Diwali Holiday in many school districts in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania

Hindus have welcomed the inclusion of Diwali, most popular of their festival, by declaring holiday for students on October 19 by various school districts in the states of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania on their school calendars for 2017-2018.

In New York State, 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. Another Mineola Union Free School District announced that no home work or examinations would be given on Diwali, reports suggest.

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.

Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, describing it as a step in the right direction, urged all other US public school districts and private-charter-independent schools in areas with substantial number of Hindu students to declare Diwali as a holiday. It would be a positive thing to do, as it was important to meet the religious and spiritual needs of these pupils, Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, added.

Zed indicated that schools should make 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. We did 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.

If schools had declared other religious holidays, why not Diwali, Rajan Zed asked. Holidays of all major religions should be honored and no one should be penalized for practicing their religion, Zed pointed out.

Zed suggested all such 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 nation’s students well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens of tomorrow.

Rajan Zed urged Governors of all the 50 states to work towards adding Diwali as an official holiday in all the public schools with substantial number of Hindu students and persuading such private-charter-independent schools to follow.

Zed further says that Hinduism is rich in festivals and religious festivals 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 and Jains and some Buddhists also celebrate Diwali.

Hinduism is oldest and third largest religion of the world with about 1.1 billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in USA.

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