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A Novelist On Air

Binyamin Rose, New York

John Batchelor is perhaps one of the few radio talk show hosts who listens more than he speaks and educates more than he entertains. His unique on-air persona has attracted a wide-ranging audience, from New York City taxi drivers to Jews from Lakewood and other Orthodox strongholds. Mishpacha’s news editor entered the inner sanctum of his on-air studio, where Batchelor expounded on how he developed his style, shared some behind-the-scenes memories, and aired his views on America’s future.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

JohnBatchelor has never taken calls from listeners during his 14-year career in talk radio, but he does receive many letters, including one he especially appreciated from a listener in Lakewood, a city Batchelor describes as home to “the largest Orthodox Jewish seminary in the US, maybe the world.” The listener wrote that one night he arrived home by car while listening to Batchelor’s opening segment at 9 p.m., reserved forMalcolmHoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, who analyzes each week’s Middle East events. Not wanting to miss an insight, the listener sat in his car until the first commercial break at 9:15. “When he opened up his car door to go inside, he saw several others down the street doing the same thing,” says Batchelor. “The man wrote to tell me that they must have all been listening to me like he was. I didn’t see it. I wish I could have. It’s a wonderful story.” Batchelor’s fan club extends far beyond Lakewood, or even the New York-New Jersey market. His four-hour program airs nightly on WABC affiliates in more than 100 US media markets and is available overseas by podcast. Batchelor will occasionally take his show on the road. He has broadcast several times from Israel, which is noteworthy, not only because of his strong on-air support for the Jewish state, but also because of Batchelor’s background. His mother is of Persian descent; Batchelor himself studied in New York’s nondenominational Union Theological Seminary (as well as Princeton University); and his wife is pastor of a church in Briarcliff Manor, New York, that designates itself as “open and affirming.” While a Jewish audience in New York is just as important for a broadcaster’s survival as the Jewish vote is to a local politician, Batchelor insists that his pro-Israel stance, and his weekly gig with Hoenlein, is part of who he is and what he believes in. “What I am is an American who understands that Israel is a very strong — and perhaps the strongest ally America has in the 21st century. You stand by your allies and that’s part of your strength,” says Batchelor. Middle East coverage has been a linchpin of his show, which began in response to the 9/11 attacks. “What happened on 9/11 was that the enemies of Israel attacked the United States, attacked my city, and mean to again.”

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