Past Honorees

At Central Synagogue

Dr. Ruth Westheimer
2008 Sociologist and psychosexual therapist

“A satisfying love relationship is not something that ‘happens’ to a couple; it is something they make happen.”

Dr. Ruth Westheimer – sociologist, psychosexual therapist, and former Jewish freedom fighter – is a true Renaissance woman, and has made a name for herself in almost every avenue of media. In her long career she has authored 35 books, served as an adjunct associate professor of human sexuality at Cornell University Medical Center, created critically acclaimed documentaries on the experiences of Ethiopian Jews and Bedoin women, and hosted the television and radio shows What’s Up, Dr. Ruth and Sexually Speaking.

Born Karola Ruth Siegel in Germany in 1928, Dr. Westheimer was sent to a children’s home in Switzerland at the start of the Holocaust, escaping the horrible death her parents suffered later in concentration camps. When she was 17 she moved to Israel and fought for independence with the Haganah, the organization that later became the core of the Israeli Defense Forces. Westheimer eventually immigrated to the United States in 1956, settling in Washington Heights, Manhattan, where she raised her two children and continues to reside today.

Earning degrees in Sociology and Education, Westheimer began studying human sexuality and working for Planned Parenthood, building the basis for her future role as a promoter of sexual literacy. She built a flourishing career out of answering people’s questions about sex on her television show, in her newspaper column, and even in her books Dr. Ruth’s Encyclopedia of Sex and Sex for Dummies. Dr. Westheimer has received many awards and acknowledgements for her work, both as a sex therapist and a humanitarian, including the Leo Baeck Medal for her work promoting social justice, the Liberty Medal from the City of New York, and Honorary Doctorate from Hebrew Union College - Institute of Religion in 2000 for her work in Human Sexuality and her commitment to the Jewish People, Israel and Religion. She currently serves as the Honorary President of the Council on Sexuality and Aging at the National Sexuality Resource Center.