Jlife Magazine was recently honored with the rare chance to interview Dennis Prager, a man who has lived a life so full it could easily rival the nine lives of a cat. Educator, lecturer, author, talk show host… the list goes on and on. To start, Prager is one of America’s most respected radio talk show hosts and has been broadcasting in LA since 1982. In 1999, his popular show became nationally syndicated and it continues to air live, five days a week. To-date he has appeared on “Fox and Friends,” “Red Eye,” “Hardball,” “Hannity,” “CBS Evening News,” “The Today Show” and many others. This may sound beyond uber-busy to you, but Dennis still finds a way to help out at the local level as well. He is set to appear at Temple Bat Yahm on October 18 for a much-anticipated evening of dialogue that’s sure to be a night to remember (please see details below). In the meantime, take a moment to get to know this wonderful man just a little bit better.
How do you feel your Orthodox upbringing has influenced your adult life?
Massively. Probably more than any one other thing. I am grateful every day that I attended yeshiva through high school rather than secular schools.
In terms of practices, I left Orthodoxy the day after my Bar-Mitzvah, but I never stopped affirming the Jewish “trinity” of G-d, Torah, and Israel. I still subscribe to Maimonides’s Thirteen Principles of the Jewish Faith, believe in the Jews as G-d’s Chosen People, and the Torah as ultimately a divine book.
What inspired you to undertake each of your fields of study?
My undergraduate majors were history and Middle Eastern Studies. If you don’t know history, you cannot possibly understand the present. And I wanted to understand the Arab and Muslim worlds, so, among other things, I studied Islam and Arabic.
In graduate school I studied at both the Russian and Middle East Institutes of Columbia University’s School of International Affairs. There I continued studying the Russian language and concentrated on Communism and Communist Affairs.
In all these cases, I wanted to understand America’s and Israel’s enemies. And the communist studies helped me understand the most dynamic religion of the last hundred years, Leftism.
You are an educator, a writer and a talk show host. Do you feel that these three aspects of your career influence each other and if so in what ways?
Being able to talk to millions of people for over 30 years has given me a laboratory for every idea I hold. What a unique gift. And, of course, it gave me a platform to try to educate many people.
You recently wrote two books: “The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code”; and “The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Path To Follow” (for children). How did you approach this topic differently based on your audience?
The children’s version was my book simplified for young children. By age 11, or perhaps even earlier, young people should read the regular edition.
Do you feel that children bring a different perspective to Jewish learning?
Children bring a different perspective to all of life. But I am not among those who believe that children have a great deal to teach adults. How could they? They haven’t lived life long enough to accumulate the most important thing we are supposed to give children—wisdom. On the other hand, having and raising children teaches you more about life than almost any other experience.
If so, what do you think are the best lessons we can learn from them?
Children teach you about the human condition. Unless we decide to grow up—which many people in my generation have in fact decided not to do—we are all children. We have to leave the poor impulse control of childhood, the naiveté of childhood, the avoidance of responsibility of childhood, etc.
Also, I learned more about society as a summer camp counselor than in all my years at college and graduate school.
If you were to recommend one 5-minute video from your site Prager University to someone who has never visited the site, what would it be and why?
Every one of the hundred or so videos is meant to be mind-, even life-, changing. That’s how good the presenters are and how much editing we do. So it all depends on what subject you most wish to learn about. So, if I were to show one video: To a married or dating couple: He Wants You. To a young person: What Matters Most in Life. To college students and their parents: The Speech Every 2015 College Grad Needs to Hear. To a young woman: Feminism 2.0. On race relations: Don’t Judge Blacks Differently. On G-d’s existence: Does G-d Exist? 4 New Arguments. On the Middle East conflict: The Middle East Problem. On Israel: Do You Pass the Israel Test? On energy: Why You Should Love Fossil Fuel. On Judaism: Remember the Sabbath. On America: The American Trinity.
You have some recurring segments to your radio show like the “Happiness Hour” based on your book “Happiness Is a Serious Problem.” In your opinion, what are the best ways people can help improve their level of happiness?
Act happy even when you don’t feel happy. Be grateful. The rest is commentary.
You also have the “Male/Female Hour.” Are there any tips you can give us to improve communication between the sexes?
Men should act in such a way as to be admired by their woman.
Women should work to understand men’s nature (including sexual nature), and how different it is from theirs.
And finally, you also have a segment called “Ultimate Issues.” In your opinion, what are the top three hot button issues we are facing today? Has America been the world’s greatest force for good or just another of history’s great powers?
Why the belief that people are basically good is as dangerous as it is wrong.
How good and evil are only opinions of there is no G-d.
Temple Bat Yahm is thrilled to host this evening of dialogue with Dennis Prager. Jlife caught up with Temple President, Scott Seigel who was instrumental in coordinating this special evening. “Dennis has agreed to have a really enhanced VIP experience unlike any other he has done,” said Seigel. “For those that can attend the VIP event I can guarantee you will continue to make a huge difference in our Temple’s many endeavors and you will have a chance to connect with Dennis and dialogue with him personally.”
And you can feel great about your donation because Seigel assured, “Every dollar raised from this event will go 100% toward our Temple’s needs.”
An Evening with Dennis Prager
Sunday, October 18th
General Admission: $54.00 per/person
Student Admission: $18.00 per/person
VIP Admission: $500/per person includes:
• 4:30 p.m. Intimate private time for VIP sponsors including appetizer, wine and scotch tasting
• Lively dialogue with Dennis on Prager University- the behind the scenes and interactive discussion on one of his most popular videos- Check out this video (near 5 million hits): www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EDW88CBo-8
• 5:30 p.m. Dinner with Dennis Prager
• Photo opportunity
• Signed books
• Reserved parking
• Reserved sanctuary seating
• 6:45 p.m. A very special evening with Dennis Prager in the Sonenshine Sanctuary
Tracey Armstrong Gorsky is a contributing writer to Jlife Magazine.