Born 23 April 1887 in Lemberg, Galicia. His father, the
owner of a food store, was descended from a respected
professor, and from a messianic family by the name of
He studied both in a religious elementary school
(cheder) and in a public school, finishing in a gymnasia
in 1906. He received his doctorate in jurisprudence in
1911 from Lemberg University, where he studied
simultaneously both law and Lithuanian literary and
As a member of the Zionists student circle "Shokher"
(sic. probably slang for policemen), which was under the
leadership of Shlome Siler, Dr. Y. Tohon, and Adolph
Stand, B. (Bikels) became a zealous student of the local
courses of “Judaica," familiarizing himself with Jewish
history and Hebrew language, and mastering both language
and writing skills. But in opposition to his party
friends, he held that one is not permitted to neglect
the cultural work of the masses in the “Diaspora," and
he became one of the first fighters for Yiddish in
Energetic and consistent in his decision, B. almost
totally neglected his work in Polish literature (in the
Polish-Yiddish periodicals of the contemporary student
circles) and dedicated himself to criticism and
publication in Yiddish in order to lay the groundwork
for a field in Yiddish literature in Galicia. As a
member of the “Yiddish Weekly," “The New Life (New York)
and “The Friend," he uncovered the Yiddish literature
and work of the young Galician writers and became
generally “the herald of the young Yiddish literature in
Galicia” (according to Dr. A. Klayman.)
B. participated in almost all the contemporary
periodicals and publications in Galicia (“The Jewish
Workers," Lemberg, “The Day," Krakow, in G.Bader’s
and M. From’s “Calendar et al,” edited in 1910, together
with G. Bader and J. Mestel, the collective writing,
“Young Galicia Almanac." In 1915 B. became the chief
editor of the Lemberger “Day Paper," in which he had an
altogether free range as a literary and theatre critic.
After his gymnasia studies, B. organized a drama circle
of students, in which he himself directed and performed,
mostly in Polish, one man shows on Yiddish nationalistic
themes. Except for his love of theatre, he sidelined all
his other studies and became an actor; he even became a
student in the drama school of the Polish State Theatre
in Lemberg; but because of his diminutive body stature,
he had to give up acting and dedicate himself, first of
all, to Yiddish theatre criticism.
B. had dreamed about a big Yiddish artistic stage
company, which he hoped to found with public and
societal support. In order to reach such a performance
level, he had to, along with J. Mestel in 1913, make a
journey to Austria and Germany to study their
performance theatres and methods. At the same time he
wanted to travel to France and England to make similar
studies; but because of the threat of war on the
horizon, he had to cut his trip short.
Between the great number of B.’s critics and opposition
to Yiddish theatre, B. decided to change his focus and
began a bigger task, an analysis ot the Gordon
repertoire, which he published in various Galician and
Dr. Anselm Klayman characterized B’s themes as a critic
as such: ”Tsvi Bikels-Spitzer has set his foot on the
field of creative criticism….before he occupied himself
with such difficult concepts, he immersed himself in
theoretical considerations of these matters, studying a
long time in the greatest university libraries in
Lemberg and Vienna; and with the zeal of a busy bee
likened himself in the creation of a lamenting poet, who
had come up against a cutting apart of his work by his
critical spirit. His pet writer from the world of
Yiddish literature, for whom he had great admiration and
fondness, was Y.L. Peretz; and from the young world of
Galician literature, he held great respect and fondness
for Jacob Mestel upon whom he had a great influence …..
Tsvi Bikels-Spitzer was one of the acclaimed critics of
the Yiddish aspirations to Europeanize the Yiddish
theatre and actors, and to defend the so-called
Americanization of the Yiddish stage. Not only with his
pen did he help to transform the Yiddish theatre in
Galicia, he also very often personally exerted his
influence on the Yiddish actors world; but if a new
necessary “stick” came on the stage, he did not spare
time or energy to try to speak out about his ideas and
to give a positive turn of advice."
January 1917, B. died after an operation in a Lemberg
hospital. The funeral was arranged as a eulogy by the
Lemberg Culture Community, along with a lot of other
organizations; and the community observed a four-week
period of mourning.
Among B’s surviving manuscripts were discovered some
dramas; one was a three act drama “The Savior” (on the
theme of the Rambam’s legend about creation and the
eternal men). The drama, translated into German by Max
Reinhardt, a German-Jewish producer who wanted to stage
the drama; but because of the outbreak of World War I,
it was never produced.
The Jewish manuscript of the “The Savior” was discovered
by J. Mestel,
Dr.A.Klayman --- Tsvi Bikels-Spitzer,
“T”Bl,” (Tog Blat) Lemberg, 12 Teyves, 5676.
A.Tenenblat -- Dr. Tsvi Bikels, “T”Bl,"
Lemberg, 4 January 1917.
Dr. M. Gayer -- The Loyal Fighter, “T”Bl,"
Lemberg, 8 January 1917.
Y.M. Kamila, (J. Mestel) Memoirs, “T”Bl,"
Lemberg, January-February 1912.