ONCE UPON A TIME, the Troubadours wandered through medieval Europe, singing songs, telling tales, mingling with people of all social classes. These poets and minstrels elevated storytelling as an art, often entertaining huge crowds at fairs, weddings and other celebrations. They offered a sharp contrast to, and welcome diversion from, the medieval monks and their chronicles and treatises penned in Latin.

Similarly, the Jewish Maggidim of 18th century eastern Europe traveled town to town, telling stories and preaching to the Jewish peasants in language they could easily understand – the language of story and song. Though the maggidim themselves were often highly educated, their way of connecting with the masses stood in sharp contrast to the Torah scholars and rabbis, who lived in a rarefied yeshiva world of all-day study and (often) disdain for those who did not devote their lives likewise.

Before the term Rebbe caught on, the early chassidic rabbis were mostly known by the title of Maggid. If they had had access to a guitar or lute, they might well have been called troubadours.

Hazzan and Maggid Steve Klaper is a Jewish troubadour – a spiritual storyteller, minstrel and teacher. (Hazzan is the Hebrew term for cantor and worship leader; Maggid is the traditional title for a Jewish inspirational speaker or preacher.) Drawing on over 40 years experience as a professional musician, Steve infuses traditional Jewish teachings with ancient and contemporary melodies, mystical chant and wide-ranging stories.

Steve has served as Music Director, Cantor and Worship Leader for a variety of congregations, large and small. He has recorded several CDs of original contemporary Jewish music, and has performed at synagogues, churches and conferences throughout the country. He is currently spiritual leader of Shir Hanishama, a Renewal chavurah closely affiliated with the Song and Spirit Institute for Peace, in Royal Oak, Michigan.