Ruth Westheimer

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Ruth Westheimer
Ruth Westheimer (10877).jpg
Westheimer at BookExpo America in 2018
Karola Ruth Siegel

(1928-06-04) June 4, 1928 (age 90)
Wiesenfeld (Karlstadt), Germany
ResidenceWashington Heights, Manhattan
Other namesDr. Ruth
CitizenshipAmerican, German
Alma materEd.D. in Education, Teachers College, Columbia University, 1970
Master of Arts in Sociology, The New School, 1959
Spouse(s)Manfred "Fred" Westheimer (1961–1997; his death)
ChildrenMiriam, Joel

Ruth Westheimer (born June 4, 1928), better known as Dr. Ruth, is a German-American sex therapist, media personality, and author. Her media career began in 1980 with the radio show, Sexually Speaking, which continued until 1990. She also hosted at least five television shows on the Lifetime and other cable television from 1984 to 1993. She is also the author of approximately 40 books on a variety of topics about sex and sexuality.

Early life and education[edit]

Westheimer was born Karola Ruth Siegel on June 4, 1928, in Wiesenfeld (near Karlstadt am Main), Germany, the only child of Orthodox Jews Irma (née Hanauer), a housekeeper, and Julius Siegel, a notions wholesaler and son of the family for whom Irma worked.[1] She was given an early grounding in Judaism by her father, who took her regularly to the synagogue in Frankfurt, where they lived. Her last memory of her father was seeing him being arrested and taken away the morning after Kristallnacht. In January 1939, she was sent to an orphanage in Switzerland by her mother and grandmother as part of the Kindertransport after her father had been taken by the Nazis.[2][3][4] She stopped receiving her parents' letters in September 1941. In 1945, Westheimer learned that her parents had been killed in the Holocaust, possibly at the Auschwitz concentration camp.[3][4][5]

Westheimer decided to emigrate to British-controlled Mandatory Palestine. There, at 17, she "first had sexual intercourse on a starry night, in a haystack, without contraception." She later told The New York Times that "I am not happy about that, but I know much better now and so does everyone who listens to my radio program."[4] Westheimer joined the Haganah in Jerusalem. Because of her diminutive height of 4 ft 7 in (1.40 m),[4] she was trained as a scout and sniper.[2] Of this experience, she said, "I never killed anybody, but I know how to throw hand grenades and shoot."[6] Westheimer was seriously wounded in action by an exploding shell during the Israeli War of Independence in 1948, and it was several months before she was able to walk again.[3][7]

In 1950, Westheimer moved to France, where she studied and then taught psychology at the University of Paris. In 1956, she immigrated to the United States, settling in Washington Heights, Manhattan.[8][9] Westheimer earned an M.A. degree in sociology from The New School in 1959[10] and an Ed.D. degree from Teachers College, Columbia University in 1970.[11]

Westheimer became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1965.[12] She regained her German citizenship in 2012 through the German Citizenship Project that enabled descendants of Germans deprived of their citizenship during the Third Reich to reclaim their citizenship without losing the citizenship of their home country.[13]

Early career[edit]

After receiving her Ed.D., she briefly worked for Planned Parenthood and this experience encouraged her to continue studying human sexuality. She went on to work as a postdoctoral researcher for Helen Singer Kaplan at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.[3] She continued to work there as an adjunct associate professor for five years. She also taught at Lehman College, Brooklyn College, Adelphi University, Columbia University and West Point.[14]

Media career[edit]

