005), Dennis Prager seized upon Gray’s comment that husbands appreciate their wives much more than wives appreciate their husbands. Dennis said this was true.
In a 1996 lecture on Exodus 20, Dennis said: “My wife often says, ‘How did you unravel that conversation? This person was totally convoluted and then you explain it like it was a road map.’ If your wife compliments you, it is a good sign. It’s not like I come home every day and hear that I’m the greatest thing in the world. It’s not a daily occurrence.”
In a 2004 lecture on Deut: 8, Dennis Prager said: “Love is a manic state… You’re taken over. Now, you can’t preserve a manic state or you’d go nuts but you can create feelings of love by doing things… I remember one bachelor who said to me, ‘What do you mean marriage is an effort? Who wants to work at marriage? I work all day at the office. I want to come home and stop working.’ So of course he got married and later divorced. I guess he didn’t want to continue working when he got home.”
On Jul. 13, 2011, Dennis said that a male caller’s need for 2.5 sexual encounters a week with his wife “was a good number.”
Dennis has always opposed gossip. He doesn’t want journalists scraping through his life — or any life — looking for scandal (private misdeeds best kept private). He’s said on the radio that he doesn’t have anything shocking in his past that he wants to hide.
On his show July 5, 2011, Dennis said: “There is not one of you, not the most angelic person listening to this show, about whom if enough were known, I could not write a history of you, a biography of you, that would make you look terrible. There is no such human, from Moses to you. You have some beloved aunt or uncle who’s like an angel, I swear to you that if enough were known, a biography could be written about them to make them look despicable. That’s what the left has done to America.”
On June 29, 2004, Dennis Prager wrote:
You can now add former Illinois Republican Senate candidate Jack Ryan to the list of those gratuitously humiliated by the news media. For no good reason, the Chicago Tribune and WLS-TV petitioned to have the divorce proceedings of Jack and Jeri Ryan released and published. In it we learned that Jeri had accused her ex-husband of wanting to take her to sex clubs on three occasions to have sex in front of other people.
I happen to oppose having sexual intercourse in front of others. But I don’t want to know what Jack Ryan sought to do with his wife. It is none of my business, oh gods of media, and none of yours. And I especially don’t want his 9-year-old son to know.
But for the Tribune and WLS-TV, it was too good a story. They hid behind the excuse that it is the “public’s right to know.” But this is self-serving and hypocritical nonsense.
If the public needs to know about the sexual desires (desires, not even practices) of a senatorial candidate, it also needs to know the sexual desires of the men and women who run the Chicago Tribune and WLS-TV.
Max Prager wrote in September 2004:
Although our other son Dennis lives 3000 miles from us, he phones us several times during the week inquiring as to our health and what’s going on in our lives. His wife, Fran, never neglects to e-mail us with info regarding their lives and what is going on with Anya and Aaron, their children. David, Dennis’s son by a previous marriage has given us joy since he was born.
…Dennis as well has given us a great deal of joy and pride in his many accomplishments. Listening to him on the radio for three hours 5 days a week when he broadcasts nationally over close to 70 cities, reading his weekly articles on “World Net Daily” and “Town Hall”, listening to his many tapes of his lectures given throughout the world, viewing him on the most popular TV news shows and, last but not least, emceeing the 7 hour annual Chabad telethon gives his parents nachas (joy and pride).
Dennis Prager wrote April 12, 2005:
One of the most frequently offered arguments by proponents of same-sex marriage is that it is not gays wanting to marry a member of the same sex that threatens the institution of marriage, it is the high divorce rate among heterosexuals.
…It is simplistic to maintain that the one criterion of success or failure in marriage is permanence. There are marriages that provided years of comfort to a couple and a fine home to their children that eventually end; and there are permanent marriages that have provided neither comfort to the couple nor a loving environment for their children. If the end of something renders it a failure, every one of our lives is a failure, since they all come to an end.
Finally, marriage is threatened not by divorce, but by people not marrying in the first place — as is increasingly the case in the two European societies that have redefined marriage to include couples of the same sex. Our present high divorce rate is not stopping the vast majority of Americans from wanting to marry. Nor should it. Nothing provides the antidote to narcissism, or the environment for the healthy raising of children, or the way for people to take care of one another, as does the marriage of a man and a woman. And while most divorces are terribly sad, divorce itself no more undermines the institution of marriage than car crashes undermine the institution of driving. In fact, the vast majority of people who do divorce deeply wish to marry again; painful divorce has not undermined marriage even among those who have divorced.
Fran Prager filed a petition for divorce (Case Number: BD431230, attorney was Larry Allen Epstein) on August 11, 2005.
Dennis did not mention this on air for more than four months.
I wonder what it was like for him in the many years previous talking on the radio (and in lectures) about marriage and sex and love and other intimate topics while his own life was in so much turmoil? Dennis Prager must be one cool cucumber. Even when I’ve seen him deeply wounded (such as by the 1996 public denouncement of him for alleged homophobia by rabbi friends), he was still in control.
On Dec. 6, 2005, Dennis wrote the first of two columns entitled “If You’re Thinking Of Marrying”. Here are some excerpts:
1. Is the person your best friend or at least becoming so?
2. Aside from sex, do you enjoy each other?
3. Is there chemistry between the two of you?
4. Does the person have a number of good friends and at least one very close friend of the same sex?
5. How does the person treat others?
Dennis wrote Dec. 13, 2005:
6. What problems do the two of you now have? And what inner voice of doubt, if any, are you suppressing?
7. How often do you fight?
8. Do you share values?
9. Do you miss the person when you are not together?
10. Is the person unhappy?
11. How much of your love is dependent on the sex you are having?
12. What do people you respect think of the person you’re considering marrying?
During the second hour of his show Dec. 30, 2005, Dennis, crying, read an announcement that he was getting divorced.
He said he did not regard the marriage as a failure. They had many good years together and they raised good kids.
He said they had tried for years to work out their problems. They had gone to therapy.
Dennis said that he was worried that his listeners would take his moral teachings less seriously because of his divorce.
After telling his kids about the divorce, Dennis said his next priority was to tell his listeners.
“I received after that announcement 800 emails within a day, 799 of which were something like, I can’t believe this, Dennis, but I had tears in my eyes. I just stopped my car for a minute and took a breather. I felt like my father was telling me he was divorcing mom.
“I was stunned. I had no expectation, but I learned… that people were relating to Dennis as much as they were relating to what I was saying.” (2008 lecture on 25 years in broadcasting)
There was a stipulation and order on child and spousal support on April 3, 2006. Dennis was represented by attorney Tina Schwartzba Schuchman.
“That’s a very tough phrase, by the way, ‘Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved,’” said Dennis Prager on his radio show July 10, 2009. “It’s a tough one. I have believed that. I think it’s true, but it’s a toughie.”
On his show Jan. 5, 2010, Dennis said: “Let me give you a realization I came to about life that I did not know 20 years ago. The role of luck in good marriage. I am now convinced that the vast majority of long-term good marriages are good because they’re lucky that they found the right person for them. Period. End of issue.
“Had you asked me this 30 years ago, I would’ve said, shared values and a lot of noble-sounding things. People who worked hard on their marriage.
“I look at my parents who had 69 years of marriage. And they would be the first to tell you that they had a great marriage…because they were unbelievably lucky. They met the right person for themselves. People in happy marriages should be very humble about judging people who are less happy or are in divorce situations.”
Wrote Dennis in 2011: "...issues related to others' marriages, divorces, and infidelities are too complex an arena for outsiders to draw immediate conclusions about a person."
In his first lecture on Numbers (circa 2006), Dennis said: “Marriage forces you to confront yourself.”
Dennis: “It’s disgusting to make these blanket condemnations of everyone who’s divorced as if they are lazy slobs who woke up one day and said, ‘I think I’ll move on here. Seventeen years, big deal. I want a more exciting life.’
“I don’t know anyone who’s divorced who didn’t go through hell, went through counseling, went through trying, went through crying.” (Nov. 22, 2010)
Fran Prager remains active in Jewish life (particularly with Chabad).
If a wife loves her husband, she shouldn’t let her mood always determine whether or not she has sex with him, Dennis Prager argued in two columns at the end of 2008.
Not many twice-divorced moralists would have the courage to say such things.
Dennis wrote Dec. 23, 2008:
It is an axiom of contemporary marital life that if a wife is not in the mood, she need not have sex with her husband. Here are some arguments why a woman who loves her husband might want to rethink this axiom.
First, women need to recognize how a man understands a wife’s refusal to have sex with him: A husband knows that his wife loves him first and foremost by her willingness to give her body to him.
…A man whose wife frequently denies him sex will first be hurt, then sad, then angry, then quiet. And most men will never tell their wives why they have become quiet and distant. They are afraid to tell their wives. They are often made to feel ashamed of their male sexual nature, and they are humiliated (indeed emasculated) by feeling that they are reduced to having to beg for sex.
Dennis wrote Dec. 30, 2008:
That solution is for a wife who loves her husband — if she doesn’t love him, mood is not the problem — to be guided by her mind, not her mood, in deciding whether to deny her husband sex.
If her husband is a decent man — if he is not, nothing written here applies — a woman will be rewarded many times over outside the bedroom (and if her man is smart, inside the bedroom as well) with a happy, open, grateful, loving, and faithful husband. That is a prospect that should get any rational woman into the mood more often.
Prager was accused by some critics of advocating “marital rape.”
On his radio show Dec. 2, 2010, Dennis Prager said: “A man needs most from a woman in a relationship is to be admired. Not loved.
“The reason the denial of sex is so terrible to a man is not primarily the biological deprivation, but he translates it in his mind as a lack of taking him seriously, a lack of admiration and love.
“There is really only one thing that can not be overcome by most men in a marriage — being held in contempt by his wife.”
“My father was married to my mother for 69 years, 73 years together. Always, it was a sort of mantra that my father would say, ‘Your mother puts me on a pedestal. That’s what every woman needs to do for her man.’”
On his show April 20, 2011, Dennis said: “I look at troubles I have had as, and everyone who knows me intimately knows this is true, I always see one silver lining — I now have more good things I can tell the public.”
On his radio show Sept. 15, 2010, Dennis Prager’s favorite expert on male-female relations, Alison Armstrong, told Dennis: “You don’t understand women and you think you do. I knew it the first time I was on your show and I wouldn’t say it. You said you thought women didn’t want sex as much as men because they don’t focus on it. I knew then that you didn’t understand women because of your idea that women focus period. Women don’t focus.”
Since 2004, Alison Armstrong has appeared on Prager’s radio show about 30 times. Since 2009, she’s been appearing four times a year.
In 2006, following his second divorce, Dennis Prager bought a home in La Cañada Flintridge. It was the height of the housing boom and he over-paid. If his house fell in value in line with others in Southern California, he lost at least 20%.
Shortly after his arrival in La Cañada Flintridge, Prager initiated local celebrations of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in 2008 and 2009 at the La Cañada Flintridge Country Club. The event attracted hundreds, but very few of them locals, he said, and was moved west last year to Studio City.”
“I call this place Norman Rockwell-ville. This is a beautiful slice of America, that’s why. First of all, I like the way people treat each other. It has the very best small town feel. I like that a lot of times people know each other. I like the kids who work at Penguin’s yogurt, and I like the celebrations of July 4 and Memorial Day. There’s a lot to like here. It’s a decent place. A nice mixture of backgrounds. I live in a cul de sac, and one neighbor’s parents came from Syria, another came from Korea, and I’m Mr. Jew. We get along great.” (La Canada Online, Dec. 14, 2010)

