Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed has given a call to all the Hindus of New Jersey to come forward and wholeheartedly support volunteers making efforts to introduce Diwali as a holiday in New Jersey’s Millburn Township School District (MTSD).
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, in a statement in Nevada today, said that Hindu community was already heartbroken over MTSD not including Diwali as a school holiday in its 2014-2015 school calendar.
Rajan Zed urged New Jersey Hindus to provide the moral, financial, political, etc., support to volunteers working in the “Petition Process for Days of Personal Observance” announced by MTSD, to push Diwali as a holiday in 2015-2016 school calendar. Area Hindu temples should also join in to help.
Zed stressed that Hindu community felt left out in New Jersey as despite fast changing state demographics and continuing growth of Hindu populations, only two public school districts had reportedly declared Diwali as a school holiday. He noted that their ultimate goal was to introduce Diwali as holiday in all the over 600 school districts of this one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse states, and the community would make all out efforts for it. New Jersey should recognize diversity of its communities as Gujarati, Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, etc., are spoken in its various parts.
Rajan Zed argued that it was not fair with Hindu pupils and their families as they had to attend school on their most popular festival while many schools in the state were closed on holy days of some other communities. This unfairness did not send a good signal to the impressionable minds of schoolchildren who would be the leaders of tomorrow; Zed said and added that New Jersey public school districts needed to urgently revisit their policies on this issue.
Zed stated that since it was important 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 it would be “a step in the right direction”.
Rajan Zed noted that awareness about other religions thus created by such holidays like Diwali would make the New Jersey pupils well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens of tomorrow. It would make the state look good also besides bringing cohesion and unity in the community.
According to Zed, 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, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about one billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in USA.
MTSD has launched a multi-step “petition and ballot process for identifying days that might be considered for closing schools for the 2015-2016 school district calendar due to anticipated significant absenteeism. To request that a specific day of personal observance be added to the Millburn school calendar a petition must be submitted to the Board with 500 or more valid signatures of voting-age Millburn residents on or before September 30, 2014.” For Diwali, MTSD has listed Padmaja Chinta as Petition Leader, assisted by Subadhra Vardharaj, Yashica Shah, Aarti Bajaj, Deepa Krishnan, and Tithi Majumdar. Petition Leaders for Rosh Hashanah, Good Friday, Chinese New Year and Eid have also been listed.
MTSD, known for academic excellence whose 99% of graduating seniors reportedly attend four-year colleges, has about 5,000 pupils and includes Millburn High, a national Blue Ribbon School. Jeffrey Waters and James A. Crisfield are Board President and Superintendent respectively.
Township of Millburn, incorporated in 1857, had reportedly one of the highest annual property tax bills in the state. Robert J. Tillotson, W. Theodore Bourke and Timothy P. Gordon are Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Business Administrator respectively of Millburn, whose notable residents included actress Anne Hathaway, actor John C. McGinley and hockey player Brian Rolston.