Paula Levin

#coached When my Rebbetzin became my coach

Rebbetzin Sterna Wineberg

Feeling stuck

Anyone who still thinks all religious Jewish women, particularly Chassidic ones, are treated as second class citizens; and are suppressed, repressed, unactualized baby-making machines is living under a rock. And they definitely haven’t met my Rebbetzin, Sterna Wineberg. Sterna is not just a pretty face framed by a lush, glossy (I-can’t-believe-it’s-a) sheitel. Sure she’s raised seven children, looks like a million bucks as she scoops up and swings around tiny grandchildren while wearing four inch stilettos, and throws together the most incredible three course shabbos lunches. But she’s not ‘just’ a home-maker, mommy, bobba and community organizer.

Apart from being “CEO of her family” – as she describes her role, Sterna is a highly educated and experienced professional personal and executive coach, with all the bells, whistles and accreditations. She’s worked with individuals and corporates, CEOs and teams, and has qualifications from Bar Ilan, Harvard, Wits, Dale Carnegie and the International Coaching Federation. And though I’ve known her for 10 years, I had no idea! She may not be quiet – she is after all Brooklyn born and bred, but she’s private and humble so I really didn’t have a clue until a few years ago when I found out randomly that she had coached a friend of mine’s husband. (I must say I was impressed when he subsequently lost a ton of weight and launched a successful business).

So when I was looking to interview a life coach for an article I was writing last year, I decided to talk to her. I was intrigued by what she had to say on the subject of change – and the gravitas of her words. Truth is, I had expected the coaching perspective to be some fluffy, new-age, pop psychology. But Sterna has 15 years experience in the field and hasn’t only just jumped-on the trendy life-coaching bandwagon. Her approach is also backed by decades of deep Torah study and teaching as well as real-life experience. She doesn’t just talk about living your purpose – she lives it! As an emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, she came to South Africa 40 years ago, with her three tiny girls recovering from chickenpox bundled on a plane, leaving family, friends and everything familiar – on a mission to spread the beauty of Jewish wisdom and practice.

Since turning 40, I’ve had an unshakeable need to engage more deeply and fully with life, and make my unique contribution to this world. But at 43, I feel stuck. I’m proud I’ve invested years in psychotherapy, mindfulness and spirituality, but if I’m being honest, not much has practically changed in the way I do life, and that niggling feeling refuses to go away.

A professor of Mathematics doesn’t have to be a triangle, but a coach has got to have her life together and to me, it looks like Sterna is living the self-actualization I long for. So I got to thinking, maybe Sterna can help me move forward. Now, I’m inviting you into this space, in the hope that you and I might learn something new. I have a feeling that Sterna’s unique blend of cutting-edge coaching models and deep connection to our ancient and still relevant Torah teachings will be transformative – for me and for you. Until next time, perhaps start thinking if you’re feeling stuck in some area of your life, and if your soul is calling to you to do something about it. Let’s do this. Let’s get #coached!

About the Author
Paula is a wife, mother and writer - based in Johannesburg, South Africa, dreaming of Israel. She is a full-time thinker, part-time copywriter at her husband's advertising agency, journalist and published author. The former editor of Jewish Life magazine, she is now a regular contributor with a passion for contributing goodness, kindness and wisdom to this world.