Dennis Prager Condensed Biography

Latest Prager posts.
Long version of my Prager biography.
Part Two of my Prager condensed biography.
Decoding Dennis Prager.

By Luke Ford

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

Dennis Prager's Parents

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

Max wrote in chapter one:

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Max Prager married Hilda Friedfeld on September 14, 1940.

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."

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.

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

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

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

No other famous person was born on this day.

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

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


Max Prager wanted to have more kids but Hilda did not, possibly because of the trauma associated with Dennis’s first two months. (
Dennis said his mother smoke and drank while she was pregnant with him. (May 26, 2011)

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

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

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

Max and Hilda moved to New Jersey in 1997.

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

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

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

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

“I’ve never had a female friend.” (February 13, 2023.)

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.”

Moses was Dennis’s favorite Biblical character.

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

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

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

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

His lack of mothering likely accounts for much of Dennis’s insatiable need for adoration.

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

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

Loving Parents?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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)

Dennis: “I spoke so late that my grandfather thought I was retarded. Whenever I’m asked how come you spoke so late, I say, ‘I was waiting to get paid.'” (Lecture on Lev. 19:12-16)

Dennis said in his January 2002 lecture on his intellectual autobiography:

I was preoccupied by human suffering and the problem of evil from a very young age. I’ll give you an example that drove my mother nuts.

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

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

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

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

I remember my earliest memories of the Holocaust — watching the 20th Century television series with Walter Cronkite and then I saw Hitler. We were in the living room. I asked my parents, who is this guy? The answer was the to the effect of how bad he was and how he murdered six million Jews and many other people died as a result. It stayed with me. How could someone be that bad? How could innocent people suffer so much?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Anyone raised with fairy tales knows violence. Anyone who’s read the violence knows violence. Anyone who’s watched cartoons knows violence.”

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

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

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

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

“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.”

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

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

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

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

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

June 21, 2022, Dennis said to his Youtube cohost Julie Hartman: “My desire to bring them pride in me was not a big factor. They, like many other people of their generation in ethnic life, the amount of love the child got was in direct proportion to how much pride they brought their parents. I resented that. So I wasn’t aiming to bring them pride.”
Aug. 29, 2012: “That’s the reason I became something, because my parents said at an early age, ‘You’re on your own. Have a great life.’ And I’ve had a great life. And it wasn’t easy.”

On July 25, 2012, Dennis said: “When I was in elementary school, my parents sent me for four weeks at a time to visit my wonderful aunt in Florida. I missed four weeks of school in fifth grade. So what?”

Dennis Prager wrote June 10, 2008:

When I was a 7-year-old boy, I flew alone from New York to my aunt and uncle in Miami and did the same thing coming back to New York. I boarded the plane on my own and got off the plane on my own. No papers for my parents to fill out. No extra fee to pay the airline. I was responsible for myself…

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

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

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

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

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

When I was boy, people dressed up to go to baseball games, visit the doctor and travel on airplanes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I didn’t find the clowns funny.” (Dec. 19, 2013)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adam: “Wow. It was the worst 19th birthday that Dennis’s parents…”

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

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

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

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

Dennis was unhappy until age 11, when he discovered he had a destiny that would echo in history.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prager’s Youtube cohost Julie Hartman: “Why do you think God implanted that in us?”

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

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

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 Musical Instruction in the Yellow Pages and settled on the first instrument he saw — accordion. After his parents bought him one for $135, he took lessons from Peter Luisietti whose studio resided under the subway at Kings Highway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyone who earns a living does it by serving people, including Jews.

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

Upon examination, however, many his claims fall apart.

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.” (May 21, 2010)

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

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

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

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

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

Big Brother Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I never competed,” said Dennis.

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

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

Controlling Your Emotions

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


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

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

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

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

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.” (CSPAN, 1995)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why stay Jewish if you’re secular? For what? Jewish culture? European culture dwarfs Jewish culture. Christian music is fifty times more beautiful than most Jewish music. We don’t have instruments [on Shabbat and holidays]. What kind of music could we have made? The rabbis [of the Talmud] did us an injury with that 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.” (2010 at Stephen S. Wise)

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

Julie: “And you will be so much happier.”

Dennis: “You can testify to that.”

Julie: “Society will run better. Your life will run better… I think it’s the answer to everything.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Julie: “It’s Christmas and Thanksgiving every week.”

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

In December of 2012, Dennis said that if he were born a Christian, he would “probably” have stayed a Christian. “I don’t know if I would have been an orthodox Christian… Unless you are born into a religion that you determine makes the world worse, you should probably stick to it… Or you cannot believe any of its distinguishing tenants and you find a more rational vehicle to God and goodness… Modern Muslims have a unique dilemma because the Islamic world today is a net moral deficit.”

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

This is a dubious claim. Dennis never had a year of training equivalent to the work in the four-year Yeshiva University rabbinic curriculum. Compared to the typical Reform rabbi, however, Dennis knows more Torah.

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

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

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

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

A search for “Dennis Prager” in Google (during the last three months of 2010 and last checked in Jan. 2011) reveals the first suggested term to add to the search is “divorce.”


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

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

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

Dore phoned Dennis Prager’s radio show Dec. 24, 2010: “Dennis, you love the holiday [of Christmas] so much, do you have a Christmas tree in your house?”

Dennis laughs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dore: “Yes. Unfortunately, it is.”

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

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

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

Dore: “No, I’m not.”

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

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

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

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

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

The Orthodox

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

“If I had been talking 2,000 years ago, I would’ve said Judaism.”

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

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

The lack of Orthodox interest in Prager’s Torah teachings is akin to the lack of Jewish interest in Christian teachings. Orthodox Jews, by and large, don’t recognize the religion Prager practices as Judaism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Nothing alienates the non-religious from God and religion as unhappy religious people. I remember Phil Hendrie, the 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)

Unlike traditional 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 reciting a blessing and 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.”

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

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

While rejecting the divinity of the Oral Torah makes Dennis Prager’s life easier by permitting him to do what he wants (drive on the Sabbath, eat in non-kosher restaurants, turn on lights on the Sabbath, play musical instruments on the Sabbath, etc), it separates him from the Jewish tradition.

There’s no way to organize Jews according to Dennis Prager’s teachings. His principles are too elastic. They’re Judaism for people who can’t read Hebrew. Or, as his older brother Kenneth tells Dennis, “You are a religious party of one.”

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 [until 1991], I lived an Orthodox life to try it again as an adult. I’m quite observant but I always announce that I am not Orthodox because I never want to mislead anybody. 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.”

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

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

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

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 some people seeking a hero that it is impossible for him to live up to their unrealistic expectations.

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

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

In a 1998 lecture on Exodus 28, Dennis said:

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

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

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.”

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

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

I’ve never heard any other Jew say this.

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

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

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

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

“I’m orthodox, not Orthodox,” said Dennis in his first lecture on Deuteronomy (2002). For many years Dennis 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)

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.”

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

Dennis wrote Aug. 10, 2010:

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

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

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

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

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

April 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.”


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.”

Serious Jews

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

The serious Jew meets four criteria:

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

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

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

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

Somehow the Torah and the ongoing rabbinic tradition forgot to instruct Jews to ponder whether or not they would observe the Law. It’s inconceivable that the Jews would have survived as a distinct people for thousands of years if they kept asking themselves whether or not they wanted to follow the Torah’s commands. Prager’s approach is only for intellectuals like Prager and even then it doesn’t work (hence Prager describes himself as “lonely” in Jewish life, hardly a recipe for a good life). Non-intellectuals are never going to struggle over the reasons for why they observe or do not observe each Jewish law (as Prager commands). It’s not the way people are made.

It is easy for the Jewishly illiterate (those who can not pick up a Talmud and read it aloud in its original languages and explain it) to assent to Prager’s thinking and then fool themselves that they are a “serious Jew” by virtue of their reflection. Nobody can convince you that you’re wrong because there is no code in Pragerism (the Pentateuch, which Dennis believes is uniquely divine, is not a code that can govern modern life without a binding tradition to interpret it). By contrast, defining the good Jew as one who is Orthodox dramatically reduces the room for fooling yourself. Orthodox Judaism has thousands of books filled with specific behaviors and a passionate community committed to this public observance and to separating themselves from those like Prager who deny the divinity of the Oral Law, drive on the Sabbath and eat in non-kosher restaurants.

Social Capital

April 6, 2011, Dennis said: “I’ll never forget when I was a kid [nine years old]. There was a man who was a high school math teacher, Mr. Joe Salts. What a sweet man. A member of the synagogue. He was hit by a hit-and-run driver on the West Side highway. He was blinded. The synagogue took care of this man for the rest of his life.

“The impact it made on me watching my father have people over to the house to see how much will you give, how much will you give. I have tears in my eyes. But as the state gets bigger, he just applies at some agency and has a bureaucrat take down the details.”

“Here’s another victim of the big state in terms of goodness because they say, why should I take care of my neighbor? The government will.

“This man blinded in the auto accident. The man was a member of the synagogue. The biggest thing DeTocqueville noted was how many free associations Americans made. Because the government was weak, people had strong civil society.

“I remember being a member of the Simi Valley Rotary Club. It was all men. They would get together every week. These guys, almost none of whom were wealthy, they were hard-working middle class. And you know what they devoted every meeting to? What charity they would engage in. But as government takes over more and more of charitable work, what need do you have for these charities? But we need people to join societies. The bigger the government, the more atomized the society.”

Feb. 6, 2012, Dennis said he is the only person he knows who was a member of Rotary. “I have the values of guys who drink mass-market domestic beer.”

In a lecture on Leviticus 16, Dennis said: “We today have retreated further than ever from a sense of collective responsibility. The most obvious example is kids. Kids used to be raised by every adult on the block. If I acted out in front of any adult who didn’t even know who the hell I was, he would say something. ‘Hey kid, you don’t talk like that.’ If I had cursed at the local candy store in Brooklyn, some adult would’ve said, ‘Hey kid, we don’t talk like that.’ Today kids curse freely in line in front of you and you even fear reproving them. We fear that they might hurt you. And we fear what the parent might say. ‘It’s none of your business. I’ll raise my kid.’ The sense that the collective is responsible is a Torah idea.”

The kind of close-knit community Prager advocates is in inverse proportion to racial diversity noted leftist Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam, who was so upset by the results of his study that he didn't publish it for a decade and only then with a pro-diversity spin. Putnam found that Los Angeles, the most racially diverse of America's cities, had the least trust, meaning that people in such a racially mixed community tend to pull their heads in, go out less, cooperate less, and watch more TV. By contrast, the whitest cities such as Portland have the most neighborliness.

Steve Sailer (highly regarded by psychometricians) asked: "Can you guess which two cities lead the list of top 50 metropolitan areas in terms of the highest percentage of adults volunteering for charity? And which two cities came in last?" Lilly-white cities Minneapolis-St. Paul and Salt Lake City came in first, while diverse cities Miami and Las Vegas came in last.

Sociologist Linda S. Gottfredson wrote: "Humans are not promiscuous altruists, of course, but favor persons genetically similar to themselves."

Dennis Prager wrote Dec. 18, 2013 in the Jewish Journal:

I don’t think that Jewish neighborhoods are always a good thing for Jews or, for that matter, for our fellow Americans who are not Jewish. In fact, committed Jews living among non-Jews often does more good — for Jews, for Judaism, for Kiddush HaShem and for relations with non-Jews.

