Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) awarded Dr. Ruth Westheimer, famed sex researcher and therapist, an honorary doctorate this week.The honorary doctorate, the first awarded to Westheimer by an Israeli university, was awarded in recognition of her trailblazing research and therapy, her advancement of the field of human sexuality and its public discussion and her friendship for Israel, among other reasons.Westheimer clearly represents the values expected of one awarded this honor by BGU, said the university’s president, Prof. Daniel Chamovitz.”Courage, to survive as a child of the Holocaust, to fight for the founding of Israel, to build new lives in new countries, and courage to break accepted codes of what is to be discussed in public,” Chamovitz listed as the first value.”Persistence, to continue despite resistance, creativity to create culture, dialogue, books and shows,” Chamovitz went on to list.”Dr. Ruth, your commitment to taking sexuality out of the clinic and into the living room, bettered the lives of millions. By accepting an honorary degree from BGU, you provide us a mirror through which we hope to see a bit of ourselves, and honor our institution and what it stands for,” he said.In recognition of her honorary doctorate, she has decided to establish the Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer Endowed Scholarship for Psychology. It will fund psychology student scholarships at BGU’s Department of Psychology.”Dr. Ruth, thank you for helping us raise funds for the Dr. Ruth Westheimer Scholarship in Psychology, which will be awarded annually to two outstanding students. In this way, your name will be tied to BGU forever. I am looking forward to your next trip to Israel, so that you can bestow these scholarships in person,” Chamovitz went on to say. Westheimer is famous worldwide as “Dr. Ruth” for her one-woman show Becoming Dr. Ruth and for the documentary about her life, Ask Dr. Ruth, which is available on HULU.Born in Germany into a religious Jewish household in 1928, Westheimer was sent to Switzerland on the Kindertransport at age 10. Her parents were murdered in the Holocaust. Westheimer became a sniper for the Haganah – what later became the IDF. She claimed to have been quite talented and “an expert at throwing hand grenades.”On her 20th birthday in 1948, during Israel’s Independence War, her legs were severely injured after she was the victim of a bombing, having been one survivor in the attack in which two women were killed.Westheimer became a household name after she launched her radio show, Sexually Speaking, in 1980. Her fame led her to many TV appearances, lectures, books and a national platform. She became a symbol of the sexual revolution, and was lauded – and criticized – for her willingness to speak frankly about contraception, orgasms and sexually transmitted diseases. Tamar Beeri, Deborah Dahan and Amy Spiro contributed to this report.
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