Cantor Aaron Cohen

As supervisor of the WJC Bar/Bat Mitzvah Training Program, I take this opportunity to briefly describe the program's basic design, features and advantages.

LESSONS: The six months of training begin with five weeks of group lessons. During this period students are taught the "trup," or musical melodies, which determine the chant of the haftorah. They are also taught some key prayers or blessings that are common to all students during these sessions. The group lessons are followed by approximately five months of weekly private lessons.

I am closely involved in the supervision of the lessons. I conduct many of the group lessons, receive regular reports on the students' progress from the instructor[s] on staff, and periodically sit in on lessons or hear students in my office. If at any point during the training period students or their parents have any questions or problems, I encourage them to consult with me immediately.

THE STAFF: We currently have two bar/bat mitzvah instructors on staff, Mark Elber and Cantor Stuart Hecht, who has been with us for several years now. His rich and lengthy experience with children and his unwavering determination to ensure that our children perform to the very best of their ability have produced remarkable results. He has shown the students that success and fun are not mutually exclusive.

OUR GOALS: Our goal in the bar/bat mitzvah training program is to yield both quality and quantity. We not only want our children to perform beautifully, but also hope that they will participate in conducting a substantial portion of our services. Each student must cover a minimum number of prayers in addition to the haftorah/Torah reading, but is encouraged to cover as much as possible -- even, as some have done, the entire service! Finally, we want the entire event to be meaningful, to be a significant spiritual experience for student and family. This may, after all, be pivotal in the child's future as a Jew.

QUALITY: I am excited each week by the magnificent performances of our b'nai and b'not mitzvah. They not only sing the trup properly and pronounce the words accurately, but chant confidently and with poise. As we require, their renditions are LOUD, SLOW and CLEAR.

QUANITY: Beyond their haftorah or Torah portions, our b'nai and b'not mitzvah have been learning substantially more prayers and sections of the service.

Several of you whose children will begin lessons within the next year have approached me with the following situation: Any child wants to do more than just the minimum. He/she wants to lead much of the service. What can I do about this?

The answer is that your children can get started early. While it would be unfair to start any student's lessons early, we can provide them with a prayer tape and guidance on how to memorize the service and in what order. Thus your child can cover much or even all of the service prior to commencement of bar/bat mitzvah training. The six-month training period can then be exclusively dedicated to studying the haftorah and/or torah portion.

If this interests you and your child, or if you have any other questions about bar/bat mitzvah training, please e-mail or call me at (516) 496-9084.

Mazal Tov in advance!

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