Dennis Prager Marries For Third Time

From PragerRadio.com, on Jan. 5, 2009

Dennis and Sue were married December 31 by Rabbi Michael Gotlieb at his synagogue, Kehillat Ma’arav, in Santa Monica, California.
The former Susan Reed, known to all as Sue, was raised in the Los Angeles area, graduated from Occidental College, obtained her law degree from Loyola Law School and was admitted to the California Bar in November 1994. After a half-year practicing business transaction law, Sue left her career to be a full-time mother to her two boys, one of whom is autistic, and shortly thereafter also to raise her two nieces after the death of their mother, Sue’s 35 year-old sister, Cyndi, [died] from cancer.
Sue met Dennis at a speech he gave for the Jewish organization Chabad in San Diego, where she lived until 2008 when she moved to Los Angeles.
Here is Dennis Prager’s statement:
As many listeners and my friends and family know, my divorce after 19 years with Fran was a very painful period of my life. Happily, Fran and I remain friends and share the raising of our son, Aaron.
Many people advised me against marrying again. After all, they argued, I had no plans to have more children. And we live in a society that hardly demands marriage, let alone the remarriage of middle aged individuals. More than a few men additionally argued that I would come to value my “freedom.”
To be honest, I understood these arguments, but I believe that marriage is the greatest of all social institutions; I happen to agree with God who said in Genesis, “It is not good for man to be alone.”
Nevertheless, with all my belief in marriage, I would not likely be getting married at this time were it not for Sue, whose goodness, love, intelligence, and emotional stability have been a blessing to me and to all those who know her.
Through all that I have experienced, I believe I can fairly say that I have learned a great deal about men, women, and marriage. It is one reason I began the “Male-Female Hour” to help others in relating to the other sex and in their marriages.
Over time, I hope many of you will get a chance to meet Sue.
I thank all of you who have shown me such warm and loving support over these past few years. You have no idea how much that has meant to me.
La Cañada Flintridge “is both the childhood home of his wife Susan (who as Susan Springett graduated from La Cañada High School, which her son from a previous marriage now attends).”
When did Dennis meet Sue? When did their relationship begin?
In January 2010, I received an email from Deanna Bregman. She said she was Fran Prager's best friend. She said she had lived with the Pragers. She complained about the "pretty picture" I painted of Sue. 
On his radio show Jan. 6, 2010, Dennis said: “I am prepared to say, and I don’t think it compromises my male persona, that I don’t like going to bed alone. I think one of the great perks of marriage is precisely those moments. And I am not talking sex.”
On his show April 9, 2010, Dennis listed his wife’s little joys in life — “books, coffee, dogs, walks, planting, ’70s music, choral music.”
Said Dennis on his radio show June 25, 2010, “I want my dog to make me laugh. That is the greatest contribution he can make. I’m not looking for love. I get more laughs from this basset hound than you count.”
At Stephen S. Wise temple in 2010, Rabbi David Woznica asked Dennis: “What is the greatest consistent source of joy in your life?”
Dennis thought for a second and a little sheepishly, said, “OK. My wife.”
Dennis grips and ungrips his chair for a few seconds of silence and then adds: “By the way, since I like to be open, it was a long, I’ve had my own issues in that arena as is known and that is no reflection on anybody else. Just to be able to say that is a wonderful thing to say.”
Sue is 15 years younger than Dennis.
On his show Oct. 21, 2010, Dennis talked about a conversation he had with a man on a plane: “I told him that my wife doesn’t complain and never yells at me. He said, ‘Were her vocal chords removed?’”
On his show Nov. 10, 2010, Dennis said: “My wife will have me check out some women.”
On his show Dec. 28, 2010, Dennis said: “I get enough disagreement outside of my house. Inside my house, I really like harmony. The more you agree on [as a couple], the better. When you step outside the house, you can take on the world. Inside the house, you don’t want to take on your spouse.”
From Prager’s show March 16, 2011:
Dennis: “You are the wife. You are doing work in the kitchen, washing dishes or in the garden gardening. There are no kids around. Your husband stops by to say something and he grabs your tush. Are you offended? Are you pleased?”
“The politically correct answer is that this is unwanted. That it is a form of marital sexual harassment.”
“When the couple loves one another, I hold that that is a good thing. I know that it is the last thing on the woman’s mind. So what? The more your husband who loves you wants to grab you, the better it is for both of you.”
“If your husband is still doing this after ten years of marriage, I think the two of you are blessed.”
“I have this line and I will use it while in the car with my wife. It’s one of the fun sayings of marriage. ‘Honey, the last thing on your mind is the first thing on my mind.’
“That is as true as it gets in the sexual realm most of the time in a marriage.”
Mike calls: “This issue should come up only once in a marriage. Each spouse tells the other when it happens that they like it or they don’t like it. And it would never come up again.”
Dennis: “We disagree. My whole point is that if they have decided he shouldn’t do it, they should rethink the decision.”
Mike: “If it hurts somebody for any reason…”
Dennis: “We are hurt because we decided to be hurt. Because the mind decides to be hurt. Why would a woman be hurt if the husband she loves grabs her?”
Mike: “Why is anyone uncomfortable about anything?”
Dennis: “Just as I want men to rethink a lot of things they do, I want women to rethink too. If the subject was just to do what is comfortable, I would do another hour here. I don’t think we should be guided by feelings only.”
“The response, ‘Can’t you see I’m busy?’ would have a terribly deflating effect on most men.”
“Our screener, married for 25 years, IMs me that her husband can grab away, but he may not whistle at her to get her attention.”
“If every woman thought this was a great thing, I wouldn’t have this subject this hour. The spirit of our times is that a man doesn’t do that. He asks permission first.”
A wife calls from Phoenix. “I was loading the dishwasher last night and my husband said, ‘Could you do that again? Could you put something else in there?’”
Dennis: “Why would we deprive our wife or our husband of so much joy when the price to us is so minimal?”
“I don’t advocate this as a prelude to immediately engaging in sexual intercourse. I’m advocating that this grab be accepted for what it is — the playful sexual grab of a loving husband.”
A male caller says about his first wife who repelled his advances: “Playful touching was not welcomed. I think it had a lot to do with the eventual failure of that marriage. Some of the things that went on inside my head: ‘I felt less than, less than her. I felt that at some level I must disgust her. You internalize that and you get depressed. What I thought was an expression of love and my natural way of being was somehow wrong and repellent in her eyes.”
Dennis: “If he never sees you as a piece of meat, it’s a platonic relationship of roommates.”
“Another man is calling in to say that grabs are OK, but maybe you should also rub the shoulders and think about what she wants.
“Guys, grabbing your wife when you want is one of the most basic masculine things that you express. The emasculating messages of college have been injurious to male-female relations. Of course a man has to be sensitive to the feelings of his wife in the same way you have to be sensitive to the feelings of your male friends. It’s wonderful for your marriage if this happens and he asks you to put another dish in the dishwasher.”

