YONKERS, NY — April 12, 2017 — Hindus have welcomed the inclusion of Diwali, most popular of their festivals, by declaring Diwali a holiday for students on October 19 by six school districts in New York State on their school calendars for 2017-2018.
These are East Meadow School District, East Williston Union Free School District, Half Hollow Hills Central School District, Herricks Union Free School District, Hicksville Union Free School District and Syosset Central School District. Reports suggest another, Mineola Union Free School District, had announced that no home work or examinations would be given on Diwali.
In neighboring New Jersey 2017-2018 school calendars: Glen Rock Public Schools announced closure of schools and offices on Diwali; in West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District, schools will be closed on October 19; and in Piscataway Township Schools, there is “No School for Students” on Diwali. In Pennsylvania: Unionville-Chadds Ford School District headquartered in Kennett Square approved closure of schools on Diwali; while Harvard Public Schools in Massachusetts has declared October 19 as “early release day”, reports add.
Hindu spokesperson Rajan Zed, in a statement issued today, described the actions taken by the noted school districts as steps moving in the right direction, and urged all other public school districts and private-charter-independent schools in New York State to do likewise.
Raman Zed, President of Universal Society of Hinduism, pointed out that it would be a positive thing to do in view of the presence of a substantial number of Hindu students who reside in schools around the state, as it was important to meet the religious and spiritual needs of these pupils.
Rajan Zed indicated that schools should make concerted efforts to accommodate the religious requirements of Hindu students and show respect to their faith by not conducting regular business and scheduling classes on Diwali. Zed advised he would not want our students to be put at an unnecessary disadvantage for missing tests/examinations/papers, assignments, class work, etc., by taking a day-off to observe Diwali.
It follows since schools had declared other religious holidays, why not Diwali questioned Zed. He noted that holidays of all major religions should be honored and no one should be penalized for practicing their religion.
Rajan Zed suggested all New York State schools, public-private-charter-independent, to seriously look into declaring Diwali as an official holiday, thus recognizing the intersection of spirituality and education. Zed noted that awareness about other religions thus created by such holidays like Diwali would make New York State students well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens of the present and tomorrow.
Zed urged New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, New York State Education Department Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa and New York State Commissioner of Education MaryEllen Elia; to work towards adding Diwali as an official holiday in all the 728 public school districts, and persuading the private-charter-independent schools to follow.
Rajan Zed further shared that Hinduism is rich in festivals and religious festivals that are very dear and sacred to Hindus. Diwali, the “festival of lights,” aims at dispelling the darkness and lighting up the lives and symbolizes the victory of good over evil. Besides Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and some Buddhists also celebrate Diwali.
Hinduism is the oldest recognized organized religion, and third largest religion of the world with about 1.1 billion adherents. Its aspiration is moksh translated as liberation. There are about three million Hindus who reside in America.
Editor’s Inquiry: With the ever growing residents who cling to the Hindu, Sikk, and Jain communities in the Cityy of Yonkers, will the Yonkers Public School District be sufficiently enlightened to respect likewise respect Diwali?