Dennis Prager

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Dennis Prager
Dennis Prager by Gage Skidmore 2.jpg
Prager in 2018
Born (1948-08-02) August 2, 1948 (age 70)
Alma mater Brooklyn College
Occupation
  • Radio host
  • Political commentator
  • Founder of PragerU
  • Author
Political party Republican
Spouse(s)Susan Reed (m. 2008), Francine Stone (m. 1988–2005), Janice Prager (m. 1981–1986)
Website dennisprager.com

Dennis Mark Prager ( /ˈprɡər/ ) (born August 2, 1948) [1] is an American conservative radio talk show host and writer. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family, his initial political work concerned Soviet Jews who were unable to emigrate. He gradually began offering more and broader commentary on politics. His views generally align with social conservatism. He founded PragerU, an American non-profit organization that creates videos on various political, economic, and philosophical topics from a conservative perspective.

Conservatism in the United States Political ideologies

American conservatism is a broad system of political beliefs in the United States that is characterized by respect for American traditions, republicanism, support for Judeo-Christian values, moral universalism, pro-business and anti-labor, anti-communism, individualism, advocacy of American exceptionalism, and a defense of Western culture from the perceived threats posed by socialism, authoritarianism, and moral relativism. Liberty is a core value, as is with all major American parties. American conservatives consider individual liberty—within the bounds of American values—as the fundamental trait of democracy; this perspective contrasts with that of modern American liberals, who generally place a greater value on equality and social justice and emphasize the need for state intervention to achieve these goals. American conservatives believe in limiting government in size and scope, and in a balance between national government and states' rights. Apart from some libertarians, they tend to favor strong action in areas they believe to be within government's legitimate jurisdiction, particularly national defense and law enforcement. Social conservatives oppose abortion and favor restricting LGBT rights, while privileging traditional marriage and supporting Christian prayer in the public schools.

Modern Orthodox Judaism is a movement within Orthodox Judaism that attempts to synthesize Jewish values and the observance of Jewish law with the secular, modern world.

Refusenik unofficial term for individuals, typically but not exclusively Soviet Jews, who were denied permission to emigrate by the authorities of the former Soviet Union and other countries of the Eastern bloc

Refusenik was an unofficial term for individuals, typically, but not exclusively, Soviet Jews, who were denied permission to emigrate, primarily to Israel, by the authorities of the Soviet Union and other countries of the Eastern bloc. The term refusenik is derived from the "refusal" handed down to a prospective emigrant from the Soviet authorities.

Contents

Early life and education

Dennis Prager was born in New York City to Hilda Prager (née  Friedfeld; 1919–2009) and her husband, Max Prager (1918–2014). Prager and his siblings were raised in a Modern Orthodox Jewish home. He attended the Yeshiva of Flatbush in Brooklyn, New York, where he befriended Joseph Telushkin. He went to Brooklyn College and graduated with a major in history and Middle Eastern Studies. Over the next few years he took courses at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs and at the University of Leeds; he then left academia without finishing a graduate degree. After he left graduate school, Prager left Modern Orthodoxy but maintained many traditional Jewish practices; he remained religious. [1]

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2018 population of 8,398,748 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 19,979,477 people in its 2018 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 22,679,948 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

Brooklyn Borough in New York City and county in New York state, United States

Brooklyn is the most populous borough of New York City, with an estimated 2,648,771 residents in 2017. Named after the Dutch village of Breukelen, it borders the borough of Queens at the western end of Long Island. Brooklyn has several bridge and tunnel connections to the borough of Manhattan across the East River, and the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge connects it with Staten Island. Since 1896, Brooklyn has been coterminous with Kings County, the most populous county in the U.S. state of New York and the second-most densely populated county in the United States, after New York County.

New York (state) State of the United States of America

New York is a state in the Northeastern United States. New York was one of the original thirteen colonies that formed the United States. With an estimated 19.54 million residents in 2018, it is the fourth most populous state. In order to distinguish the state from the city with the same name, it is sometimes referred to as New York State.

