SHLOYME BIKL (SHLOMO BICKEL) (June 8, 1896-September 3, 1969)
He was born in Ustechko, Eastern Galicia. His father, Yitskhok, descended from an elite family of Misnogdim (anti-Hassidic, religious Jews) in Galicia. He was a maskil (enlightenment figure) and a Zionist in the Chibat-Tsiyon (Love of Zion) era, and he was an avid reader of contemporary Hebrew and Yiddish writers. He attended public school, a Polish high school in Kołomyja (Kolomyia), and at the same time he was studying the Hebrew Bible, Gemara, and Tosafot in religious school—and later with a private tutor, he studied Hebrew and Hebrew literature. He was drafted in 1915 into the Austrian army and became an officer—demobilized in 1918. For a short time he was commandant of the Jewish Legion in the Ukrainian National Army in Kołomyja. From early 1919 he settled in Czernowitz which had then fallen under Russian control. He studied law in the university there and graduated in 1922 with a doctor of law degree. Bikl began writing when still in secondary school. He was a contributor to Maḥshavotenu (Our thoughts), a hectographically produced Young Zionist publication in Kołomyja. In May 1919 he published in Frayhayt (Freedom), a Poale-Tsiyon weekly in Czernowitz, his first article in Yiddish—a polemic with Aḥad Ha’am. Initially he became a regular contributor to and later the editor of Frayhayt, in which over the course of three years he published current events articles, feature pieces, and essays of criticism. In September 1922, Bikl moved to Bucharest where he practiced law for the next sixteen years; in 1939 he emigrated to the United States. During his years as a lawyer in Bucharest, he continued his writing, contributing to: Yidishe kultur (Jewish culture), an anthology, edited by Leyzer Shteynberg (Czernowitz, 1921); Shoybn (Panes of glass), a monthly, edited by Yankev Shternberg (Czernowitz, 1924); Literarishe bleter (Literary pages) in Warsaw; Tog (Day), a regular contributor from 1940, Tsukunft (Future), Yidisher kemfer (Jewish fighter), Fraye arbeter shtime (Free voice of labor), Inzikh (Introspective), Kultur un dertsiung (Culture and education), Undzer veg (Our way), and Opatoshu-leyvik-zamlbukh (Opatoshu-Leivick anthology), all in New York; and Di prese (The press) in Buenos Aires. A great number of his works were essays on literary and social themes. Among his books: Inzikh un arumzikh, notitsn fun a polemist in kritishe bamerkungen (In and around oneself, notes of a polemicist and critical observations) (Bucharest, 1936), 187 pp.; A shtot mit yidn, zikhroynes un geshtaltn (A city with Jews, memoirs and impressions) (New York, 1943), 246 pp.; Detaln un sakhaklen, kritishe un polemishe bamerkungen (Details and sum totals, critical and polemical observations) (New York, 1943), 256 pp.; Eseyen fun yidishn troyer (Essays of Jewish sorrow) (New York, 1948), 246 pp.; Yidn davenen (Jews at prayer) (New York, 1948), 201 pp.; Dray brider zaynen mir geven (I had three brothers) (New York: Matones, 1956), 234 pp.; Rumenye: geshikhte, literatur-kritik, zikhroynes (Romania: history, literary criticism, memoirs) (Buenos Aires: Kiem, 1961), 400 pp.; Mishpokhe artshik (The family Artshik) (Tel Aviv: Hamenorah, 1967), 198 pp.; Di brokhe fun sheynkeyt, eseyen vegn avrom sutskever (The blessing of beauty, essays on Avrom Sutzkebver) (Tel Aviv: Hamenorah, 1969), 60 pp.; Shrayber fun mayn dor (Writers of my generation) (New York: Matones, 1958-1970), 3 vols. A volume dedicated to him: Shloyme bikl yoyvl-bukh: Ateret Shelomo, tsu zayn 70stn geboyntog (Shloyme Bikl jubilee volume, on his 70th birthday) (New York: Matones, 1967), 331 pp. Edited journal issues: Di frayhayt (Czernowitz, 1920-1922); Undzer veg, a periodical (together with Yankev Shternberg) (Bucharest, May 1926-June 1929); Di vokh (The week), for a short time only with Moyshe Altman (Bucharest, 1934-1935); Shoybn, initially a monthly and later a weekly (Bucharest, 1934-1938); and Di yidishe esey (The Yiddish essay), an anthology (New York, 1946).
His political and social activities included: secretary (1919-1922) in Czernowitz of the Bukovina national organization of Poale-Tsiyon; chairman of the Culture League of Bucharest; member of the central committee of the Jewish cultural federation of Greater Romania; member of HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) central committee in Bucharest; and Romanian member of the YIVO world council. In New York: member of the world council of the International Jewish Culture Congress; member of the YIVO administrative committee; and vice-chairman of the Jewish Pen Club.
Bikl was one of the more prominent columnists, essayists and literary critics. “Shloyme Bikl was not tricked into essay writing. He is an essayist, and as one reads through his books, one senses that one is actually reading the essayistic autobiography of the new Jew, with the language of his thoughts, with prepared material. Bikl renders clearer for us the spiritual pathway of such Jews who have in their own way developed a profound, Jewish perseverance.” (Yankev Glatshteyn) Among his pseudonyms: Aleksander Kluzher, Sh. Kirs, Sh. Ḥad, Sh. B., Shin Bet, Sh. Verbosh, A. M. Babshi, and Leybush Gefner. He was last living in New York.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Froym Oyerbakh, in Morgn-zhurnal (November 9, 1943 and August 13, 1948); Y. Botoshanski, in Di prese (Buenos Aires) (October 6, 1948 and March 14, 1951); Yankev Glatshteyn, in Yidisher kemfer (February 24, 1950); D. Leybl, in Nay-velt (Tel Aviv) (September 30, 1949); A. Liessin, in Tog (August 21, 1948 and September 9, 1950); Shmuel Niger, in Tog (November 2, 1937, March 12, 1944, and April 9, 1944); Dov Sadan, in Hapoel hatsair (Tel Aviv) (November 17, 1953); N. B. Minkov, in Algemeyne entsiklopedye (General encyclopedia), vol. 5 (New York, 1944); Moyshe Shtarman, in Tog (September 12, 1943 and December 5, 1948).
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 85.]