A US-based Hindu group has welcomed reports of East Meadow School District (EMSD) in Westbury, New York adopting Diwali, most popular of their festivals, as an official holiday on the 2017-2018 school year calendar.
Nearby Syosset Central School District also reportedly recently declared Diwali as an official holiday.
Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, describing it as a step in the right direction, urged all other public school districts and private schools in New York State to do the same.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, pointed out that it would be a positive thing to do in view of presence of a substantial number of Hindu students at 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 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, Zed asked. Holidays of all major religions should be honored and no one should be penalized for practicing their religion, Zed added
Rajan Zed suggested all New York State schools, both public and private, to seriously look into declaring Diwali as an official holiday, 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 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 school districts, and persuading the private schools to follow.
Rajan Zed further said 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, which falls on October 19 in 2017.
Zed thanked EMSD Board of Education President Marcee Rubinstein and other Board members for supporting Diwali holiday. EMSD serves over 7,400 students in nine schools of East Meadow and Westbury communities of Long Island. Mission Statement of EMSD, formed in 1814, includes “Understand our cultural heritage”. Leon J. Campo is Superintendent of Schools.