In a April 3, 2011 address to the David Horowitz Freedom Center, Dennis said, “My wife believes there are too many flaws in evolution.”
In a January 2010 debate with Shmuley Boteach in Manhattan, Dennis said: “I was born with courage. I take no credit for my courage. To say some of the things I say takes courage because they go against prevailing opinion. I believe that if a wife says to her husband periodically, twice a year, ‘Honey, I know male nature, and I want you to know that I appreciate the fact that you remain faithful’ is terrific for a marriage.
“I don’t think it works exactly in both directions. I think there are things he should thank her for, but not necessarily fidelity. There are women who do battle to stay faithful, but I doubt that they are in good marriages. Men in good marriages do battle to stay faithful.”
“If we don’t agree on male nature, debate is useless. If we don’t acknowledge that male nature is variety oriented and stimulated with phenomenal ease, like seeing a thigh. That is not true for women. There are no ads featuring male thighs.”
“If a man doesn’t admit this battle [to stay faithful], he’s either lying to you or he’s asexual.”
“A man wants to know that his wife understands his sexual nature. Most men don’t tell their wives about it, which is why when I eventually write my book on male sexual nature, my working title is, ‘Your Husband is Not a Pervert’. The vast majority of men are afraid that their wives will think they are perverts if they open up about their sexual nature. So they shut down and then women wonder, ‘Why is my husband so quiet?’ Because he can’t freely talk about his nature without you thinking he’s a sicko. So I do it on their behalf. I’m the husband’s best friend.”
Dennis replied to a question from Lisa Oz: “It gives you an idea of how close my wife and I are that I can say [in front of her], yes, I see women that I would like to bang regularly but I wouldn’t. And she knows that. One of the reasons that I love her so much is that I can be that honest. I don’t know a man who is honest who would have a different answer. I know Shmuley [Boteach] does. He has talked himself into this. Fine. If he has to fool himself into — I have no desire for any other woman on earth — fine. It may be true. I’m not speaking for 100% of males. I’m speaking for 99% of males.”
“The reason I love Judaism is that it is real about men. Something has happened to negate the realizations of Judaism. Don’t sit in a room alone with a woman. Why not? Don’t you have divine energy? Would a great rabbi even think of that? Of course he thinks of it because he’s still a male.
“I’ll never forget the woman doctor who called my show once… She said, ‘Dennis, sometimes men make sick. Just the other week, I was with a male patient. He was in his nineties and he was dying. And as he was dying, he was looking down my shirt.’
“I said to her, ‘Doctor, that’s how I want to die.’”
“I want people to eat right. It is a battle for me every day not to have more dessert. My true nature is carrot cake in the morning, cheesecake at lunch and an ice cream sundae in the evening.”
“Your mind should be as translucently open as possible [to your spouse]. When I asked my wife why she loves me, she said that I have no black boxes. That she really feels she knows me.”
Shmuley: “If your wife just asked you, what did you do in the bathroom? Would you give her the details?”
Dennis: “If my wife asked me that, I would think that she has a tumor in the brain.”
Shmuley: “I think you should work on it. You should be more open.”
Dennis: “What’s on your mind and what you excrete are different.”
Turning to Shmuley later in the program, Dennis says: “If you feel that masturbation and lust is the same as actual adultery, you are in that regard Christian and not Jewish. That is what Jesus said.”
Shmuley: “I counsel so many couples today where porn is destroying the marriage.”
Dennis: “I argue that if a man looks at porn for an hour a day, which I would hardly counsel, I have 50 other questions other than that to know about their marriage. Do they love each other? Do you have an active and good sex life? If they do and the wife is not deprived of his love and affection, looking at porn does not kill the marriage. Your advice kills the marriage because you have so toxified porn that you have told women that if he looks at it, he doesn’t love you.”
Shmuley: “Porn destroys marriages.”
On his show Aug. 17, 2011, Dennis said: “Divorce is not what kills marriage… What kills marriage is not marrying. Divorce is a tragedy. It is not a statement about marriage. It is a statement about a particular marriage. Most divorced people want to marry.”

On his show Oct. 31, 2011, Dennis said his wife travels with him 80% of the time. "Ideally you should spend as much time together as possible."

"When my wife was a waitress at a well-known chain, the manager on a number of occasions just grabbed her breasts. She told him to let go and that was it. My wife could've ruined his life. I wonder if he could not go to jail for sexual assault. I don't condone what he did and I never did such a thing in my life... A playful grabbing of the waitress's breast by the manager is not gulag nor is it sexual assault."

Wrote Dennis Nov. 15, 2011 about his wife: "She is a non-practicing lawyer with a particular interest in and knowledge of taxation and the economy. She decided to stay home to be a full-time mother to her two boys (one of whom is autistic) and her two nieces (who lost their mother, my wife's sister, to cancer, when they were very young). Between talk radio, History Channel documentaries, BookTV on C-SPAN2, recorded lectures from The Teaching Company/The Great Courses, and constant reading, she has led a first-class intellectual life while shuttling kids, folding laundry and making family dinners." 

A review of Dennis Prager's Feb. 25, 2012 public dialogue with Adam Carolla says: "We learn that Prager’s wife can only fall asleep if what he calls “the Hitler Channel” [the Military Channel] is on in the background."

Dennis tells Adam: "One of the kicks that I get out of life is at night if I'm at a stop light and women with nice legs are crossing the street and my headlights are there to illuminate their lovely limbs. 

"So we were in Florida visiting my son and grandson. There were some young women walking into the hotel where I was pulling up. In their skirts. And just as they passed the headlights, a big gust of wind came. And I looked at my wife and said, 'Sue, I just won the lottery.'"

In a Mar. 14, 2012 column, Dennis Prager outlines the characteristics of happy people:

People who control themselves.
People who are given little and earn what they have.
People who do not see themselves or their group as victims.
People who rarely complain.
People who have close friends.
People who are in a good marriage.
People who act happy.
People who aren't envious.
People who have few expectations.
People who are grateful.

Recession 2007-2009

Though a capitalist, Dennis Prager is skeptical of big business.
He wrote March 17, 2009: “So, too, the current economic decline was brought about in large measure by people in the financial sector widely regarded as “brilliant.” Of course, it turns out that many of them were either dummies, amoral, incompetent, or all three.”
“The reason we have too few solutions to the problems that confront people — in their personal lives as well as in the political realm — is almost entirely due to a lack of common sense, psychological impediments to clear thinking, a perverse value system, to a lack of self-control, or all four.”
On March 10, 2009, Dennis Prager wrote: “The adulation of extremely wealthy Wall Street “wizards” has ended. Most of those people produced nothing of worth and believed in economic nonsense.”

Staying Fit

On April 9, 2010, Dennis Prager got a question about how he stays fit while traveling so much.
“I am surprised at the energy level and how healthy I stay,” said Dennis. “It’s an immense amount of travel. It’s unbelievable. And the work. Every day, a show. A column every week. A second column every other week for the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles. A book that I’m writing. The lectures. That’s pretty hefty.
“There are a few answers. One, is luck. I am very fortunate. I was given blessed with tremendous energy. Two, my attitude is so upbeat, I am convinced that with all the endorphins that I secrete, it helps my health tremendously. I really maximize the joys of my life… When I stopped off yesterday after my show at 3 p.m. Atlanta time and went to a cigar place, I only had two hours, because at 6 p.m. I had to be at the Cobb Energy Center for the evening with Bill Bennett and Congressman Price, I knew I had to maximize my pleasure in the midst of all this work. Three, I take supplements. I do believe in them… I don’t get enough sleep. Sometimes I get to take a nap for 20 minutes in the day, that’s a big help. Small portions are the secret to weight. I should do a show on the clean plate club, having to eat it all. Better advice is whatever is on your plate, leave half of it.”
Said Dennis in 2004 in his lecture on Deuteronomy 25, “I don’t have a lot of time. I have a show to do tomorrow morning so when I get home, I have to read a lot. I do all my reading at night. I go to bed about 2 and get up about an hour before the show and hope that nothing happened at night. The second I wake up, I call Allen [Estrin] and ask, ‘Allen, anything happen while I was sleeping?’”
In a column Nov. 21, 2006, Dennis wrote: “My father is 88 years old and has been smoking a few cigars a day… He not only taught me the joys of cigars. He also taught me the importance of thinking for myself and how to lead an honorable life that includes as much joy as possible.”
Dennis wrote July 15, 2003: “I smoke a pipe and cigar, and I am amazed at the certitude and chutzpah in the 5-year-olds who have visited my home who confidently walked over to me to tell me I shouldn’t smoke! Had they seen me drinking alcohol, as children regularly see adults do, it would never occur to them to say such a thing.”

The Case For America

For about as long as Dennis Prager has been speaking publicly, he’s been talking about the greatness of the United States.
In a column July 3, 2007, Dennis wrote: “But someone — or many someones — must come up with a July Fourth Seder. A generation of Americans with little American identity — emanating from little American memory — has already grown into adulthood. The nation whose founders regarded itself as the Second Israel must now learn how to survive from the First.”
In 2009, Dennis Prager decided to devote his fifth book to making the case for America: Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph. Harper Collins releases the book April 24, 2012.
On Saturday, January 30, 2010, Dennis Prager addressed Congressional Republicans:

I would like show you some of the large themes involved in your present work.
First theme: It is harder to sell truths than to sell falsehoods. It is very easy to say, “Vote for us and we will give you, we will give you, we will give you.” It is much harder to advocate what is right and to say “Vote for us, but no, we won’t give you” — even though that is the more moral and the more American position. So you have the far more difficult task.
John Rosemond, who writes books on child rearing, says that the most important vitamin you can give to a child is Vitamin N, his term for the word “No.” You have given America Vitamin N.
America needs it terribly because of another way in which God has stacked the deck against the fight for goodness in human history: Every change for good must be constantly renewed, but changes for the worse are often permanent. Goodness must be fought for every day, over and over. That is why every American generation has to be inculcated with American values. But once the change for bad is made, it is close to irreversible. The Democratic attempt to vastly expand the state’s power would likely be a permanent change for the worse in American life. When they’re candid, they admit that the health-care bill is their way to get to single-payer medicine and, more important, to a government takeover of another sixth of the American economy.
…And finally, theme four: I have a motto that I offer to you because this is the ultimate moral case for us: “The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen.”
…The bigger the government, the less I do for myself, for my family, and for my community. That is why we Americans give more charity and devote more time to volunteering than Europeans do. The European knows: the government, the state, will take care of me, my children, my parents, my neighbors, and my community. I don’t have to do anything. The bigger question in many Europeans’ lives is, “How much vacation time will I have and where will I spend that vacation?”
That is what happens when the state gets bigger — you become smaller. The dream of America was that the individual was to be a giant. The state stays small so as to enable each of us to be as big as we can be. We are each created in God’s image. The state is not in God’s image, but it is vying to be that. This is the battle you’re fighting. You are fighting a cosmic battle, because this is the most important society ever devised, the United States of America.
You can easily forget the big picture — how could you not? You’re there every day, battling. You are in dense jungle — excuse me, a rainforest — you are in a jungle rainforest, fighting; and I am, because of the nature of my work, in a little helicopter above the jungle telling you what it is you are fighting. America really is the last, best hope of mankind.

