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America's sex therapist Dr. Ruth gives back to her roots

Dr. Ruth is thrown up in the air while celebrating her 80th birthday. Mazel tov, Dr. Ruth!
Dr. Ruth is thrown up in the air while celebrating her 80th birthday. Mazel tov, Dr. Ruth!Pierre LeHu

Cause Celeb highlights a celebrity’s work on behalf of a specific cause. This week, we had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Ruth Westheimer about her charitable acts for the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City.

Dr. Ruth is a very unique “triple-threat,” known as an American sex therapist, media personality and author. Dr. Ruth’s enthusiasm has created a more open environment for talk about sex on both television and radio. Dr. Ruth’s breakout moment was in 1980 when she was offered a talk show to be aired on Sunday nights at midnight called “Sexually Speaking” (the same title as her new book that just came out!). Dr. Ruth has taken us by storm educating us all on the topics we’re afraid to ask about.

Dr. Ruth has taken her success and used it to benefit charities. Most recently, Dr. Ruth has been hosting events to benefit the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Having very close ties to the Holocaust herself, Dr. Ruth gives back to the Museum of Jewish Heritage to help preserve her culture.

Intro written by: Gabriella Palmieri

Interviewed by: Giacinta Pace

Q: How did you get involved with the Museum of Jewish Heritage?

Dr. Ruth: I started [as] a member of the museum of Washington of Holocaust, but when the museum here asked me, I immediately became a member and also a trustee, because this is part of my background of making sure that the Jewish heritage and the horrible happenings of the Holocaust are being commemorated. Part of it has to do with my personal experience having left Nazi Germany with a group of children in 1939 and living in an orphanage in Switzerland and then going to then Palestine that became Israel. So for me, the museum has another meaning because when I came to this country, I stayed up all night not to miss seeing the Statue of Liberty. The museum is at 36 Battery Place, and every time when I go to a meeting the first thing I do is go and say hello to the Statue of Liberty.

Q: Why did you decide to donate some of the proceeds of your new book “Sexually Speaking: What every woman needs to know about sexual health” to the museum?

Dr. Ruth: Patti Kenner, She’s on the board, did a fundraiser at her house on Park Avenue. She’s on the board and I’m on the board, we decided we would do something for the museum. Also, my birthday party is going to be like a fundraiser for the museum, that’s why I’m doing it there. It’s wonderful because the film, the BBC film, it’s going to be the first showing ever in the United States. I can show it for a fundraiser. It’s called Extraordinary Women. I am one of them, Katharine Hepburn, [Indira] Gandhi is another one. We will be the first ever to show that in the United States.

Q: Is there a particularly moving moment that you’ve had while working with the museum?

Dr. Ruth: Yes, my son-in-law’s uncle who I liked very much, he was a shoemaker and he had a pair of shoes from Vienna- that’s where he worked and where he did a double sole so that people could hide diamonds in their shoes. I arranged for them to give that shoe as a memorandum. He passed away not too long ago.  [It’s] from the Holocaust and that shoe is in the exhibit. I don’t have anything to give to the exhibit, because you will see in that film, and the play about me that’s coming up.  All I have from Frankfurt - from my home - is a doll that I gave to another girl who was crying on the train when they left Germany and the other thing I had was a washcloth with my initials on it. That one [the washcloth] I still have but I can’t give it up to the museum because it’s the only thing I still have. The play is called, “Dr. Ruth All the Way.” And it’s going to be up in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. That will have its opening on June 30th and Debra Jo Rupp from the television show, “That 70s Show”, she’s playing me. The writer [is] Mark St Germain who wrote “Freud’s Last Session.” That [show] had over 600 and some performances off Broadway. Then we are also coming out at the end of April with a wine called Vin D'Amour.

Q: So tell us a little bit about your book and why you think it’s important for all women to read.

Dr. Ruth: It’s important. I did the book “Sexually Speaking: What every woman needs to know about sexual health,” I talk and Pierre [Dr. Ruth’s minister of communications] puts it on the page and then it comes back to me. It’s a wonderful book! Wiley [the book’s publishing company] did a great job with that! It’s very famous up in Massachusetts. It’s very important because today, doctors have very little time for patients. And what happens usually with women is that very often they have questions that they ask at the end. He doesn’t have any time anymore, the folder’s already closed. I’m teaching women to come in with their questions ahead of time so that she gets the answers, maybe sometimes her partner goes with her. Especially, we have to teach women to ask the questions, but we also have to teach men and women doctors, it’s even true for women gynecologists. [It’s] very important that women and their partners know that they must initiate the conversation. And that’s why I did the book “What every woman needs to know.” There are things in that book that I didn’t believe that I would ever write about. For example, on page 61: “Ten Top Tips from Dr. Amos Grunebaum [chief gynecologist at Cornell Medical Center] on shaving the pubic area.” I didn’t know that the Brazilian shaving was so prevalent among younger people today. There are many things in here, a wonderful compilation of all of my experience with the experience of the gynecologist.