Having lived much of my life in Jewish neighborhoods, I think I am well acquainted with the arguments for many Jews living in one area of a city.

…And for Orthodox Jews, there is simply no choice. If you don’t live within walking distance of a synagogue, you simply cannot attend a synagogue on Shabbat or any of the other Torah holy days. And you will be very lonely on Shabbat, as there will be no one with whom to share Shabbat meals…

But there are also powerful arguments against Jews congregating in one area.

One argument is that Jews (and any other ethnic group) often become better people when they live among those who are not members of their ethnic/religious group.

Most people grow — intellectually and morally — when they have to confront outsiders. There are, of course, wonderful people who never leave their communities. But they are the exception. Most people do not grow when they lead insular lives.

In my travels through the 50 states, my favorite Jews have disproportionately been those who live in small Jewish communities.

Having grown up an Orthodox Jew in Brooklyn — having only Orthodox Jewish friends, and having attended Orthodox schools and Orthodox summer camps through high school — I know what insular ethnic/religious life is like. And I didn’t find it healthy. Among many other reasons, the non-Jew (and even the non-Orthodox Jew) wasn’t real.

I first seriously encountered Jewish alternatives to my insular upbringing in my early 20s, when I drove from New York to Texas with my dear friend Rabbi Joseph Telushkin. Thanks to the “Jewish Traveler’s Guide,” we found the name of a Jewish doctor in Alexandria, La., who listed himself as providing a place for Jewish travelers in central Louisiana to have Shabbat meals and kosher food…

…It can’t be a coincidence that virtually every great Jewish religious work was composed outside of Israel, when Jews lived among non-Jews. We have, for example, two versions of the Talmud — the Babylonian and the Jerusalem. And it is the former that we study. Maimonides’ works were all written outside of Israel, sometimes in Arabic.

…My wife and I live in a non-Jewish suburb of Los Angeles — so non-Jewish that it doesn’t even have a Chabad House. The closest Chabad House, in Glendale (not a major Jewish metropolis either), is run by the inimitable Rabbi Simcha Backman. He has “appointed” me an honorary shaliach (Chabad emissary) in La Canada.

I think I build the only sukkah there, and when we opened our home one Sukkot, I recall the wide eyes of all the children of Jewish parents who had never seen a sukkah in their lives. Introducing Jews who have had little or no contact with Jewish life to Judaism is another mitzvah that a committed Jew living outside a Jewish neighborhood can engage in.

I live in a cul-de-sac, and my immediate neighbors are an Arab-American couple, whom my wife and I adore. The other neighbor is Korean. My cul-de-sac is what America is supposed to be about. It’s still a good idea.

Jan. 2, 2014, Dennis said: "I don't like any ethnic neighborhood. I don't think it's the American ideal."

"I don't think black neighborhoods are healthy for blacks. I don't think Mexican neighborhoods are healthy for Mexicans. They're comfortable."

Feb. 13, 2014, Dennis said:

A lot of people feel more comfortable with one of their own, unfortunately, racially, ethnically, whatever, I understand that, but that's where the mind must conquer feelings, particularly if you are religious. Religion must conquer all other feelings or else religion is crap. Either we are all God's children irrespective of our race or we are not.

That you feel more comfortable with people who look like you may well be your human response but it should not be your God-centered response… If religion doesn't teach us values, it is utterly worthless… Values should always trump feelings. 

If you see another person, you should see another one of God's children [first]. You shouldn't see a white or a black.

If you oppose interracial marriage and you are a religious Christian or a religious Jew, then you are not religious. You are convenient. You're comfortable with your culture. If people state I want my children to marry someone of my faith, I understand that. I want my children to marry somebody who is conservative politically. I understand values-based desires for your children. I don't understand race-based.

Doesn't love trump race?

I didn't expect this [stand for pro-interracial marriage] to be controversial. I expected to do one segment and move on.

This notion about we want to preserve the culture. That's a very dangerous idea that race and culture are identical. Race is race and culture is culture. What culture does a black atheist and a black evangelical share? Recipes?

Either we believe we are all God's children and character matters infinitely more than skin color or we don't.

According to Dennis, "Racism — the belief that people of a certain skin color are inherently different (and inferior or superior) — is not only evil; it is moronic. Racism is in equal amounts stupid and vile."

Apr. 11, 2014, Dennis said: "There is more racism proportionately in the black community than among whites. To deny that is to deny that the sun rises in the east. Just look at the opposition to a black and a white marrying, how intense that is. You are considered a traitor to the race. If a white thinks you are a traitor to your race for marrying a black, you're considered a white supremacist."

Jan. 10, 2014, Dennis said: "Crime causes poverty… Crime is the greatest predictor of poverty. There is no commerce where there is crime. People stay home for fear of being hurt. People don't build if they think they will be hurt violently."

Scholar James Q. Wilson noted: "Black men commit murders at a rate about eight times greater than that for white men. This disparity is not new; it has existed for well over a century."

Not Normal

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

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

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

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

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

Promoting Goodness

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

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

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

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

With a yearning to promote God and goodness, Dennis stumbled upon an endeavor where if everybody competed, Jews will always win because they brought the idea of God into the world and they also developed the best moral code (Torah). As historian Paul Johnson wrote: “Judaism has the most sophisticated system of moral theology, or ethics, of any world religion.”

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

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

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.”

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

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

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

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

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

Dec. 12, 2003, Dennis said that at age 13, in eighth grade, he met with a school psychologist, who asked him what he wanted. Dennis said he wanted his parents to never ask him about school. The psychologist relayed the request to Dennis’s parents and they lived by it. Often they did not even look at Dennis’s report card, which was usually bad.

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

In his January 2002 lecture “Personal Autobiography,” Dennis said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After school, I’d take a subway into Manhattan and go to museums and concerts and plays. I didn’t do any homework.

Eating out has never ceased being a good psychological feeling for me of freedom. I still love to eat out. It is a credit to the home Fran has made that I am now happy to eat at home. To this day going to Denny’s and getting a tuna melt is fun. It’s still exciting. Anything I want! I’m not restricted to the menu at home. There’s no chance I’ll have liver.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I did start learning Russian.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I realized then that my parents probably devoted far more hours to me than I had ever previously thought. The fact that I survived to my teenage years with all my fingers and toes intact means that they were watching me far more than I realized.”

Oct. 15, 2009, Dennis said: “My earliest years were strained with my mother. After late teens, it just got better and better every year until they were just wonderful. And that’s why I miss her. Thank God she and I had all those years.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sex II

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

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

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

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

“It’s really not appropriate for a chumash class but the Torah is open so I will be open, but I once saw years ago in New York on 42nd Street, a video titled Three Nuns and a Donkey. Somebody bought it.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I had a blessed track record.”

“Blessed” is one way of looking at it. Prager’s total number of female conquests is surely a larger number than that of any of his Orthodox-for-life classmates who tended to marry but once. People who are constant in their religious observance and in their dating tend to be constant in their mating.

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

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

Yeshiva of Flatbush

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

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

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

Nov. 11, 2009, Dennis said: “I can’t believe…how often my high school years come to my mind. I’m amazed. I almost feel silly. That is not yesterday. It’s almost as if my life is high school and today. I’ve gone from high school to right now. I know there are decades intervening but it beats me what happened. Oh yeah, I had kids. I’ve been married. I’ve got a radio show. I wrote four books. None of that. High school!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Yeshiva of Flatbush divided its students into four tracks. Prager and Telushkin were assigned to the C-student track because, though smart, they wouldn’t do homework.

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 considered a loudmouth by his schoolmates, who, by and large, haven’t changed that evaluation. He did not strike his classmates as particularly religious and few thought he’d go on to be a moral leader. They saw he oozed need for female attention, more than any one woman could provide. They were not surprised when he bounced from girlfriend to girlfriend and from marriage to marriage.

“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)

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


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.”


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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer Camp

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

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

Sept. 17, 2009, Dennis said: “When I was a camper, about ten years old, there was a boy (Robert) in my bunk who had a problem urinating while sleeping. And instead of gaining any sympathy, four kids one night, I was the bystander, they went over and put sheets over their heads like ghosts to wake him to induce him to urinate. And then thinking it was a great victory… I’ve been atoning for that my whole life. Part of the reason I fight evil is for what I did not do that one night.”

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

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

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

“They’d snicker.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One summer evening, Dennis got into a bad car accident. He and 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.

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.”

On June 15, 2012, Dennis said: “I was mesmerized. I never thought I’d be one, any more than if I went to the movies, I thought I’d be John Wayne.”

“I went to bed at night with a transistor radio under my pillow and listened to Jean Shepherd. He never took calls. Just talked for three hours.” (Dec. 21, 2010)

“I began calling talk radio in mid-high school. Was I nervous! I remember when the guy would say, ‘Dennis in Brooklyn.’ I was dripping with perspiration.” (Dec. 17, 2010)

Dec. 17, 2013, Dennis said: “Transistor radios. They were all made in Japan… I would go to bed at night and take my transistor radio and put it under my pillow. Until high school, I had a bed-time. It was so strictly enforced. I had to be in pajamas and brush my teeth by that time. I think it is a good idea. I don’t think I had one for my kids quite as much.

“Is that why I stay up late now? That might be the case. I think of it as liberty.”

In his 14th lecture on Deuteronomy (in 2003?), Dennis said: “When I was a kid, I knew I wouldn’t be a doctor. A. My brother was. I knew I wouldn’t do the same thing my brother did just to individuate. B. I hated the site of blood. C. I didn’t find studying the names of nerves interesting.

“So I remember thinking, OK, I’ll be a lawyer. In my eighth grade Yeshiva Rambam graduation booklet, each kid had his picture and he’d tell the editor what phrase he’d like under his picture and mine was, ‘Dennis Prager, D.A.’ He had under his picture six years early, “Kenneth Prager, M.D.’

“Through high school, I just assumed I’d be a lawyer, but then I read a law book. By page 11, I decided I wouldn’t be a lawyer. And I remember thinking, what am I going to do? I’m a Jew.

“I remember saying to my brother, ‘Kenny, I’m not going to be a doctor or a lawyer. I’m going to be something different.’

“I thank God that I followed my gifts.”

Dennis found his life purpose in lecturing about right and wrong and attaching his values to Judaism. In his 20s, as Dennis found he could both earn a nice living lecturing about morality and simultaneously date many pretty adoring women, he came to the belief that society’s greatest task was moral education. It just so happened to coincide with his chosen profession. He could do good and make good through what came most naturally to him — talking, charming and intimidating — without any one entity having veto power over him.

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.”

Classical Music

In 1962, Dennis began listening to pop music, enjoying such songs as “Battle of New Orleans.” (July 23, 2010)

In late 1963, bored with school, Dennis explored Manhattan’s cultural attractions. One day he bought a $1 ticket to hear Alexander Schneider and his chamber group play Handel‘s Concerti Grossi at Carnegie Hall. Prager fell in love with classical music. The next day he spent two weeks lunch money and allowance ($32) to buy concert tickets at Carnegie.

