Here’s Dennis Prager’s response – sent via email last night – to the news that former NYC Mayor Ed Koch wants him off the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council:
Ed Koch calls me a “bigot.” Let him demonstrate how. There is surely ample opportunity. I have been a talk show host for 25 years and written more than a thousand articles, and four books. Presumably I would have been caught in some previous “bigoted” comment in all that time. It’s all there for Forward readers’ perusal at www.paragerradio.com.
Two years ago the American Jewish Press Association awarded me its Prize for Excellence in Commentary. Did they miss something that Ed Koch caught? Or does he smear people he differs with as part of his style of argumentation?
He wants my appointment to United States Holocaust memorial commission rescinded. Should the American Jewish press Association rescind its prize? Should Chabad stop using me as the host of their telethon? Should the University of Judaism stop allowing me to teach the Torah there? Should bookstores and synagogues stop selling The Nine Questions People Ask about Judaism, the most widely used introduction to Judaism of the last 30 years?
Unlike Mayor Koch, I refrain from name calling – so much so that, though I am a Republican, I wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal a number of years ago defending Hillary Clinton against charges that she was antisemitic because of alleged remarks she had made in private. Unless he can substantiate his charge, Koch owes me an apology.
As for calling me a “schmuck,” I have no comment beyond noting again his low level of discourse.
Now, as to the issue, for those familiar only with the distorted attacks against me: In brief I believe that the substitution of another religious or secular text for the Bible – in this case the Koran – at a real or ceremonial swearing in is a seminal statement in American history. I have fully acknowledged Congressman-Elect Keith Ellison’s legal right to bring any book he wants to his ceremonial swearing-in. But I have asked that he at least bring the Bible as well, just as virtually every elected official since George Washington has done.
The Bible is the book from which America, since its founding and before, has derived its moral values. Nearly every Jew has brought the Bible along or affirmed or swore on it, despite the fact Jews do not recognize the New Testament as biblical. Elected officials bring the Bible not because it is necessarily their most revered book, but because it has been America’s most revered book.
We Jews are fools if we think that reducing the centrality of that book in America’s life will be good for us. We Jews have been so respected, even venerated, in America primarily because of that Book which has made this society a Judeo-Christian society. I shudder to think of America’s and American Jews’ future if we become a secular society like Western Europe. No Jews have it as good there as we do here. And so I am fully prepared to be considered a “schmuck” in Ed Koch’s eyes; it is far better than being considered a fool in history’s eyes.