Dr. Ruth's media career began in 1980 when her radio show, Sexually Speaking, debuted on WYNY-FM in New York City.[15] She was offered this opportunity after she gave a lecture to New York broadcasters about the need for sex education programming to help deal with issues of contraception and unwanted pregnancies. Betty Elam, the community affairs manager at WYNY, was impressed with her talk and offered Westheimer $25 per week to make Sexually Speaking, which started as a 15-minute show airing every Sunday at midnight.[16] By 1983 her show was the top-rated radio show in the area, and in 1984 NBC Radio began syndicating it nationwide, renaming the show to the Dr. Ruth Show. She went on to produce her radio show until 1990.[17] Described as the "Sister Wendy of Sexuality", Dr. Ruth helped to revolutionize talk about sex and sexuality on radio and television, and she was noted for having "an accent only a psychologist could love".[18] She became known for being candid and funny, but respectful, and for her tag phrase "Get some".[19][20] One journalist described her unique voice as "a cross between Henry Kissinger and Minnie Mouse".[21]

In 1984 Westheimer began hosting several television programs on the Lifetime TV network and one in syndication. Her first show was Good Sex! With Dr. Ruth Westheimer, airing for a half hour at 10 pm on weeknights. This show was expanded in 1985 to a full hour and its name was changed to The Dr. Ruth Show. In 1987 she began a separate half hour syndicated series on many broadcast stations called Ask Dr. Ruth which was co-hosted by Larry Angelo. Dr. Ruth returned to the Lifetime network in 1988 with The All New Dr. Ruth Show, which was followed in 1989 by two teen advice shows called What's Up, Dr. Ruth? and a call-in show, You're on the Air with Dr. Ruth in 1990.[22] In 1993 Westheimer and Israeli TV host, Arad Nir, hosted a talk show in Hebrew titled Min Tochnit, on the newly opened Israeli Channel 2. The show was similar to her US Sexually Speaking show. The name of the show, Min Tochnit, is a play of words: literally "Kind of a program", but "Min" (מין) in Hebrew also means "sex" and "gender".[23]

During the 1980s "Dr. Ruth" became a household name and she made guest appearances on several network television shows, including The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and Late Night with David Letterman.[24] She also made frequent appearances on the syndicated revival of Hollywood Squares that ran from 1986 to 1989. In the 1990s Westheimer appeared as herself in episode 89 of Quantum Leap, the episode title being "Dr. Ruth". She appeared on Tom Chapin's album This Pretty Planet, in the song "Two Kinds of Seagulls", in which she and Chapin sing of various animals that reproduce sexually. "It takes two to tingle" says the song. Dr. Ruth also appeared in several commercial advertisements, including a 1994 Honda Prelude ad and an ad for Clairol Herbal Essences shampoo and body wash.[25][26]

Between 2001 and 2007 Westheimer made regular appearances on the PBS Television children's show Between the Lions as "Dr. Ruth Wordheimer" in a parody of her therapist role in which she helps anxious readers and spellers overcome their fear of long words. In January 2009, the 55th anniversary issue of Playboy magazine included Westheimer as #13 in a list of the 55 most important people in sex from the past 55 years.[27] In October 2013 the play Becoming Dr. Ruth opened Off Broadway. Actress Debra Jo Rupp played the role of Dr. Ruth. The play showcased the sex therapist's life from fleeing the Nazis in the Kindertransport and joining the Haganah in Jerusalem as a scout and sniper, to her struggles to succeed as a single mother coming to America.[28] Eileen DeSandre played Dr. Ruth in the Virginia Repertory Theatre production of Becoming Dr. Ruth.[29]

Westheimer has delivered commencement speeches at the Hebrew Union College seminary, Lehman College of the City University of New York and, in 2004, at Trinity College, where she has been awarded honorary degrees.[30][14] She also taught courses and seminars at Princeton and Yale,[30] and was the guest speaker at the Bronx High School of Science in New York in commemoration of Yom HaShoah 2008. Westheimer spoke about her life story and the audience of 500 sang "Happy Birthday" in honor of her 80th birthday. At the ceremony she received an honorary Bronx High School of Science diploma. In 2002 she received the Leo Baeck Medal for her humanitarian work promoting tolerance and social justice.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Dr. Ruth Westheimer in 2009.

