Jaffe’s Jewish Jive
Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the country’s most famous and trusted sex therapist, will use her unmistakable accent to charm and enlighten Atlantans about her life of tragedy and challenges, helping others, and having fun when she comes to the Book Festival of the Marcus Jewish Community Center on Tuesday, Nov. 10.
“The Doctor Is In: Dr. Ruth on Love, Life and Joie de Vivre” tells her story with dramatic twists about marriage, faith, celebrity and life’s unlimited possibilities for happiness. And, of course, she offers sound, nonjudgmental advice along the way.
Her book is this year’s selection for the Esther G. Levine Community Read, honoring the longtime festival volunteer.
“I am thrilled that Dr. Ruth is the speaker for this year’s Esther G. Levine Community Read. We all know her for her frank discussions about love and life, but in this memoir we learn about her fascinating life — as a child of the Holocaust, an orphan in Switzerland and as a sniper during Israel’s War of Independence,” Levine said.
Share my down-to-earth talk with the legendary Dr. Ruth.
Jaffe: Why write this book now at 87? Was it cathartic for you?
Westheimer: I want to make sure that people know about my background and philosophy. I had a sad beginning as an orphan and chose to take life with both hands. Coming out of the Holocaust, I was committed to tikkun olam (repairing the world). And, let’s face it, who wants to talk about sex all day long?
Jaffe: Because of your size, you said that you were a scout and sniper in the war. Did you ever pull the trigger and kill anyone?
Westheimer: No, I did not. On June 4, 1948, in Israel’s War of Independence, I was badly wounded in both legs. That ended my military career. While in the hospital there, I tried to make the most of it and spread cheer to others.
Jaffe: Besides appearing in Clairol commercials, what do you do in your free time?
Westheimer: I was a super skier but gave that up at 80. Now I hike, especially in the Swiss Alps. I take the family to the mountains there. I live in Manhattan, so concerts, Lincoln Center, theater. I’m so busy at night; that’s why I only have time to talk to you journalists at 10 a.m.
Jaffe: Examples of your nightlife?
Westheimer: Tonight I am going to an event with the Israeli consul general. Last night I attended a function with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, then another night an event honoring Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Last week I visited with Hugh Heffner at the Playboy Mansion.
Jaffe: I saw that Playboy Magazine picked you as the 13th most influential person in sex. You and Madonna, to name two.
Westheimer: Yes, and Heffner recently commended me for helping set the foundation for contemporary free speech in America.
Jaffe: You’ve been a widow for 18 years and married three times. What advice can you give folks about how to get marriage right?
Westheimer: First, our religion allows divorce. If your first marriage doesn’t work, don’t give up hope. Keep trying. But don’t ever think you can change a partner. Young people today work too hard and need to make time for evening dates or things to do together that are pleasurable to both.
Jaffe: Are Jews more hung up about sex?
Westheimer: Absolutely not! Sex by married couples is a mitzvah. Read my book “Heavenly Sex” — sexuality according to Jewish tradition.
Jaffe: What’s your secret to staying so youthful?
Westheimer: I walk, walk, walk. Even when I’m on the phone, I’m walking. I don’t cook or watch what I eat. I do have three meals a day. At my age, I am very grateful for being in good health.
Jaffe: Yes, I saw Christie Brinkley on an interview saying that “if we seniors don’t move, we’ll rust.” Do you like visiting us folks in the South?
Westheimer: Yes, I just left Birmingham, Alabama, with my play “Becoming Dr. Ruth.” Also slated for Philadelphia and the Kravis Center in Palm Beach.
Jaffe: Tell our readers something no one knows about you.
Westheimer: Hmmm. I talk to journalists to get the word out about living life to the fullest at any age. But some things I keep private.
Jaffe: What do your grandchildren call you? Are you a bubbe?
Westheimer: No, they call me “Omi,” an endearment for oma, grandmother in German.
Jaffe: You span generations. You have a keen interest in children.
Westheimer: I wrote a children’s book also translated into Hebrew. It’s about a turtle who teaches that to grow up, you have to take risks. The turtle could get hurt if it sticks its neck out of the shell, but it has to move.
Jaffe: I read in your book that you speak German to Wolfgang Puck and French to designer John Paul Gaultier. In what language do you dream?
Westheimer: (Pause) English. I speak fluent Hebrew too.
Jaffe: My mother learned to email at age 87. Do you tweet?
Westheimer: Yes, I have over 80,000 followers @AskDrRuth and YouTube.com/drruth.
Jaffe: When you come to Atlanta, you and I could share shoes, as my sister and I have tiny feet.
Westheimer: I wear a Size 4 and mostly buy children’s shoes. Ferragamo used to make shoes for me. Now all I care about is comfort. Remember, I walk, walk, walk!