Career launch

Prager speaking at the California Capitol Building in 2008. Dennis Prager.jpg
Prager speaking at the California Capitol Building in 2008.

In 1969, while he was studying in England, he was recruited by a Jewish group to travel to the Soviet Union to interview Jews about their life there. When he returned the next year, he was in demand as a speaker on repression of Soviet Jews; he earned enough from lectures to travel, and visited around sixty countries. [2] He became the national spokesman for the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry. [3]

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

The Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, also known by its acronym SSSJ, was founded in 1964 by Jacob Birnbaum to be a spearhead of the U.S. movement for rights of the Soviet Jewry.

The start of Prager's career overlapped with a growing tendency among American Jews, who had been staunchly liberal, to move toward the center and some to the right, driven in part by the influx of Jews from the Soviet Union. [4] In 1975, Prager and Telushkin published an introduction to Judaism intended for nonobservant Jews: The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism, which became a best-seller. Among the questions addressed in the text were: how does Judaism differ from Christianity, and can one doubt the existence of God and still be a good Jew, and how do you account for unethical but religious Jews? [1] [5]

American Jews Ethnic group

American Jews, or Jewish Americans, are Americans who are Jews, whether by religion, ethnicity, or nationality. Today the Jewish community in the United States consists primarily of Ashkenazi Jews, who descend from diaspora Jewish populations of Central and Eastern Europe and comprise about 90-95% of the American Jewish population. Most American Ashkenazim are US-born, with a dwindling number of now-elderly earlier immigrants, as well as some more recent foreign-born immigrants.

Prager supported Jimmy Carter in the 1976 US presidential election. [6] Prager ran the Brandeis-Bardin Institute from 1976 to 1983; Telushkin worked with him there. [1] It was Prager's first salaried job. [2] He soon earned a reputation as a moral critic focused on attacking secularism and narcissism, each of which he said was destroying society; some people called him a Jewish Billy Graham. [2]

Jimmy Carter 39th president of the United States

James Earl Carter Jr. is an American politician and philanthropist who served as the 39th president of the United States from 1977 to 1981. A Democrat, he previously served as a Georgia state senator from 1963 to 1967 and as the 76th governor of Georgia from 1971 to 1975. After his presidency, Carter has remained active in the private sector; in 2002, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in co-founding the Carter Center.

1976 United States presidential election 48th quadrennial presidential election in the United States

The 1976 United States presidential election was the 48th quadrennial presidential election. It was held on Tuesday, November 2, 1976. Democrat Jimmy Carter of Georgia defeated incumbent Republican President Gerald Ford from Michigan. Carter's win represented the lone Democratic victory in a presidential election held between 1968 and 1988.

The Brandeis-Bardin Campus of American Jewish University is a Jewish retreat located since 1947 in the northeastern Simi Hills, in the city of Simi Valley, California. Formerly known as the Brandeis-Bardin Institute, it is used for nondenominational summer programs for children, teens, and young adults.

A higher profile

In 1982, KABC (AM) in Los Angeles hired Prager to host a talk show on religion every Sunday night, which eventually expanded to a daily talk show. [1] He and Telushkin published another book in 1983, Why the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism. [1] According to a review in Commentary, the book depicts antisemitism as a "sinister form of flattery"; the authors wrote that hatred of Jews arises from resentment over Jews' acceptance of the doctrine that they are God's chosen people, charged with bringing a moral message to the world. [7] The book describes Jews as both a nation (stateless for a long time) and followers of a religion and says that this identity is essential to Judaism; the book says that calls for Jews to culturally assimilate as well as opposition to zionism are both forms of antisemitism. [7] [8] The book describes secular Jews as people who have lost their way, and who generally fall into the error of applying Judaism's mission to reform the world in ways that tend to be leftist, totalitarian, and destructive. [7] [8] He also wrote a syndicated column for newspapers across the country. In 1985, Prager launched his own quarterly journal, Ultimate Issues, which was renamed to Prager Perspectives in 1996. [1]

KABC is a commercial AM radio station licensed to Los Angeles, California. It is owned by Cumulus Media and airs a talk radio format, one of the earliest stations in the U.S. to program talk shows 24 hours a day.