On his radio show April 7, 2010, Dennis said: “I have a theory that there are essentially four competing ideologies on earth today for humanity. They are the American central value system with the free market, liberty and basic Judeo-Christian principles, the leftist system, Islam and China.”
Prager’s guest that hour was Stefan Halper, Senior Fellow in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge. His new book was The Beijing Consensus: How Chinese Authoritarian Model Will Dominate the 21st Century.
Stefan: “The greatest challenge to China is American ideas… India, in many respects, reflects American pluralism, multiparty democracy and the market. The problem is that the United States has not stepped up to the line and told its story. It has not revitalized the American story.”
Dennis: “We are kindred spirits. That’s my whole thing… We haven’t even taught Americanism to Americans, let alone to the Chinese.”
On May 23, 2010, Dennis Prager spoke on a panel at the University of Denver with Sarah Palin and Hugh Hewitt. As of Nov. 2, 2010, this video had 2.5 million views:

Here’s a selective transcript of this video:
Former U.S. Senator from Colorado, Bill Armstrong, asks Dennis: “If you had to identify a single threat to the future of our country, what would it be?”
Some in the conservative crowd yell out “Obama!”
Dennis: “No, it’s not Obama. If, God forbid, President Obama came down with an illness, nothing would change. Nothing! I believe the greatest threat facing the United States of America, and I have believed this my entire adult life, is that we have not passed on what it means to be American to this generation.
“A society does not survive if it does not have a reason to survive. That’s true for individuals. Where there is a why, there is a how. Nietzsche. We have lost the why. The Greatest Generation did not teach my generation what Americanism is. It’s not its fault. It wasn’t taught.
“This goes back 100 years to John Dewey, to the importation of European professors, to our universities… The average American who deeply loves this country and even has conservative values can not articulate what those values are.
“When we understand this American trinity of ‘In God We Trust’, Liberty, and E Pluribus Unum, that is uniquely American. It is not European. The French preferred liberte, fraternite, and egalite. We don’t. We believe in equality of birth, not in equality of result.
“When it is understood what America stands for, when it is understood that there is a moral dimension to a smaller government, it is not an economic question, it is a moral question.
“We give far more charity per capita than Europeans do. Why? Are we born better? No. The bigger the government, the worse the citizen. They are preoccupied in Europe with how much time off? Where will they vacation? When will they retire? These are selfish questions.
“So the goodness of America is jeopardized by our not knowing what we stand for.”
“This is the most important [mid-term] election in modern American history. This November is a referendum of what we want America to be. There is one party that stands for American values. If we do not change both houses, we lose. That is how important it is.”
“I hope this invigorates you for the greatest fight in American history.”
On Nov. 2, 2010, the Republicans won more than 60 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and came close to taking control of the U.S. Senate.
That evening, Dennis served as the MC for Republican senate candidate Carly Fiorina’s election party in Orange County. She lost badly to Barbara Boxer.
On his radio show Nov. 3, 2010, Dennis said: “It was a great night. I had put all of my eggs in the basket. I said it was referendum day [on Barack Obama and the left]. I said it was the most important election since the Civil War.”
“This was a peaceful revolution.”
On his radio show May 25, 2010, Dennis Prager said: “I’ve had this terrible sciatica recur. It’s very bad right now. It’s where you have a disc from your spine bulging out and touching nerves, the sciatic nerve goes down the back of your leg to your ankle. There’s nothing you can do about the pain because nerves are nerves. I’ll probably end up with surgery. It’s a routine surgery. Don’t send me all the solutions. I’ve tried most of them and they worked for most of the time but now it is too much of a disc bulge, it is nine millimeters. It’s huge.
“I should be rolling across airports. When I went to Denver this past weekend to speak with Sarah Palin and Hugh Hewitt, I was wheeled around in a wheelchair. I could walk but not far. It was too painful.
“I was in a wheelchair and I had never been in a wheelchair before. It’s a different way of looking at the world.
“When you encounter someone in a wheelchair in an elevator, who’s the one to break the ice?
“I decided that when I was wheeled around, I would act as I act when I walk around. I found that people reacted the same way. I am very sensitive to human reaction. Once the wheelchair person did the everything is OK, everything is normal, everyone is happy. I kidded around with kids, with adults. Same reaction.
“Maybe it is the handicapped who need to put the non-handicapped at ease as much as the non-handicapped need to put the handicapped at ease. We are such a pity-based compassion-based culture that we don’t make any demands on people upon whom we have compassion — the poor, the minority, the handicapped. We hurt these people.
“To say that society must do all the work is terrible advice.
“I say to the handicapped, you are as responsible for how you are perceived as the non-handicapped.
“The minority is as responsible for making the majority feel comfortable as vice-versa.”
“You act like you are persecuted, you’ll feel persecuted. You act normal, you’ll be treated normal.”
On his radio show Jun. 23, 2011, Dennis Prager did his first Fourth of July ritual declaration (with a bunch of friends’ kids).
All of the calls to the show were negative about the ritual. Concluded Dennis: “It’s easy to criticize and hard to build.”
Dennis writes July 2, 2011: "Four years ago, I wrote a column titled “America Needs a July Fourth Seder.” In it, I explained that “national memory dies without national ritual. And without a national memory, a nation dies.” Many readers and listeners to my radio show responded by creating their own rituals to make the day far more meaningful than watching fireworks and eating hot dogs. I now present a simple 10-minute ceremony that every American can easily use on July Fourth. It is a product of the Internet-based Prager University that I founded nearly two years ago. We call it the Fourth of July Declaration…"

During a public dialogue with Adam Carolla Feb. 25, 2012, a man said it would be great if Adam Carolla would "narrarate Dennis's new book and add some colorful language to punctuate the points."

Adam: "We call it punching it up in the business."

Dennis: "Where I would have, 'Soviet leader Brezhnev', you would add, 'that piece of s***.' That's great. An x-rated version of my book."

It was the only time I've heard Dennis use the s*** word.

On his radio show Dec. 12, 2011, Dennis Prager said: "As a white person, may I say that most conservative whites believe that a great majority of blacks think this country is a racist cesspool. If they don't, then everyone who speaks on their behalf is a liar who's not representative of blacks, and I don't believe that. I don't believe that blacks walk around grateful to be in America and how unracist it is."

Caller: "Most blacks think America hasn't dealt with its race problems and there is still a great amount of racism."

Dennis: "White liberals believe that."

Caller: "You here on all sorts of right-wing talk radio show that if black people only understood that conservatives have their best interest at heart, they wouldn't vote 90% for the Democrats. They're not smart enough to figure out that conservatives truly make their lives better but they keep voting Democrat because they're taken in by race huxsters."

Dennis: "I believe that. It's not racism. I believe that about my fellow Jews. They're not smart enough to realize that the left is their enemy. They're stupid. They're naive."

Caller: "So black people are stupid?"

Dennis: "On this issue, sir. Obviously, Jews are not known for being stupid. On the issue of who their friends are and who their enemies are, Jews are stupid and blacks are stupid."

Caller: "How can they just be stupid in one narrow area of their life?"

Dennis: "Are you kidding?"

Caller: "How does this happen?"

Dennis: "Because their emotions overtake their intellect."

Caller: "So they're emotional and stupid?"

Dennis: "Yes. The emotions make you stupid. It's true for all of us. When I don't think rationally, I become stupid."

"Blacks are blinded by anger at whites. That's what I believe. If you want me to lie and then patronize blacks... That's what you want. Mr. Prager, don't say what you actually think. Say what will make blacks feel good. I take blacks more seriously than you do."

Caller: "You are racist. Blacks are not capable of having clear political thought."

Dennis: "I said that about my fellow Jews. Am I anti-Semitic?"

Caller: "No. There's a difference between anti-Semitism and racism."

Dennis: "Here's the rule, folks. Say a critical word about blacks and you're a racist. That's what that entire segment was about. You can criticize Jews, whites, any group, but if you criticize blacks, you're a racist. My view is that if you can't criticize blacks, you're a racist."

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.

Around June of 2011, Dennis Prager ran into New York Times Foreign Affairs columnist Tom Friedman on the People Mover at Dulles Airport in Washington. Dennis asked him if he'd ever go on talk radio. Tom said no. But Friedman does do interviews with NPR. (Feb. 23, 2012)


Dennis Prager writes Feb. 15, 2011:

It was difficult to control my emotions — specifically, my anger — during my visit to Vietnam last week. The more I came to admire the Vietnamese people — their intelligence, love of life, dignity and hard work — the more rage I felt for the communists who brought them (and, of course, us Americans) so much suffering in the second half of the 20th century.
Unfortunately, communists still rule the country. Yet, Vietnam today has embraced the only way that exists to escape poverty, let alone to produce prosperity: capitalism and the free market. So what exactly did the 2 million Vietnamese who died in the Vietnam War die for? I would like to ask one of the communist bosses who run Vietnam that question. “Comrade, you have disowned everything your Communist party stood for: communal property, collectivized agriculture, central planning and militarism, among other things. Looking back, then, for what precisely did your beloved Ho Chi Minh and your party sacrifice millions of your fellow Vietnamese?”
Dennis Prager For President