Said Dennis in a 1995 lecture on Exodus 3: “The first time I heard Handel I was a sophomore. The next day I spent my entire two weeks allowance on concert tickets. Do you know what I ate for lunch for the next two weeks? I went to yeshiva high school where they had netilat yadayim, where you would wash your hands before making hamotzi after washing your hands, there would be little pieces of rye bread so you could make hamotzi immediately after you washed, I would wait for all the kids to do it, and then ate all the bag of hamotzi scraps.”

“I tried ballet for two seasons and all I did was to look at the orchestra pit.”
For the rest of high school, Dennis spent two-to-three evenings a week in Manhattan, going to plays, concerts and book stores. He often ate his dinner (tuna fish salad plate, apple pie and coffee for $1:50) at Dubrow’s Cafeteria by the subway station on King Highway.

In his January 2002 “Personal Autobiography” lecture, Dennis said: “New York City was a great place to grow up in but not a great place to stay in. I used its facilities. If you use its culture, there’s no parallel. I conduct orchestras. Do you know how I learned to do that? Instead of doing homework, I prided myself on not doing a single homework through four years of high school, I am probably the only person you’ll ever meet who was rejected from Queens College, I would go to the New York Philharmonic Library and take out a score. I got quite adept. I would conduct at my father’s stereo system. Everyone thought I was just waving a baton but I knew that everyone was listening to me.”

“One of my fantasies…in the realm that I can speak to you about is conducting an orchestra and going to Antarctica.

“One day somebody called me up and said, Dennis, do you have any dreams not yet realized? I said, yeah, I’d like to conduct an orchestra.

“The next day, the president of a local orchestra said we’ll try you out. The conductor came and he said, wow, he knows how to read music. They gave me a Mozart piece. It was the most nervous I’ve been since childhood because these were all pros and I’m an amateur but it worked out and I went to other things.”

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 May 17, 2012, Dennis said he did not major in Music at college out of fear it would destroy his love of music.

Why would the academic study of a subject destroy his love for it? Because it would remove illusions. Dennis loves his illusions and he hates academia for destroying what he loves.


“The ability to read how others react to you is about as important a subject as there is in life,” Dennis said Dec. 11, 2009. “I think I am very aware of this. I think it was something I was aware of at an early age. I was always very sensitive to whether or not I was boring anybody. One of the reasons I was able to become an interesting speaker was that I was very aware even in private conversations in high school, whether or not I was boring the person I was with. I would see their face. I would see whether they had stopped concentrating.”

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.'”

Jan. 6, 2011, Dennis said: “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. 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.”

Dennis Prager’s College Years

After high school, Dennis attended Brooklyn College (graduating in 1970 with degrees in History and Middle East Studies).

On Feb. 18, 2013, Dennis said: “In freshmen English, the teacher was one of these progressive teachers, but she was very pretty, so I went to class every time. She said, ‘Students, I want you to look out the window and write what you see.’ I looked out the window and saw an apartment building, that’s all there was, so I knew what would get me an A, if I wrote that I see the vapidness of modern life, the anonymity and atomization through each window, and I got an A, but it was baloney, all I saw was an apartment building.”

Apr. 20, 2012, Dennis said: “For every one of you who went to college and graduated, what did you learn? I don’t mean chemistry and pre-med [and the sciences]. In the United States for three of my four years, I learned Russian and I can’t think of much more… I learned Arabic. In most other areas, it was the books that taught me.”

“My year in England, I had two wonderful professors.”

July 16, 2012, Dennis said that none of his college teachers were instrumental in him achieving professional success.

Dennis was not thrilled to get the right to vote at age 18. “I thought 18 was too young and I was 18 at the time. I said to my girlfriend [second serious one, said DP 9/13/11], ‘Anna, why are they giving me the vote? I don’t know anything.’ I knew that I knew more than most kids but I still didn’t think that I knew anything to make an intelligent vote. But I was raised in a religious world, which almost inherently gives you some insight into how little you know because of how much they knew in the past.” (May 11, 2010)

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.”

Trip To Israel, Europe

At the end of his first year of college, shortly after the Six Day War of 1967, Dennis made his first trip abroad, touring Israel and Europe.

“I first went to Jerusalem three weeks after the Six Day War in 1967 [staying with Pinchas H. Peli and his feminist wife],” wrote Dennis Prager for Olam magazine in 2001. “I was just under 19 years old. For a Jewish boy from the New York yeshiva world, one who moreover also attended Zionist summer camps in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, the experience was, not surprisingly, overwhelming. It is difficult to separate the power of Israel, the power of that uniquely heady time in Jewish history, and the power of Jerusalem. Each merged into the other to create a permanent impact on Jews such as myself.

“So deep was the impact, in fact, that I was certain that I would one day in the not too distant future make aliyah (live in the Jewish state). Indeed, three years later, after graduating from college, I applied to and was accepted by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem to study for a Masters Degree at its Institute on Contemporary Jewry.

“For various reasons, I enrolled instead at Columbia University, at its School of International Affairs, and consequently ended up staying in America. That decision came to be one of those life-shaping forks in the road that all of us at some point experience. Had Columbia not accepted me, this American patriot might well have ended up being an Israeli.”

On his January 9, 2023 Youtube show with Julie Hartman, Dennis said: “So one summer [during college], I said to a friend or two, ‘How you would like to go with me to Europe this summer? I’m going to Bulgaria.’ They thought I was out of my mind. I did it so often I can tell you how it works — Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, that’s going south to north. Another summer I’d go north to south. I’m sorry to say this because the people were suffering but I had an amazing time. They loved Americans and the women from Eastern Europe loved Americans too. I won’t go further.”

June 25, 2010, Dennis said that if he did not live in the United States, he would most likely live in Israel. Other possibilities were Canada, Australia and India.

Mar. 21, 2014, Dennis said: “I was changed the first time I visited India. I was in my 20s. I was not changed by seeing abject poverty. The biggest impact was seeing how many happy children there were in India. I thought poverty was co-extensive with great unhappiness.

“I remember going to outside Calcutta and kids were naked and they were just running around, laughing themselves silly, kicking balls and playing. It shook me up. I remember thinking that we have so many kids in our country who don’t have the innocence and kids can’t be happy if they’re not innocent. Children depend upon innocence because it gives them security.”

“What makes people happy are attitudes and cultures. There are certain cultures that don’t produce happy people and there are others that produce a lot of happy people.”

“India has huge problems, not least of which is the class system. I remember the kids came begging seeing Westerners and if you didn’t give them anything, they’d just wave bye bye, while in other cultures, they got very angry.”

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

Said Dennis in a 1998 lecture on Exodus 34: “I did a report on Egyptian art while I was in college. I remember one where you had the god Horace having anal sex with an Egyptian. There was a prayer to it — spread your buttocks.”

Said Dennis in a 2008 lecture on “Why Have Our Universities Gone So Wrong?”: “There was one insight I’ve never forgotten over one of the urinals at Brooklyn College — Jesus saves, Moses invests.”

Said Dennis 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.'”

Dec. 21, 2010, Dennis said: “I’ll never forget my first Philosophy class at college and the professor began with, ‘Do we really exist?’ I remember thinking, ‘I’m going to go punch the professor in the nose and ask him if he thought I exist or not?’ Whack! Was that real, professor? The amount of nonsense that has pervaded the secular world is overwhelming.”

Said Dennis in a 2008 lecture on universities: “Had I gone to Columbia for undergraduate, I would’ve dropped out. I was not ready as an undergraduate to do the work necessary for an Ivy league college.”

Said Dennis Sept. 3, 2010: “I just assumed life was going to deliver some very rough blows. You’re unbelievably lucky every day you don’t have anything bad happening. I said that to my dear friend Joseph in college and he said that it profoundly affected his life. I said, ‘Joseph, I expect nothing good to make me happy. I am happy as long as nothing bad happened’.”

In a 1994 lecture on Gen. 32, Dennis said: “From an early age, I was content if I could buy all the records and books I wanted. That struck me as a millionaire’s life. There were times — very few — when I couldn’t buy records and they were very painful.”

Said Dennis Nov. 30, 2010: “When I was a kid, I had a Dutch pen pal – Steineka Deuze (sp?). I corresponded with Steineka for one year thinking I was corresponding with a boy. Then I went to Amersfoort, Netherlands, and found out that my pen pal was a girl. It was very disorienting and very pleasant.”

Dennis Goes To Leeds

In 1968, Dennis Prager won a junior-year-abroad scholarship after impressing interviewers with his skills in English, Hebrew, Russian and French.

Many weekends Dennis took a boat from Harwich, England, to Bremerhaven, Germany, to visit his girlfriend.

In his “Jewish Intellectual Biography” lecture, Dennis was asked if getting a German girlfriend was like trying ham. “I have so many answers. It was a lot easier.”

Questioner: “More delicious.”

Dennis: “I was torn. Yeshiva boy. With blonde Aryan Brigitta. I was a junior in college. I called her into my cabin one morning to see me put on tefillin. It was less dramatic than I thought because she had never seen it before. I wanted her to know that I was no different than the Jews who were butchered by the Nazis. I may look All-American, I may talk All-American, but I am no different than those German Jews that the Nazis would cut their beards off and kill them. She didn’t care. I thought it might shake her. I did it for me. Even though I wasn’t putting on tefillin every day but I did for her.”

“I went to a camera store in Hamburg in 1969. We got to talking and somehow, I mentioned I had just been in Israel. The guy asked me, ‘Are you a Jew?’ I said yes. He said, ‘I want to give you this Leica M4 at cost. It is my little way of saying we’re sorry.’ Maybe this is why Brigitta was sent into my life so that I would visit Germany a lot.”

Said Dennis in a 1996 lecture on Exodus 20: “I was 21 years old. It was 1969. I had an atheist British roommate at the University of Leeds. The guy lived with his girlfriend all year. I had this huge flat to myself. One day the guy shows up to do his laundry. It’s a Saturday afternoon. I’m lying in bed resting and reading. He comes in, ‘Hey, Dennis, how are you? Are you sick?’ I go no. ‘Then why are you lying in bed in the afternoon?’

“The guy was in Physics. I said, well, it’s my Sabbath. ‘Do you believe in religion?’ Yep. ‘Do you believe in God?’ Yep. ‘What is God?’ Knowing his field, I said, ‘God is the only absolute in a universe of relativity.’”

On Sep. 23, 2011, Dennis said: “From when I was in my early twenties and really began thinking about these issues, I did flirt with becoming irreligious but my alternative was never to go to another religion but hedonism.”

Prager studied international history, comparative religion and Arabic at the University of Leeds. The lousy climate aggravated his asthma. “I remember one day the professor announced, ‘The sun is shining. Class dismissed’.” (Feb. 4, 2010)

“England was going through a social upheaval as represented by the micro-skirt, which made studying difficult.” (Jan. 2002 lecture on ideological autobiography)

“I remember living in England for a year stunned at the material conditions of the middle class in Britain, incomparably lower than in the United States.” (Oct. 6, 2010)

“I booed a piece at Royal Albert Hall in England when I was a student. I used to go down to London for concerts. Some modern composer had a vocal piece which was disgusting. It was like Jackson Pollock in song. I booed when the composer came out and everyone turned around and looked at me. How do we register what we thought of the piece? I didn’t want him shot. I just wanted to tell him I thought it was crap.” (Nov. 15, 2013)

Circa 2002, Dennis gave a lecture titled, “A Life of Travel.” He said: “I have had culture shock on only a few occasions. The first time I ever went abroad at age 20 (aside from Canada). I went to Belgium and all the signs were in Flemish. French would have been OK because I learned it in highschool. I went with a friend. He had relatives in Antwerp. I remember seeing all the signs in a foreign language and I got antsy. It was over in a couple of days. The next time I experienced it was when I went to Morocco. That was very difficult.”


