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A Very Petite Giant: A Documentary About the Life of “Dr. Ruth”

Over the holiday break, I attended an event in which there was a screening of the documentary “Ask Dr. Ruth” and I had the honor of meeting again the incredible Dr. Ruth Westheimer.

Dr. Ruth, at 91 years and a half, is a diminutive, energetic, intellectual, sharp force of nature. She was one of the pioneers of sex therapy in the US and in the world, blazing the way to open, frank and direct discourse about sexual matters but not only about sexual matters, as her outspoken views emphasized acceptance of variability in sexual preferences as well as of diversity in general.

The documentary, which is exceptionally well done and profoundly moving, tells the story of Ruth, who was sent by her loving parents on a Kindertransport to Switzerland to save her life. Ruth was ten years old when she was separated from her parents and doting grandmother, whom she never saw again.

Ruth was sent away with a group of Orthodox Jewish children to an orphanage in Switzerland. While given shelter and their necessary provisions, the Jewish children were treated as ‘second rate citizens’ and obliged to help take care of the other young orphans.

Ruth describes the last time she saw her father, who was taken from their home  by the Gestapo, and how she noticed that in the very last moment before mounting the truck that took him away, he turned around and smiled at the family he was leaving behind. Ruth, 10 years old, did the same when she had to leave her mother and grandmother on the platform at the train station as the Kindertransport was leaving for Switzerland. The capacity of a young child to comprehend and be able to muster such courage in order “to make it easier for them” is astounding. At the same time, as many Holocaust survivors and children of survivors attest, this stoic and admirable capacity to bear the unbearable, was also manifested in her daughter’s statement that she never saw her mother cry with the exception of when Dr. Ruth lost her husband.

Dr. Ruth managed to cling to her father’s imperative to value education above all, as this can never be taken away from one. The story of how she managed to do that, as well as the story of her maturation as a young woman, her serious injury as a soldier in the war for Israel’s independence, and her personal odyssey on the way to becoming the world-renowned “Dr. Ruth” are an inspiration to all.

                        Irit Felsen


  1. Ruth hoffman says

    Such a precise title of this incredible woman and a very moving post. What a priviledge to meet her. I wish her long and healthy life

  2. Thank you for recommending this doc! She is more amazing than I knew.

  3. Abbe Niborski Nadel says

    I had the honor and pleasure of shaking Dr Ruth’s hand at a large 2G event in NYC. I felt as if I was touched by an angel. She is an amazing human being and an inspiration.

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