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Prepare your burning sex questions: The one and only Dr. Ruth Westheimer arrives at Marblehead’s Temple Sinai on Oct. 6 for a talk and Q&A, kicking off the Jewish Community Center of the North Shore’s Jewish Book Month speaker series.
Westheimer has written 38 books and produced five documentaries. And in the spirit of true romance, she even has a line of low-alcohol wines, Dr. Ruth’s Vin d’Amour. She’s especially proud of “Heavenly Sex: Sexuality in the Jewish Tradition,” which was published in 1996. In the book, she discusses how Jewish tradition is more progressive about sex than one might suspect, and she touches on surrogacy, incest and arranged marriage in biblical texts.
“For Jews, sex has never been a sin but has always been a mitzvah, a good deed,” Westheimer says.
Judaism has played a large part in her life: Born in Germany in 1928, she was sent to a Swiss orphanage when she was 10 to escape the Holocaust. At 17, she traveled to Palestine as a member of the Haganah, a Jewish paramilitary organization. She arrived in the United States in 1956, going on to work for Planned Parenthood and launching a radio show, “Sexually Speaking,” in 1980. It took off, and the rest is history.
Westheimer’s upcoming talk is plenty modern, though, and audience participation is a must.
“I want people to feel free to ask questions. And they can always phrase it as, ‘My friend has a question,’” she says with a mischievous chuckle.
I won’t be at the event since I’m due to give birth the next day (“Please don’t come!” she laughs), but I had my own questions. Such as: How do you keep love and romance alive when you’re dealing with work, kids and the humdrum of daily life?
“It’s a very important question,” she tells me. “You cannot let your sex life fall asleep. Go out on a date once a week or once every other week. The entire conversation at dinner or on the weekend can’t only be about the children. Make sure to get grandparents to take kids if they’re nearby, or to get a babysitter. Don’t skimp on that. Make sure you know that the relationship has to be cultivated and kept alive, so that when you’re empty-nesters, you’re not out of conversation because it’s not all about the kids.”
Westheimer also urges couples to see a therapist when resentment starts to creep in but not to stay in a marriage that just isn’t working.
“I have never told a couple in therapy to stay together for the sake of the kids. If it’s not working, it’s not working,” she insists.
And as for those sex questions? Ask whatever you want, but know that they often come in two varieties.
“One is specifically about sexual questions,” she says. “The other is what you asked before: relationships. Oh! And mothers-in-law.”
Tickets are $36, and the talk begins at 7 p.m.