“The moment I got off the boat in Algiers,” Dennis said, “there are few places on earth that are as different as Europe and North Africa… It’s an Arab country, a Muslim country, but that didn’t get me. Tangiers is a particularly rough city. The moment I was off the boat, I was constantly descended upon by people offering me men, women, sheep. Everything. Watches. I felt terrible. I was alone and I felt like everybody was trying to get me… I spent two weeks [in Morocco] alone, but it was hard in Algiers that I sat on my bed and cried that I was in Tangiers alone and why didn’t I go with my German girlfriend to Scandinavia.”

During Christmas vacation 1968, Dennis 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 so hard they he lifted off the ground. As they gathered to attack him, calling him a Zionist Prager yelled in French that he was an American, a friend of King Hassan, and that the thugs would be hanged if they hurt him. It worked. (6/7/13 & CD)

In a 1994 lecture on Gen. 34, Dennis said: “When I was in Morocco in 1968, four American women bumped into me and said, ‘Could you please pose as our husband?’ I thought they were joking but they just wanted a man to whom they belonged to travel with them. With great great deep deep difficulty, I acceded to their request only because I am so chivalrous.”

On Friday night, August 1, 1969, Prager’s life forever changed. He’d ridden all day on a train from Lapland to Helsinki, the capital of Finland. He arrived around 11 p.m. As he got off the train, he realized it was Friday night. “…I felt as though I was losing the rhythm of life that I once had… Life was becoming biological; the holy and the distinct, and the day that let the other days have meaning and rhythm, were all disappearing.” (Ultimate Issues, Jul – Sep, 1990, pg. 16)

The Soviet Union

After his tenure at Leeds, Dennis visited a friend on a kibbutz in Israel. He was introduced to a wealthy man who sponsored brief trips by young non-Israeli Jews to the Soviet Union to smuggle in Jewish religious items like prayer shawls, and smuggle out information about Russian Jews. It was 1969, two years after the USSR had broken off relations with Israel.

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.

In his 2012 book Still the Best Hope, Dennis wrote on pg. 208: “I visited authoritarian fascist Spain and the totalitarian Soviet Union in the same year, 1969. There was no comparison between the two. For example, in Spain, I was allowed to stay at any hotel I wanted, and to receive Spanish guests (though they had to leave by midnight). In the Soviet Union I was told what hotels to stay at, and no Soviet citizen (except for Soviet officials) was allowed inside the hotel. In Spain, I could purchase and read publicly just about any foreign newspaper. In the Soviet Union I could purchase and read only Soviet and other Communist Party newspapers. The list of differences between life in fascist Spain and life in the Soviet Union is endless.”

“Seeing the world is usually a highly beneficial experience in killing some naiveté,” said Prager 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.”

Apr. 21, 2010, Dennis said: “I could not visit people in their apartments in the Soviet Union because it would’ve been obvious I was a Westerner. Even though I spoke Russian, they knew I was a Westerner. Not by my accent. They usually thought I was from the Baltic states. The reason they knew I was a Westerner — I was dressed better. And folks, if you knew me, you’d know I did not step out of Gentleman’s Quarterly. Dressed better meant a Lands’ End shirt. That’s what better was.”

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.

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.

Prager wrote the UN experience “cemented an ability to speak calmly in the face of hostility.” (CD)

On his January 16, 2023 show with Julie Hartman, Dennis said: “I’m sitting there and the Soviet delegate was annoyed and he says, ‘I smell a conspiracy.’ I raised my hand, and I said, ‘To the Soviet delegate who smells a conspiracy, I can only say that there is a famous American saying, ‘He who smelt it dealt it.'”

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.”

Sept. 15, 2010, Dennis said: “The last time I felt physically unsafe, I was in my early 30s in the Soviet Union trying to escape on a train at midnight to Romania and with me were documents that the Soviets would not have been happy that I took out. That was it.”

Mar. 24, 2011, Dennis said: “When I think of the kids my age screaming ‘Ho, ho, ho, Ho Chi Minh’ and ‘Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?’ this is the world of the left I grew up with. It’s left a deep angry in me at the upside-down moral nature of the left. It called evil good and good evil. America the good was evil and communism the evil was good.

“One day I had an argument. I was standing on a street in Japan with an American student my age. We got to talking about politics. I mentioned how vile the North Korean regime was. He laced into me. ‘Who the hell are you to judge North Korea?’”

Making A Living

“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)

“There’s nothing more noble than earning an honorable living.” (Nov. 15, 2013)

Life taught Prager that he was good at talking and that he could make money and meet women through this gift. He could do good and make good. As his confidence grew, he realized that he was uniquely endowed with the answers to the greatest Jewish and American problems.

An extrovert’s extrovert, Dennis was happy at last. He could take his giant brain and dissect the world, gaining prestige, money, and friends, just so long as he played within the rules (such as saying it was Jewish religious practice that caused Jewish success, not Jewish genes).

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)

On Nov. 21, 2013, Dennis said: “Gentlemen, if you want to get a good woman, speak publicly.”

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.”

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.”

College Graduation

“I didn’t bother to attend my college graduation,” said Dennis on Sept. 4, 2009.

June 24, 2010, Dennis said: “When I wrote my finals in college, in the middle of my long essay, I’d write, ‘And the Yankees won 6-2.’ I was born with a chutzpah gene. They never caught. Not one of my college teachers read my entire essay. That’s the proof. The guy would’ve flunked me for having the audacity to write that in the middle of an essay on the papacy’s decline in the 12th Century.”

Mar. 22, 2010, Dennis said: “When I knew that I had to get my own health insurance at age 21, I did. I had the non-left-wing view that it is good to be an adult.”

I recall Dennis Prager saying on the radio that in Holland during college, he took advantage of some of the freedoms offered there (a prostitute, not drugs).

Jan. 17, 2014, Dennis said: “If they have marijuana for health, why not prostitution for health?”

On June 7, 2013, Dennis said: “I went to Syria in my mid-20s, but I didn’t announce. When they asked religion, on one of the Arab countries visa application, and I wrote, ‘Orthodox.’ While I wasn’t an Orthodox Jew…

“This was a life-changing moment. I was on a bus from Beirut to Damascus. I was seated next to a man, the first Iraqi I had ever met. I talk to everybody. I love talking to strangers. This is why I didn’t think it was necessarily a good idea to invade Iraq.

“I said, ‘Sir, could you summarize the Iraqi people in a sentence?’ He said, ‘No problem. Iraqis are the most barbaric people in the world.’ You can imagine how I felt. That was chilling. But it got worse.

“He then said, ‘What’s your name?’ I said ‘Dennis.’ He said, ‘What’s your last name?’ I said, ‘Prager.’ And he said, ‘What are the origins of your last name?’ I knew what he was getting at. I said, ‘It’s a German word, which means from Prague. I assume I have German and Czech ancestors.’ He said, ‘Maybe so, but I think Prager is a Jewish name.’ There are many Pragers who are Jewish and many who aren’t, but he was obsessed with finding out if I was a Jew.”

Keeping Kosher On An Interdate

In his second lecture on Leviticus 20 in 2009, Dennis Prager said: “When I was in my bachelor days in my twenties, I went out with women of all backgrounds. I intended to only marry someone born Jewish or converted to Jewish. My one criteria was — is it a woman?

“I kept kosher and still do. I was going to write a long article for Jewish publications titled, ‘Keeping Kosher on an Interdate.’

“I said this publicly at the time, I would tell Jewish audiences, ‘Folks, it is a little eery. When I am with a non-religious Jewish woman, she thinks that what I am doing by disqualifying many things on the menu because I am a Jew is absurd. Whenever I am with a non-Jewish woman, she has such respect for what I am doing. Every one has said, ‘I am not going to order anything like that either. What would offend you?”

“Of course it doesn’t offend me if a non-Jew has a BLT. I just salivate.”

Dennis Prager’s relaxed version of “keeping kosher” is outside the bounds of the Jewish tradition, as is Prager’s idea of “keeping kosher on an interdate.” From a traditional Jewish perspective, a Jew should not date non-Jews in the hopes that they might convert. Such a practice does not lead to a stable life and with his three marriages, Dennis has not led a stable life. Prager’s second and third wives converted to Judaism to marry him.

In a 2007 lecture on Leviticus 3, Dennis said: “A very prominent rabbi who I have been friends with since high school [Joseph Telushkin], during the days when I could influence him towards greater sinning, when I was in graduate school in Manhattan, I lived in Manhattan, there was a restaurant I ate at frequently. The one thing I miss from New York is the restaurants. I ate out all the time. If I had food in my own apartment, I would’ve died of botulism. A classic bachelor. I ate out every meal.

“There was a place near my house on Broadway that had the most delicious eggplant parmesan that I had ever eaten at in my life. What’s eggplant parmesan? It’s eggplant and cheese and marinara sauce, which is perfectly fine kosherly, but this was really delicious eggplant parmesan.

“I brought this man, a prolific author, we’re the same age, we were both in our early 20s, I said, Joseph, you have to have this eggplant with me. It’s delicious. I had eaten it 30 times.

“Joseph starts eating it and says, ‘Dennis, this is delicious but I think I know why — because it is a meat sauce.’ I wanted to kill him. I could never have it again.

“How come he knew immediately? Because he was more fastidious about observance than I was.”

In a radio dialogue with Adam Carolla Apr. 17, 2012, Dennis said: “A mere kiss was awesome when I was 18. If she gave me a kiss on the lips, I was in ecstasy for a week.”

Dec. 21, 2010, Dennis said: “[Going to Columbia University for graduate school] didn’t exactly bowl the women over. I had no good pick-up lines. I did well with women but it had nothing to do with good opening lines. I never did. I always believed that any opening was absolutely seen through by the girl and seen as another opening line.”

“A girl would ask me, ‘What are you interested in?’ ‘Ethical monotheism.’

“‘Ethical monotheism! Come to my room!’”

Jan. 25, 2011, Dennis said: “Do you know how many girls I picked up in bookstores when I was a kid in my 20s? It was a wonderful place. I didn’t like bars. You saw a pretty girl reading a book and you say, ‘What are you reading?’ People would just talk in bookstores. It was a place to meet. Where do people meet now? More and more is done at home.”

In his first video on “Men and the Power of the Visual” for in October 2009, Dennis gives this story from his twenties: “I was approaching a red light. And the guy next to me said, ‘Look at that girl in the next car.’ I did and I bumped into the car in front of me.”

On Nov. 23, 2011, Dennis said: “When I was in my 20s, I met a terrific woman. I adored her. We had a wonderful relationship and time together. She said to me that she was very wary of charming men and that I was the first charming man she trusted.”

On Nov. 11, 2010, Dennis said: “I had a girlfriend in graduate school, an attractive woman, who wanted to lose 10 pounds. I didn’t think she needed to. So she went on an ice cream diet and lost ten pounds.”