By the mid 1970s, Dennis Prager was getting asked when he was going to run for political office. In 1983, he filed papers to run for the Democratic nomination for Congress but dropped out. Since then, Dennis has usually said that he would only run for president.
On his radio show July 31, 2009, Dennis was asked why he didn’t run for president.
He replied: “Number one, I have no personal desire to run for public office. I have however an idealistic desire because…I am certain that I can articulate conservative values better than almost anyone in the Republican party… It is very distressing to me that the finest values do not have the finest spokesmen. That is what draws me to the idea of running for any public office.
“However, in the United States at this time, for example, US Senate in California, entails a minimum of $40 million. I could raise $40 million if Democrats and some Republicans did not sign a bill limiting the amount of money people could give. Now all you can do is spend all your life, unless you’re a multi-billionaire, is to raise money from tens of thousands of people and I would not have my job to live on.”
On his radio show Nov. 9, 2009, Dennis said: “I am sitting in awe, in depressed awe. Ehh, I don’t get depressed. I sit here in angry awe.”
“I have regrets about my past, but I don’t get depressed over them,” said Dennis on his show Feb. 5, 2010.
On his radio show Dec. 14, 2009, Dennis said: “When I see some of these people on TV, there’s no doubt in my mind, I’m sorry if this sounds self-serving, that I would have a more entertaining, let alone more intelligent TV show, than the vast majority of those who have them today, but I don’t come with the correct perspective.”
On Prager’s radio show, Dec. 21, 2009, a man calls. “You’ll remember me. I’m the one who always pulls you aside and tells you you should be president of the United States.”
Dennis: “I agree with you right now. It’s the first time. I don’t know what I’ve said in the past, but I agree with you, only because the Republicans don’t have somebody who can articulate American values well enough right now, or at least I don’t know who he is. It’s something I’ll talk to my listeners about. It’s been in my mind.”
On his radio show Jan. 15, 2010, Dennis said: “If I went to Iowa and just started saying these things, and I love people, and I love shaking hands with a lot of people, I like meeting people, I like saying over and over what I believe in, in that sense I’ve given it thought.”
On his radio show March 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. Every single religious person in a denomination with any traditional values has the same view. Do I want somebody to collect the garbage on time? Yes, I do. Do I want somebody to make sure that what the government spends is spent honesty, I sure do. But to lead me? No, thank you. We lead ourselves in America. The very notion that leaders will lead us is left-wing.”
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. Moses is a classic example of a guy who had it good and then became a leader.”
In his 13th lecture on Deuteronomy (in 2003), Dennis said: “Any success I’ve had in my field is because I’ve always tried to ask myself, what does God want me to do? If I lost that, I think that I would fail in my profession overnight. That is entirely what gives me the strength to do what I do every day.
“God gave me the ability to speak. What did I do for it? I took one speech course in college. I got a C. She said, you speak well but you’re a lousy listener. That’s because I fell asleep. I couldn’t fake it. I’ve got ADD for boring people.
“My father is a CPA. He had his office in the house as well as in Manhattan.
“A fascinating thing happened when I was a sophomore in high school, 14 years of age. His clients would come on Sundays an hour early to talk to me. I thought, this is ridiculous. These people are 40, 50 years old. Why are they scheduling an appointment with me? I didn’t understand.
“When I was a camper, counselors gathered around when I talked.”
On May 27, 2011, Dennis said: “The ideal candidate would have at least two things — a conservative aka American-values-based system. Understands that small government is a moral good, not just an economic good. Two. Be able to articulate it with great clarity.”
“Three. The person has to have gravitas. President Obama has gravitas. He exudes seriousness of purpose. I don’t want politicians to decide to be just like the people when they talk to the people.”
“When you’re a candidate, you already look less presidential than the president of the United States.”
On Jun. 21, 2011, Dennis Prager said: “If I ran for president, and if I had the money, I would, I would be attacked as a kook. Right-wing nut case.
“The dismissal is in direct proportion to how much one understands the injurious nature of the left.”
“Michelle Bachman threatens the left. She’s an attractive, bright, knowledgeable woman. She knows exactly why this country is in danger — it is in danger because of the left. Anyone who believes that is attacked as a kook. Barry Goldwater [in 1964] was called mentally ill by 1,000 psychiatrists, who should have all been removed from the practice of medicine.”
In a 2010 appearance at Stephen S. Wise temple, Dennis said to interviewer and rabbi David Woznica: “When God gave out urges, the urge to power was not given to me. I have zero desire to have any power over anybody. You know this is a fact because even on the tiny tiny scale of my running Brandeis-Bardin, all I wanted was terrific other people and to share power. I just wanted to make sure that the values were what I thought the values should be.”
“The only reason I thought of running for senate was would it give me a bigger forum to offer the values I care about. I ultimately concluded that to get a bigger forum than a national radio show, you have to be president of the United States. I thought of that too. I have thought about running in the primaries starting in Iowa. I would not expect to win.”
“I would like to be in those debates… I can’t run because I don’t have the money to run… Because of campaign finance reform, only rich people can run for office… There are many rich people who would support. One of the heads of Best Buy said he listened to my show every day and any way I can help you. But he can’t help me. He can only give me $4,000.”
By force of his personality and intellect, Dennis Prager has largely set the terms for how the world relates to him. He towers above his challengers physically and intellectually and almost all of them look bad when they take him on. The major journalistic profiles of him have followed his understanding of himself as a moralist with a mission to teach humanity. Eventually some writer with chops will come along and try to subvert this paradigm and interpret the great man’s life as not so great. If Prager does not run for president, however, this may not happen while he is still alive.
On his radio show Feb. 1, 2012, Dennis Prager said: "Republicans are looking for a serious person with the right ideas who understands what is at stake in November of 2012. The reason Mitch Daniels is not running for president is family related. He does not want the damage the media will do to candidates, especially Republican candidates. I don't blame him.

"Many people are willing to die for this country but are not willing to have their name ruined for this country."

"There is only one answer. The private lives of major people in the media must be revealed. Those who have money to spare in Republican life might want to consider starting a fund with millions of dollars to have muckrakers publish the life and sexual habits of the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, etc...

"If your claim is that we need to know everything of a public figure because of the influence they wield, then because of the influence you wield, we need to know this much about you."

Dennis Prager’s 2009

Dennis spent his 61st birthday (Aug. 2, 2009) with two gay men and their baby. (Radio show, Dec. 11, 2009)
“I have a gay niece,” Dennis said on his radio show Feb. 10, 2010. “I adore her. I adore her partner.”
“We regard her partner as part of our family.” (June 22, 2010)
“My niece..had a religious commitment ceremony. The family all attended but with the provision that it was not called a marriage and the blessings were not identical to those of a marriage. And then the family went to the commitment ceremony. My belief is that for family you do pretty much anything.” (Aug. 13, 2010)
On his radio show Aug. 11, 2009, Dennis said: “I am the recipient of a lot of love and I am very appreciative of it, but that’s not what I seek. I am touched by it but that is not what I seek, and, ironically, I think that’s why I get a lot of it. If you don’t seek it, you are more likely to get it. You can’t go into your [work] day and say, how can I be loved today?”
Said Dennis July 9, 2010: “My extended family is almost all to the left of me and I love every one of them.”

Dennis Prager’s Mom Dies Sept. 19, 2009

“I gave a high holiday lecture on honor your father and mother [on the first night of Rosh Hashanah] on the night that I knew my mom wouldn’t be with us long. She in fact died that night.” (Dec. 21, 2010)
Dennis Prager’s mother Hilda died at home surrounded by loved ones on Rosh Hashanah, Sept. 19, 2009. In his column about her death, Dennis wrote: “From my late teens onward, the relationship between my mother and me improved steadily. As the years progressed, I enjoyed her more and, yes, loved her more. Unless either an adult child or a parent has serious psychological issues, I am convinced that what I experienced is quite common. There is an enormous amount of luck — good and bad — in life; and one of the greatest pieces of good luck for a parent (and child, for that matter) is for parents and children to have the time to work things out.”
From the DennisPrager.com blog Sept. 22, 2009:
Dennis’s mother, Hilda, passed away this weekend. Blessed with good health her entire life, she had been struggling with health issues for the past few months. Recently, things took a turn for the worse and the end came quickly.
Many of you might have heard the hour last year when Dennis interviewed his mother on her birthday. If you did, you know that she was a charming, vibrant woman who was very proud of her son. She will be deeply missed by all who knew her.
Dennis will be observing the traditional seven day Jewish mourning period. That means he won’t be on the air this week. When he returns a week from Tuesday, he’ll be full of thoughts about his mother, about life and death and, of course, about world events.
If you’d like to express your condolences, the best way is to email Dennis at DennisPrager.com. For anyone who you might wish to send flowers, the family requests that you instead make a contribution to your favorite charity in the name of Hilda Prager.
On September 29, 2009, Dennis devoted his weekly column to the death of his mom:
No matter how I felt at any given time, I always abided by the commandment to “Honor your father and mother.” Not only was it good for me and for my parents in life, it is particularly good now after my mother’s death. Because I was a good son, I have no guilt to work through. There are many reasons to honor one’s parents, and how one will deal with a parent’s death is one of the most compelling.
…I knew I would observe the age-old Jewish practice of sitting “shiva” (“Shiva” is Hebrew for seven) — i.e., mourning for seven days. But I had no idea if I would come to value or loathe it. I found it invaluable. I took a week out of my life to do nothing but receive visitors — at my brother’s home in New Jersey and in my home in California — and mourn my mother. She deserved it, and I needed it.
…Over 300 people came to my mother’s funeral in Englewood, N.J.
…My mother was universally adored — even her pharmacists and hair stylist paid a call during “Shiva” — for three reasons, as I learned from everyone to whom I spoke: She was always happy; she treated everyone as if they were the most special person in her life; she carried herself with class and dignity. If you want to be widely loved, there’s the recipe.
On his radio show March 26, 2010, Dennis said he had been urging his father to get a cat. His dad refuses.
On his radio show May 7, 2010, Dennis said it was eery to contemplate mother’s day without a mother. “I feel like I have nothing to do.”
“My mother got a lot of pleasure from me. I have to say. Allen [Estrin] is nodding. Why wouldn’t she? I was a good son. I’m fun. I’m even somewhat famous, which brought her immense pleasure, I have to admit. I’d call her up before I’d go on national TV. It was like a ritual. I’d say, ‘Ma, I’ll be on CNN in five minutes.’ Or, ‘I’ll be on Fox’, or I’ll be on whatever. She just went nuts. She went crazy. She loved it. Till the end of her life.
“I’ve literally given over 2,000 lectures. To the end, she would ask, where are you? Because I’m always on the road. I’d say wherever I am. What are you doing? I gave a speech. The next question — did they applaud? Till the last day, she was just tickled pink that they applauded her son. I would always answer, ‘No, they booed, ma.’ We had these rituals. I don’t think she ever heard me.
“I moved out of my parent’s house at 21 and [every conversation] she would always ask me if I needed anything. That too became a joke in our lives. She meant it seriously. And I’d say, ‘Yeah, ma, I need cue tips.’ But she never sent them. I don’t think she heard me.”
Said Dennis: “They lived for each other. I remember as an adult being so grateful that their happiness did not depend on me. It’s true that if you walked into my mother’s house, it looked like a shrine to Dennis. The largest picture ever taken of me takes up the wall of a whole room. It’s almost embarrassing because that’s the room I slept in when I visited her. I would wake up and see me. It was a little much, but I knew they were happy with each other.”
“It’s the first time I’ve seen my father cry.”
Said Dennis in an October 2009 lecture on “The Moral Case for Conservatism”: “The purpose of family is to learn to relate to people you can’t stand.”
“You didn’t choose family. So how could you like all of them?
“I’ve asked audiences of a thousand — how many of you would choose a relative if you had to choose someone [of the same sex] to spend a month on an island with, not a spouse?
“I asked my brother. I was recently back in New Jersey to sit shiva for my brother. I haven’t spoken to my brother this much since we were children living in my parent’s home.
“I knew it wasn’t me. I wasn’t hurt.”

