Tag Archives: Brooklyn College

Jew of the Week: Dennis Prager

The World’s Most Popular “University”

Dennis Mark Prager (b. 1948) was born in New York City to an Orthodox Jewish family. He attended religious schools, and during his time at the Yeshiva of Flatbush met the future renowned rabbi Joseph Telushkin. Prager majored in history and Middle Eastern studies at Brooklyn College before spending several years at Columbia University studying both the Middle East and Russia, followed by a stint at the University of Leeds learning Arabic and comparative religions. In the mid-70s, Prager teamed up with Rabbi Telushkin to co-author The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism. The bestselling book was a huge success and shot Prager into the spotlight. Shortly after, he was hired to be the director of the Brandeis-Bardin Institute of the American Jewish University. (He would later teach Hebrew Bible at the University between 1992 and 2006.) In 1982, he met an executive of Los Angeles’ KABC Radio who was struck by Prager’s impressive knowledge, and instantly hired him to host a Sunday radio show called Religion on the Line. It was so popular that Prager was soon doing radio shows every day except Friday and Saturday (because of Shabbat). Meanwhile, he co-authored another bestseller with Rabbi Telushkin, Why the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism. By 1999, Prager’s radio show was nationally syndicated, as was his newspaper column. He was called “One of America’s five best speakers”, as well as “one of the three most interesting minds in American Jewish Life”, and was described by the LA Times as “An amazingly gifted man and moralist”. All in all, Prager has published seven books (including The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code) and produced five films (including Israel in a Time of Terror, and the forthcoming No Safe Spaces about the extremes of political correctness). He continues to host one of America’s most popular radio shows, and is among the most sought-after political commentators in the world. Today, Prager is perhaps most famous for his Prager University, which he co-founded in 2009 in response to the growing trend of squashing conservative voices in the media and on campus. PragerU’s concise and informative five-minute videos have become hugely popular. To date, they have garnered over 1 billion views, with hundreds of millions of followers across social media sites. The videos have been so successful that PragerU has been called “the right-wing YouTube empire that’s quietly turning millenials into conservatives.” Perhaps because of this, Google recently started blocking some of PragerU’s videos, perplexingly citing them as “inappropriate”. Regardless of whether one agrees with Prager’s views or not, the blatant suppression of free speech sets a dangerous precedent. For this reason, Prager has launched a lawsuit against Google and YouTube, together with a campaign to draw support for the preservation of free speech (see their video, Who Will Google Silence Next?) Although Jew of the Week also disagrees with some of PragerU’s content, we nonetheless stand in solidarity with them (having had one of our own YouTube videos inexplicably flagged for “inappropriateness”). Below we present some of PragerU’s most popular videos:

Does Science Argue For or Against God?

Why I Left the Left

Why Isn’t There a Palestinian State?

Are the Police Racist?

There is No Gender Wage Gap

An Arab Muslim in the Israeli Army

Why I Left Greenpeace

Words of the Week

My politics are exactly what they were when I was a liberal and a Democrat, but that’s now considered conservative.
– Dennis Prager

Jew of the Week: Rebbetzin Henny Machlis

Rebbetzin Henny Machlis (Photo Credit: Joan Roth)

Rebbetzin Henny Machlis (Photo Credit: Joan Roth)

Henny Machlis (1957-2015) was born and raised in Brooklyn, the daughter of an Orthodox rabbi. She studied genetics, dietetics, and education at both Brooklyn College and Yeshiva University. Shortly after marrying Rabbi Mordechai Machlis, the two opened up their home to host people for Sabbath meals. Their inspiring words of wisdom and delicious cooking brought more and more guests. Soon, the Machlis family was hosting between 200 and 300 guests for Shabbat meals each week! Among their guests were students, immigrants, and tourists, widows and orphans, the impoverished, homeless, and mentally ill. Many of these slept over for days or weeks, on their couches, tables, and even in their van. Rebbetzin Machlis would cook for 8 hours straight to prepare for each Shabbat, with the help of her 13 kids. Cleaning up would often take until Tuesday. Each Shabbat cost the family $2500, some of which was covered by donations, but most came from their own modest funds, together with many loans, and even the sale of their personal belongings. Amazingly, the family only took off one week a year, during the holiday of Passover. Their door was never locked, and people regularly came in for a safe place to stay. At the same time, the Rebbetzin taught a regular women’s class on Jewish philosophy, while mentoring and advising countless others. Despite her hard work, Machlis was famous for always being cheerful, calm, warm, and modest. Over the past 36 years, her family has hosted over 400,000 people. Sadly, Rebbetzin Machlis passed away last month after a battle with cancer. Many visited her in the hospital, and even there, the Rebbetzin continued her kindness, giving up her own hospital bed to give homeless people a place to rest. At her funeral, a stranger pushed aside her son to draw nearer, saying “I have to get closer. She’s my mother.” Indeed, many consider Henny Machlis their spiritual mother. One person said of her: “When I was with her, I felt embraced by God.” Click here to read more about Henny Machlis’s story.

Words of the Week

Wisdom from Rebbetzin Machlis:

“All giving is a little bit of imitating God. Giving builds one’s character, and makes one more God-like.”

“Rebbe Nachman of Breslov says that when you cook, the energy that you cook with goes into the food. So if you cook with a lot of anger, you can give people food poisoning. But if you cook with joy, you can give them good health.”

“We are living in the midst of a spiritual holocaust. Most Jews today have no idea of the beauty and depth of Judaism. How can we not do everything in our power, including going into debt, to reach out to our fellow Jews?”