Prager's plainspoken and unapologetic presentation was interrupted at numerous points by spontaneous eruptions of applause from the eclectic crowd of Jews from a wide range of backgrounds and affiliations, as well as many non-Jews - religious and secular alike. Also in attendance were many dignitaries and civic leaders, including 13-term Congressman Elton Gallegly (ret.) former mayor and current Agoura Hills Councilman, Denis Weber and California State Assemblyman Jeff Gorell.
Prager minced no words in addressing the evening's topic head-on. "I have a simple litmus test when it comes to determining the state of one's moral compass - be it an individual, an organization or a country," he said. "If you stand in support of Israel in its struggle for survival in the face of attacks by pernicious, ruthless, merciless and hate-filled enemies, then you have a healthy moral compass. If, on the other hand, you stand against Israel, and are supportive of those who would like to see it harmed or destroyed, then you are morally sick... One cannot be presented with a clearer juxtaposition of good and evil than the contrast offered by Israel, and the values and ideals to which it aspires, versus those of its neighbors who wish to see it wiped off the face of the earth.
"This is not to say that Israel is perfect and doesn't make mistakes - no society is perfect - but in terms of serving as an underlying force for good and human advancement versus an underlying force for evil and destruction, the choice for any decent, morally-upright and civilized human being should be as clear as day."
Prager went on to identify efforts to condemn, isolate or boycott Israel - be it on the part of so-called human-rights groups, on the streets of Europe, in the halls of governments, the chambers of the UN or on college campuses - as nothing less than anti-Semitism in its vilest form. "This sort of hatred did not begin in 1948. It has nothing to do with Zionism or with Israel's policies. It's about the Jewish People being G-d's Chosen People and serving as the conscience of humanity - which is why the morally-healthy seek to embrace and elevate Israel while the morally-sick seek to isolate it and diminish it...
"We need look no further than a seminal passage in this week's Torah portion (Lech-Lecho) to put the relationship between Israel and the nations of the world into proper perspective... G-d says to Abraham: 'I will bless those who bless you, and those who curse you I shall curse.' This has proven to be the case throughout the millennia and will continue to be the case as history marches forward. Those who've honored and supported the Jewish People have flourished while those who've hated and persecuted the Jews have ultimately faded into oblivion or ignominy." Prager urged the Jewish community to recognize who are Israel's true friends in the world today and who are its true foes.
In responding to questions regarding Israel's building of apartments in Jerusalem and settlements in the territories, Prager made the point that the hatred that was there before the settlements is the same as the hatred in place after the settlements. "It's not about Israel's settlements; it's about Israel's existence."
The core of Dennis Prager's lecture, however, was notably more spiritual than political in nature. He spent a great deal of time talking about his admiration for Chabad and his longstanding close relationship with its local director, Rabbi Moshe Bryski, whom he praised as a most gifted teacher and speaker on Jewish study and topics. He urged the audience to sign on for Torah classes and courses of study at Chabad's acclaimed "Conejo Jewish Academy" - one of the premier adult education institutes of its kind in the world today - with a yearly enrollment of thousands of students. The Academy's comprehensive catalogue of classes, lectures and workshops has served as a model for adult education programs throughout the world.
"The best way for Jews in the Diaspora to strengthen and fortify Israel," said Prager in the climax of his presentation, "is bybeing more knowledgeable, engaged and involved Jews. And there is no greater vehicle or resource for accomplishing this at your disposal in this community than Chabad's Conejo Jewish Academy. You will not find a warmer, more open, welcoming and accepting environment in which to explore and discover your Jewish roots than at Chabad."