Dennis Prager in Bay Area to blast multiculturalism

Multiculturalism may sound like a perfectly harmless concept, connoting the celebration of each minority's inherent worth.

But to Dennis Prager, a popular Los Angeles radio talk-show host, multiculturalists are trying to knock over the melting pot — the very foundation of America's strength and vitality.

Jews, in particular, should take heed.

"I am afraid for America…If America is weakened, then the Jewish position is weakened because we are very small," he said last week during one of three brief interviews on his cell phone as he zipped along L.A.'s freeways.

"A fractionalized America is bad for the Jews, and multiculturalism fractionalizes America."

On Sunday, Prager will speak in Oakland about "The Struggle to Be Jewish in a Multicultural Society" at the Oakland Hebrew Day School's first Founders' Gala. The event will raise money for the school's scholarship fund.

Instead of promoting multiculturalism, Prager would prefer America to see itself as a "multiethnic" nation with one culture — the American culture.

Known for his conservative views and airtight arguments, Prager doesn't see this distinction as splitting hairs.

To him, multiculturalists celebrate their own culture to the exclusion of America's. "What they're saying is that there is no American culture to be celebrated," he said.

Multiethnic, however, means honoring one's heritage but aspiring to join the dominant American culture, he said.

Looking to Canada, Prager points to the problems with the province of Quebec. The rest of the country celebrates itself as Canadian. But Quebec embraces French culture. As a result, he said, the country may eventually break up.

Prager sees multiculturalism infiltrating America's schools and causing potential problems.

On Flag Day, which is meant to honor the American flag, some public schools are hanging flags of many countries and allowing children to parade with the flags of their ancestors' countries.

It might feel like an inclusive gesture, but Prager sees such actions as a danger to America.

On his radio show, he has also taken on the current reading-list controversy in San Francisco public schools.

"That's not multiculturalism. That's racism. The school board's idea is pure racism. It's actually indistinguishable from Nazism," he said of the original book list proposal, which included quotas for minority authors.

The Nazis said their people were Germans, who didn't need to read books by Jews, he said. Interpreting San Francisco's situation, he added that school board members said their students are minorities so they shouldn't read white authors.

Such provocative viewpoints have pushed the 49-year-old Prager to the pinnacle of his career. With 350,000 listeners on "The Dennis Prager Show," which runs from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays on KABC in Los Angeles, he is working toward national syndication.

His show focuses on a mixture of topics from the news and on general morality. Recent topics included the problem of feel-good spirituality replacing morality-based spirituality.

In addition to his radio show, he writes a twice-monthly newsletter and is the author of four books.

His latest book, released this winter, is "Happiness Is a Serious Problem: A Human Nature Repair Manual."

Prager's other books include "The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism" and "Why the Jews? The Reason for Anti-Semitism."

Born and raised in a "virtual Orthodox ghetto" in Brooklyn, Prager ached to experience more of the world. As a result, he has ended up visiting 72 countries.

Today he sees himself as a religious Jew, though he doesn't place himself within any denomination.

"I have not been denominational since my bar mitzvah. I send one child to Orthodox day school, one child to Conservative day school. And I'm active in a Reform synagogue," he said. "I'm as much Reform as I am Orthodox."

Jews, he asserted, are a good model of a people who have embraced American culture.

"America has not asked that people give up their religion."

The one major exception, he noted, is Chassidic Jews, who choose to remain outside of American culture.

"I would have a problem with all Jews doing that," he said. But since Chassidic Jews are such a small group, he accepts their choice.

At the same time, Prager acknowledges that America's culture is dominated by Christianity and that America makes it easy for Jews to assimilate.

Still, he said, it's no achievement for Jews to stay Jewish in a shtetl.

"It's the price you pay for an open society. But if you can stay Jewish in an open society, you have the best of both worlds."