Westheimer has been married three times.[7] She said that each of her marriages played an important role in her relationship advice, but after two divorces, it was her third marriage, to Manfred Westheimer, that was the "real marriage".[6] This lasted until his death in 1997. She has two children, Miriam and Joel, and four grandchildren.[6][14] In December 2014, Westheimer was a guest at an Orthodox Jewish wedding in the Bronx, NY. The groom, Rabbi Benjamin Goldschmidt, is the great-grandson of the woman who had helped rescue Westheimer from Nazi Germany.[31] She still lives in the "cluttered three-bedroom apartment in Washington Heights where she raised her two children and became famous, in that order."[32][33] Because of the two synagogues she belongs to, the YMHA she was president of for three years, and a "still sizable community of German Jewish World War II refugees", she remains in the neighborhood.[8] She speaks English, German, French, and Hebrew.


  • Westheimer, Ruth K. (1983). Dr.Ruth's Guide to Good Sex. New York City: Warner Books. ISBN 978-0446512602.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K.; Kravetz, Nathan (1985). First Love: A Young People's Guide to Sexual Information. New York City: Warner Books. ISBN 978-0446340922.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K. (1986). Dr. Ruth's Guide for Married Lovers. New York City: Warner Books. ISBN 978-0446512824.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K. (1987). Dr. Ruth's Guide to Good Sex. London, England: W.H. Allen / Virgin Books. ISBN 978-0491033770.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K. (1988). All in a Lifetime: An Autobiography. New York City: Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 978-0446347747.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K.; Lieberman, Louis (1988). Sex and Morality: Who Is Teaching Our Sex Standards. San Diego, California: Harcourt. ISBN 978-0151813902.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K.; Lieberman, Louis (1992). Dr. Ruth's Guide to Erotic and Sensuous Pleasures. Spi Books Trade. ISBN 978-1561710355.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K. (1992). Dr Ruth"s Guide to Safer Sex. London: Boxtree. ISBN 978-1852834302.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K. (1993). Dr. Ruth Talks to Kids. New York City: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing. ISBN 978-0027925326.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K. (1994). Dr. Ruth's Encyclopedia of Sex. New York City: Continuum Int'l Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0826406255.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K. (1995). Sex For Dummies. Boston: IDG Books.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K.; Mark, Jonathan (1996). Heavenly Sex: Sexuality in the Jewish Tradition. New York City: Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 978-0826409041.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K.; Yagoda, Ben (1997). The Value of Family: A Blueprint for the 21st Century. New York City: Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 978-0446673365.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K.; Kaplan, Steven (1998). Grandparenthood (1st ed.). Abingdon-on-Thames: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415919487.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K. (2000). The Art of Arousal: A Celebration of Erotic Art throughout History. Lanham, Maryland: Madison Books. ISBN 978-1568331676.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K. (2000). Dr. Ruth's Guide to College Life: The Savvy Student's Handbook. Lanham, Maryland: Madison Books. ISBN 978-1568331713.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K. (2000). Encyclopedia of Sex (2nd ed.). New York City: Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 978-0826412409.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K. (2000). Sex For Dummies (Miniature Editions for Dummies). Philadelphia: Running Press. ISBN 978-0762407507.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K. (2001). All in a Lifetime: An Autobiography. New York City: Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 978-0446677615.