During the fall semester of the fifth grade year, children in the Cohen Religious School are taught Torah cantillation as part of the regular curriculum. In the winter semester, the Ba’al Korei Institute sponsors an advanced cantillation class for fifth graders from both the Cohen Religious School and Solomon Schecter Day School. This elective class, sponsored and funded by the Institute, is taught by a lay instructor and meets on Sunday mornings for thirteen weeks. There is no charge to attend this class.
Youngsters who complete one or both of the fifth grade cantillation classes are given opportunities to read from the Torah in the weekly Shabbat Junior Congregation, in the Cohen Religious School’s Shabbat morning services for fifth and sixth grade students and their families and during the Cohen Religious School’s annual Kallah. Each child who reads in one of these services becomes a Junior Member of the Institute and receives a pin with the Institute’s emblem on a blue field.
A majority of b’nai mitzvah celebrants at Beth El read from the Torah using cantillation. The Institute actively encourages each new b’nai mitzvah to read from the Torah again after his or her simchah. Through its mentoring program, the Institute provides the teenager with a mentor to help him or her prepare subsequent readings. In some cases, the congregation’s Hazzan or Ritual Director will act as the mentor. Upon completion of the second reading, the teenager is presented with a gold plated membership pin and welcomed as a full Member of the Institute. Each member must continue to read twice a year at a regularly scheduled Beth El service to remain a member in good standing,
To further encourage teenagers to read Torah regularly, the Institute sponsors a program known as Havdorah. High school students who enroll in this program agree to complete two eligible Torah readings during each year of high school. Upon enrollment, the participant chooses one of three styles of Havdalah sets. At the end of each year, each participant who has fulfilled his or her commitment to read twice during that year receives one piece of the chosen set, and can earn the entire set by the end of high school.
Eligible Torah readings for the Havdorah program are: