Dr. Ruth: Orphan, sniper, kindergarten teacher, psychosexual therapist
While it's easy to caricature Dr. Ruth, with her diminutive stature, heavy accent, and frank talk about sex, she reminded an attentive audience at the MOSAIC conference
last Sunday that her words are grounded in a serious perspective on human nature. Orphaned at age ten during the Nazi occupation of Germany, she grew up in Switzerland, teaching herself English from textbooks borrowed from another orphan (a boy with whom "nothing happened . . . just a little hugging and kissing"). Later, she became a Zionist and trained as a sniper for the Israeli defense forces. ("I can put five bullets through a tiny hole as far away as you"--she points at a guy in the fifth row--"so you'd better pay attention.") Later still, she became a kindergarten teacher while earning a degree in psychology at the Sorbonne. In 1956 she immigrated to the U.S., obtained a Masters degree in sociology, and did her Ph.D. research on human sexuality, inspired by a stint at Planned Parenthood in New York. Her campaign for sexual literacy is, if anything, magnified by her compact frame and jovial demeanor, attributes that belie her hard past; she's an extremely likeable evangelist for sex education and communication.