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K.; Allen, Joy (2001). Dr. Ruth: Grandma on Wheels. New York City: Little Golden Books. ISBN 978-0307982391.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K.; Pearson, Tracey Campbell; Lehu, Pierre A. (2001). Dr. Ruth Talks about Grandparents: Advice for Kids on Making the Most of a Special Relationship. New York City: Madison Books. ISBN 978-1568331805.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  • Westheimer, Ruth K.; Kaplan, Steven (2001). Power: The Ultimate Aphrodisiac. Lanham, Maryland: Madison Books. ISBN 978-1568332307.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K. (2001). Rekindling Romance for Dummies - Conversation Cards. Canoga Park, California: Hungry Mind, Inc. ISBN 978-1890760533.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K. (2001). Romance For Dummies (Miniature Editions(tm)). Philadelphia: Running Press. ISBN 978-0762412440.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K. (2001). Who Am I? Where Did I Come From?. New York City: Golden Books. ISBN 978-0307106186.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K.; Lehu, Pierre A. (2003). Conquering the Rapids of Life: Making the Most of Midlife Opportunities. Lanham, Maryland: Taylor Trade Publishing. ISBN 978-1589790124.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K. (2003). Musically Speaking: A Life Through Song (Personal Takes). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0812237467.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K. (2004). 52 Lessons on Communicating Love: Tips, Anecdotes, and Advice for Connecting with the One You Love from America's Leading Relationship Therapist . Boulder, Colorado: Blue Mountain Arts. ISBN 978-0883966969.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K. (2004). Dr. Ruth's Guide to Talking About Herpes. New York City: Grove Press. ISBN 978-0802141200.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K.; Lopater, Sanford (2004). Human Sexuality: A Psychosocial Perspective (2nd ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins. ISBN 978-0781760768.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K. (2004). le sexe (French ed.). First; Pour Les Nuls Poche. ISBN 978-2876919563.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K. (2005). Dr. Ruth's Sex After 50: Revving Up the Romance, Passion & Excitement!. Fresno, California: Quill Driver Books. ISBN 978-1884956430.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K. (2005). 52 Lecciones para Comunicar el Amor (Superacion Personal / Personal Growth) (Spanish ed.). Selector. ISBN 978-9706438317.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K. (2008). Dr. Ruth's Guide to Teens and Sex Today. New York City: Teachers College Press. p. 160. ISBN 978-0807749050.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K.; Singerman, Jerome E. (2010). Mythen der Liebe (German ed.). Munich, Germany: Collection Rolf Heyne. ISBN 978-3899104707.
  • Westheimer, Dr. Ruth K.; Amos Grunebaum, M.D.; Pierre A. Lehu (2011). Sexually Speaking: What Every Woman Needs to Know about Sexual Health. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9780470643358. OCLC 731913202.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K.; Lehu, Pierre A. (2012). Dr Ruth's Guide for the Alzheimer's Caregiver: How to Care for Your Loved One without Getting Overwhelmed…and without Doing It All Yourself. Fresno, California: Quill Driver Books. p. 188. ISBN 978-1610351355.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K.; Kaplan, Steven (2013). Surviving Salvation: The Ethiopian Jewish Family in Transition (Kindle ed.). Sanger, California: The Write Thought, Inc. ASIN B00CYP81YG.
  • Westheimer, Dr. Ruth K.; Pierre A. Lehu (2015). The Doctor Is In: Dr. Ruth on Love, Life, and Joie de Vivre. New York City: Amazon Publishing. ISBN 9781477829608. OCLC 909806839.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K.; Lehu, Pierre A. (2015). Lebe mit Lust und Liebe: Meine Ratschläge für ein erfülltes Leben (German ed.). Freiburg, Germany: Verlag Herder. ISBN 3451348187.
  • Westheimer, Ruth K.; Lehu, Pierre A. (2018). Roller Coaster Grandma: The Amazing Story of Dr. Ruth. Springfield, New Jersey: Apples&Honey Press. ISBN 9781681155326.



