Hindu community is upset and feels that it is simply not fair for Hindu pupils in New York City (NYC) to be at school on their most popular festival Diwali coming Monday, while schools are closed around other religious days during the school-year.
Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, wondered that while over 79 school districts were closed for students in many areas of USA on October 24 (the day this year of Diwali), including 12 in next door Long Island, why could not NYC schools with substantial number of Hindu students declare Diwali as a holiday.
Taxpayer funded New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE), that managed the city’s public school system and which claimed to believe in “culturally responsive-sustaining education” and stated that ‘bias’ has no place; should not be in the business of inequity and senselessly ignoring the wishes of a large chunk of its student body; Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, emphasized.
Rajan Zed stated that since it was vital for Hindu families to celebrate Diwali day together at home with their children, we did not want our children to be deprived of any privileges at the school because of thus resulting absences on this day. Closing schools on Diwali would ensure that and would also display how respectful and accommodating NYCDOE was to their faith.
Zed indicated that this unfairness did not send a good signal to the impressionable minds of schoolchildren who would be the leaders of tomorrow. Holiday on Diwali in NYC schools would be a step in the positive direction, as it was important to meet the religious and spiritual needs of Hindu pupils.
If schools had declared holidays around other religious days, why not Diwali, Rajan Zed asked. Holidays of all major religions should be honored and no one should be penalized for practicing their faith, he added.
Zed urged NYCDOE Chancellor David C. Banks to seriously look into declaring Diwali as an official holiday in the future; thus recognizing the intersection of spirituality and education. He noted that awareness about ‘other’ religions thus created by such holidays like Diwali would make NYC students well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens of tomorrow. Zed urged private-independent-parochial-charter schools in NYC to also earnestly look into a Diwali holiday.
Rajan 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.
Hinduism is the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about 1.2 billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in the USA.
Over 79 public school districts in the states of New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland and Texas are reportedly closed for students on October 24.
NYCDOE 2022-2023 calendar shows schools closed for Rosh Hashanah (two-days), Yom Kippur, Winter Recess (starts December 26, just after Christmas on December 25), Passover (two days, which includes Good Friday), Spring Recess (starts April 10, just after Easter on April nine), Eid al-Fitr.
NYCDOE, serving 1.1 million students in over 1,800 schools, is the largest school system in the nation.