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What's Jewish take on sex? Ask Dr. Ruth
By ALEXANDRA J. WALL
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
January 24, 2001
SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 24 Not many snipers in the Haganah go on to
become one of the most famous
sex therapists in the world.
``I never killed anybody but I was very well-trained," said Ruth
Westheimer, speaking from her car phone.
``I was very badly wounded, on both legs."
The 4-foot-7-inch (``Put that in there," she urged) grandmother of
will be speaking at a dinner at the
Fairmont Hotel in San Jose on Sunday. The event is sponsored by the Jewish
Federation of Greater San Jose.
Westheimer was born in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1928, leaving as part of
the Kindertransport in 1939. None
of her family members survived. She was brought up in Switzerland, and then
went to pre-state Israel in 1945,
fighting in the War of Independence.
In 1951, she was sent to Paris to teach kindergarten at a Jewish
where it was expected the families
of her students would move to Israel. While there, she attended the
Then she said, in a three-minute synopsis of her life, ``I came in 1956
to the U.S. on a visit, and they made
me Dr. Ruth."
``Dr. Ruth," as she is known, still spends five to six hours a week in
her private practice as a sex therapist.
The rest of the time, she does her many public appearances, speaking
engagements and commercials for products
such as Clairol's Herbal Essence body wash.
Involved in many Jewish organizations, for the last nine years she has
been the president of her local Jewish
Y in the Washington Heights section of upper Manhattan, where she's lived in
the same apartment overlooking the
Hudson River for the last 35 years.
``I've never missed a board meeting," she said.
Talking about how the Y feeds 350 at lunch every day, she said, ``The Y
is very important to me, both my
children went to that Y. I'm very pleased that Washington Heights is having
such a renewal."
While Dr. Ruth speaks at many charity events, she said she also
frequently allows herself to be auctioned
off, as a lunch companion. ``For a lot of money, but I won't say how much,"
she said, giggling.
``I do not ever have lunch with a couple, because I don't want to do
therapy over lunch," she added. ``It has
to be three or four people. But it's always very lively discussion. I'm a
very good lunch companion, I never heard
they were bored."
Now, it wouldn't be a conversation with Dr. Ruth if there was no
of sex, right?
The author of 19 books points to the 1995 ``Heavenly Sex: Sexuality in
the Jewish Tradition," co-authored
by Jonathan Mark, as one in which she learned a great deal about Judaism.
Complimenting her co-author, she said,
``I could not have done it without someone who knows the sources."
So what did the Jewish sources have to say? Dr. Ruth said she wanted to
save some of that information for
her lecture, but she did say that ``the sages were very smart" in that they
knew that great sex between a couple was
an essential component to shalom bayit, or peace in the home.
Furthermore, she said, underneath the chuppah, men have to pledge to
provide sexual satisfaction to their
wives, in addition to food and shelter.
``The man has to provide sexual satisfaction even after menopause," she
added. ``The sages were smart to
know that a man has to speak softly to his wife so she will want to engage
sexual activity, and the importance of
engaging in sex on Friday night because then it's a mitzvah."
When Dr. Ruth speaks to groups, as she will in San Jose, she takes
questions from the audience, written on
cards, in case attendees are too embarrassed.
The questions she fields usually fall into two categories, she said.
``They are either specific sexual
questions about problems, like one party wants more sex than the other, or
Dr. Ruth has been keeping busy, with her textbook on human sexuality
that came out in September,
co-authored with psychologist Sandy Lopater.
``It's like a medical textbook with my flavor in terms of humor," she
said. And then she goes from talking
about sex to quoting the Talmud: ``A lesson taught with humor is a lesson
At 72, Dr. Ruth shows no signs of slowing down. She recently published
``Dr. Ruth's Guide to College
Life," co-authored with Pierre Lehu, and two books about grandparenting.
grandchildren are the best in the
world," she added.
She remains active and in excellent health; she has a ski trip coming
Any plans to retire?
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