Dennis Prager Speaks at YU, Fans Flames of Political Discourse on Campus
On December 4, radio host and political commentator Dennis Prager spoke on the Wilf Campus to a crowd of roughly 230 students in an event hosted by the YU chapter of the Young America’s Foundation (YAF).
This was the second time the Young America’s Foundation hosted an event at Yeshiva University. In fact, Prager’s talk that evening occurred exactly one year and a day from when radio host and conservative pundit Ben Shapiro addressed the student body at YU. Shapiro was brought in with the help of the Yeshiva University College Republicans and sponsored by YAF before it was officially recognized as a club on campus. Last year, Shapiro drew praise and criticism alike when he said transgender people are suffering from a mental illness.
Prager too has drawn criticism for many of his comments, including those against breastfeeding in public and about women’s sexuality. Prager’s speech, like Shapiro’s talk before it, drew the ire of some in the student body. Before the event took place, the YAF chapter’s founding chairman Elliot Fuchs advertised Prager’s talk in the Facebook group YU Marketplace, drawing intense criticism when he wrote, “SNOWFLAKES BEWARE: White Male coming to campus!”
In his speech, Prager addressed an article published in The Commentator that was written by Stern College sophomore and Co President of the YU Feminists club Molly Meisels. In the article, written before Prager’s appearance at YU, Meisels criticized Prager for his “belligerent rhetoric” and cited some of his controversial opinions on women and feminism.
Perhaps the most controversial moment of the evening was when Prager, addressing Meisels’ article, stood by his conviction that a woman’s mood should not be the only factor in her willingness to have sex with her husband. “If a married woman loves her husband and he is a good man...and she loves him, she should not allow mood to be the only thing to determine whether or not she has sex with him,” Prager said.
In the question and answer segment of the event, Prager addressed a question from Meisels, claiming that her leftist positions represented “the majority of media opinion today,” and adding that he welcomed her on his show should she decide to go on.
In addition to labelling Meisel’s article as “inaccurate,” Prager spoke extensively on how the Torah stands in clear opposition to Leftism without explicitly saying that the Torah sides unequivocally with conservative thought. “The Left is the opposite of the Torah and I’d like to give you a few examples,” Prager stated, citing multiculturalism, moral relativism, secularism, and social justice as just some of the values held by the Left but rejected by the Torah. After his talk, Prager fielded questions from students on topics ranging from affirmative action to American foreign policy.
Fuchs pointed out that for him, the most significant part of the evening was the question and answer portion. “It highlights the important message that ideas—no matter whether or not you agree with them—should be questioned and debated in an entertaining an[d] intellectually stimulating format,” Fuchs explained.
As with Shapiro, Prager garnered mixed reactions from the students present. One Sy Syms junior thought that Prager’s talk was fantastic. “[It was] utterly amazing. I’m glad YU can bring speakers like this without protest,” said the student. He thought that Prager gave sound points and hoped that YAF would bring other conservative speakers in the future.
YC Junior Doniel Weinreich was not so enthusiastic. Weinreich noted that almost every statement Prager made was a blanket condemnation of “the Left.” Weinreich went on to say, “I generally believe you shouldn't believe what one group of people have to say about what another group of people believe. Especially when it's in broad sweeping terms.” For Weinreich, rhetoric, not content, came out on top that evening.
Getting Prager to speak was the culmination of many months of planning, Fuchs said, with the help of many within the national YAF organization. He remarked that he hoped students walked out of Weissberg Commons with “the realization that opinions that are completely foreign to them—ideas not typically found on a college campus—exist.”