WJT Rabbi Review: Becoming Dr Ruth 2021

WJT is excited to continue our tradition of Rabbi Reviews by inviting Rabbis from the community to see our shows and review them to provide greater spiritual and cultural context for our audience members. For our digital presentation of Becoming Dr. Ruth by Mark St. Germain we have Rabbi Kliel Rose of Congregation Etz Chayim.

WJT Rabbi Review  

Becoming Dr Ruth by Mark St Germain

Reviewed by Rabbi Kliel Rose

WJT has provided us with another exceptional opportunity to delve into the fascinating life of world Jewry’s leading celebrities, Dr. Ruth Westheimer.
In “Becoming Dr. Ruth”, a play written by Mark St. Germain, the audience is invited into the inner sanctum—her living room as well as the private thoughts of this inspiring icon of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Up and close, (this second time for me) from the comfort of our own screens and homes, we are the recipients of the intriguing back story of what helped shape the evolution of Dr. Ruth, the diminutive but larger than life Sex therapist and radio personality.

Mariam Bernstein, who plays the role of Dr. Ruth, has a charming way of transporting us to the key and pivotal moments of Westheimer’s life. We hear of the distresses of a young ten year old girl as her father was captured by the Nazis and how she witnessed first-hand the horrors of Kristallnacht. Additionally, we learn about some of the more positive aspects of Dr. Ruth’s development as a young woman—her move to Palestine at the age of 17, where she lived on a kibbutz and of course her first sexual experience there.

20 years ago I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Ruth while I was studying to become a Rabbi at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in New York City. I recall her unique English speckled with a strong German accent and the way her high pitched voice rang through the halls of JTS as she was in conversation with some of my fellow students. Never would I have guessed that this same individual (all of 4-foot-7) had once been a member of the Haganah, and trained as a scout and a sniper.

If there is one major take-away from this fabulous performance, at least from this one audience member’s perspective, it is the absolute resiliency of this dynamic person that shines so vividly in the form of this individual.

Despite the shattering moments of her early life, the desolation she felt so intensely at the loss of her immediate family in the Shoah, Dr. Ruth emerged from the depths of despair. She didn’t merely come out of this but with firm determination she insisted on embracing life--living with purpose, excellence, and with a certain type of joy.