BSO musicians lockout, new Baltimore Co. Police Chief and Google’s falafel

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

BSO musicians protest as lockout begins

Members of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra showed up at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall on June 17 with their parking passes disabled, unable to access the building without scheduling an appointment with management, according to Baltimore Fishbowl. So, instead of walking in ready to work, the players grabbed picket signs, demanding BSO management relent on plans to cut roughly 20 percent of the professional ensemble’s schedule, as well as the musicians’ salaries and benefits, this summer. On June 16, BSO management announced it had approved a lockout after announcing negotiations on a new contract had crumbled. The musicians have been playing without a contract since September 2018. “Due to the Baltimore Symphony’s urgent need to address longstanding financial issues and change its business model, the BSO has made this extremely difficult decision,” BSO president and CEO Peter Kjome said in a statement. The organization announced in late May that it would commit to a move musicians have been trying to stave off, slicing the concert calendar from 52 weeks to 40 weeks. Musicians won’t be paid or have health insurance and other benefits during those 12 weeks.

There is some good news on the horizon …

Read more: BSO musicians protest as lockout begins, prompted by collapsed negotiations

Melissa Hyatt sworn in as Police Chief

Baltimore County’s first female Police Chief Melissa R. Hyatt was sworn-in on June 17 at 10:30 a.m. at the Patriot in Towson. Hyatt, who is Jewish, is the County’s 14th chief. Baltimore County Government tweeted this congratulatory message:

Also see: Melissa Hyatt Named 1st Female Baltimore County Police Chief

Quebec passes law banning kippahs, turbans and hijabs for public workers

Quebec passed its so-called secularism law that bans certain public employees — teachers, judges and police officers, among them — from wearing religious symbols including kippahs, turbans and hijabs at work. Bill 21 passed June 16 in a 73-35 vote following a marathon legislative session over the weekend that featured contentious debate. Polls have consistently shown widespread support for the legislation among the province’s French-speaking majority. Critics say the real target is the Muslim community and that the new law abrogates Canadian human rights charters by invoking an override clause. Defenders say the law is in keeping with the promotion of secular neutrality by the state and will promote harmony in the province. Some Jewish-majority municipalities have passed motions promising never to enforce the law, which has seen months of acrimonious debate and public hearings.

Read more: Quebec passes law banning kippahs, turbans and hijabs for public workers

Orthodox Union launches national kosher food pantry

Kosher-observant Jews in need now have a national resource to find low-cost or free food. The Kosher Food Lifeline, a food pantry resource center, is a new division of the Orthodox Union designed to help the at least 215 food agencies in 24 states that provide food to individuals and families. It offers assistance to programs with procurement, distribution, government grants and other logistical support. The O.U. announced the program on June 17. Kedem, which focuses on kosher, gluten free and all-natural foods, provided a $200,000 grant to launch the inaugural program in advance of Passover this year. More than 150,000 pounds of kosher-for-Passover food was distributed to 53 partner organizations, who delivered it to communities in nearly 20 states, supporting over 17,000 Jewish families in need.—JTA

Celebrating falafel

Google Doodle is celebrating falafel, calling it the “best thing that ever happened to chickpeas.” It’s also among the best thing that ever happened to the animated Doodle – with the June 18 mini cartoon showing three smiling falafel balls hopping into an open pita after one of them slathers it with hummus (or is that tahini?) and tossing in some cucumbers and tomatoes, which some would call Israeli salad. Google said in a statement explaining the Doodle that “the exact origins of this spicy street food have been lost to the mists of time,” though there are some who would beg to differ with that characterization. The Google statement notes that “falafel has been enjoyed for centuries in many different cultures,” and adds that “Israel has a song to celebrate its love affair with the tried-and-true treat, titled ‘And We Have Falafel.’” It is believed to have originated in Egypt, with the fried balls made out of fava beans, and then spread to the Levant area of the Eastern Mediterranean and its name derives from a Levantine Arabic word. Most Middle Eastern countries make their falafel with chickpeas. India, by the way, produces most of the world’s chickpeas. —JTA

Also see: How to Make the Best Falafel at Home

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