During college, Dennis regarded abortion as “a woman doing what she wants with her own body.” Over time, influenced by pro-life Christian activists, Dennis came to regard abortion as morally wrong in most instances (though he never came out for making it illegal in the first trimester of pregnancy). (April 26, 2010)

Columbia Graduate School

“One of the most fateful decisions of my life,” Dennis recalled Mar. 9, 2012, “was [deciding] whether I’d take Russian or Chinese [in college]. I really deliberated over it. It worked out well in my life that I took Russian but I wish I had taken both. Knowing Chinese now is such an advantage, such an insight into a way of thinking.”

“My graduate work was done in Soviet studies. I read Pravda almost every day. There was an interesting debate at the time and I may have been wrong.

“The debate was — was the Soviet Union a continuation of Russian civilization or was it a communist abrupt change of course? I argued that it was overwhelmingly an abrupt change of course brought about by the communists. When I see Russia today once again moving towards dictatorship, where journalists are murdered if they report things that disturb the government, when you see what is controlled by Putin’s party United Russia, which effectively controls regional governments, prosecutors’ offices, courts, police departments, and election commissions. They control the media.

“There were those who said that the Soviet Union, Stalin, Lenin, these were not aberrations thrust upon a Russian civilization but rather a continuum, obviously worse than anything that preceded it.

“I said no. This was just communism shoved into the face of the Russian people and I may have been wrong. The love of liberty does not appear to beat strongly in the Russian soul.” (Dec. 15, 2010)

In a May 2012 lecture, Dennis said: “I went to Columbia University graduate school and the only reason I mention it is that among Jews, that’s clout. ‘Oooh, he went to Columbia. Now I can take him seriously.’

From 1970-72, Dennis attended the Middle East and Russian Institutes at the Columbia University School of International Affairs. Prager studied under Zbigniew Brezinski, who later served as the head of the National Security Council under President Carter.

“[Zbigniew] taught the advance communism seminar. There were nine of us around a table. The reason that was such a challenge to me was that normally in class I could read the newspaper or design railroad tracks (my form of doodling in high school and college).”

“When I get bored, I don’t tune out. I go nuts.”

Said Dennis in a 1993 lecture on Genesis 25: “Esau was a hairy man as I noted once in an advanced seminar at Columbia University in communist affairs. I was so bored in class, I mumbled over to the only other kid who had gone to yeshiva, at the desk was the former ambassador of India to the UN [Arthur Lall], and I whispered to him out of nowhere, I had lost my mind from boredom, ‘[David] Schimmel, Esau was a hairy man.’ The professor stopped the entire seminar on international negotiations, and said, ‘Mr. Prager, Esau was a hairy man?’ It was one of my great moments in graduate school.”

If Prager had been the lecturer, he probably would have booted the impudent student from the class.

“Graduate school was a tough time for me,” Prager said Mar. 2, 2006. “Everything I believed to be true and good overturned. I had only pessimism for my country.”

Apr. 10, 2013, Dennis said: “I wrote a paper for a Marxist. One of my professors was Sidney Morgenbesser. He wasn’t a communist. I liked him personally. I’ll never forget I wrote a paper for him comparing Judaism with Marxism as philosophies of life. I knew that had he lived another 100 years, he would not have gotten another paper like that at Columbia. I knew he wondered how I got in — that I actually believed in religion and thought it was superior to Marxism. To his credit, he gave me a B. I’m sure he wanted to give me a D but it was too well-researched.”

The Burden Of Greatness

At the April 3, 2008 roast celebrating Prager's 25 years in talk radio, Rabbi Telushkin said:

Another feature of Dennis is that he is always looking for the bigger truth. Nothing can ever just happen to him, there's a major lesson to be learned. For example, Dennis as a young man liked to date. A lot. His relations though for a long period of time tended to be short and inevitably I would get a phone call. 'I broke up with so and so.' Why? 'I realized that she really wasn't a warm person and I realize now that warmth is the most important trait in a woman.' A month later. 'I broke up.' Why? 'No sense of humor. Humor really matters. It's hard to be with someone who is humorless.' Two weeks later. 'I broke up. Not sharp intellectually.' A week later. 'Not concerned with moral issues.' Six weeks later. 'I broke up with so-and-so.' I said, 'I know why.' He said, 'How can you know why? You've never met her.' I said, 'I know that whatever trait she's missing is the most important trait in a woman.'

Dennis felt out-of-step everywhere he went. He was unhappy at home. He was unhappy at school. He was unhappy at university. At Brandeis-Bardin, he fought with his board. He was unhappy in two marriages that ended in divorce. At KABC, he struggled with management. He felt in no-man's-land in Jewish life, not fitting into Orthodox, Conservative or Reform Judaism. 

Feeling distinctive is important to Dennis. Greatness is a burden. He was Harry Potter before there was Harry Potter. 

Dennis Prager Publishes His First Book

In late June, 2003, Prager said he had “completed all of the course requirements for his [Masters degree] and had also finished his thesis, but this was during the days before word processors, and he didn’t like to type, so he simply bailed.” (Nelking email)

Frustrated with academia, Prager, to the dismay of his family, dropped out of graduate school in 1973 to write an introduction to Judaism with Joseph Telushkin. “He became a rabbi [Orthodox ordination from Yeshiva University] and I became a heretic.” (C-SPAN Booknotes)

Dec. 20, 2012, Dennis said: “My biggest heretical line in religion is that God has common sense. A lot of religious people in all religions have common sense but they don’t ascribe common sense to God.”

In his fourth lecture on Genesis in 1992, Dennis said: “I left after two years of graduate school. I had a choice — either to write a thesis on some totally irrelevant facet of Lenin or to write a book on Judaism that would actually touch people’s lives.”

In a speech May 1, 2012, Dennis said: “The evolution of my life can almost be seen in my books. The first one was called The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism. This book Still the Best Hope is for Americanism what that one was for Judaism.

“I co-authored it with a dear friend, Joseph Telushkin… His mother looked at us and said, ‘Boys, do you know how many introductions to Judaism there are? You’re 25 years old. You’re going to add to the body of knowledge of a 3,000 year-old faith? And I said, ‘Yeah. That’s exactly what we’re going to do.’ Joseph cheered me on. He couldn’t believe I had such chutzpah and I did. It became the best-selling book in the English language introducing Judaism… There are greater scholars than I and greater writers than I and greater everything than I, but I know how to synthesize. I know how to clarify. That’s my gift.”

In a May 14, 2012 lecture, Dennis said: “It was an amazing amount of chutzpah for a 25-year old to think that he could write a new introduction to Judaism, the oldest religion in the world, and that people would read it… I remember I approached my friend who became a rabbi. I said, ‘Joseph, we’re going to write an introduction to Judaism.’ He thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’ I said, ‘We’ve got better answers.’… Joseph had a lot of faith in me. He said, ‘Dennis knows what he’s doing.’

“…That was relatively easy compared to this [Still the Best Hope].”

“I don’t understand morning people,” said Dennis Jan. 6, 2010. “For me, the sun rising is depressing. I love sunset and I don’t love sunrise. I’ve always been a night person. It is why I took a morning show to force myself to get up early. Most of what I have done in life that is constructive I have forced on myself. If I had followed my natural tendencies, which are entirely lazy and fun-oriented, I would’ve produced almost nothing. So what I do is take more and more obligations upon myself and then I have no choice but to be constructive. If I could, I’d get up at 11 a.m. and go to bed at 3 a.m. In fact, my first book, which I co-authored with my dear friend Joseph Telushkin, we would do that. We would write till 3 a.m. We’d sleep till ten or eleven. Then we’d go out to brunch and we’d start writing again about 3 p.m. It was among the happiest times of my life.”

Said Dennis in a 1998 lecture on Exodus 34: “We divvied up chapters basically. I handled God.”

April 3, 2008, Rabbi Telushkin said:

We'd each write different chapters and then critique each other. Dennis did most of the editing and he was a good editor. He claimed my style was too anecdotal, with too many digressions, took too long to make a point. Dennis loved to enumerate though the points he was making and if he'd had the book written the way he wanted, it really wouldn't have been a conventional book, it would've been a manual. For example, one of the questions was — Who needs Jewish law/organized religion?

So this is how Dennis would've answered it: "There are 16 reasons which I will now enumerate A-P on why we need organized religion. Reason A: We need organized religion because religion isn't only concerned with affecting the individual but affecting society as a whole. There are nine reasons why religion wants to affect society, which I will now enumerate in roman numerals. Reason one is because people can't be trusted to be good on their own. There are nine reasons why people can't be trusted to be good on their own, which I will now enumerate."

First self-published (ironic considering that Dennis would later say he didn’t trust self-published books) on Oct. 30, 1975 as The Eight Questions People Ask About Judaism, the book eventually added a question, and was put out by Simon & Schuster in 1976. Nine Questions is a widely used introductory text to Judaism, endorsed by rabbis from Reform to Orthodox.

Dennis Prager recalls:

We sent the manuscript to the Jewish Publication Society of America (JPS), hoping they would publish it. I received a call from an editor at JPS who told me that they would not publish the book. I asked her why, and her answer taught me a great deal about Jewish life: “Because it is too advocative,” she said.

I was stunned. The Jewish Publication Society of America refused to publish a Jewish book on the grounds that it was “too advocative” of Judaism?

As it turned out, that rejection was a blessing. Joseph and I published the book on our own and sold so many copies that we lived off the sales of the book at lectures for years. Later Simon and Schuster published the book.

I came to realize that the JPS refusal to publish a book that was advocative of Judaism was symbolic of much of Jewish life. It seemed that almost no one outside of Orthodoxy was advocating Judaism (and even in Orthodoxy at that time, Chabad was largely alone in doing so and not nearly as well-known as it is today).

Nine Questions received sterling reviews. Novelist Herman Wouk, an Orthodox Jew, called it, “The intelligent skeptic’s guide to Judaism.”

Dennis and Joseph are secondary text guys. They assemble the best work of others and present it in an engaging way.

“It’s not Judaism,” many rabbis (such as Danny Landes) have told me about Dennis Prager’s presentation of their religion. “It’s Pragerism.”

Historian Marc B. Shapiro tells me in 2012: "I don't think he has any influence [in Orthodox Judaism]. I don't ever see him quoted by Orthodox figures (although Rabbi Rakefet quotes a line from Prager a lot). He doesn't speak [often] in Orthodox shuls or write for Orthodox publications, and is not Orthodox. So is it surprising that the Orthodox don't quote him? I was surprised and impressed that the OU a few years ago had him speak at the West Coach convention."

I’m struck by the awe that the ignorant display towards Dennis Prager and the lack of awe shown 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 rarely have enthusiasm for Dennis Prager while those who are illiterate in the languages of Judaism are the most likely to be excited about him.

I’ve hung around after Dennis Prager’s speeches and watched the crowd pump him with questions. Few of the questioners seemed learned. Those who wait the longest tend to know the least. I've never seen a Talmud scholar wanting to pick Dennis Prager's brain. 

Torah scholars regard Dennis the way historians regard popular writers of history such as Barbara Tuchman and Berel Wein — with contempt if they talk about them at all. Dennis has no influence on Jewish thought and practice. He's like Martin Buber – widely cited by non-Jews and ignored by Jews.

An April 29, 2023 Google Scholar search on Dennis Prager revealed 1500 results, few of them serious.

