Of all the public figures and media personalities, very few actually change the way you live for the better, but Dennis Prager is certainly one of them. Through PragerU, The Dennis Prager Show, his Fireside Chats and writings like The Rational Bible, Dennis Prager has literally reached billions and touched the lives of millions around the world. So who is Dennis Prager, and why is his career ascending at 70 years old? Allen Estrin, Producer of The Dennis Prager Show and Co-Founder of PragerU, explains.
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Who is Dennis Prager? And why do so many people love him?
As the producer of the Dennis Prager radio show and the co-founder and executive director of Prager University, I have given this second question a lot of thought. Here is my answer:
Luck. Unadulterated good fortune.
Or…it could be this:
Through his radio show, his writing, and now PragerU, he changes the way you live—for the better. He makes you a better a person—a better father, a better son, a better mother, a better daughter. Name another public figure who does that.
So, let’s return to the first question: Who is Dennis Prager?
Born in Brooklyn, New York on August 2, 1948, he is the second son of Max and Hilda Prager, two worldly Orthodox Jews. Max, a World War II vet, was an accountant, and Hilda, a nursing home administrator. Both were movie-star handsome. In fact, if the stars had been differently aligned, Hilda could have been an actress—she had the looks and the personality. Speaking of stars, Dennis’s sign is Leo. Which makes you want to believe in astrology.
It’s one of those little ironies that Dennis barely spoke a word until he was almost four. But, of course, once he started, he never stopped.
He didn’t like school. To keep himself from being bored, he learned to spell—backwards. He was the class clown. He was sent to the principal’s office so often the secretary named a chair after him. He did the minimum amount of homework. In his case, this meant zero. In a class of 110 high school students, he graduated number 82.
But he was always scrupulously ethical and honest. Cheating was rampant at the religious school he attended. He mounted a campaign against it. You’d think everybody would hate him for that. But they didn’t. He was too charming, too charismatic, too principled. No one could—no one can—remain mad at Dennis for long.
When he was a sophomore, Max and Hilda made a bold decision. The traditional parenting model clearly wasn’t working. So, they offered their second son a deal: he had to be at the Shabbat dinner table every Friday, but otherwise, he was on his own. They gave him a modest allowance and set him loose. Manhattan became his playground. Classical music became his passion. That, and all things Russian. He studied them both… on his own.
That same sophomore year, he met his lifelong friend, Joseph Telushkin. Their endless religious discussions eventually became a book, The Nine Questions People Ask about Judaism, still the standard text for those who want to learn the basic principles of the faith. Remarkably, every book Dennis has written is still in print and still selling.
At the time, though, the future didn’t look promising. Dennis’s grades were so bad that his only college option was Brooklyn College—simply because Brooklyn would take anybody. But it turned out to be the perfect choice. He won an essay contest. The prize was a scholarship to study abroad at Leeds College in England. While there, he was contacted by the Israeli government. They needed someone to smuggle Jewish artifacts into the Soviet Union and smuggle out names of those Jews who wanted to emigrate to Israel.
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