Prager Misc

* “There’s nothing like clarity in life… I feel that about everything, even my hobbies. The clearer the photo, the better I like it. The clearer my music, the better I like it. But I especially love it in the realm of ideas and ideals.” (Apr. 6, 2011)
* "Out of 100 things that bother me, air quality in Los Angeles is number 100." (Nov. 17, 2011)
* “I love High Noon and The Magnificent Seven. I love movies of moral clarity and I love that the bad guys are shot.” (May 5, 2011)
* For decades, Dennis has been the most booked speaker for Jewish organizations along with Elie Wiesel and a couple of other people, said Dennis Jan. 21, 2011.
* “I have as much energy as I had at 20.” (Jan. 21, 2011)
* On his radio show Feb. 25, 2011, Dennis said: “I don’t recall in my life having been offended… I am sure I have but my mindset was never such as to be easily or routinely let alone regularly offended.”
* On July 8, 2011, Dennis said: “Ninety nine point nine nine percent of the time when I have guests, I do not speak to them before the interview, during the interview [commercial breaks] or after the interview. I don’t want a personal relationship in any way to form with these people. I want to be able to conduct the interview as dispassionately and honestly as possible. Also, if I talk to them, some of their best lines will be given to me during the break and then they won’t repeat them on air.”
“The same thing holds true when I am on television shows. We don’t talk during the breaks.”
” The longer I live, the more I like country music. I was listening to some today on my way in to work.” (Mar. 25, 2011)
* “Rav Kook could be my Jewish theological hero of the 20th Century.” (1995 lecture on Exodus 13)
* “I do not believe in the Documentary Hypothesis. I do believe there is a unified structure to the Torah.” (Last lecture on Exodus, circa 1998)
* “Torah Hebrew is almost as comfortable to me as English. I’ve been studying it since I was five years old and I know a great deal of it by heart.” (Exodus 34: 1-7 in 1998)
* “I have published a million words in my lifetime and you can’t find anything that is SIXHRB (Sexist, Intolerant, Xenophobic, Homophobic, Racist, Bigoted).” (Nov. 15, 2010)
* “When they heckle during a lecture of mine, I stop the lecture and point out, ‘I just want to point out that this is not done by my side when their side lectures, so when I say the left has a totalitarian streak, you are seeing it now. Then they start booing these people because they realize what a threat to freedom.” (Apr. 15, 2011)
* “I have a file called morons. It is my cathartic way of doing things without sending hatemail back. I drag the letter with a mouse to the morons file. On the other hand, not everyone who sends me an angry letter is totally off the wall. I do care. I don’t go into my show thinking, do people like me? But I never go into thinking, I don’t care what people think.” (Lecture on Numbers 31-33, circa 2003)
* “I have a particularly small small number of awards. I think that’s indicative of something.” (Dec. 13, 2010)
* “People say I’m addicted to cigars. I just came back from two-and-a-half weeks away [on vacation]. I did not smoke one cigar. Didn’t miss it.” (Feb. 22, 2011)
* “Every year I go to the pipe show in Los Angeles.” (Feb. 28, 2011)
* “I’ll buy $200 pipes. Rarely.” (Aug. 23, 2011)
* “We need heroes… We have torn down so many. Because of media knowledge, the ability of the smaller to tear down the bigger is great.”
“I don’t [want to be thought well of in the mainstream media]. If the New York Times wrote something positive about me, I would rethink my position.” (Nov. 17, 2010)
* “I would love for God to destroy the worst 1% of humanity… That’s 60 million people. It would leave the Middle East empty. Who would pump oil?” (Lecture on Korach found at the end of Prager’s sixth lecture on Leviticus.)
* “Tone is very important. The thing that I am told the most by people who listen to this show is the tone. Just not yelling at people was a major advantage of this program.” (Nov. 18, 2010)
* “I have never lost a friend,” said Dennis on his show Oct. 1, 2010.
* “There is only one thing that people can say to me that hurts me, that angers me, and that is, ‘Prager didn’t tell the truth.’” (March 24, 2011)
* “In my extended family, most are liberals and I love them.” (Oct. 31, 2010)
* “A girl I grew up with just died of breast cancer. She was as close as I’ve had to a sister.” (Nov. 2, 2010)
* “I have been to 98 countries. I have been abroad every single year since I was 21.” (Oct. 18, 2010)
* “I beat myself up for my lack of self-discipline regularly but my free-spirit comes with that price.” (Oct. 22, 2010)
“I have a coffee every day. I have a latte every day… I just like the taste. And it fills me up.” (Nov. 11, 2010)
* “I have never gone into a book store without buying something. I just do it to keep them [in business].” (Dec. 16, 2010)
* Dennis tells Ann Coulter that she is “one of my favorite writers in the country… You are under-rated as a thinker.” (June 15, 2011)
* “I own about 4,500 books. I love everything about the book… I even love the smell of a new book. I check the paper on new books. In my own contract with Harper Collins who will be publishing my next book on the great conflict for the future of humanity between America, socialism and Islam, I have it in my contract that I want a say in the paper they use. I don’t like cheap paper in books. It’s disrespectful to the reader and the author.” (Mar. 8, 2011)
* “I wear a size fifteen shoe.” (Mar. 8, 2011)
* On his radio show Sept. 8, 2010, Dennis Prager tired of the theme song from Julie & Julia running long. “All right, we can dispense with the music. Tell the band to take a break. OK, you know what, let me do the show, guys. That was a tantrum. I just threw a tantrum. That’s as close as I get to a tantrum, as those who work with me can verify.”
* I’ve attended many a Dennis Prager lecture or listened to a Dennis Prager radio show and over the course of a couple of hours heard not a new thought. He repeats himself over and over, which diminishes enthusiasm for his work among those of us who listened to him carefully the first 25 times he made the point. I’ve found that when I buy a Dennis Prager lecture, I’m lucky if 25% of the content is new (and most of that 25% is not unique to Dennis Prager as he is at least as much a synthesizer and popularizer of other people’s ideas rather as an original thinker).
In a lecture on Deut. 12 (circa 2004), Dennis said: “He [Moshe] is simply repeating himself. He’s a teacher. Repetition is the mother of pedagogy.
“I feel that if I repeat a point on the radio or in a lecture, that I am cheating the audience. There’s a voice in me that says, ‘Dennis, every time you open your mouth, you have to make a new point. They’ve already heard this one.’ May I say to you that is about the stupidest voice in my life and it took me many years to realize that.
“You can make the most profound point since Confucius set foot on earth, and within 20 minutes, 99% of people who heard it will forget it… I’ll never effect anybody if I continually bring new points every time I talk.”
“Any of you who are parents, how many times did you say to your children? There’s no doubt that if you are a decent parent, it is in the many thousands. I am sure I have said it more than 10,000 times.”
* Dennis Prager bowled frequently with his youngest son Aaron. “I’m the only Leviticus teacher who owns his own bowling ball,” said Dennis in a 2007 lecture on Leviticus 1.
* “I cease to function under heat,” said Dennis as he began teaching the book of Deuteronomy in 2003. “It’s my only idiosyncrasy.”
Dennis keeps his radio studio much cooler than most people would like.
* “I am the only male I know of who’s transfixed by the different types of shampoos,” said Dennis on his show Jan. 12, 2010.
* Dennis Prager enjoys getting his teeth cleaned (Radio show April 2, 2010).
* According to his official biography at Townhall.com (retrieved April 6, 2010): “Dennis Prager periodically conducts orchestras, and has introduced hundreds of thousands of people to classical music.”
* On his show Feb. 8, 2010, Dennis said: “If the environmentalist could run society, you saw your future in that ad [by Audi mocking green rules]. They are as committed to environmentalism as the Iranian regime is to their version of Islam and they would arrest people for exactly those things — ‘Are you using styrofoam cups sir? Please step out of the car’. ‘Could we come in and check the temperature in your house? We’re coming in.’
“They’ve already passed these sorts of things where they want to monitor the temperature in people’s homes. In California, no new house can have a fire place. That’s reason 84436 not to move to this state. I say it even though it hurts me because my real estate value will decline if you don’t move here.”
Dennis Prager bought his home in the Glendale area around 2005, the peak of the real estate market. Since then, the value of his home has plunged.
Dennis: “I can not think of a good reason, given what the left has done to California, for you to move here. I have a dear friend who would love to move here but he won’t because of the taxes compared to the state he now lives in. You can’t build a house with a fire place? Is that sick?
“Maybe that will increase the value of my place because I have a lot of fireplaces.”
In a speech for Chabad of Beach Cities Jan. 22, 2009, Dennis said: “I was one of the responsible citizens who got hurt because I did put 20% down [on his purchase of a home around Glendale circa 2006] and I didn’t take more than I could pay in mortgage payments. I got clobbered because I bought during the height and lost everything I put plus more. I’m not standing before you lamenting life. I’m as happy as I was before.”
“I stay in California because this is where the people I am closest to live.”
* Dennis said that sometimes universities provide him with bodyguards and sometimes they do not. (June 15, 2010)
* Dennis has suffered from sciatica since he was 21. He was due for back surgery in 2007, but found a controversial drug (Bextra) that enabled him to delay the operation.
“Bextra is now illegal [since 2005],” said Dennis on his radio show March 25, 2010. “I can’t get it anywhere on earth. I would risk the heart attack to get rid of my sciatica pain because otherwise I have to take steroids, which is a helluva lot worse. You can’t take that for long. Of course you can get surgery, but that’s my last desire in this matter.”
For the first six months of 2010, Dennis was forced to give all of his speeches sitting down. He frequently (more than a dozen times) alluded to his sciatica on his radio show.
On June 11, 2010, he had surgery to fix the problem.
“As I’m lying as the devices are being placed in me, someone walks over to me and says, ‘Dennis Prager! I love your show!’ I’m just about to enter an anesthetic slumber.”
“I’m not complaining. I thought it was adorable. When you have a public persona, that is what happens and no circumstance changes that.” (Mar. 8, 2011)
On his show June 14, 2010, Dennis said: “The last six months I have been in agony. At the age of 21, I played volleyball and fell terribly on my back. It was on concrete. When I went up to spike the ball at the net. So I’ve had a disc coming out of my spinal cord between the vertebrate touching a nerve, which gives you terrible pain down the sciatic nerve which runs down the back of your legs. I’ve had it on and off my whole life. I’ve played racquetball much of my life, tennis, functioned fine, but it would recur about every ten years and get worse each time. This time it came back six months ago and got worse and worse to the point where I was wheelchaired through airports. I say with some pride that I didn’t miss one speech.
“I have been functionally unable to walk any distance because the pain was so severe. Those of you who were on the cruise with me knew that I had to give talks sitting down.
“I have a lot of interesting things to say about the problem of pain. I learned a great deal about it. I didn’t talk about it at all on the radio. We adjusted seats here. You have no idea. The only thing I did on my own was to go to the men’s room. Everything else, I was helped.”
“You try everything before surgery. I was getting emails from me urging me to try different things before surgery… People have theories on everything and they get beliefs that are very strong. I don’t. I have strong beliefs about moral values and smaller government and goodness and confronting evil, but when it comes to practical things in life, I believe that before you get cut up, you try other things. But folks, what this man did for me on Friday, I wish I had done six months earlier.”
“The disc that was out of my vertebrate was stuck. It could not go back in. It was calcified. It was cemented in place. I could’ve hung upside down for the rest of my life and it would not go back in.”
On June 25, 2010, Dennis said he may need more surgery. His sciatica problem has shifted to his other leg. In July (?), Dennis had further back surgery.
On May 9, 2011, Dennis had spinal fusion surgery at USC Medical Center.
The anesthesiologist said to Dennis before putting him under: “I have to pull aside your vocal chords. You don’t make a living with your voice, do you?”
Dennis: “They may have been the worst words I’ve heard in my life. The last words I remember saying before going under were, ‘Well, in fact, I do.’” (Relayed by Dennis at COTV Chabad Banquet Gala 2011, uploaded to YouTube June 25, 2011)
On May 15, 2011, Dennis posted to Facebook:
Hello Everybody!
I finally have the strength to personally write about my situation.
In 28 years of broadcasting I think I missed more than two consecutive days due to illness only once. So for me to miss a week or more is a huge deal. But the truth is I have been through a huge deal – considerably bigger than I realized in advance.
I don’t want to bore you – but on the other hand, I assume anyone following me on Facebook has more than a passing interest in my life. So here goes in brief detail.
Last year I had two surgeries to remove the parts of two discs from my lower back that were protruding onto nerves and causing terrible pain in my sciatic nerve, the nerve running from the spine to the foot. Those surgeries allowed me to leave the hospital the same day and go back to work two days later.
But both before and after the sciatica problem, I had pain in my upper back and lower neck. As it went away about a year and half ago after a serious stretching regimen, I was hopeful that it be might gone forever. But it returned a few months ago worse than before, and a month ago I ceased being able to lift my left arm from the shoulder. It became obvious that without surgery, I could permanently damage nerves to that shoulder and never be able to raise that arm (preventing me, for example from ever conducting again – not to mention do daily things like shampooing with both hands). The MRI, meanwhile, showed degenerated discs in my upper back, which along with growths on the vertebrae, were contributing to compression on my nerves. I even learned that I was born with a narrow spinal canal. That made the other factors much more likely to cause pain, immobility, and nerve damage, resulting in the need for surgery.
So my excellent neurosurgeon at the excellent USC University Hospital explained to me that my only choice was to operate immediately (because of the likely nerve damage) and to remove three disks from vertebrae in my upper back and fuse those three levels with titanium to hold the vertebrae in place. They fuse, incidentally, with specially processed human bone – here I have benefited from something I have long advocated — registering as an organ donor in case of fatal accident.
The surgery lasted seven hours and was performed – to my initial surprise — through the front of my body. Access to the spinal column is much easier through the front but it comes with a price – the patient’s esophagus, vocal cords, and trachea are all pulled aside for the length of the operation. They are likely to become inflamed, and in fact did become inflamed — my vocal cords as well, making normal speech, not to mention the especially energetic three hours of talk radio speech, impossible at this time.
You could say that I feel beaten up. I am. My body devotes all its efforts to healing.
So that is the briefest I can be to explain why I am not returning on Monday. Wednesday is the earliest, and I will keep you up date.
My general attitude is quite upbeat. I am doing well, all things considered. And I never assumed I would live a life free from pain – whether emotional or physical—so this is not a shock to my emotions or psyche. It is a shock to my body, however. But I remain as grateful as ever for all my blessings.
Those blessings include living in a time and a place where such sophisticated healing is available, the love and support of my family and friends and, not least, your support, which I read with immense gratitude.
Dennis has a rod up the back of his neck. (Mar. 10, 2012)