Los Angeles City in California

Los Angeles, officially the City of Los Angeles and often known by its initials L.A., is the most populous city in California, the second most populous city in the United States, after New York City, and the third most populous city in North America. With an estimated population of nearly four million, Los Angeles is the cultural, financial, and commercial center of Southern California. The city is known for its Mediterranean climate, ethnic diversity, Hollywood and the entertainment industry, and its sprawling metropolis. Los Angeles is the largest city on the West Coast of North America.

Antisemitism is hostility to, prejudice, or discrimination against Jews. A person who holds such positions is called an antisemite. Antisemitism is generally considered to be a form of racism. It has also been characterized as a political ideology which serves as an organizing principle and unites disparate groups which are opposed to liberalism.

In 1986, he was divorced and he underwent a year of therapy. His book about happiness was the product of that work. [1] In 1990, he wrote an essay called "Judaism, Homosexuality and Civilization" that argued against normalizing homosexuality in the Jewish community [9] and placed sexual sins on a continuum from premarital sex, celibacy, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, and incest; he argued that confining sex to heterosexual marriage desexualized religion, which was a great achievement of ancient Jewish tradition that was worth fighting to retain. [10]

By 1992, he was remarried. [9] By that time he was, according to the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, a "fixture on local radio" and "a Jewish St. George battling the forces of secularity on behalf of simple 'goodness'", and generally socially conservative, with some exceptions; he supported a woman's right to have an abortion (although he said it was usually immoral), and supported and justified sex between non-married, consenting, men and women. [9] In 1992, he became involved with the Stephen S. Wise Temple and gave talks there. [1]

Conservative causes

In 1994 the Anti-Defamation League published a report on antisemitism in the Christian right movement; Prager, along with fellow Jewish conservatives who were generally aligned with the social and political conservativism of the Christian right, attacked the ADL and its report. [11] In 1995 he urged conservative Jews to be open to working with conservative Christians, like the Christian Coalition. [12] In 1995 he named Jacob Petuchowski, Eliezer Berkovits, Harold Kushner, C.S. Lewis, Richard John Neuhaus, Michael Novak, and George Gilder, as the people who had influenced his theology the most. [13]

In 1996 Prager testified in Congress in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, alongside Jay Sekulow, who was formerly with Jews for Jesus and was then counsel for American Center for Law & Justice; Prager testified that "the acceptance of homosexuality as the equal of heterosexual marital love signifies the decline of Western civilization." [14] Prager worked with Bob Dole's campaign in the 1996 presidential election to rally the Jewish vote for Dole, who had a strongly pro-Israel platform; when polls prior to the election showed that the effort had failed, he said this was because "Jews are ignorant." [15]

Since 1999, he has hosted a nationally syndicated talk show on the socially and politically conservative Christian radio station KRLA in Los Angeles. [1] KRLA is part of the Salem Media Group that carries other conservative hosts, including James Dobson, Randall Terry, Janet Parshall, Sebastian Gorka and Larry Elder; it is a key voice of the Christian right that seeks to change American politics as well as the way that individual people live. [16] [17]

In 2003, he considered running for the US Senate against Barbara Boxer in the 2004 federal elections. [18]

In 2006, Prager criticized Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, for announcing that he would use the Quran for the reenactment of his swearing in ceremony. [19] Prager wrote "Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress." In response, former New York City Mayor Ed Koch called for Prager to end his service on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Council. [20]

In 2009 Prager joined other Salem Radio Network hosts to oppose the Affordable Care Act. [21] In 2014, while same-sex marriage in the United States was in process of being legalized, he wrote that if that were to happen, then "there is no plausible argument for denying polygamous relationships, or brothers and sisters, or parents and adult children, the right to marry." [22] [23] In 2014, he also said that the "heterosexual AIDS" crisis was something "entirely manufactured by the Left". [23]

