Herzlia’s Jewish Life and Learning welcomes Rabbi Sam Thurgood

Geoff Cohen, Director of Jewish Identity and Community UHS and Rabbi Sam Thurgood, incoming Head of JLL UHS

Rabbi Sam Thurgood has been appointed Head of Jewish Life and Learning (JLL) for United Herzlia Schools from July 2022. 

Rabbi Sam is known to many in the community as the Rabbi of Beit Midrash Morasha (Arthur’s Road Shul), where he has served since October 2012 and will remain involved for a mutually agreed transitional period. 

Rabbi Sam shares, “my connection to Herzlia goes back a long way. My aunty Helaine Gorin taught at Herzlia and my cousin is Jos Horwitz, principal at Alon Ashel. I’ve also taken many opportunities to be involved; teaching Lego Torah stories at the Pre-Primaries, serving as Etgar quizmaster, speaking at a Herzlia Seder and visiting on Purim. I also never truly left the educational sector, even whilst working as a full-time community Rabbi. However, for the last few years, I have longed to return to education full-time, so the timing of this opportunity was perfect for me.”

Rabbi Sam continues that, “JLL is at the heart of Herzlia. The reason Herzlia exists as a school is that generations of our community have been committed to the educational and spiritual development of our youth. My approach to Judaism is to create a welcoming environment in which Jews feel that their Judaism is valuable and life-affirming, and those who are not Jewish feel that Judaism cares about them and the broader world. At Herzlia, I envision a learning space in which Judaism will be vibrant and compelling, where pupils will be co-creators of learning. Torah and Jewish life will be seen as relevant and a way to open doors to a meaningful life and a just, healthy society. We are blessed with a wonderful JLL team who, led by Rabbi Sean Cannon and under the directorship of Geoff Cohen, have achieved wonderful results. My first task will be to become more familiar with the pupils, staff, parents and educational infrastructure to see how best to make this a reality. I believe that we must engage with parents and students, be responsive to concerns and chart the way forward together.”

Andries van Renssen, UHS Executive Director, says: “With the arrival of a new leader in the JLL Department comes the great opportunity to re-look at everything happening in the school related to ‘Jewish Identity’, which is one of our strategic priorities. During the leadership period of Rabbi Sean Cannon, a beautiful strategy for JLL encapsulating Hebrew, Zionism and JLL (informal and formal) has seen the light. The diagram articulating this strategy is called ‘The Tent of Avraham and Sarah’, and I’m looking forward to Rabbi Sam’s fresh look and bringing it to life for our pupils. Rabbi Sam’s involvement on the board of the Zionist Federation also dovetails well with Herzlia’s Israel education. May the integration of Jewish Identity and Israel in all academic subjects become structured and practical and flourish under his new leadership.”

Geoff Cohen, UHS Director of Jewish Identity and Community, adds: “Rabbi Sam is a highly qualified and experienced educator, but he’s also a family man and a mensch who seeks to be an inclusive and engaging JLL leader for our Herzlia community.”

• Published in the PDF edition of the June 2022 issue – Click here to read it.

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