Without scholarly attention, Dennis Prager’s thought will be flushed down the toilet of history. The people can be charmed, but the scholars are a tougher crowd.

Unlearning College

Aug. 4, 2011, Dennis said after interviewing Amity Shlaes: “The older I get, the more I realize I have to unlearn from what I learned in college. Did you know that everything I learned at the Middle East Institute at the School of International Affairs at Columbia University, some of the most prestigious scholars in the world, former ambassadors to the Arab world, almost everything I learned was wrong?”

Sep. 12, 2011, Dennis said: “I learned during the Nixon era, and I did not like Nixon, that nobody hates like a liberal. Conservatives don’t have one-tenth of the hate of liberals.”

In a lecture on Deuteronomy 12 delivered in 2004, Dennis said: “I was in my twenties on an airplane. I was sitting next to a woman who had a vegetarian meal. I asked her if she was a vegetarian. I asked why. She said, we humans have no right to kill animals to eat them. After all, who are we humans to think we are more valuable than animals?

“That shook me to the core. That’s when I came up with the question I thought was rhetorical. I said, You don’t really mean that. If a dog and a human were drowning, which would you save first?

“And she thought.

“I’ll never forget the silence. I said, I’m sorry, did you hear my question?

“She said, I’m thinking.

“When she said, I’m thinking, I concluded at that moment, either I’m sitting next to a nutty woman, which I did not believe, or she reflects what is happening in our secular age.”

Moving To Los Angeles In 1976

On July 10, 2009, Dennis said: “I was a kid in my twenties. I’d never been to Los Angeles. I remember I came out to give a talk. I remember standing at the American Airlines terminal at JFK [airport in New York] and I saw the flight number and then I saw ‘Los Angeles.’ I don’t think there were five times in my life when I was as excited as I was to get a on a plane to go to Los Angeles. It’s one of those times when you can cry.”

Said Dennis in January 2002: “I remember the first time I was brought to L.A., I was 24 years old, to give a lecture. I remember it so vividly. I rented a car and I was driving down palm-tree lined Wilshire Blvd and saying to myself, ‘Dennis, if you are not the luckiest man in the world, I wonder who is? 

“By this time I knew I was going to leave New York. I knew I was going to leave New York the day I was in another city."

July 30, 2010, Dennis said: “When I have read or been told about any of the Leo characteristics, it has struck me that I fit pretty well. The people I know, fit pretty well.”

“When I moved out to LA from New York [his last address was in Whitestone, Queens], it was the first time in my life that someone said, ‘What’s your sign?’ I had no idea what they were talking about.”

In April, 1976, Shlomo Bardin, the 76-year old founder and director of the Brandeis Institute, invited the 26-year old Prager to take charge. “He announced I’d be his successor and died that week.”

Said Dennis in January 2002: “I was the youngest speaker to ever come to the Brandeis Institute to lecture. They brought me out five more times.”

“I was in Mississippi giving a lecture and I got a call [relaying that Shlomo Bardin had died]. ‘Come on out. You’re going to speak at the funeral.’

“I cried like a baby. I could not give the eulogy without constantly crying. And I was crying for me as much as for him. I wasn’t ready for such responsibility. The only job I had held before this was as a waiter at summer camp.

“I came out to LA with a cot, a piano, an accordion and a few thousand books. I lived at the institute. I lived in Simi Valley for three years at this 3,200 acre retreat. When I was dating, it was very powerful. ‘Would you like to see my place?’ It was 3,200 acres. That was better than partying to make an impact.”

Rabbi Telushkin served as Education Director.

Max Prager wrote: “Dennis also engaged our nephew, Elliot Prager, as Social Director.”

In 1976, Prager was interviewed on television for the first time. He was asked by KNBC about what he was trying to achieve at Brandeis-Bardin.

“We’re trying to turn out leaders,” Prager said.


“Because a society without leaders is a leaderless society.” (Jan. 24, 2006)

Nov. 21, 2012, Dennis said: "In my late 20s, a bunch of young people in their late 20s worked for me. They said it was hard for them to believe that Dennis was as happy as he acts. There must be something underneath. We need to loosen his inhibitions. They said, 'We want you to smoke a joint.' I said, I can't because I can't inhale. They said, 'OK, we're going to bake it into a brownie.' I said, 'OK, bake it into a brownie and let's see what happens to me.'

"I have a lot of the brownie. They baked like a month's worth. It was like one part chocolate to 76 parts  marijuana to test what Dennis is really like. I did feel it. I was in a semi-euphoric mood but all it was was more of me. All I did was talk and make jokes. They were waiting for all these terrible things to come out from my inner being and nothing did. I was just unstoppably verbose.

"The next morning, I felt horrible. It was a one-time thing. I was curious, what's beneath what you say? And beneath of what you see is more of what you see.

"I've always had pain in my life. My childhood was not particularly happy. Once I got in my teens, I got happier. I don't have a bright memory of my childhood, but the underlying person, certainly in my late 20s, a particularly happy time in my life, was what they heard."

"I can't stand marijuana. I can't stand drugs. You have to get high on life. You should be able to get high on friends, on love, on sex, on music and art and travel. I always looked at drugs as a statement that I am jaded. I can't experience real pleasure within life itself."

On a CSPAN BookTV interview April 21, 2013, Dennis said: "If my child had gone to a Let's Celebrate Legalized Marijuana [rally], I would believe I had failed as a parent utterly. The narcissism involved there. That's what preoccupies you? You are now free to get high on marijuana?"

"Yes, I do want government to outlaw marijuana. I am not an anarchist. This notion that if you're for small government, then you're for no government, I've never bought. Yes, there are things that are [illegal such as marijuana] that I would like to continue to see [stay illegal]. I don't want any new bans. If marijuana had been legal for the past 50 years, I would've said nothing."

"A woman wrote to me from Wyoming. She has two kids and a husband and she smokes marijuana every night. I've spoked a cigar and a pipe since high school. I've smoked in front of my children since birth. They're very healthy. They don't appear to be dying from second-hand smoke. Would you smoke your marijuana in front of your children like I smoke my cigar? She didn't respond."

"My father had his Scotch on the rocks every night but I would've been a different person if he had smoked a joint every night."

On July 18, 2012, Dennis said: "I worked with very rich people. The first salary I received. My board of directors were almost all businessmen and they were in for the details. The president of the institute, who is no longer with us, would call at 9 a.m. to make sure that I was in at 9 a.m.. That I tripled the membership of the institute, tripled its revenue, brought a thousand people to the institute on weekends, traveled 45 miles to get to the institute, that didn't matter. Was I in the office at 9 a.m.? It was irrelevant that I was in at the office at 9 a.m., the work I did was with the people. But he was a tree man [as opposed to a big picture forest man like Dennis]. I think he was a developer of parking lots." 

In a lecture on Deut. 15, Dennis said: “The work that I had in my late 20s brought me into contact with truly wealthy people. I never met truly wealthy people growing up in Brooklyn. Very wealthy was if you had an Oldsmobile. I would meet some of them [at Brandeis-Bardin] and it was clear they did not run their businesses [ethically]. And I learned that when you cheat, you assume that everybody is cheating you. Everybody is as crappy as I am. If you go through life like that, you can’t have anybody as a friend. And then you are lonely and that’s the worst punishment of all. You go through life in solitary confinement.”

In a column Dec. 6, 2005, Dennis wrote: “After the first two summers [at Brandeis-Bardin], I began to play a game with myself. On the first night of the session, I made a mental note of which women I thought the most attractive and compared that list to one I made after the four weeks. The names on the latter list were rarely on the first-night list.”

On June 22, 2010, Dennis said: “We had a one-month session…to teach kids Judaism. I inherited from the man who founded it and he had a rule for that one month — you could not pair off. Same-sex friendships of course. But he did not want romance for the one-month they were there and I supported that completely. And I was very strict on the rule. It was opposite sex only. It was to prevent a breakdown of the system into who loves who and who’s breaking up with who.”

In a lecture on Lev. 18 in 2008, Dennis said: "I had a boy [at Brandeis-Bardin] and he attended the month-course in the summer for boys and girls 19-25. They lived there. He came over one day. He was bereft because he was attracted to men and didn't want to be. He wanted to follow the Torah and he wanted to love a woman. You have a choice in how you act but you don't have a choice in what you gravitate to. I have deep sympathy for the homosexual who wants to take the Bible seriously."

On June 8, 2010, Dennis said: “I was single. When I taught Judaism, I taught that the ideal was to marry. I remember saying over and over — I have not met Judaism’s ideal. I don’t think I should be fired because I haven’t, but I should be fired if I deny that the ideal is to marry.” 

“I can testify that groupies don’t hang out with Torah teachers,” said Dennis in his 17th lecture on Deuteronomy (2005). “This is the price I’ve paid since an early age — the wrong profession… It was never a great pickup line in my single days. So what do you do? I lecture on ethical monotheism. Oooh, I’m in room 207.”

In a lecture on Deut. 22:12, Dennis said: “Virginity is a big deal in most societies. Virginity not mattering is new in human history and isolated to the Western world. I am not a great virginity valuer. It was not one of the things I put in my singles ads — ‘Only virgins respond please!’ I am a modern.”

“Broken hymen-induced blood on a sheet is not my favorite form of aesthetic stimulation.”

Said Dennis in a 1997 lecture on honoring parents (Exodus 20):

I was at a speech and a woman came over to me and she said, ‘Dennis, I read your books and I got involved in Judaism and let me show you the product of my involvement. I am working on this whole syllabus on how children can obey their parents.’ It was frightening. I thought to myself, I wish I never wrote that book.

It’s funny when people get influenced by you and then they do things you would never in a thousand years want them to do. That’s why I’m not starting a new movement. You can’t control those who you think you’ve influenced.

While running BBI, Prager was a strict disciplinarian who kicked out students who broke the rules. Prager ejected musician Sam Glaser for playing non-Jewish music. Another college student, a philosophy major from Berkeley, was tossed for raising disruptive challenges. 

Dennis was a confident teacher who removed anyone below him who got in his way. When he walked into a room, people took notice.

Unhappy with authority, Prager chafed under the BBI board. Many on the board returned his hostility.

In his speeches since working at BBI, Prager mocks his old board. He tells one story of wanting to do singles weekends. Prager says the board was shocked. What would we talk about? Prager said that knowing how the board thought, he told them he’d take a week or two to study the matter. Then Prager returned to the board and said they’d done a study and found that the brains of single people were very similar to the brains of married people. Therefore, Prager proposed a similar curricula – the study of Judaism. 

BBI hosted college students who would often put on skits. Shortly before taking charge, Prager witnessed one skit that was deliberately filled with the sounds of flatulence. Prager decided that once he took charge, all student skits would have to be cleared before performance to make sure they upheld Jewish norms.

“[H]aving been a camp counselor and camp director for ten years,” Prager wrote on page four of his 1995 book Think a Second Time, “I know that few things come more naturally to many children than meanness, petty cruelty, bullying, and a lack of empathy for less fortunate peers. Visit any bunk of thirteen-year-olds in which one camper is particularly fat, short, clumsy, or emotionally or intellectually disadvantaged, and you are likely to observe cruelty that would shock an adult.”

