L’Dor Vador: A Family Leads Together

We all do what we do so we might pass on our Jewish heritage, both in words and in song, to the next generation.  Our beloved Tory May (who ‘dat!) enjoyed a unique experience this past summer – leading services with her own sons, Nick and Jonathan.  Below they all share their thoughts and feelings on the service and on singing with each other.

 Friday evening, Jacobs Camp had the pleasure of sharing in a unique Shabbat worship experience. No, I am not referring to the storm that blew through Utica in the middle of T’fillah. I am talking about our special service leaders: The May Family. Tory May (Cantorial soloist at Gates of Prayer in Metairie), Nick May (this summer’s HSJ songleader), and Jonathan May (NFTY-Southern songleader and participant in this summer’s Gesher program) conducted a beautiful service for the whole camp last Friday. Here’s what they thought about their experience:

Tory: In the past, when I’ve been at camp as a visiting professional, I’ve had the rare opportunity that most camp parents don’t get – seeing their child thriving in a camp environment.  There’s nothing quite like it.  Now my boys are older.  Nick is the camp songleader this summer and Jonathan is in Gesher, helping with song leading, as well as serving as the current NFTY-Southern regional songleader.  This past Shabbat, we led services here at camp together – two generations, one family, all musicians.  There’s nothing better than the joy of leading a congregation in prayer with your kids. While images of the Partridge Family and the Von Trapp Family come to mind, I can say that it is one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done.  My boys have gotten some of their love of Jewish music from their experiences at Gates of Prayer, in Metairie, but mostly from the song leaders and educators they’ve been exposed to at camp.  Now they are the influential ones to the campers, and I am in awe.

Nick: My mom talked about how there is nothing like leading a congregation in prayerMay Family with your kids. I, however, beg to differ. There is nothing like seeing your own musical and Jewish world come full circle. You see, my mom is the Cantorial Soloist at Congregation Gates of Prayer and has shaped my Jewish musical identity more than she will ever know. Before I ever stepped foot on the grounds of Jacobs Camp, my mom would take my brother, Jonathan, and me to services. At services, we would listen to her sing and over time we retained the melodies. This started the Jewish musical juices flowingin our lives. Since we were little, music has always been an enormous part of our world – from singing in the synagogue choir, to learning to play guitar from our dad, to songleading for NFTY-Southern, and now leading music here at camp. In my opinion, there is no better conclusion to this cycle than planning and leading Shabbat services with my mom and brother as the songleader at Jacobs Camp- L’Dor Vador.

Jonathan: For seventeen years, I have grown up in one of the most (if not the most) musically spirited families in Metairie, Louisiana. My mother, a cantorial soloist and daughter of two local theatre performers, has been leading music at Congregation Gates of Prayer for over twenty years. My father studied classical guitar at UNO and now is a part of two local jazz bands. My brother, as most are aware, is the current Jacobs Camp songleader and has had the opportunity to learn from and share with several rising stars in Reform Jewish music. Without the unique experience of having this family, I would not be where I am today. I am about to enter my third year as NFTY-Southern’s regional songleader, and am pleased to have so many musically brilliant minds so close to home that I can pick. Without my father, I would most likely not be playing guitar today. Because of his belief that I could rise above the challenges that I was facing in learning guitar without a professional instructor, I persisted and moved through the difficulties. To this day, I continue to challenge myself to learn more and more behind the guitar to make for a more enjoyable experience for whomever is listening. My brother, a former NFTY songleader himself, helped me in preparing songsessions for NFTY audiences, audiences that can only be described as “interesting”. I will never forget the time when I was planning a songsession for a regional event, and I let slip that I was doing a particularly difficult song for the sole purpose of showing off my voice. My brother sat me down and said, “Songsession is not for you. Songsession is for everyone else’s enjoyment.” Ever since, those words have been in the back of my mind whenever I am preparing a songsession. On my way back from Nashir, NFTY’s Songleading Institute, I received a call asking if I would write a T’Fillah service for a NFTY regional event seven days away. Having never written any kind of service whatsoever before, I immediately panicked and called my mother to ask for help. My mom spent the next half hour on the phone with me. She helped me figure out what I wanted to accomplish with the service and what important points I wanted to hit. I ended up completing a majority of the service before my flight arrived to take me back home. Last Friday at services, my mother talked about how important family, in any form, is something to be thankful for. I personally want to thank my family for making me become the man, the musician, and the Jew I am today.

Victoria May has been the Cantorial Soloist/Music Director at Congregation Gates of Prayer since 1987. She also holds the title of Communications Director.

She has worked professionally in the musical field since 1983. This work has included teaching music to preschoolers, working as a music director for a Presbyterian church, music director for a Tulane University vocal group, as well as acting as Cantorial Soloist for synagogues in Shreveport, LA, Asheville, NC, and the New Orleans area. She has two CD’s out that she recorded with “Beignet Yisrael,” a quartet that has performed Jewish music at Jazzfest in New Orleans, as well as concerts in other areas of the country.

“Tory” received her bachelor’s degree in Theater from the University of New Orleans in 1983 and has performed on stage in many area productions. Her son Nick is the current Songleader at the URJ Camp Henry S. Jacobs Mississippi and her son Jonathan is the current NFTY-Southern Songleader.

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