* Dennis said that he has never experienced anti-Semitism in America. “I have said that my whole adult life. I have never heard racial slurs in my life. All of the race-based rhetoric has come from the left in my lifetime. They lie about their opponents because they can not fight our ideas and so they reduce it to we are evil.” (April 29, 2010 radio show)
* On Jan. 17, 2011, Martin Luther King day, Dennis said: “I got a texting ticket at a red light. If there’s a ticket, I’ve gotten it. It was for about $25. I thought I would get a notice in the mail. Sure enough, I did after a month. For not showing up in court, your bill is $850. And there’s a warrant out for my arrest. There may be a letter from LA County jail from Dennis Prager.”
* Though not a Lubavitcher, Dennis has a close relationship with the Chabad movement. Dennis is on the board of directors of Chabad’s Conejo Valley Jewish day school. I’ve met Chabad rabbis who boasted about having Dennis’s phone number on their speed dial.
At a Chabad banquet in June 2011, Dennis said: “My first encounter with Chabad took place here in California. Not in Brooklyn where I grew up. And on my first encounter, I was very suspicious. Orthodox Jews who don’t judge you on your halachic observance? Come on. I was raised in the typical yeshiva world where that was exactly how you judge. It was quantitative Judaism. As if you really know. It is easy to know if a guy drives on Shabbos but how do you know if a guy honors his parents? Who are we to judge?”
“It took some major Jewish figure (the Rebbe Menachem Schneerson) to say — don’t judge your fellow Jew. This alone would set Chabad and the rebbe’s message as a seminal event changing Jewish history.”
(Relayed by Dennis at COTV Chabad Banquet Gala 2011, uploaded to YouTube June 25, 2011)
Dennis wrote Aug. 4, 2009:
Years ago driving home from synagogue, both my sons and I were wearing yarmulkes, or skull caps. A convertible car filled with young boys sped past me and yelled into the car “F— you” and called my wife a “b—ch.”
I then said to my family, “I have finally experienced anti-Semitism in America.”
I decided to follow the car and, to my shock, they screamed the same obscenities at other cars, none of whose occupants were discernibly Jewish.
It turned out that the event was not what I was certain, and had every reason to believe, was an example of anti-Semitism, but just an example of young thugs acting thuggish.

After a speech to Chabad of Conejo Valley on Jan. 13, 2009, Dennis was asked about anti-Israel demonstrations on Wilshire Blvd that gathered ten times as many people as the counter pro-Israel demonstrations.
Dennis said: “Most people who have a life don’t demonstrate… I started my public life at Soviet Jewry demonstrations, so I know their importance, but it is harder to gather people who have a constructive life than people who have destructive lives. Everybody here probably has a family to take care of and most of you are gainfully employed and are involved in community life. Do you think people shouting ‘Death to Israel’ are involved in anything constructive? They go from here to the Salvation Army?”
Dennis was asked for his assessment of the first four hours of the new season [meaning the seventh season] of 24.
He replies: “Are you including the two hours in Africa?”
Man: “Sure.”
Dennis: “I don’t see it live because I can’t sit through the commercials without going to the bathroom. I get that nervous. He has picked a weak spot in my life — 24. If you don’t know what it is, do not ask anyone. Do not watch it. Do not read about it. The thing is so damn addicting that I regret having watched a second. I don’t even watch TV and I’m addicted. It’s well acted and you get involved with the people. You care about them. But my favorite thing is — there is a guy, the hero of these episodes, who fights evil for a living.”