Prager endorsed Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, but said that Trump was his "17th choice out of 17 candidates". He clarified that he "was not a Trump supporter, when there was a choice", but added, "There is no choice now." [24] Prager had previously said that Trump was "unfit to be a presidential candidate, let alone president". [25] Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic described how Trump's adultery, character assassination of others, embrace of torture, bad behavior, whining, and use of profanity, violate values and principles that Prager has upheld as essential to civil life, noted that Prager had said that endorsing Trump was in line with his principles because "We hold that defeating Hillary Clinton, the Democrats, and the Left is also a principle. And that it is the greater principle.", and concluded that "Attitudes like that are not uncommon in U.S. politics, but if that’s all principle means now, we haven’t much need for public moralists to write weekly columns with appeals to Judeo-Christian ethics and the importance of good character. Just pick the political party you like best and let the ends justify the means on its behalf." [26]

In 2017, Prager was invited to be a guest conductor for the volunteer orchestra of Santa Monica, California, for a fundraising concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Some of the orchestra members protested the invitation, which they considered promoting bigotry. The orchestra leader had invited Prager because he admired Prager, because Prager often discussed and promoted classical music on his shows and had guest conducted a few times in the past, and because he thought Prager's presence might help raise more money. [23] [22]

In 2018, he published a commentary on the Book of Exodus; this was followed by another commentary on the Book of Genesis in 2019. Both were published by the Salem Media Group. [5]

PragerU

In 2009, Prager started a website called PragerU, which creates five-minute videos on various topics from a conservative perspective. [27] [28] According to Prager, he created the site to challenge the "unhealthy effect intellectually and morally" of the American higher education system. [29] BuzzFeed described PragerU as "one of the biggest, most influential and yet least understood forces in online media." As of 2018 it spent around 40% of its annual $10 million budget on marketing; each video is produced according a consistent style. Videos cover topics such as "racism, sexism, income inequality, gun ownership, Islam, immigration, Israel, police brutality" and speech on college campuses. BuzzFeed wrote that "the biggest reason PragerU has escaped national attention is that it mostly doesn't do Trump," or engage with the political news cycle. [25] Some of its videos were restricted[ clarification needed ] by YouTube in 2017. [30]

Published works

Prager's columns are handled by Creators Syndicate. He has been published in The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times and Commentary. His weekly syndicated column appears on such online websites as Townhall , [31] National Review Online , Jewish World Review and elsewhere. He also writes a bi-weekly column for The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles .

Filmography

See also

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For Goodness Sake is a short comedy film made in 1992 by David Zucker with radio talk show host Dennis Prager. Released in 1993, the film contains comical vignettes that address everyday ethical issues. It was developed and produced by Rich Markey. Mentor Media Inc. marketed the film for ethics training to government departments, including the FBI, Department of Defense, and IRS, as well as hospitals, schools, and hundreds of major corporations. Directed by Zucker, it starred Prager and actors Jason Alexander, Scott Bakula, Bonnie Hunt, and Bob Saget.

The Right Stuff is a white supremacist, neo-fascist blog and podcast network founded by Mike Enoch that hosts several podcasts, including TDS, formerly The Daily Shoah. The blog is best known for popularizing the use of "echoes", an antisemitic marker which uses triple parentheses around names used to identify Jewish people on social media. It is part of the broader alt-right movement in the United States.

