Dr. Ruth Shares Her Passion — for Israel

By Ethan Porter

Published January 23, 2004, issue of January 23, 2004.
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As America’s most outspoken sex therapist, Dr. Ruth Westheimer is an expert at keeping romance alive. Now, Dr. Ruth is focusing on a different kind of passion: her love for Israel.

Before she was writing books and hosting talk shows about sex, Dr. Ruth served in the Haganah, fighting valiantly in Israel’s War of Independence. More than five decades later, her love for the Jewish state has not waned.

In order to best express her feelings, Dr. Ruth is primed to lead a new campaign, “Love is Real,” sponsored by Hillel, the largest Jewish campus organization in the world. The aim of the campaign is to change the tone of discussions regarding Israel on college campuses. In contrast to the inflamed rhetoric that frequently dominates such debates in the hallways of academia, “Love is Real” intends to sound a more positive note.

“What you are embarking upon … is really to speak about commitment,” Dr. Ruth told an audience attending a sneak preview of the campaign earlier this month. As she sees it, the Jewish commitment to Israel is analogous to the commitment required for a healthy romantic partnership.

Dr. Ruth’s official position in the campaign is honorary chairperson. She will appear in “Love is Real” literature, and may speak on campuses that are involved when the project kicks off nationally in mid-February. Student participants will be identifiable by their T-shirts and buttons bearing the slogan “Love is Real.” If all goes according to plan, other students will inquire about the meaning of the emblem; participants then will share their personal stories about Israel and present the inquirers with buttons bearing the slogan. As more stories are told and more buttons are exchanged, a virtual web of love for Israel hopefully will emerge on campus.

“When you have a discussion with someone, whether they disagree or not, you are going to have an impact,” Dr. Ruth told the students.

Wayne Firestone, the director of Hillel’s Center for Israel Affairs and Israel on Campus Coalition, said the campaign should demonstrate to students that “in spite of all the violence and all the challenges, in spite of its need to maintain its security priorities, Israel remains a loving society, a society that cares about loving and children more than about death and killing.”

Hillel plans to distribute 15,000 buttons to more than 1,000 participants on more than 100 campuses. It is a huge endeavor but a lot will be improvised, and thus, in the words of Firestone, “more authentic.” There will be no formal Hillel-hosted programs or conferences, but students will be expected to host discussions on their own.

If Dr. Ruth is best known for advising the lovelorn on matters of sex, she’s still an Israeli at heart — and an Israeli veteran at that, as she reminded the students who attended the sneak preview. “Watch out for me,” she said. “I can still put five bullets of a stun gun into the little red circle.”

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