Jaffe’s Jewish Jive

Never have I seen the Tilly Mill Road traffic outside the Marcus Jewish Community Center more affected than Tuesday evening, Nov. 10, before Dr. Ruth Westheimer’s “The Doctor Is In” conversation with CNN’s Holly Firfer in conjunction with the Book Festival’s annual Esther Levine Community Read.

Diminutive and practical in clogs, Dr. Ruth had a strong and steady gait as she hopped up the stairs to address the full house.

Dr. Ruth delivered her pearls of wisdom through comedy. Some things you may have never known about her:

  • Star decorator Nate Berkus went to New York City to redesign her living space. She lives modestly in the same “before fame” Washington Heights apartment.

    Photo by Heidi Morton Esther Levine poses with Dr. Ruth Westheimer.

    Photo by Heidi Morton
    Esther Levine poses with Dr. Ruth Westheimer.

  • She served on the Y (New York’s equivalent to a JCC) board for 10 years and never missed a meeting. “That’s because I called the director and had him change meetings around my schedule.”
  • “Freud was illiterate and should have taken my class,” which she formerly taught at Yale and Princeton and most recently offered at Columbia.
  • When she dropped a coin in his cup, a blind beggar said, “Thanks, Dr. Ruth,” which either meant she was tremendously well known or he was faking his blindness.
  • The Jewish sages gave good advice about how to arouse a woman of valor. “Speak to her softly. Telling her she is wonderful, the loveliest of them all, is the best Viagra of all.”
  • Be prepared to take a risk in meeting new people and cultivating relationships. In olden days, ladies dropped a handkerchief, and sometimes no one picked it up. Dr. Ruth, who had little money at the time, bought her future husband a guitar to prevent him from going back to his old girlfriend’s house to claim his old one.
  • She loved doing the talk show circuit with Carson and Letterman. Her husband’s favorite star was Diane Sawyer, who asked him how his sex life was. His response: “The shoemaker’s children don’t have shoes.”
  • She used to believe that parents should give their children privacy, but she feels that has changed. “Parents have an obligation to monitor web use. Furthermore, iPhones are leading children away from conversation skills.”
  • Although she is a master sharpshooter, she hasn’t touched a gun since Columbine.
  • Don’t waste time around boring people — except if it’s your mother-in-law.

“We left her talk in peace. She is the embodiment of her own motto about living a life of joie de vivre,” Mona Sorkin Shuman said.

Jackie Wolfe said, “We admire her for coming from a turbulent background (losing both parents in the Holocaust) to waking up and making the most of each day.”

Two favorite Dr. Ruth quotes: “Give me patience immediately” and “A lesson taught with humor is a lesson retained.”

We laughed and learned that Tuesday night, but some of her talk was too risqué to print here.