* “I don’t have any airs,” said Dennis Aug. 10, 2010. “I don’t have them on the show. I don’t have them off the show. I don’t think of myself as a celebrity.”
On Sept. 1, 2010, Dennis Prager said he was not high maintenance.
Ralph called from Manhattan: “Dennis, I would think it would be impossible for you to not be high maintenance because of what you do for a living. You’re seeking the approval of others.”
Dennis: “That’s not true. I don’t. I seek the respect of others and that’s a very big difference.”
Ralph: “I’m an actor and I know that I’m high maintenance.”
Dennis: “Well, actors do seek approval. You seek applause. I don’t. That is a big difference. It’s something I’ve thought through very carefully.”
Ralph: “If you didn’t get that constant reinforcement from listeners who often open their calls with saying you’re wonderful. I listen to you every day.”
Dennis: “It was not that way. I’ve been on for 28 years. That began to happen after perhaps 15 or 20 [years]. I am deeply appreciative of that but it is not what sustains me.
“What sustains me in terms of listeners is — you changed my thinking. You changed the way I raise my kids. You changed my marriage. You made it better. I think differently now in political and social issues. That does give me a kick. Not in ego, but because I have a real sense of mission.”
* Pompous. “That’s the last thing I am or want to be.” (Aug. 15, 2011)
* Here are some of the famous people Dennis Prager has described as friends: Richard Riordan, Natan Sharansky.
* In a 2010 lecture on Leviticus 25, Dennis said: “My son David has a very fine mind for ideas. He’s in finance. Leave it to a Prager to go into finance in the worst recession since the Great Depression. I told him he’ll be the first wealthy Prager in the history of the Prager family.
“He loves this idea [of the Sabbatical and Jubilee years] because it tells everyone that no matter how well you are doing, know economically there will be a depression. So plan for it. You can’t do anything with the land the seventh year. You have to save.”
* I wonder why Dennis is not wealthy? He’s been earning close to a million dollars a year in 2010 dollars since around 1990 (when he was making around $5,000 a speech, went up to $8,000 a speech in 1994, up to $15,000 a speech in 1998, etc).
* “I have never related to that notion, that I want to be known for having X or Y label for something. I wouldn’t want to wear jeans with a name. There is one exception. It would look funny if I showed up at a speech in a superduper cheap automobile. People expect people of a certain status in life to drive an automobile commensurate with that.”(Aug. 23, 2011)
* “I was invited once. It was not George Burns. Another household name superstar of the 20th Century invited me to his home. I have no great desire to be with superstars. I have no minimal desire. 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 another line.
“He was so superstarish, it was simply curiosity. 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 talked about himself. I sat there. It was a phenomenon. I had never encountered this in my life.” (2003 lecture on Deut. 8:11 – 9:7)

Dennis Prager Communities

Have there been any communities run on Dennis Prager principles? Any synagogues or businesses or non-profits? Are Dennis Prager’s ideas a practical way for building community? Do Dennis Prager meetup groups do anything aside from socialize?
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.
Dennis Prager’s Role In Popular Culture

Dennis Prager’s teachings helped inspire the 1990 movie “Ghost“. It was directed by Prager’s friend Jerry Zucker.
Dennis Prager wondered on air in 2010 if his ideas about dating for same-sex friends inspired the movie “I Love You, Man“.
Dennis Prager wrote March 31, 2009 about a Broadway play:
Aside from my lifelong interest in altruism and especially in understanding the motivations of rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust, I had an unwitting role in the making of “Irena’s Vow.” According to the playwright, [Dan] Gordon, the play came about because he heard Opdyke on my radio show 20 years ago. He immediately contacted her, they became friends, and the rest is history.
We never know all the good (or bad) we have done. So Gordon’s attribution of the genesis of his play to me is very gratifying. If there was a dry eye on opening night this past Sunday when I attended, it surely wasn’t near my seat.
Dennis Prager’s Legacy

One Sabbath morning in 1996 at Stephen S. Wise temple (Prager’s religious home since 1991), I told Dennis Prager that I wished his ideas were more influential in Jewish life. He replied that it might take a thousand years for his ideas to take hold in Judaism.
Dennis often said on the radio that he wants his shows to be of lasting importance, and to be as interesting for a listener ten years from now as for a listener today.
When I read Dennis Prager or listen to him, I get the sense that he is speaking as much to history as to the present. He believes, as do I, that his teachings will be widely studied for hundreds of years.
Within a couple of years of encountering Dennis Prager in August of 1988, I started telling people that I believe Dennis to be the the most important intellectual of the 20th Century and the most important Jewish thinker since Maimonides.
“I feel quite satisfied [in what I've accomplished],” said Dennis on his radio show May 14, 2010. “I feel I could do more good if I touched more people. I have that every single day. If I’ve touched X number of lives, why could I not do 5X if I had a vehicle to do so… I’ve been lucky and I’ve worked my tail off.”
On his radio show May 21, 2010, Dennis said: “The Obama administration is destroying American credibility abroad in the attempt to be liked… If America is liked, it will not be right. That’s your choice…
“All of this compels me to fight harder and not despair. …I will have to answer to God one day… for why I didn’t fight as hard as possible for goodness during the years that I was given on earth. And if I say, ‘Well, the news was bad, God, so I decided to spend more time to spend more time watching TV or to talking to friends’, I will be judged accordingly…
“Even if there is no God to whom I will have to account for my life, I will have to account to me for my life and I am not prepared to sit back and to say the left ruined America…
“…The world is getting worse. Every single aspect of the world that I can measure at this time is getting worse and has been getting worse since Barack Obama became president… I want him to live long enough to be rated among the worst presidents in American history… The country and the world are worse as a result.”
In a 2005 lecture on Deut. 30, Dennis Prager said: “I have Christians friends who find it incredible that I feel that God is satisfied with me. They’re stunned. They walk around with this deep sense of unworthiness. I haven’t felt unworthy for ten seconds.”


On his radio show March 22, 2010, Dennis said: “For the last year, I expected this… There was no time when I thought this wouldn’t pass…
“This is the Left. The Left will get this done. I know the Left better than almost every American. I don’t say that to boast, I say that to cry…
“Psychologically, I am preparing myself to battle the rest of my life to keep America American. I don’t want a heart attack. I want to be strong for the next 30 years to help lead this battle. If I just get angry, it will eat me up and it will accomplish nothing. I don’t believe in catharsis. I believe in effectiveness.”
“The distinction between American values and left-wing values, that is what my mission will be until this is repealed or I leave this planet.”
“On the day after the darkest day in my lifetime. Obviously 9/11 was so dark in pure human tragedy, but it didn’t weaken America. In terms of weakening America, yesterday was by far the darkest day as we retreat from the American ideal of a smaller government and a freer citizen.
“I actually feel a little different today. When it passed, I started feeling a little more European… I felt it. I’ve lived in Europe. I just came back again from Europe a couple of weeks ago. There’s a deadening element because as the state gets bigger in your life, you get less excited about life. What is there to get excited about in Europe? You can’t really make more money. The government tells you when you open your shop and when you close it. You can’t educate your own children if you want [home schooling is banned in Germany for instance]. The state does everything for you… You exist to make love. They are apparently quite good at that in Europe. There’s more focus on cuisine and on sex, the only areas where government hasn’t intruded. It inevitably makes the human more of a hedonist. There’s nothing noble to do in Europe. The government has taken over noble works.”
Said Dennis on his radio show July 15, 2010: “I’ve earned the self-esteem that enables me to sit here for 28 years. I worked my tail off. I didn’t have high self-esteem as a kid. That’s part of the reason I worked so hard because I knew I better work my tail off because nothing will come to me. If I don’t work very hard, I’ll be a nothing.”

Christians United For Israel

From a speech Dennis Prager gave April 25, 2010 in Minneapolis to CUFI:
A minute into his talk, Dennis puts on his yarmulke to say a shehecheyanu. “I always get choked up when I do this. I make a little prayer to God that I will not cry at CUFI event.”
“The shehecheyanu prayer is — Blessed are you God, King of the universe, who has kept us alive and brought us to this moment.”
Finishing the blessing in Hebrew, Dennis removes his yarmulke and puts it in his pocket. “It’s a powerful prayer. Jews say it only on special occasions.
“Nothing is as powerful as Jews and Christians working together.
“It’s thousands of years late, but it’s here.”
“I was asked to speak many years ago by an Israeli group in Los Angeles. I remember taking the evening because I wanted to practice my Hebrew. They interviewed me in Hebrew. They asked me what do you consider yourself first — a Jew or an American? “I said, I have two fathers — Abraham and George Washington. I am twice blessed.”
“This will help you understand why there is resistance in Jewish life to your magnificent outreach to the Jewish community. Jews don’t trust anybody. I do but most Jews don’t. There’s a voice in most Jews when they meet a Christian — if there were another Holocaust, would this person be a persecutor, a bystander or a rescuer?
“They don’t tell you this. They won’t tell you this. It sounds sick. It’s not sick.
“Whenever I’m in your company, I believe I’m with rescuers.”

Saying Goodbye

On the happiness hour of his radio show March 26, 2010, Dennis Prager said that when he had to die, he wanted to be at home with friends and family.
“We should all have that opportunity,” said Dennis. “Hospitals. I get depressed when I see the word. I know where I want to go when I go. I was once in a hospital overnight and I snuck out at 6 a.m. I didn’t check out. I just had to get out of there. And I wouldn’t put on the gown. Why? I was just being observed. Why would I wear one of these buttocks-showing gowns? As soon as you put the gown on, you get depressed. I did a whole show about hospital gowns, about how they lower people’s dignity and make people feel sicker. Putting one on says, hello, I’m sick. Wearing normal clothing says, I’m well but I’ve got a problem.”
On his radio show May 18, 2010, Dennis said: “I bank my psychological/intellectual stability on the existence of an afterlife… I have felt this since I was in high school. Given the amount of unjust suffering in this world, I can only live with this… in the belief that there is ultimate justice after our death. It is one of the only propositions of my life in which I have never wavered, even for a second.”
Said Dennis in a 1996 lecture on Exodus 12: “I’d much rather die at 55 [yo] and have a life in the next world than die at 70 and with no life in the next world.”
Said Dennis in a 1998 lecture on Exodus 22 about the movie Alive: “I did the same flight. They ate their friends to survive. I was stunned that there were commentators who spoke about the moral problem of cannibalism. Baloney! There was no moral problem at all. I hereby announce that should you be in a crash with me and I am the only thing left to eat, you have perfect permission to have me. I am very big. You will have a lot to eat. You should have no compunctions.
“Should I be murdered, I want you executed. I want you to know that I don’t blithely give my body away.”
In a 1998 lecture on Exodus 24, Dennis said: “My primitive concept [of the afterlife] is pretty much disgusting — ever ongoing carnal joy interspersed with great symphony orchestras at your disposal and an endless supply of my favorite fountain pens.”