References

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  2. 1 2 3 Baker, Bob (August 5, 1979). "Self-Worship and Secularism Called Greatest Enemies of Today's Society". Los Angeles Times.
  3. "Kallah participants to hear Dennis Prager". The Jewish Press [Omaha, Neb]. December 11, 1981.
  4. Friedman, Murray (2003). "The Changing Jewish Political Profile". American Jewish History. 91 (3/4): 423–438. JSTOR   23887289.
  5. 1 2 Kirsch, Jonathan (May 16, 2018). "A Rational View of the Torah". Jewish Journal. Retrieved July 13, 2018.
  6. Oppenheimer, Mark (March – April 2018). "Inside the right-wing YouTube empire that's quietly turning millennials into conservatives". Mother Jones.
  7. 1 2 3 Charen, Mona (October 1, 1983). "Review: Why the Jews? The Reason for Anti-Semitism, by Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin". Commentary Magazine.
  8. 1 2 Boyd, Malcolm (August 28, 1983). "Anti-Zionism vs. Anti-Semitism: the Dejudaization of Jew-hatred". Los Angeles Times.
  9. 1 2 3 Margolis, David (December 1992). "Dennis Prager: A Profile The man behind the golden voice". Los Angeles Jewish Journal.
  10. Balch, David L. (2007). Homosexuality, Science, and the "Plain Sense" of Scripture. Wipf and Stock Publishers. pp. 292–293. ISBN   9781556355387.
  11. Dershowitz, Alan M. (2000). The Vanishing American Jew: In Search of Jewish Identity for the Next Century. Little, Brown. pp. 158–159. ISBN   9780446930505.
  12. Barnes, Fred (November 1995). "The Orthodox alliance". The American Enterprise. 6 (6): 70.
  13. Kessler, E J (November 24, 1995). "The Lord's Prager: Talking to 'Our Jew on the West Coast'". Forward. p. 1.
  14. Stoll, Ira (May 24, 1996). "The Stoll Report: News From the Nation's Capital". The Forward.
  15. Stoll, Ira (November 1, 1996). "Donkeys Jockey for Credit As Clinton Victory Looms". The Forward.
  16. Piore, Adam (December 2005). "A Higher Frequency". Mother Jones.
  17. Stoltzfus, Mandy (May 8, 2006). "Conservative Spotlight: Chuck DeFeo". Human Events. “Our nationally syndicated hosts — Bill Bennett, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved and Hugh Hewitt — reach millions of Americans every week. I come to work every day thinking about how we can move those folks online to Townhall.com so they can voice their opinion through blogging, pod-casting and interacting with other conservatives.” DeFeo is excited about the opportunities he has using Townhall.com and Salem’s radio to reach members of the conservative movement and involve them in policy battles and political campaigns.
  18. Pershing, Ben (February 3, 2003). "Radio Days in California? ; As GOP Searches for A Senate Candidate, Two Syndicated Talk Hosts Are Mentioned". Roll Call.
  19. Robin Marty (November 28, 2006). "Dennis Prager - Hateful and Wrong – Updated". Minnesota Monitor. Archived from the original on January 9, 2007. Retrieved December 4, 2006.
  20. "Koch Calls for Pundit's Ouster from Shoah Council". The Jewish Daily Forward. December 8, 2006.
  21. Gilgoff, Dan (September 8, 2009). "More Christian Conservatives Against Healthcare Reform". US News & World Report.
  22. 1 2 Lulu Garcia-Navarro. "Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra Confronts Controversy Over Right-Wing Guest Conductor". NPR.org. Retrieved August 27, 2017.
  23. 1 2 3 Deb, Sopan (August 7, 2017). "Santa Monica Symphony Roiled by Conservative Guest Conductor". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved August 27, 2017.
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  27. "Facebook apologises to right-wing site". August 20, 2018. Retrieved May 26, 2019.
  28. Bray, Hiawatha. "Youtube restricts access to Alan Dershowitz video". The Boston Globe . Retrieved August 8, 2017. The videos are mini-lectures on topics from feminism to religion to foreign policy, presented from a conservative point of view.
  29. Hallowell, Billy. "Radio Host Dennis Prager Has a New Online 'College' to Combat Liberal Bias and Teach Judeo-Christian Values". The Blaze.
  30. Gardner, Eriq (January 2, 2018). "Conservative Video Producer Suing Google Over "Censorship" Pushes for Injunction". The Hollywood Reporter.
  31. "Dennis Prager Warns Conservatives About Defeating Themselves". NewsMax, Brian Freeman | 18 Oct 2016
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