Ruth Westheimer is a psychosexual therapist who pioneered speaking frankly about sexual matters on radio with her program, "Sexually Speaking" which expanded to a national broadcast and was renamed the “Dr. Ruth Show.” It began as a 15 minute, taped show but one year later it became a live, one-hour show airing at 10 PM on which Dr. Ruth, as she became known, answered call-in questions from listeners.
Known as Dr. Ruth, Westheimer went on to have several successive TV programs, appeared on the cover of People Magazine, and has authored or co-authored 46 books, including From You to Two, Roller Coaster Grandma, and Crocodile, You're Beautiful!. The subject of a one-woman play, Becoming Dr. Ruth, and a documentary, Ask Dr. Ruth, Westheimer teaches at Columbia’s Teachers College and Hunter College and has almost 100,000 followers on Twitter.
Dr. Westheimer was born in Germany in 1928, was sent to a children's home in Switzerland at the age of ten which became an orphanage for most of the German Jewish students who'd been sent there to escape the Holocaust. At 17, she went to Israel where she fought for that country's independence as a member of the Haganah, the Jewish freedom fighters. She then moved to Paris where she studied at the Sorbonne and taught kindergarten. She emigrated to the U.S. in 1956 where she obtained her Masters Degree in Sociology from the Graduate Faculty of the New School of Social Research. In 1970, she received a Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) in the Interdisciplinary Study of the Family from Columbia University Teacher's College.
She worked for Planned Parenthood for a time, and it was that experience that prompted her to further her education in human sexuality by studying under Dr. Helen Singer Kaplan at New York Hospital-Cornell University Medical Center. She later participated in the program for five years as an Adjunct Associate Professor. She has also taught at Lehman College, Brooklyn College, Adelphi University, Columbia University and West Point.
During her early days as a college professor, Dr. Westheimer never envisioned that one day she would be making such wide use of the mass media to help spread what she has labeled "sexual literacy." However, with her unique style, she has been able to communicate effectively through almost every avenue available. In addition to radio, her television career has spanned both broadcast and cable. Her first TV show aired locally in New York but she soon went national on Lifetime's "The Dr. Ruth Show." "Ask Dr. Ruth" was syndicated both nationally and internationally by King Features Entertainment, making Dr. Ruth a regular in such places as London, Hong Kong and the United States. "The All New Dr. Ruth Show" brought her back to Lifetime and with "What's Up, Dr. Ruth" she helped broaden Lifetime's appeal with teens. "You're On The Air with Dr. Ruth" brought her back to the format she began with on television with both guests and live phone calls.
Her first video was entitled "Terrific Sex" and she later did two more for Playboy. In the Fall of 1993, Dr. Ruth had her own weekly series in Hebrew on Israeli television as well as a five minute weekly "strip" on Great Britain's "This Morning" program. Her other foreign ventures have included spots on Radio Television Luxembourg, German Swiss Television and France's TF-1. In 1991, she donned the title of Executive Producer for a documentary on Ethiopian Jews titled "Surviving Salvation." Filmed by the Academy Award winning Malcolm Clarke, the documentary aired nationally on PBS. Her second documentary, entitled "No Missing Link," also received national airing on PBS in 2002 and was about how grandparents have transmitted values, particularly religious values during the 70 years of communism in Russia. She followed that up with "The Olive and The Tree: The Secret Strength of the Druze," which aired nationally on PBS stations in early 2007. This program was accompanied by a book of the same name. Her documentary, "Shifting Sands: Bedouin Women at the Crossroads" has aired on WNET in NY and also has an accompanying book.
Westheimer has served as the Honorary President of the Council on Sexuality and Aging at the National Sexuality Resource Center. The National Mother's Day Committee honored her as "Mother Of The Year," and she received a Liberty Medal from the City of New York as well as the Israel Cultural Award from Israel Bonds. "What's Up, Dr. Ruth" was awarded the Gold Medal from the International Film and TV Festival for excellence in educational television. People Magazine included Dr. Ruth in their list of the Most Intriguing People of the Century. Over the years, Westheimer has received an Honorary Doctorate from Hebrew Union College Institute of Religion for her work in Human Sexuality and her commitment to the Jewish People, Israel and Religion; an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from CUNY's Lehman College; an Honorary Doctorate from Trinity College in Hartford, CT; the Ellis Island Medal of Honor; the International Society for Sexual and Impotence Research 20th Anniversary Award and the Leo Baeck Medal. In June of 2006, Columbia University's Teacher's College awarded her their Medal For Distinguished Services.
Westheimer is a board member of the YMHA of Washington Heights, where she served as president for eleven years, as well as the Museum of Jewish Heritage: A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.
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