  1. ^ "Ruth Westheimer". March 1, 2009. Retrieved December 18, 2016.
  2. ^ a b Urban Legends Reference Pages: Dr. Ruth Was a Sniper by Barbara Mikkelson, March 1, 2007, Retrieved March 2, 2007.
  3. ^ a b c d "German-American Corner: Ruth Westheimer". Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d Dullea, Georgia. "Therapist to Therapist: Analyzing Dr. Ruth". The New York Times. October 26, 1987.
  5. ^ Flax, Peter; Baum, Gary; Roxborough, Scott; Guthrie, Marisa; Lewis, Andy (December 16, 2015). "Hollywood's Last Survivors of the Holocaust share their stories". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 16, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c Jayson, Sharon (May 15, 2013). "Dr. Ruth, pushing age 85, still talking about sex". USA Today. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  7. ^ a b Foreman, Tom (June 11, 2003). Dr. Ruth: Sex Sage and Ex-Sniper on Global Sexuality. National Geographic.
  8. ^ a b "Morris, Bob. "At Home With: Dr. Ruth Westheimer; The Bible as Sex Manual?". The New York Times. December 21, 1995.
  9. ^ "America's Significant Other: Dr. Ruth (1991)" OpenMind 1991.
  10. ^ Administrator. "All About Dr. Ruth".
  11. ^ Joanne Kaufman (November 29, 2013). "Dr. Ruth Westheimer: Her Bedrooms Are Off Limits". The New York Times. Retrieved July 30, 2015. "I wanted it badly because of the view," said the radio and television sex therapist and author who's known simply as Dr. Ruth (the honorific comes courtesy of her Ph.D. in education).
  12. ^ Katz, Mallory M. (March 20, 2017). "10 Women Immigrants Who Changed Art, Thought, and Politics in the U.S." Huffington Post. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  13. ^ "Descendants of Holocaust Victims Reclaim German Citizenship". NBC News. April 16, 2012. Retrieved December 31, 2012.
  14. ^ a b c d "All About Dr. Ruth". Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  15. ^ Sterling, Christopher H. (2011). Biographical Encyclopedia of American Radio. New York City: Routledge. p. 423. ISBN 978-0-415-99549-8. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  16. ^ Staff Writers. "Dr. Ruth Westheimer Biography". Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  17. ^ "Interview with Dr. Ruth Westheimer". Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  18. ^ Barron, James (December 13, 1998). "ART/ARCHITECTURE; Some Things Never Age. Just Ask Dr. Ruth". New York Times. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  19. ^ Kahn, Joseph P. (April 7, 2011). "A sex expert for the ages". Boston Globe. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  20. ^ Griset, Rich (September 23, 2014). "Moment of Ruth". Style Weekly. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  21. ^ Schuessler, Jennifer (June 21, 2012). "Audiences Can Now Analyze Dr. Ruth". New York Times. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  22. ^ Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle F. (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present. New York City: Ballantine Books. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  23. ^ "Min Tochnit". IMDB. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  24. ^ Wolf, Michelle Andrea; Kielwasser, Aldred P. (1991). Gay People, Sex, and the Media. New York City; London: The Haworth Press. p. 142. ISBN 0-86656-936-7.
  25. ^ "Dr. Ruth pilots Prelude ad". Advertising Age. 65 (42): 45. October 1994. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  26. ^ "Clairol Herbal Essences - Dr. Ruth (1990)". Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  27. ^ Geller, Adam (July 25, 2012). "At 84, legendary sex therapist Dr. Ruth still has lots to talk about". Masslive. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  28. ^ Rooney, David (October 29, 2013). "The Sex Therapist's Story, From Calamity to Cliché". New York Times. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  29. ^ Wren, Celia (September 13, 2014). "Virginia Rep production brings Dr. Ruth, and her story, to Richmond". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  30. ^ a b Gordon, Jane (May 9, 2004). "WORTH NOTING; Calling Dr. Ruth (To Speak at Trinity)". New York Times. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  31. ^ Brawarsky, Sandee (December 21, 2014). "Vows Taking Their Sweet Time". The New York Times Company. Retrieved December 27, 2014.
  32. ^ Joanne Kaufman (November 29, 2013). "Dr. Ruth Westheimer: Her Bedrooms Are Off Limits". The New York Times. Retrieved July 30, 2015.
  33. ^ Vanita Salisbury (November 27, 2013). "Dr. Ruth Has Seen the Play About Her Life More Than Fifteen Times". New York. Retrieved July 30, 2015.

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