It’s always more personal when someone you have met passes away.  I once spent an afternoon with Theodore Bikel, who passed away on July 20, 2015, at the age of 91.

Bikel was one of the most prolific and versatile actors and singers in modern history. Bikel played Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway more than 2,000 times. With a knack for accents, Bikel was cast in numerous feature films as wedjn-1966-09-30-0-013ll as television shows from Star Trek to Gunsmoke. In 1958, he was nominated for an Oscar for his role as a southern sheriff in The Defiant Ones. Bikel was also an activist and former president of the Actor’s Equity Association.

I met Bikel when he came to the Reuther Library on one of his many trips to Detroit. Bikel was in his 70s, with boundless energy and a huge thirst for knowledge. I helped him with his research, and then he was soon lost in the documents. He was hoping to find information that would help others.

Bikel certainly left a great impression upon me as a fine person, and I am sure I am not alone. And, the JN covered his performances and his life.

By: Mike Smith, Detroit Jewish News  Foundation Archivist

Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at

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