Rabbi Sam Thurgood believes his SACAP qualification has helped him become an effective problem solver.
As a youngster growing up in Durban Sam Thurgood, 35, imagined he’d become an actuary. “I also looked into medicine, but in the end the need to help people through teaching and guiding won out,” he says.
Currently Sam serves as the spiritual leader of the Beit Midrash Morasha community in Sea Point, Cape Town. We caught up with him and discovered what a valuable part his coaching course at SACAP continues to play in his role as rabbi today.
A love for learning
Sam is an avid scholar who rates the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge very highly. “I went to Yeshiva (a post-school Jewish learning centre) in Johannesburg, intending to study for a year and then head to university,” he explains. “However, I enjoyed the studies and teaching so much I stayed for seven years!” Sam returned home to Durban to teach and serve the Jewish community there before moving to Cape Town in 2012.
Sam’s current role involves a tapestry of tasks. He says a typical day in his life includes a number of responsibilities such as facilitating daily prayer services, teaching Judaism, taking care of community members – for example, visiting the sick, assisting those in need, celebrating and mourning together – as well as running community events. “And writing more emails than I ever would have imagined!” he exclaims.
For Sam the teaching element of his job is something he really relishes. “In addition to the adult education component of my community work, I make sure to give a weekly class to the children of the community as well as to teach at three different community schools. I also lecture at various organisations in the Jewish and general community,” he says. “I love learning and the way in which knowledge transforms our lives and perspectives, and view this as a gift that I can share with others.”
Growing the gift
While psychology has always interested Sam, coaching is not something he initially gravitated towards he concedes. “As a young rabbi adjusting to my new position, my employers offered me coaching to help me to grow and develop in my role,” he explains. “After experiencing the power of coaching first hand, the opportunity to learn to become a coach through a well-structured and rigorous academic course was very attractive to me.”
Sam enrolled in SACAP’s Post Graduate Diploma in Coaching, a part-time two-year programme that he was able to juggle with his very active community function. “The primary time commitment was every Thursday afternoon (which my work allowed me time off for) and several evenings and Sunday mornings, which my wife Aviva agreed to whilst she took care of our young daughter,” he says. “Over the duration of the course we were blessed with twins (a boy and a girl) as well, so that certainly added a new challenge to my work-life balance – admittedly a delightful one.”
Sam found SACAP’s diploma programme very worthwhile for a number of reasons. “Excellent lecturers and plenty of hands-on supervised group discussion,” he notes. “The interactions with my fellow students were just as valuable to me as the content and delivery of the course as well.”
According to Sam his SACAP qualification continues to inform what he’s doing today. “Before studying coaching I truly believed that my role, when people came to me with a problem, was to work out how I could solve their problem,” he says. “Coaching has taught me that in most cases I can help people far better by assisting them in working out how they can solve their problem themselves.”
Sam believes coaching is very empowering. “I now have both the perspective and the skills to help people discover their own solutions,” he says. “As someone who entered the rabbinate in order to help people, it’s exciting to have coaching – a powerful tool – at my disposal.”
Leading the way
Sam’s deep love for people has steered him on his journey. Being exposed to coaching has helped him gain more skills in his role as rabbi and will undoubtedly develop his affinity for helping people in the future. Five years from now Sam hopes to be working part-time in the community rabbinate and playing a more significant role in Jewish instruction. “I have recently begun my Masters in Jewish education and see myself involved in curriculum development and/ or school leadership,” he says.
How about you? What’s your five-year plan? A coaching course could bolster your career journey, too. Or expose you to personal development that will enrich your life in a myriad ways. For a list of SACAP’s International Coach Federation (ICF) accredited and COMENSA aligned coaching programmes enquire here now.