Karola Ruth Siegel was born in Germany on June 4, 1928. When Karola was ten years old, shortly after the infamous Kristallnacht, her father was taken to a detention camp. Her mother and grandmother then sent the little girl to Switzerland, where she lived in an orphanage for six years. After the war, unable to find any other members of her family, sixteen-year-old Karola went to Palestine and started using Ruth as her first name. Eventually she emigrated to the United States.
In 1983, Westheimer published her first book, Dr. Ruth’s Guide to Good Sex. Since then, she has written twenty-six others, including her autobiographical works All in a Lifetime (1987) and Musically Speaking: A Life through Song (2003).
In May of 2000 Westheimer received an honorary doctorate from Hebrew Union College-Institute of Religion for her work in human sexuality and her commitment to the Jewish people, Israel and religion. In 2001 she received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and the Leo Baeck Medal, and in 2004, she received the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, from Trinity College. She is an adjunct professor at New York University and an Associate Fellow of Calhoun College at Yale University. Ruth Westheimer is the president of the Young Men’s Hebrew Association (YMHA) of Washington Heights.