In a lecture on Lev. 19:12-16 in 2008, Dennis said: "When I paid lecturers [at Brandeis-Bardin], I brought dozens and dozens of lecturers, I paid them before they spoke. They came for the weekend and I paid them Friday afternoon. And I saw their faces. It seemed so classy on my part, on the institute's part, to do that. I inherited that from the predecessor."

On July 17, 2013, Dennis said: "Parents would thank me: 'You had such a great impact on my children.' I remember saying to my dear friend at the time, 'I hope that my kids will have a Dennis Prager in their lives.' I knew that I wouldn't be Dennis Prager in my own children's eyes. That's the way it works. Hearing things from an outsider often is more powerful because the emotional baggage that a child and parent have is absent when it is a third party."

In September of 1983, Prager abruptly left the Brandeis Bardin Institute. He wrote: “While the membership and I loved each other, the heads of the board of directors and I did not. Indeed, I left BBI largely because the president/chairman of the board [William Chotiner] made life miserable for me. I occasionally reflect on where my life would be today had he and others of the lay leadership treated me differently.” (Prager CD)

Dec. 3, 2010, Dennis said: “There were very serious problems with the board of directors. A friend of mine [Joseph Telushkin?] came in to my office at this institute and he walked in as I was looking at my stamp collection. I haven’t seen the collection in about 20 years. He told one of our mutual friends, ‘Do I envy Dennis! You should have seen how distracted that stamp collection made him. He was able to leave his problems and concentrate on the stamps.”

Joseph Telushkin wrote on page 104 of his book Jewish Humor about Prager and Brandeis-Bardin:

Several years ago, a friend of mine, who had directed a major Jewish institution in California, was considering running for the U.S. Congress. He met with a powerful Democratic congressman from Los Angeles [Henry Waxman?], himself a very committed and active Jew, who advised him in all seriousness: “If you’ve survived the political infighting in Jewish life for ten years, when you make it to Congress, you’ll find the atmosphere there much gentler.”

Max wrote about Dennis: “Several years ago [1983?], while still being a Democrat, he was asked to enter the Congressional primary against the incumbent. I, not caring for the sleaze of many politicians, tried to talk my son out of running. When he asked me to give him $1,000 for the application fee and to prepare a financial statement, I did so reluctantly. After a month or two, he had a change of heart and the fee went down the drain.”

While Prager claimed he quit, a Jewish Journal March 14, 1986 cover story said he was pushed out. Many on the board said Prager was a lousy administrator.

Dennis spoke on the radio Jun. 28, 2011 about Brandeis-Bardin: “Individuals make and break the world… Do you know how many organizations I’ve seen that were great because its leader was great and then the leader died or retired and the place became nothing? It just shriveled up and died.

“I 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.”

Religion On The Line

In 1982, KABC general manager George Green, a secular Jew, told educator Roberta Weintraub that he needed someone to host the two-hour public affairs Sunday night show Religion on the Line. She suggested Prager.

“I had my first tryout on radio at KABC Radio on a Sunday night in August [2], ’82,” said Dennis, “and I was so nervous, I was dripping [sweat]. And then, at 11 p.m., the program director [Wally Sherwin] slips me a note, ‘Tell them you’ll be on next Sunday night’ — one of the happiest moments of my life, because I ached to get my ideas out. I’m like a cow who has milk to give and I’ve been dying to give it my whole life. So I was engaged in interfaith dialogue every Sunday night with a priest, minister, rabbi for 10 years, and it is one of the things that changed my life.” (CSPAN 1995)

“I had a feeling that if I did well [on his radio debut],” said Prager Jan. 3, 2006, “that it would change my life.”

The show had a 35 share when Dennis inherited it and he took it to a 40 share (according to Prager’s 2008 lecture on 25 years in broadcasting).

April 3, 2008, Dennis said: “My predecessor [Carole Hemingway] had an agenda — to make religion look stupid. She would ask priests if the Pope [masturbated]. I would never ask that. It’s disgusting.”

May 3, 2010, Dennis said: “I got quite close to a number of Muslims [in the 1980s]. It was their failure to organize demonstrations against Islamic terror [after August 2000, the Second Intifada] which caused a certain breach, which I felt sad about. I couldn’t understand their relative silence about this terror.”

Ultimate Issues

In 1985 Dennis launched his personal journal of thought, the quarterly Ultimate Issues, which never quite achieved 10,000 subscribers. It became The Prager Perspective in 1996 and folded in the year 2000. “I wrote it because I never wanted to be edited…” (Prager CD)

In 1985 and 1986, Prager received commendations on his journal from William F. Buckley, Richard John Neuhaus, Martin Peretz, and rabbis W. Gunther Plaut, Rabbi Norman Lamm, and Rabbi Jakob J. Petuchowski.

Prager began selling cassette tapes and eventually VHS tapes of his lectures through Ultimate Issues. “It was actually the Ayatollah Khomeini who made me aware of the power of tapes. If he led an Islamic fundamentalist revolution through tapes, I figured, why not do the same for Judaism and ethical monotheism?” (Ultimate Issues, Jan – Mar 1991, pg. 11)

Janice Adelstein

In 1978, Dennis was on a date with a pretty blonde. He sensed that she would go to bed with him. Then he thought, “Is this what my life is about? Going to bed with pretty blondes?” (9/13/02)

"I was 30 years old. I was at Mario's Italian restaurant in Westwood. I was having pizza. I was with a very attractive blonde. It seemed to me that she was attracted to me and that we could've gotten something on. I remember thinking, 'Wow, if this was ten years ago or even a year ago, I'd be thrilled to know that I could have this woman. This is awesome. But I don't want to go through this over and over. It is about time I want to have something deeper in life. I want to get married. I had all these religious values inculcated. And I want depth in everything. I don't like the superficial'." (Second lecture in a Spring 1999 series on male sexuality)

In his 22nd lecture on Deuteronomy in 2004, Dennis said: “I wouldn’t say this on radio, I think. I say almost everything on radio but this is very personal. I was living a very active bachelor life while being a good guy. I was always a good guy. I don’t have a mean streak… One day it hits me, Dennis, you may be good, but you sure as hell ain’t holy, thinking about my social life and whatever you can guess. That is what started me on the road to getting married. It wasn’t, oh gee, I’m lonely, because there are ways of assuaging loneliness without getting married. I realized, D.P, you can’t fool yourself. If you believe in this book and its values, you are leading half of what it wants. What about holy? A few years later, I got married… Now you say, that’s not romantic. The decision isn’t romantic. It was a values-based decision. This is not the type of life I should be leading. It was based solely on this [Torah]. It didn’t come from my heart or from my conscience. Love? I could have love every night or however frequently I was in love. Love was hardly the thing to direct me to marriage. I loved her and her and her.”

In a 1992 lecture on Genesis 27, Dennis said: “Definitely partake in all permitted pleasures. It’s not even a question. God won’t even bother asking [me on Judgment Day]. He’ll ask, why did you partake of some non-permitted pleasures?”

March 24, 2008 at Nessah Synagogue, Dennis said: “The power of sex is so great that a lot of people who shouldn’t marry marry because the sex before marriage was so terrific and it blinded them to what really would’ve hurt their marriage because of the passion the sex engendered.”

Therapist Mark Smith says: "There are three ways you can be in a relationship with anybody and the first one is enmeshed [followed usually by emotional cut-off and possibly by inter-dependence]. When a couple becomes enmeshed, they fall in love. It's intoxicating. It's what all the songs on the radio are about. It changes your brain chemistry. The only downside to getting enmeshed is that it don't last."

"It starts with enmeshment and there's a slow fade. The shelf life for enmeshment in a young marriage is usually seven years. In second marriages, you get more like two years. When you're not talking, it becomes cut-off. To keep from feeling the pain, you fill in with other stuff such as work, the kid, the sister, and that third person being there stabilizes the system. Someone with a big empty hole might just give up and get divorced. We're shooting to be inter-dependent, which is not by working on the marriage, but by working on yourself. We espouse being in recovery. Everybody needs to be in recovery for something. Recovery is rebuilding your personality from the ground up. It's harder when you're 73, it's easier when you're in your 30s. When marriages cause enough pain that people seek therapy, usually starts at about 35. People under 30 generally haven't been run over by enough trucks and they're still well-defended psychologically and they're not ready."

"We arrange [to have stuff done to us]. We think about relationships as stuff is done to us…but we marry our issues. You choose to put yourself in a place where you are abandoned. Consciously nobody looks to be betrayed but unconsciously is where we make our decisions."

"When you're abandoned as a kid, and your spouse steps away from you, it can trigger rage."

Feb. 22, 2012, Dennis said: "In my late 20s, I was at dinner with a couple… They were just married. She said, 'How's racquetball going?' I said, 'It's great. We get great exercise. We're closely matched so we have great games. And we get a bonus. After a games, we go outside and sit on a bench in the hallway and watch these women go by.'

"Then she said, '[My husband] does not look.' I was about to spit out the food I was eating when I got such a kick from [the hubby] under the table. The kick was clear. You are to answer what she wants to hear and not tell the truth.

"After choking, I said, 'Of course not. I look, but not [the husband].'

"I remember taking an internal vow that I would never marry where I had to hide who I was."

After reading George Gilder’s book, Men and Marriage, one of the five books he said that most influenced him, Dennis decided that he should marry quickly. “It was one of the reasons I said, 'I don’t care, I’m getting married soon. I’m doing it with my head if not my heart'.” (July 6, 2011)

Then Dennis met Janice Adelstein.

Though beautiful, Janice did not have a reputation for brilliance. “Don’t get sick, remember who’s the nurse,” was a joke at the time on campus.

All three of Prager's wives have been tall and striking. The first was brunette and the last two have been blonde.

Max Prager wrote in chapter 35:

In the summer of 1980, Dennis met Janice Adelstein, a nurse at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute. Hilda and I were then visiting BBI and we both liked her immediately when our son informed us that he was interested in her as a prospective spouse. She was tall, pretty, charismatic and wise; a perfect candidate to be our daughter-in-law. We met her parents, Malvina and Jack and found them to be ideal machitonim (in-laws). Ten months later, on January 15, 1981, they were wed in the House of the Book at BBI which was situated on a hill with the most amazing scenery. Since Dennis was the Director, he invited all the members of the Institute to the wedding which was held around 1 PM.

The total number of guests including family, friends and members totaled a figure in excess of 500. After the ceremony, a reception was held with plenty of food and dancing. The two families then retired to their respective homes to redress and prepare for another reception at the Sephardic Temple on Wilshire Blvd. To this event, we invited 200 guests and had a wonderful evening with catered food, music and dancing.

Dennis's first marriage went bad quickly and the couple hoped that having a child would revive their relationship. It did not. 

“It’s the tragedy of my life,” said Dennis. “I wish I was not divorced.” (June 22, 2010)

April 2, 2014, Dennis said that assuming two decent people, "in the overwhelming majority of instances, closing in on the word always, it is the wife who determines more whether the marriage will be a happy one… That's why we have the saying, 'Happy wife, happy life.' Most decent men want to come home to peace… Aside from my own life, [my theory that the wife determines the happiness of the marriage] has been true in every marriage I have known."

“I knew more about zebras than I did about women before I got married,” said Dennis in a 2003 lecture on Deut 7:22-8:10. “I didn’t know how they thought, how they felt. All I knew was how they looked.”

