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Emil Byk

BYK, EMIL (1845–1906), lawyer, politician, and assimilationist leader in Austrian *Galicia. Byk was among the founders in 1869 of *Shomer Israel, the first Jewish political organization in Galicia, which adopted at first the policy of liberalism within the Austrian centralist framework. On Byk's initiative the Jewish communities in Galicia held a convention in Lemberg (LVOV) in July 1878 in order to establish their national framework. During the elections for the Austrian parliament in 1873, Shomer Israel, under Byk's leadership, adopted a special list of candidates in alignment with the Ruthenians, which was directed against the Poles. Later, however, the changed political situation caused Byk to alter his views. In 1879 he began to support the Polish national platform in Galicia and joined the Polish faction in the Austrian parliament. In internal Jewish affairs Byk also took up a pro-Polish assimilationist stand. He was one of the most determined opponents of the Zionist movement, and also opposed in the Austrian parliament, to which he was first elected as deputy for Brody in 1891, the proposed establishment of a special Jewish curia (electoral constituency). He was president of the Lemberg Jewish community (1903–06), and led it in an assimilationist pro-Polish spirit. Byk considered the central government in Vienna and not the Poles responsible for antisemitism in Galicia. Before his death in 1906, he convened representatives of the communities in Galicia to rally opposition to the claims put forward by anti-assimilationist Jews. The Zionists demonstrated against the convention.


S.R. Landau, Der Polenklub und seine Hausjuden (1907), 6,8,13,33,40–42; J. Tenenbaum, Galitsye, Mayn Alte Haym (1952), index; Gelber, in: EG, 4 pt. 1 (1956), 310–32; idem, Toledot ha-Tenu'ah ha-Ẓiyyonit be-Galiẓyah, 1875–1918, 2 vols. (1958), index.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.