June 9, 2010, Dennis said he prefers a relationship with no conflict.

May 9, 2012, Dennis said: "The thought of coming home to non-peace is the nightmare of my life."

Sept. 16, 2013, Dennis said: "I took one of those [birth] breathing classes. I contended at the time I was the only person who took that class and failed. I read books. I can't tell you how boring I found it. Also, who lives by it? You have all these medical personnel around. What is this lay person going to tell his wife on breathing? For much of history, the guy waited outside the room and someone announced, 'It's a boy or girl' and the guy bought cigars and everyone went home."

"I was there at his birth and I didn't think it was a big deal."

"My father never saw me born. It didn't affect me. He was at the hospital."

Max Prager wrote in chapter 36:

On January 31, 1983, we were blessed with another grandchild, David, born to Dennis and Janice. Of course, we were delighted to travel to LA to participate in this great simcha (happy occasion) and bris (circumcision). I was honored to be the sandik (the person holding the child in his lap during the circumcision). I was extremely happy to have my brother Murry and Gert present at this enjoyable event in our lives.

Said Dennis in a 1995 lecture on Exodus 5:

I grew up Orthodox where it was taken for granted that every Jew who died in the Middle Ages because he wouldn’t convert to Christianity was a martyr sanctifying G-d’s name. And they were. I accept that totally.

When I had my first child, I saw them differently. As a single young man, martyrdom was clearly the option to take. If somebody said to me today, accept X or we will kill your family, I don’t know what I’d do.

Said Dennis in a 1992 lecture on Genesis 16-17: “When my son [David] was circumcised, I cried more than I ever recall crying from the deepest sense of meaning and joy. To know that I was doing what Jews have done for over 3,000 years… I was privy to circumcisions done in Russia in secret. My son’s circumcision was the most bonding thing I’ve done to the Jewish people. Nothing was as primal, as gut-wrenching emotion as that moment. I passionate believe in it.”

Said Dennis in a 1993 lecture on Genesis 29, “The amount of psychological garbage people bring to marriage. The choice is frequently not made even consciously, but subconsciously, things worked out from one’s upbringing, I am almost tempted to pass a law that you can not have a child in your first marriage for five years. Ideally, people will all start with their second marriage because so much nonsense is worked out with the first one.”

Janice co-authored the children’s book, Why Be Different: A Look Into Judaism.

According to her author bio: "Janice Prager — nurse, writer, human rights activist, wife and mother — had a chance to combine all her skills in Pakistan, where she worked among wounded and homeless refugees of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan."

In the Winter 1986 issue of Ultimate Issues, Janice wrote about her efforts on behalf of Afghans. "Though I am a Jew who has spent her life learning the lessons of the Holocaust, I came to realize that empathy with others' suffering is not automatic, even for Jews."

In August 1986, Dennis and Janice divorced after five years of marriage.

There's a cottage industry of people attacking Dennis Prager personally. Those who hate him look for his weaknesses and they often think they've found them in his two divorces.

“Of course I am committed to it [sexual fidelity],” said Prager Dec. 9, 2009. “How could I do this show if I weren’t?”

May 23, 2012, Dennis said: "If I hear that a spouse had an affair, unless I know that this is a person who is simply a serial adulterer, I don't make any judgment. I don't know. From the few people I know personally who've had affairs, I do not know one who wanted to have it."

Oct. 11, 2010, Dennis told a caller named Sam: “I don’t judge people by their thoughts. I judge people by their actions. If a person has the most racist thoughts on earth, but acts beautifully towards people of every race that person is not a racist. In your view, that person is a racist.”

Sam: “That person is inhuman because it is impossible…”

Dennis: “No. You’re wrong. That is not true. Then it is inhuman for every man to stay faithful because every man wants to have an extra-marital affair.”

Sam: “Do you want to have extra-marital affairs? I don’t.”

Dennis: “Yes. You don’t? Then you are lying to me and you are lying to yourself. You are the only man I’ve met who has actually said that with a straight face.

“You have no desire for any woman then your wife?”

Sam: “I do not.”

Dennis: “OK. You are amazing. Then you are a phenomenon.”

“Sam represented something that I have noted since graduate school — a profound amount of fooling oneself because of unpleasant reality.”

“Sam’s call will be the subject of a male-female hour. I’m going to play it. Men who lie about their own nature to themselves and why would they do that. One huge thing that gay and heterosexual men have in common is a desire for variety and immediate stimulation through the visual. For a man to deny that he has any desire for another woman sexually is to lie to himself in a way that frightens me.”

“Obviously it is a statement about my wife that I can be so open about this on the radio and have zero thought about how would she react.”

“I knew as a bachelor in my twenties that I couldn’t live with someone from whom I had to hide my nature. And that’s what he has to do apparently. It shook me up. Truth is the most important value.”

Said Dennis Oct. 12, 2011: “That’s like saying you have no desire for any other kind of food. I like steak, I have no desire for pasta, pizza, lamb chops…”

In a (2008?) lecture on Deut. 23:19, Dennis said about his first divorce:

It’s a dramatic moment, even if all the civil stuff has been worked out.

Divorce is a Mitzva is a great book. [Rabbi Perry Netter] says that the beauty of Jewish ritual is that God is with you when you marry and He’s with you when you divorce.

We were at the Bet Din of Los Angeles. I arrived before my soon-to-be ex-wife. He starts talking to me. The man is an older man with a long grey beard from Poland. Classic Orthodox Jew rabbi [Shmuel Katz].

I come in and he says, ‘Dennis Prager! I love your show!’

I felt like I had entered the Twilight Zone. I could not believe the guy knew me from Adam let alone listen to the radio. He looked like a guy who didn’t even own a radio.

We make small talk. I said, ‘Rabbi, it must be difficult for you a traditional Orthodox rabbi to be the head of the Beit Din in Southern California. That must be really tough for you with all of these divorces.’

Then the man blew my mind. He said, ‘Mr. Prager, that’s not the case at all. There were a lot of marriage in the old country that should have ended in divorce and didn’t.’

On Adam Carolla's podcast Jan. 24, 2012, Dennis Prager says: "One of my most embarrassing stories which might explain why that marriage didn't last as long as it should have.

"A previous wife [Janice?] came home one day. She looked in pain. She had severe cuts and bruises on her arm. I asked, what happened?

"She said, I was walking in a parking lot and there was a window open and I was bit by a dog. And I said, 'Bitten.'"

"I can't stand bad grammar. We all have our thing." 


Mar. 23, 2012, Dennis said: “Through age 40 [1988], I made about $65,000 a year. I had a [radio] salary of $35,000 a year and I supplemented it with lectures.”On an April 3, 2023 Youtube video with 23-year-old Harvard graduate Julie Hartman, Dennis said: “I lost a very significant amount of money by being conservative. My [primary] mode of income until the age of 40 [1988] was speaking in the Jewish community in America. I was the third most booked speaker. When I became a well-known conservative, it all dried up. My entire income outside of a very tiny income from local radio. I lost money saying what I believed.”

Second Marriage

In September 1986, a month after he separated from Janice, “I was looking for an apartment, and I couldn’t find the landlord. I knocked on the first door in the apartment building to find out where the landlord was, and she opened the door. And I didn’t let her close it. And she let me in after 20 minutes – a stranger. But that’s the trust that was there so readily.”

“The dog who hated men jumped on my lap. This was a good sign.” (Jan. 2002 lecture)

Dennis had met the tall, blonde and beautiful actress Francine Stone, born a year before Dennis in 1947. (Los Angeles Times, 2/4/98). Within minutes Dennis knew that he wanted to marry her.

“He kept asking me questions,” she remembered.

They exchanged phone numbers that each then lost. A few days later, Dennis drove by and left a note on Fran’s door. She called him and they began dating.

Fran was initially disappointed that Dennis worked in the entertainment industry, a business that the actress (mainly TV commercials) had tired of. Raised Lutheran, Fran had married once before (to a secular Jew). They had a girl Anya (b. 1977) together, then divorced.

Prager had joint custody of David with his ex-wife Janice.

Helped by Aish HaTorah Rabbi Nahum Braverman, Fran converted to Orthodox Judaism. She and Dennis married September 4, 1988. They did not go on a honeymoon for several months. Dennis did his radio show the Sunday night of their wedding.

“My religion tells couples you can not leave,” said Dennis June 9, 2010. “You have to celebrate with family and friends for a week. Each night somebody else hosts the couple at a different home. We were told as kids that it’s a celebration for everybody. You don’t leave on your own. Marriage is not just about the two of you. That’s why I got so annoyed when I was a kid that religion was nonsense and that we would reinvent the wheel.”

A Reform Temple

Through 1991, the Pragers belonged to the Orthodox synagogue Young Israel of Century City (YICC) located at Pico Blvd and Rexford St (presided over by Rabbi Elazar Muskin). They played in the shul’s softball league.

A Jewish doctor remembers how Prager helped him. In 1989, he phoned Dennis for advice on shepherding his kids through a divorce. Dennis invited the man to his office and gave him 90 minutes of his time. The doctor never forgot the good deed. Dennis told him about the type of woman he’d eventually marry and it turned out that Prager was right.

Largely under the influence of Prager, the doctor became an Orthodox Jew.
Bored with prayer, Prager would wander in to YICC Saturday mornings near the end of the service. At 6’4, it was hard for him to be inconspicuous.
In his sermons on politics, Rabbi Muskin would frequently say, “I’m sure Mr. Prager would agree…”

Prager rarely prayed in a minyan (Jewish prayer quorum) during the week.

In 1991, Prager spent one Sabbath at the University of Judaism where he gave a speech. On Saturday morning, he walked up the hill to the “Mountain Top Minyan” (led by Rabbi Mordecai Finley) at the Reform synagogue Stephen S. Wise.

Prager fell in love with the minyan’s singing and use of musical instruments (prohibited by Orthodox Jewish law on the Sabbath and other holy days). He began driving there most Shabbos mornings, a public desecration of the holiness of the Sabbath according to traditional Jewish standards. For ten years previous, Prager would not drive on Shabbat.

Adopting A Son

In his fourth issue of Ultimate Issues in 1992, Prager wrote: “My wife, Fran, and I have each been blessed with a child from a previous marriage. But we have always wanted to have more than two children, and to have children together. By Fran’s 44th birthday, and after a number of miscarriages, however, it became evident this was not going to be.”

The Pragers adopted a white infant. “In November, 1992, Fran and I were blessed with a son, Aaron Henry Prager. This beautiful boy was born on Friday, enabling me not even to miss a night of radio! The house was now quite a lively place, with a 16-year-old [Anya], a 9-year-old [David], and a newborn.” (Prager CD)

On his Youtube show with Julie Hartman February 13, 2023, Dennis said: “We adopted a son on the day he was born. We did not know that his birth mother was a meth addict. That played a role in his life. He became addicted [early] to drugs and alcohol. He’s fine. He’s sober. When he was becoming sober, his biggest fear was that there was no such thing as sober fun.”

“My nature has never sought to escape life to have fun.”


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.


Listening to Dennis Prager from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, you hear a more nasal voice and a more New York voice than the one he developed after going into national syndication in 1998.

May 1, 2023: “I like your voice better now,” said Julie Hartman.

Dennis: “Me too. There was more nasal then.”

Read on: Part Two of my Prager condensed biography.